Religious Pilgrimage and the Secular Mirror of Tourism

English: Supplicating Pilgrim at Masjid Al Har...

English: Supplicating Pilgrim at Masjid Al Haram. Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Français : Pélerin en prière dans Masjid Al Haram, la mosquée interdite, à La Mecque (Arabie Saoudite). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many religions whose practices surround various rituals, such as prayers or fasting, that adhere to certain laws and it is these factors that collectively form tradition. Pilgrimage is another form all together that embodies these aspects through its purposeful journal to connect that, which physically symbolizes a tangible aspect of one’s religion. For example, Mecca is a location where many Muslims journey to for the pilgrimage of the Hajj. It is here that a black stone, which is believed to have been remnants of the first Alter shown to Adam and Eve, is located at the center of a large mosque within a stone shrine (called the Kaaba, is believed to have been built by Ibrahim and Is’mail as instructed by Allah). (BBC) Muslims believe their journey to this location, which follows a number of rituals (such as walking counter clockwise, seven times around the stone, or refraining from eating food), is a show of dedication to Allah and in memorabilia of Muhammad who placed the stone in the Mosque. (BBC)

Areas of pilgrimage often times represent sacred forms of symbolism and the purpose of journeying to such places is to remove one’s self from their daily environment in order re-establish a connection with their religion. While the journey enables the individual to perform this spiritual quasi cleansing, a communal factor exists because of uniform nature in which pilgrimages occur.

Interestingly enough, in retrospect to a fairly non-religious arena of tourism, pilgrimage can also be exemplified. Think about the manner in which people travel and the results that follow. An individual or groups of individuals take time away from the structure of their rudimentary lives to travel to various locations, which provide relaxation or simply a change of scenery. This act itself is believed to bring peace to the state of mind or represents an opportunity to simply break free of responsibility. In either event, whether it is a religious pilgrimage to Mecca or a family vacation to the rain forest of the Amazon, one releases themselves from daily distractions embedded in routine and relishes in a differential atmosphere. This separation between different frameworks of life instills a mental state upon returning to the norm, with a sense of reflection or renewed vigor.

J-Tourism: Can you feel my heart?

J-Tourism: Can you feel my heart? (Photo credit: timtak)

Religious pilgrimages represent a reconnection with one’s belief and consequently the purpose of one’s daily life in line with that belief. Tourism as an activity, represents a detachment from the norm in order to reconnect with life at it’s core level and consequently enables purpose to be re-established in the daily routine by which one lives life. Whether in respect to a deity or in respect to the enjoyment of life, both follow the same principle of purpose when appreciating the subjectively important aspects of an individual’s life. It seems that it is here that religion and the secular world find their most common characteristic, a connection with life in order to bring purpose to one’s existence.



Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology

BBC.2009.Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca. Retrieved from:

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