The youngest religion in the world began in 1844 after a divine revelation to a young Persian man Siyyid `Alí Muhammad Shírází. After the revelation he called himself the Báb (meaning “gate” or “door” in Arabic) and started to spread his message in Iran about the next prophet who will come after him to reveal a new God’s will. The next prophet was named Bahá’u’lláh and as his predecessor was condemned and imprisoned due to the Ottoman Empire’s strong Islamic tradition. Due to his high social status Bahá’u’lláh was not killed like the Báb, but exiled and imprisoned in different places until he ended up in a house arrest in Akko (Acre, nowadays Israel). He was buried in a shrine there and the remains of the Báb were brought and buried in the nearby city of Haifa. These two holy places are now the Bahá’í Faith’s pilgrimage destinations.
The pilgrimage itself is 9 days long and consists of guided visits to their holy places in Haifa and Akko, praying and meditating. If interested, you can find all the information about the pilgrimage in the Bahá’í World Centre pilgrimage website. Unfortunately, this pilgrimage can be made only by registered Bahá’í devotees and only with a permission and invitation from the Bahá’í World Centre. Nevertheless, some of the holy sites are partially open for the public and can be visited by everyone who’s interested.
During my recent trip to Israel I had a chance to visit Haifa as well. The Bahá’í Gardens were the first thing I saw when I arrived into the town late in the evening. The many lighten circles all along the hill right in the centre of the town were hard not to notice. The next good news were that there are free daily guided tours into the gardens in four Arabic, Hebrew, Russian and English (all visit information can be found in the official Bahá’í website). The first try to visit the gardens was unsuccessful due to the hard rain that morning; the tour was cancelled due to the slippery steps on which we had to walk down the hill. Nevertheless, we went to a Hebrew tour an hour later and had a very pleasant walk with a small group of visitors. The guide gladly answered our questions in English and the gardens were really impressive and had a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere. It was definitely worth to wait and see the gardens – after 45 min of walking there I felt so calm and peaceful inside.
The beautiful architecture created by Fariborz Sahba lies on the slopes of Mount Carmel which is also holy for four more religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Druze. Perhaps, that was a symbolic and strategic decision of Bahá’u’lláh to build the Bahá’í centre here due to the main message of the Bahá’í religion which says that there is only one God, one religion, one human race, we all are equal, etc.
The nearby town of Akko (also known as Akka or Acre) is less than 30 min ride away from Haifa. If whether is good you can also take a daily Haifa – Akko ferry and reach Akko by water. The main pilgrimage destination in Akko is the Bahá’í gardens with the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh in the centre. Visitors are welcome to take a free guided tour or walk in the gardens at the opening to pubic hours – all information is on the Bahá’í gardens website. Be aware that both sites are holy places and there are some rules of non-smoking, modest clothing, non-eating and only drinking water while being in the gardens in order to keep the calm and meditative environment for the devotees and pilgrims.