Mastercard recently released its annual Global Destination Cities Index, an extremely boring + corporate jargon sounding league table that actually reveals very interesting facts about the world’s most visited cities.
The usual suspects can be found on the list. London, with its history, extortionate open top bus tours and M&Ms megastore, is obviously a magnet for tourists, and is sitting pretty at number 2 most visited.
Anyone who’s ever been to the Louvre will not be shocked to learn Paris is third and, if you’ve been unlucky enough to catch those shows on Channel 5 about Brits being nicked in Thai airports, then you’ll have no doubt guessed Bangkok holds the top spot.
However, what’s most interesting about the list is the number of Middle Eastern and Muslim majority cities that make the cut.
Take Dubai, for instance. While it’s certainly not without controversy, the UAE city attracts reams of tourists and a ton of business thanks to the bizarro futurescape metropolis it’s constructing at lightning-fast levels (a contentious human rights issue in itself, but a subject for another time).
Then we have Istanbul and Antalya, both in Turkey, which attract visitors for different reasons: Istanbul, because it is vibrant, cosmopolitan, richly historic – not to mention beautiful – and a symbolic link between Europe and the Middle East, and Antalya, because its crystal clear oceans and boiling weather are a real draw for tourists, for some reason.
Kuala Lumpur, where almost half the population is Muslim, comes in at a lofty seven. The Malaysian capital welcomes floods of visitors thanks to its excellent food, incredible architecture (both historic and dizzyingly modern), cultural diversity and – compared to a lot of cities on the list – cheap prices.
Finally, Mecca is thirteenth on the list. The Saudi Arabian city’s high ranking is, of course, down to its religious significance as a city of the Hajj, as well as the Umrah, the non-mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca.
We think these rankings are really heartening. We are too often subjected to negative portrayals of Middle Eastern cities, or unaware that some of the world’s most vibrant metropolises are home to large Muslim communities. In reality, these are places millions are visiting for a variety of reasons; whether it’s business, sunshine, history, faith or the myriad of other qualities these cities have to offer.
Anyways, all this talk of Mecca reminded us of one of our fave photographers. Maaria Lohiya (@justmebreathing), who we’ve featured before, has taken some incredible pictures of Mecca, not to mention some beautiful snaps of Madina during Hajj. Check them out:
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“Whoever is not able to stop at Arafah, then stop at the limits of Allāh He has set. ⠀ Whoever is not able to spend the night at Muzdalifah, let him spend the night in obedience to Allāh to come close and attain nearness to Him. ⠀ Whoever is not able to slaughter at Minā, then let him slaughter his desires so by it he can reach his objective. ⠀ Whoever cannot make to Ka’bah and is far from it then let him serve the Lord of Ka’bah for He is nearer than jugular vein.” ⠀ — Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī Raḥimahullāh ⠀ ● [لطائف المعارف صفحة ٦٣٣]
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“Invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and goodly advice…” ⠀ ادع إلى سبيل ربك بالحكمة والموعظة الحسنة ⠀ They asked, why does Qur`ān invite us to a path (سبيل) and not a destination? ⠀ Because, she said, like all oft-trodden paths, this sabeel embraces every walk of life; its travelers trace their origins to every far corner of the globe. And you see them trudging foot after foot-—their eyes are fixated on the finish line, though not all at the same speed. Some travelers soar. Some inch along, and from their little progress, you would think they were not moving at all. ⠀ Some travel in packs, and they tug at one other every time one of them strays. Some travel in their lonesome. Some stumble on the path in a frantic search for stability; while others-—oh, those struggling souls-—while others wander in oblivion. You see their feet flirting with the curb. They glance behind restlessly, as though uncertain about this path, as though lost. But nonetheless, they fumble forward. In fact, everyone on this path moves forward. And perhaps the one who trails ten miles behind you now will one day skirt along your side. Call it welcoming, call it diverse: this path pitches beautiful signs at every entrance and invites every traveler. That is Islam. There are over 1.7 billion of us on this planet and each of us travels at our own pace. ⠀ So as you move forward, remember one thing: “The goal is not to reach the end of the path, but to die on it.” ⠀ March on, warrior.” ⠀ — Rania QI (www.quranimprints.com)