The Journey

Chart of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Royal Geographic Society

Chart of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (Jedda on the far left). Royal Geographic Society, mr Asia S.4

From the furthest reaches of the Islamic world, pilgrims have made the spiritual journey that is the ambition of a lifetime. As Hajj needs to be performed at a designated time, historically pilgrims moved together in convoys. In the past the journey could be extremely dangerous. Pilgrims often fell ill or were robbed on the way and became destitute. However, pilgrims do not fear dying on Hajj. It is believed that those who die on Hajj will go to heaven with their sins erased. Today, pilgrims can get on an airplane to reach Saudi Arabia, making the journey in contrast with the past quick and less arduous.

I set out by myself with no companion to cheer me along or any caravan to join with, compelled by an overwhelming urge and long held desire in my heart to visit these famous sanctuaries. So I confirmed my decision to leave everyone dear to me …and flew from my home as birds desert their nests.
Ibn Battuta (1304–68)
World map showing pilgrim's routes

World map showing pilgrim's routes. Matt Bigg

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council