'More Magical than Disneyland': Modern Articulations of Pilgrimage to Mecca


This project studies personal stories about modern Meccan pilgrimage (Hajj). It asks how references to religiosity, social identifications and self-identity reflect the ways in which the habitus (= embodied dispositions that form a matrix for perceptions, appreciations and actions) of narrators is informed by various cultural discourses simultaneously.
Approaching Hajj from the perspective of 'lived religion', Hajj-accounts produced in two crucial phases of modern transformation are analysed. One sub-project studies Mecca-travelogues written between 1850 and 1945, when new modern circumstances and Muslim reformist thought changed the practice and experience of Hajj. Insights in the impact of these changes will help analyse Hajj-trends in today's phase of Islamic revivalism and polarisation of the debate about the compatibility of perceived 'Islamic' and 'Western' values as part of a dynamic tradition. To study present-day Hajj-stories, a second, ethnographic sub-project investigates the sociocultural embeddedness of Hajj in contemporary Morocco, while a third examines how Hajj-accounts of Moroccan-Dutch pilgrims reflect translocal senses of belonging.
The overall aim of studying modern articulations of Meccan pilgrimage is to produce insights in the dynamics of Islam as a living tradition by analysing how modern sensibilities affect the moral and aesthetic choices and practices of Muslims. The project will produce knowledge about religious consumerism and tourism, provide insights in the shaping and blurring of conceptions of the 'sacred' and 'mundane' in concrete practices, and shed light on the role such practices may play in discourses of 'selfing and othering', e.g. when framed in terms of 'Islamic' versus 'un-Islamic'.


Book or monography

  • M.W. Buitelaar, L. Mols(2015): Hajj. Global Interactions through Pilgrimage pp. 244 , Leiden

Chapter in book

  • L. Mols, M.W. Buitelaar(2015): Introduction: Hajj Global Interaction through Pilgrimage pp. 1 - 8 , Leiden
  • R. van Leeuwen, L. Mols, M.W. Buitelaar(2015): Hajj. pp. 83 - 93 , Leiden
  • M.W. Buitelaar, M.W. Buitelaar, L. Mols(2015): Hajj pp. 9 - 25 , Leiden
  • I. Flaskerud, R.J. Natvig, M.W. Buitelaar(2018): Muslim Pilgrimage in Europe pp. 29 - 42 , London & New York

Publication meant for a broad audience

  • M.W. Buitelaar(2015): Mekka: fantastischer dan Disneyland pp. 107 - 115
  • M.W. Buitelaar(2016): Wat is de magie van Mekka?
  • M.W./ Buitelaar(2016): “Gezamenlijk de teller weer even op nul zetten”. Nederlandse moslims op bedevaart naar Mekka pp. 20 - 23
  • A. Kateman(2018): Historische hadj-selfies? Foto’s van pelgrims in hadj-reisverslagen uit het begin van de twintigste eeuw pp. 25 - 35
  • R. Van Leeuwen(2018): Euforie en ontberingen. Het hadj-verslag door de eeuwen heen’ pp. 9 - 19
  • M.W. Buitelaar(2018): De diverse stappen van het bedevaartritueel naar Mekka pp. 20 - 23
  • M.W. Buitelaar(2018): Snelkookpan voor persoonlijke ontwikkeling. Nederlandse moslims over hun bedevaart’ pp. 81 - 90
  • K. Al-Ajarma(2018): ’Cadeaus, souvenirs en verhalen van Palestijnse pelgrims naar Mekka’ pp. 62 - 71

Publications for the general public


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. M.W. Buitelaar

Affiliated with

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Faculteit Godgeleerdheid en Godsdienstwetenschap, Bijbelwetenschap

Team members

K. Al Ajarma, Dr. K Kadrouch-Outmany, Dr. K Kadrouch-Outmany, Dr. A Kateman


01/01/2015 to 31/12/2020