In 1885, Dutchman Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje travelled to Mecca, taking photos and sound recordings which, in effect, makes him one of the first multimedia journalists. His photos have gone on display in Dubai ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
“People tend to forget the situation because cameras today are so versatile and light,” he told CNN. “In Snouck’s day they probably weighed about 40 kilos, and he needed to take all the chemicals for developing, which he would have done on site.”
“And he not only took photographs, but also recorded sounds. Can you just imagine going there and going through all the hardship to record that moment in history? It’s fascinating.”
Also fascinating, says Domit, is the story of Snouck himself. A pioneering traveler, he was a rare Western presence in Mecca, but embraced the culture and religion of his hosts with passion, converting to Islam.
He stayed for five months, documenting the run-up to Hajj, but although he had intended to stay for the pilgrimage, he was forced to leave after unfounded accusations of his involvement in an attempt to steal a historical artifact.
“Being one of the first Europeans, people were suspicious of his agenda, particularly as he had gained the confidence of the Ottoman leader,” added Domit.