(Présence-info) While religious tourism in Quebec has been on the rise, the absence of a comprehensive and up-to-date travel guide dedicated to the phenomenon was becoming increasingly felt. Ulysses has just rectified the situation.
Richly illustrated, this 256-page guide lists more than fifty places of interest for religious tourism. It suggests tours according to regions, but also provides lists according to the desired type of location. Thus, enthusiasts of places dedicated to Native spirituality will easily find locations selected from among the abundance of Christian churches. The same goes for those who wish to commune with nature or find a place to go on a spiritual retreat.
It took the author seven months to visit most of the chosen locations and to suggest a coherent organization. The goal was to put together a book tailored for today's religious tourism.
"People have different motivations," explained Siham Jamaa, the author. "Some go on such a journey for spiritual reasons, others, who are truly religious, do it because of their faith, like a pilgrimage. Some do it out if an interest for historical, religious, funerary, or architectural heritage. More and more, people are seeking tranquility, putting things into perspective, and taking the time out of their busy lives to simply observe. Actually, the current trend is to go on retreats."
She had book knowledge of many of these locations. Through her discovery in the field she became aware of the richness of many of these locations. "I had done my research. What you read gives you an idea, but when you're there in person, you feel the emotion," explained the author.
"The experience was full of pleasant surprises. It was even better than on paper. The emotion that comes from meeting people... I was touched by my encounters with the spiritual and religious communities. At times, it's the religious brothers and sisters that give visitors the tour. There is an authentic and historic side to it all. This project was my utmost favorite. These encounters were extremely enriching," she said.
Searching for Meaning
Siham Jamaa is from Morocco and has been living in Montreal for several years. She does not claim to follow any particular religion, but describes herself rather as someone who is searching for meaning and that does not hesitate to explore different spiritual traditions, in a search for answers. In writing her book, she was especially touched by the contact with historical figures whose life stories are an integral part of the locations. She especially expresses her admiration for some of the great artists, such as Guido Nincheri and Louis Jobin, the sculptor. She believes that the result of her work will interest Quebecers and international tourists alike, who will not have had anything as complete to get their teeth into since Guide des pèlerinages et lieux de prière au Québec, written by Gilles Leblanc in 1999.
"We are not familiar with all the regions, or all the places. There are sanctuaries, cemeteries, and natural sites. The book gathers all this information and suggests logical itineraries. It is not exhaustive, and geographical and technical feasibility had to be taken into account. Also, we had to make some difficult choices at times," she said.
In the early 2010's, Siham Jamaa worked at UQAM and was interested in the renewal and transformation of religious tourism in Quebec. She wrote analyses on the new trends. It was because of these texts that she was spotted by Ulysses. She hopes that there will be a sequel. In the meantime, she is ecstatic about the experience she gained, as the obvious choices, such as Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal and Le Monastère des Augustines in Quebec City, and the places that are not traditionally associated with religious tourism, such as Bic National Park, both have a place in this guide.
"In the tours in Montreal, I discuss places such as the Botanical Garden. With this book, we see it from a different perspective: it encourages contemplation, inner-peace, open-mindedness, the discovery of beauty, and experiencing just doing nothing for a moment. Our reflections are more profound, I would say. It creates a state of wellbeing."
Siham Jamaa, Guide to Spiritual and Religious Journeys in Québec