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A Season in Mecca
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About the Author

Abdellah Hammoudi is visiting Professor of Anthropology, University of Princeton.

Reviews

Hammoudi, a Paris-educated professor of anthropology at Princeton University, brings his worldly experiences to the most personal of journeys: the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (called the hajj in Arabic). Originally written in French, this English edition is being published to coincide with the 2006 hajj. Hammoudi is eager to explore the academic angles of the hajj, all the while doubting the strength of his own faith. He is constantly tested. First, he must bribe a mid-level government official in his native Morocco several times simply to be added to the country's quota list of pilgrims. Upon arrival in Medina, the city of the Prophet Muhammad, Hammoudi is stunned by the omnipresent markets hawking everything from rugs to suitcases. Still struggling for a religious experience, Hammoudi is angered by the Wahhabi stewards of Mecca and Medina, who police Islam's holiest sites with irrational Wahhabi zeal. Beset with the flu, Hammoudi still circumambulates the Kaaba in Mecca, appreciating the rare absence of gender segregation. Ghazaleh's translation is reminiscent of both French eloquence and Moroccan storytelling. At times, Hammoudi's intellectualism becomes too abstract to follow, but even such abstraction further adds to the mystical, almost surreal, journey. (Jan. 7) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"A book of surpassing intelligence, humor, sadness and grace."
New York Times

"It is as much a subtle, complex meditation as it is an example of the 'art of reportage'. It is a commentary on one Arab intellectual's modern dilemmas as well as on the hajj as he experienced it ... this struggle gives the writing much of its deep interest."
London Review of Books

"A rare glimpse into what the hajj can mean to a pilgrim's views about faith, community, nationalism, and his personal spiritual experience."
Middle East Journal

"This hajj seen from the inside is a jewel of wit and emotion, a reflection on Islam, and a mine of information."
Le Monde de Religions

"With a sharp observing eye for even the smallest details of daily life, and with a critical spirit that is always respectful but not without humour, Hammoudi leads the Western reader through the labyrinth of this unknown, intriguing world."
Le Monde des Livres

"This is a perceptive and richly-descriptive meditation on faith, kinship and nationality that gives a unique insight into an event of international significance. It is conveyed with rare personal candour, a wealth of historical and cultural detail and moments of unexpected humour."
Tribune

"Hammoudi, a Paris-educated professor of anthropology at Princeton University, brings his worldly experiences to the most personal of journeys: the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (called the hajj in Arabic). Originally written in French, this English edition is being published to coincide with the 2006 hajj. Hammoudi is eager to explore the academic angles of the hajj, all the while doubting the strength of his own faith. He is constantly tested. First, he must bribe a mid-level government official in his native Morocco several times simply to be added to the country's quota list of pilgrims. Upon arrival in Medina, the city of the Prophet Muhammad, Hammoudi is stunned by the omnipresent markets hawking everything from rugs to suitcases. Still struggling for a religious experience, Hammoudi is angered by the Wahhabi stewards of Mecca and Medina, who police Islam's holiest sites with irrational Wahhabi zeal. Beset with the flu, Hammoudi still circumambulates the Kaaba in Mecca, appreciating the rare absence of gender segregation. Ghazaleh's translation is reminiscent of both French eloquence and Moroccan storytelling ... a mystical, almost surreal, journey."
Publishers Weekly

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