Source: Arab News
By Tariq Al Thaqafi
MAKKAH: “Awe at first sight” was the fitting title of a special event at Makkah Cultural Club in celebration of the Kaaba and its importance to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Tariqi, a Saudi academic specialized in historical studies, highlighted some of most important cultural trips to Makkah by intellectuals and other travelers, and the overwhelming feelings they described upon seeing the Kaaba for the first time.
1: Renowned French photographer Jules Gervais-Courtellemont was born near Paris in 1863 and moved with his stepfather to Algeria in 1874, where his passion for photography prompted him to open a small shop. He visited Makkah after converting to Islam and took exquisite photographs that he displayed in Paris.
First impressions of the Kaaba: “During this incredible journey in this mysterious city whose very name breathes mystery and enchantment, I find myself living a miracle. I conjure up events of the night, I see mists, hallucinations and bewilderment of the unknown as I come closer to the wall of the Kaaba. Sleep has abandoned me for three nights now, and with the temperature dropping, I find pleasure in going to the Kaaba, enjoying the sound of muezzins calling for prayer. There are no human tones more harmonious, more warm, more strong and fresher then the call for prayer, what a mesmerizing scene.”
2: Joseph Pitts, an Englishman born in 1663, was obsessed with the sea and travel. Captured by pirates in Algeria, he was sold as a slave. He accompanied his master on a pilgrimage to Makkah and later, when he wrote about his experiences, he became the first Englishman to give an account of the proceedings of Hajj.
First impressions of the Kaaba: “At the very first sight of the Kaaba, the pilgrims melt into tears; and I profess, I could not choose but to admire their devotion and affection, and the awe and trembling they were possessed in. In so much, that I could scarce forbear shedding of tears to see their zeal.”
3: German explorer Domingo Francisco Jorge Badía y Leblich, better known by his pseudonym Ali Bey el Abbassi, visited Makkah in the early 19th century to perform Hajj.
First impressions of the Kaaba: “It was an overwhelming experience. When I kissed the black stone, a sense of tranquility invaded me.”
4: British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton disguised himself as a Muslim pilgrim to visit the holy cities of Medina and Makkah in 1853, at a time when Europeans were banned under penalty of death. The following year he sneaked into the equally forbidden East African city of Harar in Eritrea.
First impressions of the Kaaba: “The scene is one of the wildest excitement. Men prostrate themselves on the pavement, shedding floods of tears and pouring forth frenzied ejaculations. As for me, I felt a sense of satisfaction, a mystic lure.”