For those on the annual Hajj the journey can be one of great discovery and self-fulfillment.

Before they set-off Asian Image caught up with a wide range of people making their first Hajj.

Zaheer Mahmud (pictured), aged 36 is going to the Hajj after realising there was something missing from his life.

"Last year I decided to simply take a look at my life and see where it was heading.

"I had a lovely family and a secure and interesting job but I felt there was something missing.

"Over the past year I have come to learn many things about myself and realised the missing link was a spiritual connection with the almighty and then I decided I needed to take the next step.

"Just because someone is going on Hajj does not mean they are going to be holier than holy.

"It is a journey more than anything else about forgiveness and helping you to focus on your own spiritual well-being.

Zaheer who will be keeping a daily diary of his Hajj experience for Asian Image says he hopes some of his friends will follow his lead in the near future.

"Anybody can change no matter who you are. People always try to justify how they are continuing to do wrong.

"And sometimes there are no justifications. All you are trying to do is be a decent person.

"Most of my friends are very supportive but some of those with less knowledge about Islam have questioned me.

"I feel they are very insecure about their own beliefs but I think in time they will realise that you should perform Hajj as soon as you can."

A staunch England football and cricket fan Zaheer says he is a patriot at heart and is adamant that his faith and his pride for his country can go hand in hand.

"You have to love the country you are living in. I think there are many ill-informed people in our community who think their homeland is still five thousand miles away."

Shabnam Patel, 27 is also going on her first Hajj. "I am going with my mother and I am really looking forward to it.

"For me going on the Hajj is a very personal thing. Most people I have spoken to say one thing when they return. It is undescribable.

"They find it difficult to put into words what the exprience is about."

Hussain Uddin is a twenty-five year-old IT technician. He feels it is important to perform the Hajj with an open mind.

"I think going on Hajj should help you become a better person.

"I think sometimes people have a set mindset when they go on Hajj and hope that it will completely change the way they live their life when they return.

"You can't judge people's intentions but one should try to take as much from the Hajj experience as possible."

Asif Patel is going on the hajj with his wife Rehana. "It is one of the pillars of Islam. I am going so I could repent and inshallah come back a new person spiritually and become more aware of my actions.

"People are asking me am I ready? I don't always know whether they mean spiritually or physically. Physically I think I am ready for anything. Spiritually, I think to myself would I ever be ready, as everyone has their faults/weakness.

"Therefore as soon as it became farz on me I have to go and hope I will come back ready spiritually and be able to rectify the faults/weaknesses I have."

For Younis Mirza of Bolton the Hajj means everything. "I am sixty years old this month and when I was younger I never had the opportunity to go.

"It is wonderful to see so many younger people going theese days.

"But for many years now I have looked forward to this moment. Setting foot on the blessed land of the prophet (PBUH) will be overwhelming."