Mecca pilgrims snap selfies between prayers

MECCA (REUTERS) - It's one of the biggest trends taking over the social media world, and now during the annual Muslim haj pilgrimage visitors to the holy sites can't resist the urge to take a selfie.

Between calls for forgiveness from God, the word "selfie" echoes through the white marble halls inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca where pilgrims walk around the Kaaba, the black-clad cube towards which the world's 1.6 billion Muslims face to pray.

"I'm taking a selfie with Kaaba behind me to post on my Facebook so my family and friends can see me. That's the way we communicate these days - no need to call," said Mehmet Dawoud, a Turkish student.

To many, selfies are just another way to preserve the memory of being in a holy site and also share the experience in the trendiest of ways with loved ones.

"Selfies are just a way to make the memory last in the coolest possible way. Haj is always seen as something very serious and for older people. Selfies make it cool again," said Amir Marouf, a 30 year old Egyptian architect.

However, to some Saudi clerics who strictly follow the ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam, selfies are a misuse of time when pilgrims should concentrate on praying.

Inside the Grand Mosque, you occasionally hear a cleric urging selfie takers: "Focus! Prayer is more important."

Other Saudi clerics view the phenomenon as harmless and say it does not contradict any of Islam's principles.

"There's no harm in these photos. People just want to have fun and remember being in the holy sites," said Sheikh Abdallah bin Ali basfar, a local religious lecturer in Mena.

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