ABSTRACT

Travel (rihla) in Muslim culture is often valued for its integrating effects: the pilgrimage (hajj) leads the pilgrim to Mecca and Medina, and the search for knowledge (talab al'ilm) leads the student to one of the esteemed places of Islamic teaching, such as Medina, Cairo, or Fez. In all these cases, travel brings individuals and groups to centres and unites them with the wider community of the faithful (umma). This chapter considers the consequences of such travel for developing a sense of locality. Did rihla serve only to unite the faithful or did it also give to travellers a sense of local consciousness? I suggest that rihla is ambivalent: through it the traveller becomes more closely linked to the idea of the Muslim community as a whole, but at the same time learns what is specific to his own people and culture.