Religious tourism and pilgrimage
Pilgrimage and religious tourism had long been a preoccupation for societies around the Mediterranean. Believers regularly visited holy sites in their locality or regionally, or, indeed, farther afield. Many also set out to visit holy places in Palestine – in particular Jerusalem – and throughout the Middle East. The annual Hajj pilgrimage, meanwhile, saw Muslims from all over the world converge on the Holy Places of Mecca (Makkah) and Medina (Madinah). In the 19th century, increasing numbers of Europeans were able to embark on voyages to visit the Holy Land. Among the visitors were members of the royal families of Europe or even heads of state such as Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy and the German Emperor Wilhelm II. According to protocol, royal visits started in Istanbul, where the monarchs were first received with great ceremony by the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul. Subsequently, the royal visitors were conveyed to the Holy Land and its most significant sites. Sometimes, symbolic and spiritually significant gifts would be exchanged during such occasions in order to emphasise mutual friendship, respect, and religious tolerance. Thus, in 1898, Emperor Wilhelm II placed a golden wreath on the tomb of Salah al-Din (Saladin) during his pilgrimage to Damascus.
Jerusalem, al-Haram al-Sharif, Dome of the Rock
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National Library of France , Paris, France
Photographer: Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey
The site of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem has been sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims for many centuries. This late 19th-century photograph, taken by a European traveller, gives a good impression of what believers would have seen on approaching the vast esplanade.