This important collection of photographs, by Dr. Muhammad al-Husayni, taken in 1908 provide a valuable insight into the journey of the pilgrim to Mecca around the turn of the century.
The first known photographs of the Holy Shrines are dated to January 1861 and were taken by Colonel Muhammad Sadiq, an Egyptian Officer sent to explore the uncharted area between the port of al-Wajh and Madina. Other photographers followed suit, amongst them Ibrahim Rif'at Pasha who in 1901 made his first trip to the Hijaz as commander of the guards responsible for the protection of the mahmal. He returned, accompanied by Muhammad 'Ali Effendi Sa'udi (another talented photographer) in 1904 and 1908 to record what he had seen. These photographs were later published in a book, Mir'at al-Haramayn. In the Mir'at al-Haramayn, they record meeting our photographer, Dr. Muhammad al-Husayni, in Jeddah in December 1907 (Farid Kioumgi and Robert Graham, A Photographer on the Hajj. The travels of Muhammad 'Ali Effendi Sa'udi (1904/1908), Cairo, 2009, pp.14, 15 and 17). On one such occasion, al-Husayni is even recorded as having shown Sa'udi the photographs of his recent journey to Japan. (Kioumgi and Graham, op.cit., p. 17)
Rif'at Pasha records that Dr. Muhammad al-Husayni was probably born in 1863, in the city of Allahabad in India. As well as studying the Qur'an and becoming fluent in several foreign languages, al-Husayni also studied medicine and surgery at the University of the Punjab. After working in several hospitals he became the assistant to the British Consul in Jeddah towards the end of the 19th century. How this came about is unclear, but the number of pilgrims who came from India to Arabia at that time was considerable, a total of 20 of those identified as entering Jeddah in 1908 (Dr. Zahir Othman, Dr. Jean-Jacques Pérennès and Dr. Jean-Michel de Tarragon, Pilgrims to Makkah 1908, Cairo, p.93 and Ibrahim Rif'at Pasha, Mir'at al-Haramayn, Cairo, 1925, 2 volumes).
This series of photographs record al-Husayni's journey from his boarding the ship in al-Tor in Egypt until the arrival in Mecca. The series also includes one self portrait (illustrated above). Various themes resurface in the documentation of his journey. We sense him viewing the Hajj through a physician's eyes - one of the photographs for instance shows Dr. Suleyman Bey, a physician, posing for a photo in the company of the Egyptian Health Commission of the Hijaz (photo 5). Photo 31 shows the basins of 'Ayn Zabidah, topical at a time when Mecca was notorious for the contraction of cholera. The mahmal is another recurrent theme of the photographs. It is depicted on its arrival in Jeddah (photo 7), its arrival in Mecca (photos 28 and 29), and being followed by pilgrims on its way to 'Arafat (photos 32, 34 and 35-40).
A full listing of the photographs, including the inscriptions on the reverse, is available on request.