The Ottoman Route (Istanbul – Damascus – Mecca)
During the rule of the Ottoman sultans, the ceremonies surrounding the departure of the Hajj caravans from Istanbul were at their most spectacular. The main hub for this route was Damascus drawing pilgrims from across the Ottoman Empire and beyond.
Following the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517, the Ottomans took charge of the Hajj. They took control of the Hijaz and the holy cities and each year they spent vast sums on protecting the caravans, maintaining the routes and taking care of the holy sanctuaries at Mecca and Medina.
From fear of not arriving on time, no rest is permitted from Muzayrib [outside Damascus] ... everyone kept on walking while munching on a biscuit from his own scrip. Even the camels were fed balls of dough while walking. We kept flowing like a human stream.