The Pilgrims

777 full, but you could count the independent travelers on one hand, the other five hundred people on board were on the Umrah (discount low-season hadj pilgrimage to Mecca).

Conservative batik uniforms, Matching kerchiefs bearing the logo of the travel company, Little House on the Prairie Orientalist. I've seen these people before, carefully herded about airports from Istanbul to Kuala Lumpur. Each person looking about nervously, terrified of getting separated from their group, lost in the bigness of a world without.

It is a famously corrupt business, a fraction of their salary goes into a fund (kind of like taxes) so that when they reach old age they might finally have saved up enough to make the pilgrimage. In the meantime the fund managers famously embezzle, make dodgy investments, or simply earn interest (illegal under islamic law). In Jajouka I met one of the brothers Attar, now a taxi driver in Paris, who made the hadj three times "in-season" and DIY-style by driving his own car overland from Paris to Mecca.

I once found myself on a pilgrim ferry, a hulking dangerous ship retired from working on the open seas, whose sole purpose is to move all the pilgrims who make their way overland from africa must eventually end up at the red sea, and a blocked by a thin sliver of Israeli dirt that gives them a Red Sea port fought bitterly for that now divides.

In the long list of documentaries I'd like to make, documentary on the business of pilgrimage.