I love a good selfie. I don’t really feel comfortable with the posing type ones, but I love to send really stupid-quite-scary-looking photo’s to my family to make them laugh (or cringe. A lot of them cringe).
Trying to make the cat take a selfie is fun too. And of course Mo and I like to take one of ourselves when we’re somewhere exciting to again, send out to the familia – a way of showing we’re alive, safe and having a good time.
In 2013 the word ‘selfie’ made its way into the Oxford dictionary as it’s popularity boomed with the rise of camera phones and other devices with ‘selfie-friendly’ screens. Such a picture never really offended me, but I did start to put my back up when the selfie stick started popping up (literally) – and getting in the way!
About a month ago I was with Mo and his family visiting the holiest mosque in the entire world for Muslims, Masjid-al-haram in Makkah. It is here that you’ll find the Ka’abah, a symbol that every Muslim prays towards, five times a day. And it was here that for the first time, I felt myself turning my nose up in distaste at the number of selfie-takers.
No I take it back, the first time I turned my nose up was actually at the Burj Khalifa fountains in Dubai. We strolled over to watch them one evening but all short little me could see was a montage of camera phones and selfie sticks! It was comical, quite saddening but most of all, very annoying. It was enough to actually put me off watching the choreographed water show altogether (yes I did have a mini diva strop about it).
But back to Makkah, my initial reaction here was actually shock. I have (luckily) visited the holy sites in Saudi Arabia many times (I grew up in Riyadh) but my last visit before this one was back in 1998 – back in the times where ANY kind of photography was totally prohibited. In all the times my family and I had visited, I have not got a single photograph of the experience.
So to step foot into such a sacred place and find myself amongst crowds of smartphones in the air, people snapping away publicly… it was a bit disorientating.
As I tried to banish all thoughts of judgement from my mind, I couldn’t help feeling that the whole process of photography here in this religious site was inappropriate.
But talking it through with my nearest and dearest it seems I was the one being inappropriate. I forgot to implement one of my most important life lessons and shift the paradigm. I forgot to put myself into their situation to try and understand why in a place where people know photography is frowned upon, do people continue to take snaps.
I had a couple of possible reasons:
Mo took a number of photos of the mosque whilst we were there (no selfie’s mind), and posted them on social media to share. As the majority of our friends are actually non-Muslims, this was a great insight for some of them to see and ask questions about Islam.
I have been privileged enough to visit Makkah a number of times, and I know you must be really sick of hearing me say that but I have to stress this point because there are people who are only able to make this journey once in their life. Just once.
Economic strain, visa accessability, distance, sickness, sometimes it just isn’t feasible to return. There are so many people who have saved for many many months, even years to make the trip a reality and I can’t help but feel if that was my one chance, my only chance to visit, would I not want a photograph to remind me of the most important experience of my life?
Beautiful doesn’t even come close to what this place is. The architecture, the design, the sunshine, the birds flying over… why wouldn’t people want to capture such a magnificent sight.
So all in all, I feel I must sincerely apologise to all the people I judged whilst I was there and I have well and truly learnt my lesson.
I can’t promise I won’t complain if you decide to block my view with your ill-placed selfie stick (just saying).
What kind of selfie taker are you? Any thoughts on it’s attempt of world domination?