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Forthcoming events

IAIN BROWNING MEMORIAL LECTURE: Pilgrims' Progress, Pilgrims' Rest in Jordan: In Search of the Camps on the Hajj Roads to Mecca

Claudine Dauphin, University of Wales, Lampeter



4pm,6th October  2016, BP Lecture Theatre, Clore Education Centre, British Museum. To book, contact the British Museum Box Office:  020 7323 8181 or     and go to the 'What's On' option at the top of the BM homepage. Then choose the 'Events Calendar'  and scroll down the page to see events listed by date and time.

Poster Lecture October 6th 2016

Hajj Camp 1908

The Egyptian and Syrian Hajj pilgrim camps at Mina, 5 kms east of Mecca, 1908
Copyright Ecole biblique/Dominicans, Cairo

Qala'at al-Qatrana%2C Jordan

The Ottoman fort of Qala'at al-Qatrana, Jordan, with its water reservoirs in the foreground.            Photo by and copyright of C. Dauphin.

Pilgrimage to Mecca is the fifth pillar of Islam - an obligation for every Moslem sound of body and mind, and with adequate means (Kuran 22 - The Pilgrimage, 27-30). Its rites were fixed by the Prophet Muhammad during his “Farewell Pilgrimage” in 632. The transfer of the Umayyad caliphate from Medina to Damascus in 661 led to the sanctification of the ancient route (followed by caravans from the Arabian desert to the fertile lands of the Southern Levant and used by the Moslem conquerors to invade Palestine and Syria in 634-636), into a Pilgrimage Road. The outline of this route shifted several times between the Conquest and the Ottoman Empire. The magnitude of the Hajj caravan - some 60,000 pilgrims and 80,000 camels in its heyday in the 16th-18th centuries - resulted in the abandonment of the few khans punctuating the original road in favour of vast open-air encampments.
    As an offshoot of the Project “Fallahin and Nomads in the Southern Levant”, which notably examines the impact of roads on population dynamics, literary, archaeological and cartographic data were collated to reconstruct the Mediaeval ‘‘Syrian’’ route, the Darb al-Hajj al-Shami, running from Damascus to Mecca and bisecting Jordan longitudinally (7th-15thcenturies). It incorporated stretches of the Iron Age and Nabatean Kings’ Highway and of the Roman Via Nova Traiana. It was subsequently replaced further east into the desert by the Ottoman route (16th-early 20thcenturies), probably planned by Sinan, the famous architect of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent as a global project of civil engineering (road, bridges and forts) with strategic aims, also shared by the Hijaz Railway (1910-1918).
    The two roads were followed in 2014 and 2016, from Ramtha on the Syrian border southwards to Mudawwara on the Saudi Arabian frontier (425 kms or  264 miles), section by section, between the historically-attested stop-overs. Using RAF aerial photographs of 1953, and applying British methods of Historic Landscape recording and interpretation, with a surveyor’s assistance, access from the main Hajj road or by secondary paths was plotted, the extent of each of the six Mediaeval and twelve Ottoman camps determined, their limits defined and main features recorded (hearths, traces of tents, enclosures for the thousands of camels, donkeys, mules and horses of the Hajj caravan), with the aim of reconstructing the moulding of the natural landscapes of Hajj pilgrim resting-places in Jordan into “sacred landscapes” viewed holistically - à First in Islamic Landscape Archaeology.

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