Professor Amr Ryad was selected for the Humboldt Research Fellowship Program for Experienced Researchers. In collaboration with Professor Albrecht Fuess, the Centrum für Nah- und Mittelost-Studien (CNMS) and the Philipps-Universität Marburg, he will conduct further research on Europeans in Mecca in the early modern and colonial modern times.
The subject of Ryad's research
Europeans at Mecca in the colonial age
European connections to the Hajj have a lengthy history of centuries before the influx of Muslim migration to the West after World War II. Mecca was (and still is) not easily accessible to non-
Muslims. In the modern colonial age, this inaccessibility made this small “global” town in the eyes of the colonizers unknown, intriguing and possibly a source of anti-colonial unrest in other Muslim regions. In the pre-colonial and colonial age, however, the Hajj bore a global trans-imperial imprint that was enhanced by European technology, especially the steamship. A journey that used to take months or even years by land or sea was now shortened, which had consequently increased the number of pilgrims and their logistics. Also the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 completely transformed the steamship connectivity between European colonies and Mecca. On the cultural level, the creation of a Hajj public knowledge was taking place in Europe in the background of such political and medical worries. Indigenous Muslims in Central and Eastern Europe, a few Muslim emigrants (especially in Great Britain, France and Germany), and European converts to Islam were making their way to Mecca and left behind interesting accounts, such as diaries, published and unpublished travelogues, press items in European newspapers, etc. In the pre-modern and early modern age, Europeans, either converts to Islam or in disguise, entered Mecca (Ralli: 1909; Slight: 2016). In recent years, several archive-based historical analyses have argued that many European converts entered Mecca in order to achieve specific political goals for their countries. In this work package we examine these sources as the representation of a new literary genre that shaped a European image of Muslim pilgrimage. The research will read such European narratives as colonial texts, and determine how they reflect “a process of shift in European learning and culture that occurred in the context of interaction between East and West” (Sampson: 1999) by rasing the following questions:
- How did European travelers to Mecca operate as in-between actors in trans-imperial networks and actions?
- What role(s) did the Europeans in Mecca play within the political and cultural conflict of Europeans in Mecca within the political and cultural conflict between Europe and Islam in the age of empires?
- In what ways and why did European pilgrims make use of Western power and knowledge in order to convey a sense of belonging to Islam and Europe?
- How did Europeans try to refashion their spiritual life standards by means of the Hajj and Mecca?
Dutch Pilgrim Dr. Van der Hoog during his hajj 1935, Source: P. H. van der Hoog, Pelgrims naar Mekka (The Hague: H.P. Leopold’s Uitg.-Mij, NV, 1935)
Portrait Photo Credit: https://www.kuleuven.be/wieiswie/en/person/00116189