What sights, smells, sounds, and tastes did pilgrims to the Kaʿba, the Dome of the Rock, and other early Islamic sacred spaces experience? Drawing upon literary and material evidence, this paper will attempt to reconstruct some important sensorial—and especially olfactory—components of Islamic pilgrimage of the seventh and eighth centuries CE. Taking account of participants’ physical practices within sacred spaces, I suggest that these sensory experiences played a formative role for Muslims and for the Islamic identities they formed, both during the pilgrimage and afterwards.
Adam Bursi earned his PhD in Near Eastern Studies from Cornell University in 2015. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow with the ERC-funded project SENSIS: The Senses of Islam at Utrecht University. His research studies early Islam in dialogue with other late antique religions, focusing on the ways that rituals related to relics, pilgrimage, and healing were tightly interwoven with the formation, self-understanding, and performance of communal membership among early Muslims.
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