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Nur ar-Ramadan

Rare Makkah Photos Displayed in Holland


By Wafa Bubnad, IOL Correspondent


Celebrations of the holy month of Ramadan in the Dutch city of Leiden have not only been limited to the Muslim community this year.

The ancient Leiden University has also weighed in, marking Ramadan their own way. University officials decided to share Muslims their joy and festivities by holding an exhibition of Makkah rare photos, dating back to 1885-1935.

The overall characteristics of the exhibition demonstrate the pilgrimage rituals as well as religious and social life in the holy lands during that period.

In statements to Wednesday October 27, Director of Oriental Studies Institute in the University of Leiden -- set up in 1574 -- Keisse Van Ohmen said, “We have recently been used to holding an Islamic world-related cultural demonstration during Ramadan.

“This year, we have chosen the photo gallery of Makkah and Hijaz in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

“The photos displayed along the holy month of Ramadan inside the library's exhibition hall also immortalize 50 years of Dutch-Arab relationships in a period characterized by several serious events, including the establishment of the Saudi kingdom, the discovery of oil and the operation of Dutch-British Shell Oil Company in the Arabian Peninsula," the Dutch university researcher added.

Rare Pilgrimage Photos

Leiden University photo gallery includes rare photos of the pilgrimage season, dating back to 1885-1888.

These could be the oldest photos of their kind of the holy places, including one taken by Hijazi physicist Hajj Abdel Ghaffar of the pilgrims on Mount Arafat.

There is also another panoramic photo taken by the same physicist of the shrines of Mena as well as other photos of alleys and suburbs of Makkah describing the simplicity of life there and the great changes that occurred during recent decades.

In addition to the photos of Makkah, the Dutch university exhibition comprises other important photos of the visits performed by Saudi princes to the Netherlands in early 20th century, including a documentary coverage of an official visit made by King Saud to the capital then, The Hague.

The gallery includes portraits of the elites of Makkah and Hijaz during that era as well as rare photos of Christian Snook, a very famous Dutch orientalist whose name is related to the subscripts of the Dutch and British colonialists in the Arab and Islamic region.

Some regard him as a Dutch duplicate of Briton “Lawrence of Arabia”.

Mosques of Leiden

A rare old photo of Makkah, over a hundred years ago

Despite the mostly academic and orientalist relationship between Leiden and the Muslims, recent decades have introduced a new element to the equation. The small Dutch city of 100,000 inhabitants has a Muslim community representing nearly one tenth of its population.

There are three mosques in the city, two of which are managed by Muslims of Moroccan origin while the third is managed by Turks.

“The city is small but has got great importance for both the Netherlands and the Muslim community. Al-Hijra mosque in Leiden is the oldest one set up in Holland,” head of the administration of Al-Hijra mosque in Leiden Ibn Eissa Al-Zahid said.

“Ramadan has a special flavor in Leiden, as quietness of the city is reflected on the morale of the fasting Muslims and help them perform their religious duties,” the Muslim activist of a Moroccan origin said.

Muslims in the city are united and consolidated during the holy month of Ramadan. They fast, perform Tarawih prayers, pay Zakah and alms and have mercy on each other, according to the head of Al-Hijra mosque.

“Mosques of Leiden open their doors day and night along the holy month to receive worshippers of different origins and nationalities. Mosques in Holland perform their duties freely and their conditions are far better then their counterparts in a number of Arab and Islamic states,” he added.