Amsterdam Centre for Middle Eastern Studies

The Hajj: An Emotional Journey, A Sacred Experience

by dr. Ammeke Kateman (Religious studies, UvA) & PhD candidate Kholoud al Ajarma (Religious Studies, Groningen University)

18Oct2018 17:00 - 19:00


In this twin lecture, Ammeke Kateman and Kholoud Al Ajarma will discuss the experiential aspect of the hajj from a historical and anthropological perspective respectively, mainly focusing on pilgrims’ feelings. For many Muslims, Mecca is the most sacred city on earth and a powerful presence in everyday life. This centrality is reflected in its increasing popularity as a religious travel-destination for the annual Islamic pilgrimage (hajj) since the nineteenth century. It thus seems surprising that the pilgrims’ experiences of the hajj have not received elaborate attention.

Location (room 1.04)

Ammeke Kateman will map some of the key emotional moments occurring during the hajj-journey in the first half of the twentieth century, as narrated in several Arabic Muslim hajj-travelogues (1880-1950). This period was an age of extensive technological, cultural, political, discursive and economic transformation, which effected the hajj-journey, the pilgrims’ emotions during this travel and the ways they recounted these.

Kholoud Al Ajarma will discuss the narratives of modern day pilgrims based on her 12-months fieldwork among pilgrims in Morocco and her minor pilgrimage (umra) to Mecca. She discusses how women and men in Morocco articulate their pilgrimage experience, how these experiences are related to the everyday lives of Moroccans upon return from Mecca, and how pilgrims put into words what they often describe as an experience “beyond words”. 

In the discussion afterwards, Al Ajarma and Kateman will respond to each other’s lectures. They will point out continuities as well as differences between their findings and explore ways in which these comparisons further their own research.

Al Ajarma and Kateman are both part of the research project “More Magical than Disneyland”: Modern Articulations of Pilgrimage to Mecca (led by Marjo Buitelaar and Richard van Leeuwen)

Published by  ACMES