For Muslims who could not afford the hajj this year, a recently launched 3D virtual visit to the Prophet’s Mosque may be a must-see substitute.
It was in the early hours of the morning following dawn prayers inside the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Al-Madinah Al-Monawara, in Saudi Arabia. Worshippers were sitting peacefully reading the Quran, and women were eagerly waiting for the gates to open to visit the prophet’s holy shrine located inside Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi, the Prophet’s Mosque.
The visit was part of an umra (lesser pilgrimage) that a close friend performed several years ago, but I still remember vividly her unforgettable moment she shared with me and with my imagination, I could feel the peace she described.
“When the white canopies opened, allowing the first rays of the sun to reflect on the white marble of the mosque courtyard outside. A mixed sense of peace and awe reigned, the red carpets of the mosque had a beautiful scent and the sight of white pigeons flying peacefully around the white marble copper-adorned pillars completed the picture.
Only minutes later the gates opened and the female worshippers were allowed to flock inside for a two-hour visit to the prophet’s tomb in a moment that every Muslim yearns for. It feels like heaven inside the Al-Rawda Al-Sharifa, or garden of paradise, so-called because of the feeling of peace inside. This is in the southeastern part of the mosque that houses the blessed shrine of the prophet and his two companions, the first two Muslim caliphs Abu Bakr Al-Seddik and Omar Ibn Al-Khattab”, She said.
The current hajj season immediately brings these memories back to mind, and for those suffering from nostalgia who could not make it to Mecca this year, a recently launched 3D virtual tour of the Prophet’s Mosque, along with other apps allowing virtual visits to the holy sites in Mecca and the pilgrimage sites, can provide solace.
The tour has been launched by the King Fahd Glorious Quran Printing Complex (KFGQPC) in Saudi Arabia, which uses 360-degree three-dimensional technology for the first time. The app allows visitors to walk virtually through the grand pillared corridors of the mosque. With just a click of the mouse, you find yourself in front of the Al-Salam Gate, swiftly moving to the Jebril Gate with just another click, then walking along the corridors and ultimately standing before the holy shrine of the prophet and his two closest companions in the holy Al-Rawda, all from the comfort of your own home and enjoying a rare moment of solitude away from the crowds.
Other recently launched apps also allow virtual tours to the Kaaba in Mecca and nearby locations that form a part of the ritual of the hajj, including Mount Arafat, the Jamaraat Bridge, and the Al-Muzdalifa, as well as a number of exhibitions held in the holy city.
“The King Fahd Glorious Quran Printing Complex is the first government entity in the Kingdom of the Saudi Arabia to use 360-degree virtual-reality technology to photograph the facility and provide virtual roaming service inside it to all visitors,” says the official website of the complex.
“More than 15 years ago, the complex and its most important facilities were photographed using virtual-reality technology by cadres in the IT Department, and the pictures mentioned were made available on the website. The KFGQPC was also keen to benefit from its experience in this area to achieve a community service for all Muslims around the world, by giving them the opportunity to roam virtually inside the Prophet’s Mosque (peace be upon him), and with the help of Allah it was able to complete the project to high quality and with perfection in implementation.”
According to Hamza Ghandorh, a professor of computer science at Taibah University in Saudi Arabia, “virtual-reality technology has started to play a critical role in the tourism industry by virtually exposing users to certain places.”
Ghandorh presented a paper entitled “A Virtual Exploration of Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi Using Leap Motion Controller” at the International Conference of Reliable Information and Technology recently held in Saudi Arabia, explaining how virtual tours have been on the rise and how filming holy sites has been part of this trend.
Religious tourism is gaining in popularity, and more and more people want to visit the religious places,” Ghandorh told the conference.
In the light of the current economic pressures, many Muslims are left with no other choice than to take a virtual tour of the holy sites, the most important of which are the holy Kaaba in Mecca, the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
“The Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi holds historical priority for 1.5 billion visitors having different languages, cultures, and ethnicities,” Ghandorh wrote.
While the Saudi government has been keen on making the necessary expansions to accommodate the increasing number of visitors, computer scientists have been employing new technology to allow those who cannot afford to go to treat their eyes and souls and gain a sense of the place through 3-D virtual visits.
Click the link below and open to visit the Prophet’s Mosque for 3 days.
Scroll with your finger & you can go anywhere in the Prophet’s Mosque at home.
If you open it, you can touch each tab to see everything there.