How to be Respectful When Visiting Holy Places Around the World
Churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues are becoming very popular additions to tourist itineraries. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate such architectural and artistic creations. They’re also great places for just sitting and soaking up the solemn, reverential vibe. If you’re planning to include holy places in your vacation itinerary this year, here are some of the ways to visit and be respectful as you tour these holy places.
Do Some Research
It’s always a good idea to brush up on some basics. If you know what’s going on around you when you enter various holy places, you’ll be less likely to offend someone or spoil their visit. It’s also going to save the embarrassment when you turn up on a special day or at a service time. Did you realize, for example, that the synagogues in Prague’s historic Jewish district are closed to the public on a Saturday? Religious history is also something that might interest you. Consider brushing up on major points of disagreement between the various religions, for example.
What to Wear
Holy sites are not the kind of place you turn up to as if you were about to hit the beach. Almost every major religion has an aversion to scantily clad men and women in their places of worship. For men, that means no shorts or tank style tshirts. For women and girls, no short skirts or shorts and keep your chest respectfully hidden. You may also find shoulders and underarms should be covered. When you’re packing for your travels or your holy land tour packages, remember to include a pair of long pants and a shirt or blouse that covers your upper arms, if you don’t like wearing pants you could opt for a long loose skirt. Some religions ask you to cover your head so it’s always a good idea to have a scarf or shall in your daypack. There are a number of other specifics, depending on the religion, but these are usually clearly signed. Keep in mind that some cultures will require you to remove your shoes and leave them outside. In these instances it’s preferable to be wearing shoes that you can easily and quickly slip on and off.
Should You Take Photos?
As a tourist, of course, you’re going to want to take photos. Quite often, however, the caretakers of the holy site will have already decided that taking photos is not appropriate for a holy building. You’ll generally find that the places that charge admission allow photography while those that are free do not. There are valid reasons for the ban on photography. It detracts from the original purpose of the building and its spiritual nature. Show your respect by treating it as the spiritual haven it’s meant to be rather than a tourist hotspot and watch for signage indicating that photos are not permitted.
There’s No Place for Political or Secular Gestures
You may not agree with some of their religious ideals, but if you’re taking the time to visit a house of worship, you can at least show some respect. You can do this by turning off your cell phone and speaking in hushed tones. If there’s a service taking place during your visit, do your best to stay in your seat.
One last tip is to use the donation box if there is one. Holy sites were never meant to be tourist attractions, and hordes of tourists are going to wear down the stone, wood, and metal far quicker than the worshipers have done over the centuries. Repairs and keeping these holy sites clean costs money. Look for a box on your way out and drop some money in.