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Jaffer Hassan

Arbaeen is known as the world’s largest peaceful gathering and it is a significant religious occasion for Shia Muslims, taking place in Iraq, the journey starting from the city of Najaf and culminating in Karbala.

If you asked me if I knew what an eventful photo journal Arbaeen would be, I’d have said, “What”? Little did I know what I was heading towards. The extreme heat, the three-day walk, the countless millions of people all on a journey to experience the sights and sounds unlike any in the world… it made for an unforgettable experience.

People from all over the world come here, some had even walked all the way from Iran, starting their journey 30 days before. If I could tell you how unbearable the heat was, you wouldn’t believe me. The people in our group had never experienced such heat, so they had taken it upon themselves to walk when it was cooler—at night. In these images, I try to show the hardship one goes through, while also trying to convey the love and respect they have for the journey they are on. There is so much more one can speak about, so many more aspects but that is a story for another day. For now, here are some of the images.

After a long day, the individuals who work tirelessly to feed and help the pilgrams rest up. These are people from all over Iraq, who take time off and come here to help fellow travellers. They save up all year and contribute.

On my first day in Najaf, I was walking the alleys and trying to figure out what type of stories of images I wanted to tell. Seeing this woman with her child sleeping just caught my attention. I snuck up behind her to get this image.

In the busiest of crowds, I spotted this one girl who was being carried. What was surprising to me was just how calm she was—after all, this was not a normal crowd. It was rough, it was hot, and it was not easy to navigate.

Upon arrival at the spot where the left hand of Hazrat Abbas (r.a.) was cut. I kept trying to get closer to get the shot of the females hands touching the grail. This is one of two sites where the hands are buried.

An image of the tomb where the left hand of Hazrat Abbas (r.a.) was cut. I wanted to just get the timing right with the female walking and the shadows. The timing was quite lucky as it's one of the busiest locations.


Jaffer Hasan, an American-Pakistani photographer, is known for his work in the fashion world. His photographs have been featured in every major publication in Pakistan, as well as many in the Middle East and Europe. Jaffer’s education has seen him travel the world from Paris to Las Vegas, Seattle and Montreal, moving back to Pakistan only a few years ago to pursue photography.

His photographer’s eye found the enigmatic, highly political and dynamic fashion scene, and the violent social-scape of Pakistan worth exploring. Jaffer introduced the concept of backstage photography at Pakistani fashion shows and brought a fresh perspective to fashion shoots. Using the rawness of unscripted moments and shadows to his advantage, he captures the chaos of the backstage world, turning the photographs into magical images which get imprinted on the viewers’ mindscape.

He now moves between Pakistan and the Unites States for commissioned projects, specializing in fashion and ‘people’ photography.


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