I gave Maryam my camera to take a picture, and she wouldn’t give it back! Now I have a thousand pictures of myself.

Finally another update! I’m catching up in chunks, so I have lots more photos and stories to share. Hope you enjoy.

It’s all so overwhelming. 9 days feels so short, and I’m only on day 2. I’m afraid to spill the jumble of my soul and the future of my life, in fear of that being able to pack it back up in time to leave. Such a short time, and so so much to do.

Thank God for RAW files! This almost turned out alright despite the haze. Polarizing filter, 1/80 sec, f/14, iso 200, 55 mm

After coming back from Bahji today we met with the members of the Universal House of Justice (UHJ). Walking up to, and then into the UHJ is a very impressive experience; it gives you a real sense of the might and sacred nature of this institution. All of the pilgrims were seated in the main hall. After some time we were asked to be silent, and waited in silence for some minutes before a door was heard opening upstairs from the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, followed by footsteps. Eight members (one was absent) solemnly trooped in and took their seats in front of the room. As they came in, all 350 pilgrims rose to their feet.

Looking at them all sitting there was quite powerful. These are the men that carry the responsibility of this Faith. In their demeanour you could see the weight of this colossal responsibility. Each alone mere men, but together as 9 members a supreme institution. After a prayer and incredibly kind and joyful words of welcome from one of the members, each member waded out into the sea of pilgrims and shook the hand of each and every one, welcoming them to the Holy Land with utmost sincerity and kindness.

Unfortunately I didn’t do a very good job of photographing the UHJ, I really needed people in there for perspective. 1/100 sec, f/10, iso 400, 18 mm

Full. My soul brims with joy, and I happily reside in the valley of contentment. It is a contentment that nothing else in life can give, one that comes only through spiritual nourishment, through prayer and reflection. What a blessing it is the pray and reflect at these most sacred Thresholds, in the most holy spot on earth.

After losing myself in prayer answers seemed to come so quick and simple as I began to reflect. Things that I have been agonizing about for weeks and avoiding thinking about became clear and evident in a flash flood. I am so blessed to have this opportunity. One elderly pilgrim in our group said that the first day of his pilgrimage was the first day of his life.

This was at the Garden of Ridvan just outside of Akka. I had a lot of fun with this fountain playing with shutter speeds to freeze the moment but still have enough motion blur to keep it dynamic. 1/500 sec, f/5.6, iso 400, 300 mm

Today we spent our day visiting Akka and the prison where Baha’u’llah was incarcerated upon His arrival here. We also visited the house where He moved after He was allowed to leave the cell into moderately more comfortable living quarters.

6.0 sec, f/10, iso 100, 18 mm

Yesterday we had a trip to the archives building. Wow. First of all it’s quite the building, all of the buildings on the arc are. It was the first built on the arc and contains the artefacts from the history of the faith. It is very simple and tasteful inside with a hardwood mezzanine, and polished marbled floors that reflect the image of the chandeliers back up.

The walls of the room are lined with beautifully built wooden cabinets that contain the artefacts. Each one is sealed to preserve the contents from the harassment of air. When the doors to the cabinet are opened, a light fades up inside illuminating the contents. Each cabinet was handmade specifically for this purpose.

As we went in, our guide—a very well dressed and kind Persian gentleman—took time to carefully explain to us what was in each of the three cabinets that were in the far end of the room, their significance and history. The one on the left was a photograph of Baha’u’llah—this is very significant because it is the only photograph that Baha’is are allowed to see of Him. The one in the centre contained three portraits of Baha’u’llah, and the one on the right contained the most authentic portrait of the Bab that we have.

Slowly and humbly our guide opened the doors to these three cabinets and stood back, one by one. The lights faded up, and we all stood in still silence for several minutes gazing upon the contents. It was several minutes before someone ventured closer for a look, and then we began cycling through looking at each in absolute silence. I spent most of my time unable to take my eyes off of the photograph of Baha’u’llah; it was riveting. I was unsure about seeing it at first, wondering if I wouldn’t like what I saw or be disappointed. I was struck, however, by the majesty and power evident in His features. I’m not sure how else to describe it, but it gave me a whole new perspective or frame of reference.

Seeing all of the other historical items as well, and all the places—the prison cell, and then houses that Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha lived in—is so wonderful as I have read and heard so many stories about things happening in each of these places, and it is quite special to now actually see them for myself. It is often quite difficult for me to fathom that these are the same places, and the significance of them.

I love this round about, it just adds so much to the picture. This was taken on a late night walk down from the upper terraces, thanks to May Talebi for being amazing and taking me down the terraces! 25.0 sec, f/11, iso 200, 90 mm

Stay tuned, lots more pictures, stories, and hopefully video to come! I’m in Amsterdam at the moment, getting close. Time to go find my gate.