Editor's note

Millions of Muslims gathered in Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. And if TripAdvisor reviews are any indication, these pilgrims were going to love the journey. Online reviews for Mecca’s Grand Mosque average 4.96 stars, far higher than all of Europe’s top tourist sites combined, according to a study by Australian scholar Tom van Laer and Elif Izberk-Bilgin, who teaches marketing at the University of Michigan. Reviews of Christian, Jewish and Hindu holy sites were similarly enthusiastic.

But these euphoric ratings may be a little misleading, the authors found, more reflective of the contributors’ spiritual experiences than of the “mundane, practical details” of their pilgrimage.

As fears continue that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could spread, tough decisions are being made to bring it to an end. One of these is that President Félix Tshisekedi has taken control of the country’s response efforts. Mosoka Fallah sets out why this is significant, drawing parallels with how Liberia reversed its devastating outbreak after President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took over its management in 2014. For his part Anthoni van Nieuwkerk unpacks research done through the lens of crisis management that draws on the dynamics of the 2014 crisis.

Catesby Holmes

Global Affairs Editor

Top Stories

Like any other travelers, Muslim pilgrims review their hajj trips on sites like TripAdvisor — usually with extreme enthusiasm. AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

Everything in Mecca gets 5 stars — and online reviews of other holy sites are wildly inflated, too

Tom van Laer, University of Sydney; Elif Izberk-Bilgin, University of Michigan

Hajj pilgrims looking online for advice about their upcoming pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, may not find TripAdvisor so useful.

Health + Medicine

How to manage in a crisis: lessons from the West Africa Ebola outbreak

Anthoni van Nieuwkerk, University of the Witwatersrand

Do African decision-makers and leaders approach crises differently from counterparts elsewhere in the world?

Tshisekedi has taken over the DRC’s Ebola response. How he can make a difference

Mosoka Fallah, Harvard Medical School

The DRC president's direct involvement can rally people who have previously doubted the reality of the outbreak.

Politics + Society

Saudi women are fighting for their freedom – and their hard-won victories are growing

Alainna Liloia, University of Arizona

Saudi women may now travel without a man's permission, easing one of the most repressive aspects of the country's 'guardianship' system. Women in Saudi Arabia gained the right to drive last year.

How schools are kept afloat in Somaliland

Tobias Gandrup, University of Antwerp; Kristof Titeca, University of Antwerp

Due to its lack of international recognition and its limited financial capacity, Somaliland's administration isn't fully capable of supporting the education sector