AN UNRECORDED COLLECTION OF SADIQ BEY'S FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHS OF MECCA AND MEDINA, THE EARLIEST PHOTOGRAPHS OF THESE HOLY PLACES OF ISLAM.
The collection includes some of the images from Sadiq Bey's Collection de Vues Photographiques de La Mecque et de Médine, the set of 18 views which won the photographer the gold medal at the International Geography Exhibition in Venice in 1881, and advertised for sale by the Société Khédiviale de Géographie, excluding the multiple-sheet panoramas -- these subjects either missing or here as single plates -- and adds other scenes at Mecca and Medina not included in the Société's set.
These extraordinary images record the Hajj, showing, often for the first time, some of the Holy sites around Mecca and Medina.
Born in Cairo in 1832, Sadiq Bey trained as a military engineer after completing his studies in Cairo and at the École Polytechnique in Paris. It is not known when, or from whom, Sadiq Bey learned to take photographs but it was most probably through one of the resident photographers in Egypt. In 1861, prompted by the need to carry out more extensive military land surveys of the area between Wajh and Medina, Sadiq Bey made his first journey to Arabia. He took a camera along with his surveying equipment, and took his first photogrpahs of views at Medina. In a series of articles published in the Egyptian Military Gazette in 1877, he refers to his early photography at Medina describing the use of a 'photographia'. Sadly however, none of the photographs from this first journey are known to have survived.
In 1880 he was appointed the treasurer of the Mahmal, the ornate cloth to cover the Ka'ba brought each year on a special litter to Mecca. In his capacity as treasurer he accompanied the Mahmal to Medina and Mecca from September 1880 until January 1881. Again equipped with his camera, he succeeded in producing the series of photographs which are offered here and which are now considered to be some of the earliest known surviving photographs of the region, those of the Ka'ba taken under great secrecy.
In 1884 Sadiq made a third pilgrimage, again accompanying the Mahmal as treasurer. A detailed account of this journey can be found in The Star of the Hajj for the Mahmal's Journey by Sea and Land, published in Cairo in 1884. In 1902 Sadiq Bey was appointed governor of Arish but died later that year.
Sadiq Bey published various accounts of his travels in Arabia in military journals and through the Emiry Grand Press in Cairo but the 1880/81 series of photographs appear to have been issued separately for a wider distribution through the Société Khédiviale de Géographie. The society's secretary, Dr Frederic Bonola, advertised sets of the photographs for sale. In January and April 1880 Sadiq Bey gave a talk and report to the society on his earlier 1861 expedition, and on 20 May 1881 he presented a report on his recent journey to Mecca; detailed accounts were published in the society's bulletins, numbers 9/10 and 12.