Religion05 Aug 2010 07:29 am
The requirement of performing the Pilgrimage to Mecca is not only demanded of all Muslims. It is absolutely forbidden to all non-Muslims. Mecca is closed to non-Muslims, as is Medina, Islam’s second most holy city. Of course, the existence of a “forbidden city” is an open provocation to a certain type of explorer and adventurer. One such man, Sir Richard Burton, secretly made the trip.
Burton was one of the great adventurers of nineteenth-century Britain. He had extensive experiences throughout Asia and Africa: he served as a captain in the army of the East India Company; he produced the first complete translations of the 1001 Nights (also known as the Arabian Nights) and the Kama Sutra; he served on the expedition that discovered Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa. He was also one of the few foreigners to see the pilgrimage to Mecca. Disguising himself as a Sufi mystic named “al-Hajj ‘Abdullah’,” Burton made his way to Mecca in the early 1850′s. It was a dangerous experience, and Burton had to take numerous precautions to avoid being found out. (He not only had to disguise himself in traditional dress; he had to learn all the intricate rituals of Islam so he could fit in with the other pilgrims.) Despite the dangers involved, Burton made it back to England, where he wrote about his experience in his Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Medinah and Meccah. Read it here.
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