Pilgrims from the Islamic lands

The Travels (Rihla) of Ibn Jubayr (Performed Hajj in 1183)

The Travels (Rihla) of Ibn Jubayr

The Travels (Rihla) of Ibn Jubayr (875/1470, Mecca). Leiden University Library (OR.320, fols. 2-3)

As we marched that night, the full moon had thrown its rays upon the earth, the night had lifted its veil, voices struck the ears with cries of “Here I am O God, here I am” from all sides.
R.J.C. Broadhurst (transl.) The travels of Ibn Jubayr (London 1952, reprint 2004) p. 75

Ibn Jubayr (d. 1217) was from Andalucia in Spain. His is the earliest first-hand account of the Hajj experience and the most important before the 19th century. He began his journey from Ceuta on 3rd February 1183. On reaching Egypt, he travelled up the Nile to Qus and then across the desert to ‘Aidhab. This route avoided passing through the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Ibn Jubayr arrived in Mecca on the 4th August. His detailed account provides a wealth of information about Mecca and the rituals of Hajj including important information on the textiles that covered the Ka‘ba. Illustrated here is the earliest known copy of Ibn Jubayr’s Rihla and held in Leiden University Library. It is copied in Mecca by ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Qurashi in Maghribi script. Ibn Jubayr’s text was extensively used by the other famous traveller who went on Hajj, Ibn Battuta (d. 1368).

Evliya Çelebi (Performed Hajj in 1672)

Evliya Çelebi (1611–85)

Nesrin Hanim

On the 20th of shawwal in the year 1081 [1672] ... we departed Damascus in grand procession. Day by day pilgrims kept coming from all directions, until the reckoning of tents and marquees stood at 6,300. For this was the Greatest Hajj and only God knows how many were there.
R. Dankoff and S. Kim, An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi (London 2010) p. 341

Evliya Çelebi was an Ottoman cavalryman born into a wealthy family. From 1640 onwards, he travelled extensively around the Ottoman Empire and further afield on horseback. In February 1671, Çelebi had a dream in which the Prophet Muhammad told him to perform Hajj. He set off for Mecca in May 1671, travelled along the coast, through Syria to Jerusalem, and doubled back to join the Hajj caravan in Damascus. Before reaching Mecca, Çelebi recounted that when they first sighted Medina, the caravan’s animals regained their strength and headed towards the town at great speed. Çelebi was so overcome with emotion when he prayed at the Prophet Muhammad’s tomb in Medina that he nearly fainted. After performing Hajj, he returned to Cairo with the Egyptian Hajj caravan. The notes from all his journeys formed his ten volume work called the Seyahatname – the Book of Travels.

The Joy of Stopping-Places by Mehmed Edib (Performed Hajj in 1790)

The Joy of Stopping-Places by Mehmed Edib (1240/1790)

© The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, T461 fols 218b-219a

Mehmed Edib was an Ottoman judge from Crete who went on Hajj in 1779. This manuscript contains a detailed description of his journey, about the landscapes he sees and including a wealth of information about the construction of forts and other buildings along the Syrian Hajj route. Between the sites of Hadiyya and Nakhlatayn for example he mentions a rock known as ‘the rock of salutation’ which was reported to have greeted the Prophet Muhammad on his journey through this area . The earliest surviving manuscript is this autograph copy in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin illustrated here. The opening shown here is part of the final section of the manuscript, where Mehmed Edib lists the number of days it took to travel from one place to another. The painting illustrates a section which describes Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. At the centre of the painting is the Dome of the Rock; al-Masjid al-Aqsa is to the right. The Joy of Stopping-Places was valued as an important practical guide, and it was later printed. The translation from Turkish is M. Bianchi, Itinéraire de Constantinople a` la Mecque. (Paris 1825) and extensively quoted in A. Petersen, The Medieval and Ottoman Hajj Route in Jordan: an Archaeological and Historical Study. (Levant Supplementary Series 12 2012).

Nawab Sikander, Begum of Bhopal (Performed Hajj in 1864)

Nawab Sikander, Begum of Bhopal

British Library, 355/9(3)

The hour of my arrival at Mecca was the Isha, and the call to evening prayers was sounding from the different mosques. I entered within the holy precincts by the Bab-us-salam, and, arriving at the house of Abraham, I stood and read the prescribed prayers.
Nawab Sikander, A Pilgrimage to Mecca, Calcutta 1870, pp. 74ff.

Nawab Sikander (r. 1844–68) was the ruler of the Indian Princely State of Bhopal and performed the Hajj in 1864. She travelled to Bombay by train, and went by steamship to Jedda with a vast quantity of luggage and gifts. The Begum’s pilgrimage account, which she dedicated to Queen Victoria, reflected her forceful character and intelligence. The royal party faced several difficulties. On the journey she recounts: ‘ Nine people in my suite were attacked with various complaints, such as dysentery, fever and tumours of the leg. On the pilgrimage I lost eight altogether, four of whom died on board ship and four at Mecca and Jeddah.’ She also notes how chests of money destined for Mecca and Medina were broken into at the docks in Jedda. When the Begum was performing the Hajj rituals, many pilgrims asked her for gifts, as news of her generosity had spread throughout Mecca. At a dinner hosted by the Sharif of Mecca, the Begum criticised the corruption of the Ottoman Hajj administration and the unsafe roads, where bandits attacked pilgrims. Despite her experiences, the Begum remained deeply committed to the Hajj. She sponsored her subjects to go on Hajj, and funded mosques and hostels for them in Mecca and Medina.

This photograph taken by Colonel James Waterhouse in 1862.

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council