I first came to know about Jordan because of its significance in the Bible. During the next two days we were to visit important religious sites: Um Rassas, Madaba, Mt. Nebo and the Baptism site. I was excited at the prospect especially because our guide Omar was an excellent story teller. He made all the stories of the Bible come alive and was very happy to answer any questions we had. Our visit to these holy sites thus made me reflect on religious tourism and its implications on the people of Jordan.
According to Collins-Kreiner (1) pilgrimage is one of the oldest and most basic forms of population mobility known to human society, and its political, social, cultural and economic implications have always been, and continue to be, substantial. Pilgrimage is a phenomenon linked to all religions. Religious tourism appears to be one of the earliest forms of tourism. Almost since the dawn of history human beings have traveled to holy sites (4). By the Biblical period important religious centers had become not only a part of the cultural landscape, but they also had become major players in local marketing and important parts of the economy of those cities that hosted religious centers (4). Today’s religious travel includes multiple sub-niches that range from the luxury pilgrimage market to backpacking and from religious institutional travel to volunteer-oriented experiences meant to help those in some form of need (4).
Tourism based on pilgrimage and visiting the holy sites became important in Jordan(2). Jordan is part of the Holy Land due to the presence of holy places representing the three monotheistic religions. Jordan appeals to Muslims, Christians and Jews alike, because as the “Abrahamic” traditions all three recognize religious sites in Jordan. Tourism has been a culture and a means of sustenance for Muslims, Christians and Jews, conducted in communion between the Muslims and the Christians of the Holy Land, as it provided everyone’s “bread and butter” (2).Our tour guide at the Baptism site mentioned the importance of religious tourism in the preservation of social values of the people and proposed Jordan to be a place of union of people of different religions. The commonly shared heritage within the religious landscape of Jordan is an extremely important factor in attracting tourists as well as bringing Christians and Muslims closer together as communities.
A second reason why Jordan is important in religious tourism is its geographical proximity to religious sites in other nations. The geographical location of Jordan as the crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia makes the country a promising tourist destination.
What is interesting to note, however, is that religious sites have been an increasingly popular object of the tourist gaze. even when the people do not hold faith in the beliefs that such places hold (5).
|Entrance of Umm Ar-Rasas|
1) Collins-Kreiner, N.Researching Pilgrimage: Continuity and Transformations. Annals of Tourism Research.37(2), 2010 [Online] Available at: https://www.academia.edu/259783/RESEARCHING_PILGRIMAGE_Continuity_and_Transformations
2) Bader,M.Religious Tourism in Jordan: Current situation, future developments and prospects.A case study on Islamic and Christian holy sites. 2012 [Online] Available at: http://d-nb.info/1034352407/34
3)Strategic Initiatives & Government Advisory (SIGA) Team. Diverse Beliefs: Tourism of Faith Religious tourism gains ground Strategic Initiatives & Government Advisory (SIGA) Team.April 2012 [Online] Available at: http://www.ficci.com/spdocument/20207/Diverse-Beliefs-Tourism-of-Faith.pdf
4) The importance of the Religious Tourism Market. Website. Available at: http://www.tourismandmore.com/tidbits/the-importance-of-the-religious-tourism-market/
5) Vukovic, B. Religion,tourism and economics: a convenient symbiosis. Tourism recreation Research. 27(2):59-64 [Online]