And you, what are you doing here?

Michael Gilsenan reviews A Season in Mecca: Narrative of a Pilgrimage by Abdellah Hammoudi ed. Pascale Ghazaleh, in the London Review of Books:

Mecca1Pilgrims travelled for many motives: the religious duty to make the haj, providing one could fulfil its conditions, was not ill, had the funds, would not leave one’s family destitute and so forth; trade, local or regional; labour and remittance along the way, on a journey whose duration was limited only by God; status. The temporal scale of ‘going on pilgrimage’ was enormously variable. Pilgrims might move and settle and then move on, or not. The process could take years. But by the 1880s, modern boundaries and frontiers were being drawn, territories delineated, wars fought, treaties with native rulers signed, legal systems imposed, ‘races’ scientifically delineated, their supposed characteristics ethnographically reported, their ‘characters’ assessed. The new colonial states demanded ever more documents. The pilgrimage was to be controlled.[1] The experience necessarily changed and it has not ceased doing so. In our own day, it is plane and airport capacities that are crucial. Indeed, trips to the Holy Places by land are now forbidden.

More here.