Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje was a Dutch scholar of Oriental cultures and languages and Advisor on Native Affairs to the colonial government of the Dutch East Indies.
Born in Oosterhout in 1857, he became a theology student at Leiden University in 1874. He received his doctorate at Leiden in 1880 with his dissertation 'Het Mekkaansche Feest'. He became a professor at the Leiden School for Colonial Civil Servants in 1881.
Snouck, who was fluent in Arabic, through mediation with the Ottoman governor in Jeddah, was examined by a delegation of scholars from Mecca in 1884 and, upon successfully completion of the examination, was allowed to commence a pilgrimage to the Holy Muslim city of Mecca in 1885. He was one of the first Western scholars of Oriental cultures to do so.
A pioneering traveler, he was a rare Western presence in Mecca, but embraced the culture and religion of his hosts with passion in such that he successfully gave people the impression that he had converted to Islam. He admitted that he pretended to be a Muslim as he explained in a letter sent to his college friend, Carl Bezold on 18 February 1886 which is now archived in Heidelberg University Library.