Thursday, October 24, 2013

First photo of Mecca (1884)

First photo of Mecca
Mecca in 1884, photo by Christiaan Snouck (Universität Tübingen)

In 1884 the Dutch Arabist and Islam expert Christiaan Snouck (1857-1936) was the first westerner who managed to make photographs in Mecca. Mecca was (and is) forbidden for non-Muslims. Between 1503 and 1884, only fifteen (disguised) Westerners managed to gain access to the pilgrimage. Snouck converted to Islam, so that he could attend the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Present day Mecca: muslim pilgrims walking around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque (

Immense buildings are erected in Mecca: the Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower  (Fayez Nureldine, 2012)

next episode: Lake Natron


  1. Great photographs. I really like the photo by Christiaan Snouck. I like reading Richard Francis Burton who visited Mecca (in secret) in 1851–53, he was a great traveler and pioneer.

    1. I didn't know Richard Francis Burton. According to wikipedia he led a very interesting life.

  2. Despite all the upgrades, the immediate site has a similar footprint in the old and new photos.

  3. Mecca, growing up more and more, always makes me remember the Italian saying "cattedrale nel deserto" (="cathedral in the desert"), meaning the same of Dutch "witte olifant"...

  4. It's an impressive place as is Medina where the Prophet is buried, I went in 2001 and saw where they print the Qur'an and where they make the covering for the Karbah which is replaced every years during Hajj.


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