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Press release:

Tropenmuseum reveals the magnetism of Mecca

A spectacular collection, VR-experience and personal stories offer a unique insight into the Hajj

For a quarter of the world’s population, the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia is a place you must have visited at least once in your lifetime. Every year millions of Muslim faithful – including thousands of Dutch - embark on the Hajj, Islam’s most important pilgrimage to Mecca. What attracts these pilgrims? What longing drives them? What impressions and experiences do they have on their journey, when they reach their destination and on their return? Longing for Mecca, an exhibition about this impressive pilgrimage, is on show in Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum from February 15.

Travel to Mecca by way of the personal stories of Dutch hajji. Mecca is home to the Kaaba, the cuboid shrine at the centre of the Grand Mosque. Muslims throughout the world turn to face the Kaaba when they say their daily prayers.

Unique virtual reality experience

Dazzling objects and revealing reportages offer a multi-faceted view of this important religious and spiritual journey. Virtual reality glasses allow the visitor to experience what it’s like to be in Mecca. For Muslims, the virtual reality experience offers an atmospheric reminder or an exciting initial encounter; for non-Muslims it offers a unique window on a world they cannot enter, as Mecca is only for the Islamic faithful.

Objects from the leading collections of Islamic art

For centuries the pilgrimage to Mecca has inspired the creation and commission of spectacular objects and works of art. The exhibition have brought together more than 300 striking works from leading collections of Islamic art, including the Tropenmuseum’s own. The curated pieces span a wide range, from the 10th century to the present day, from China to Indonesia and from Turkey to Morocco.

From the Kaaba’s cloths to contemporary art

One of the items on show is an impressive 19th century sedan chair of four metres high, that would be carried on the back of a camel in the annual Hajj caravan from Cairo to Mecca. A spectacular showpiece are the antique Kiswa textiles, richly embellished in gold and silver thread, that were used to cover the holy Kaaba. Each year new cloths are made for the purpose. Also on show are photographs of 19th century hajji and excerpts from the first documentary about the Hajj in 1928. In addition, there’s contemporary art, such as the Magnetism installation by artist Ahmed Matar, which symbolises the pull of the Kaaba.

Longing for Mecca offers a unique insight into one of the world’s most important religious, spiritual and cultural phenomena. The exhibition opens on 15 February 2019 in Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum. Longing for Mecca is a collaboration with the British Museum in London, where the exhibition Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam was shown in 2012.