Religion plays a major role in the lives of many people around the world. It can unite vast groups and bring peace and prosperity, but it can also lead to rage, strife, and long-lasting, deadly wars. These ten cities have been important places for significant religious events throughout history. Millions of them continue to be places of pilgrimage. If you have a chance to visit all of them, it will surely be an unforgettable experience.
Makkah, Saudi Arabia
Mecca is the holiest city in Islam. The annual Hajj pilgrimage in 2008 attracted between two and three million people to the area. This pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is expected of any competent Muslim at least once in his lifetime. Saudi law does not allow entry of non-Muslims to Mecca.
Mecca’s history is very old, and it comes from a pre-Islamic legend. The tale tells of the casting of Adam and Eve out of Heaven, with Adam landing in what is now landing in Sri Lanka and Eve in Arabia. They drifted for 200 years until they finally reunited on Mount Arafat near Mecca. In the end, God allowed Adam to build a temple, and the legend says he was buried in what is now Mecca.
Maybe in 2000 BC, when Abraham and his son Ishmael designed the Kaaba, a cube-shaped building in Mecca and now the most sacred of all places in Islam, a more accurate historical account began.
The city was Dalai Lamas hometown, Tibetan political leaders and Tibetan Buddhism religious leaders from the 1600s until the Chinese invaded it, and the 14th Dalai Lama fled to exile in 1959. You will find a minority of Tibetans today compared to the Chinese population.
More than one million people go to Tibet every year. You will also see religious pilgrims kneeling or lying vulnerable to the ground with their foreheads in Lhasa. These pilgrims may try to achieve spiritual merit by following one of the three focused paths in or around the Temple of Jokhang.
This small town of 30,000 people is located six miles outside Jerusalem, and most Christians are believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. It is home to one of the largest Christian communities in Palestine, although it is mainly a Muslim region.
History abounds in this almost 2000-year-old city. It is the birthplace of David and the location where he was crowned King of Israel. It was occupied by the Israeli forces most recently. It is currently under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority.
Tucked away in the centre of Rome, Italy, with only 110 acres in size and only 900 people living there, but as far as the religious place is concerned, it is huge. It is Home to the central authority of the Roman Catholic Church and has been the residence of all the Popes since 1377.
Haifa is located about 56 miles from Tel Aviv on the slopes of Mount Carmel, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It has beautiful beaches that still seem natural to tourists and some crucial religious sites. Religiously, this is a very vibrant town and a wonderful pilgrimage place for people of Bahai faith.
There is much to be seen in Vatican City, including the Basilica of St. Peter, the Vatican Library, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum, which includes outstanding works of art by Michelangelo, Bernini, Botticelli and Raphael.
Records show that many people – the Romans, the Samaritans, the Muslim armies, the Crusaders, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, the Ottomans and the British during the First World War – have occupied and taken it over the years.