Across the Indian Ocean

Across the Indian Ocean map

Matt Bigg

The port of Jedda is the gateway to Mecca for pilgrims from South and Southeast Asia and Africa. They arrived in their thousands on dhows and steamships. Jedda has been the main port for Mecca since the mid-seventh century. Thousands of pilgrims arrived here from ports across the Indian Ocean, such as Bombay and Singapore, and from as far as China. Pilgrims also sailed to Jedda from southern Arabia and the Gulf and the main African ports on the Red Sea – Qusair, Suakin and Port Sudan. In Jedda the pilgrims were housed in hostels owned by religious foundations. They then set off eastwards to Mecca, a 40-mile journey by camel or on foot which took about two days. Today, Jedda airport is the main arrival point for pilgrims worldwide.

Dhows and steamships

Dhows and steamships in the Red Sea near Jedda. The Abbas Hilmi album, 1909. Durham University Library.

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council