There’s topic that I think more people need to know about. Uluru, Australia. To be more precise: climbing Uluru.
Visiting Uluru (a.k.a. Ayers Rock, located in Central Australia) was one of the highlights of my visit in the land down under. Mainly because it’s a place where I learned more about the Aboriginal culture.
To the indigenous people, Uluru is one of the most sacred sites there is. According to them the world was being created right there, in Central Australia. The Creation Period, called Tjukurpa, is for them the basis of all knowledge and connects everything in life.
There are quite a number of tourists each year who want to climb to the top of World Heritage-listed Uluru. In general, the tourism industry doesn’t really inform the tourists that climbing isn’t encouraged. People want to climb Uluru? Well, let’s offer a tour with sunrise, climb and sunset.
Then there is Australian law which permits the climb. Every so often there is a vote about banning to climb Uluru. Every time there is usually at least one Minister that votes against – the Minister of Tourism. How surprising…
Aboriginal law and culture
As I said before, Uluru is a very sacred site. The Aboriginal owners of Uluru, the Anangu, ask you to respect their law and consequently not to climb. The climbing route is supposed to be only taken by few Aboriginal men on special occasions since it is a sacred path of spiritual significance. On top of that, people have died while climbing Uluru. The Anangu feel responsible for these accidents as it is their belief that they have to safeguard their land and their visitors. They feel great sadness if visitors are killed or injured.
But regardless of the spiritual beliefs of the Aboriginal people, climbing Uluru continues. Although the number of visitors who climb Uluru has decreased over time, still 38% of all visitors do. Even though tourists may sometimes haven’t been informed well by the tourism industry, there are numerous signs in the Visitors Centre near Uluru as well as at the foot of the climb. So I think tourists can’t really say they didn’t know it’s not encouraged.
Let me ask you this:
You take your shoes off when you enter a mosque or a Hindu temple. You’re not supposed to take pictures in several churches or Buddhist temples either. So why would you climb Uluru?
For me it’s a matter of respecting the Aboriginal’s culture and beliefs. It’s not in the nature and culture of Aboriginals to be direct and say: “No, you can not climb Uluru.” Instead they politely request the tourists not to. Doing it anyway just because “we have paid an entrance fee for the National Park” or “we travelled thousands of kilometres to get there” is utter ignorance in my opinion.
Climbing Uluru is in my view not a tourist attraction like climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Thinking that there’s not much of a difference between the two seems strange to me. Or, as someone else rightly puts it, it would be like equating the Sistine Chapel to Disneyland.