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The water resources structures on the Syrian and Egyptian pilgrim routes to Makka and Medinah

By Ibrahim Mohammad Al-Resseeni


AI-Hajj in Arabic means the pilgrimage to MAKKA. This was\ud an ancient rite which was recognised a long time before the\ud rise of Islam. According to the holy Quran and Islamic\ud tradi tion, AI-Haj j goes back to the time of the prophet\ud Ibrahim. Thus MAKKA was a focus for worship but it was also\ud a commercial centre and a way station/stopping place on the\ud ancient trade caravan road between south western -Arabia and\ud Bilad AI-Sham,' now Syria. In part the inhabitants of MAKKA\ud practised this trade because their environment was not\ud suitable for other alternative economic activities.\ud The importance of MAKKA, as a ritual place increased after\ud the rise of Islam because it became Qibla-Kiblah -\ud the direction to which muslims turn in praying towards AIKa'aba.\ud \ud Yathrib - later to become Medinah - is the second holy city.\ud In fact it was not a ritual place, but like MAKKA it was a\ud stopping place on the ancient trade caravan road. The\ud inhabitants of Medinah practised agriculture because their\ud environment was more suitable than that at MAKKA; water was\ud available and the land was fertile so that in addition to\ud trade, they also practised agriculture.\ud \ud The importance of Medinah as a holy place only developed\ud after AI-Hijra - the immigration of the prophet Mohammad,\ud peace be upon him, to it and his establishing of Islam at\ud that site. Medinah became the capital of the Islamic state\ud both religiously and politically. Islam then spread from\ud Medinah over the Arabian Peninsular to the world beyond.\ud The consequence of the conquest of Iraq, Bilad AI-Sham,\ud Egypt, the north coast of Africa and Persia was that the\ud majority of the population of these countries accepted and\ud adopted Islam as their religious faith. As a result of this\ud the populations of these countries came annually to make AlHajj and in doing so developed several additional pilgrim\ud caravan routes. However, it is the Syrian and Egyptian\ud pilgrim routes - Tareeq AI-Hajj AI-Shami and Wal Masri which\ud are the objects of this work. In both these cases the\ud pilgrim caravan routes were previously ancient trade caravan\ud routes which travelled through Arabia, particularly through\ud the western province of Al Hijaz.\ud \ud The geographical location of Arabia, the cross roads of\ud three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe, made important\ud the pre-Islamic routes which ran through it. Of course the\ud function of this network at that time was commercial but\ud after the rise of Islam the function of this network of\ud routes became to transport the pilgrims. The geological and\ud topographical features, as well as climatic conditions, in\ud Arabia played a great role in determining the ancient routes\ud in Arabia. The availability of water was a very important\ud consideration on these routes and was influenced by\ud environmental conditions. Since the rainfall is\ud insufficient, the resulting absence or shortage of water on\ud the pilgrim caravan routes made the caliphs pay great\ud concern to providing the pilgrim routes with the most\ud essential facilities, particularly water supplies and\ud storage. Ever since the earliest Islamic times, they\ud provided for the travellers Al birak, water tanks; Ahwadh cisterns; Qanawat - channels; and abyar - wells, in order to\ud make AI-Hajj journey more comfortable. The pilgrim caravans\ud in general, and the Syrian and Egyptian pilgrim caravan\ud routes in particular, passed through several stages of\ud development since their origin in early Islamic times and\ud these evolutionary stages can be seen until the beginning of\ud this century. Because the object of this thesis is to\ud document the remains of the water resource structures, an\ud extensive survey and investigation has been completed on the\ud Syrian and Egyptian pilgrim caravan routes. The field work\ud has been conducted in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the\ud north western region where the Syrian and Egyptian pilgrim\ud routes cross the country. The field work mainly aimed at\ud ascertaining the location of all the way stations and their\ud names and surveying each station in order to record the\ud surviving remains of water resource structures. The field\ud work covered a large area of about 8, OOOkm transect and\ud extended from MACCA in the south through Medinah to the\ud North as far as Halat I Ammar on the north at the border\ud between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. From N.W. to S .Wit\ud stretched from Haql on the Gulf of AI-' Aqaba as far as\ud MAKKA. These routes consist of the major, or principal\ud caravan routes as well as a number of traverse routes which\ud allow travellers a choice of transit as well as connecting\ud routes. There are large way stations as well as small minor\ud way stations. As part of this dissertation, almost all the\ud stopping places have been identified and documented by mapping and photography.\ud \u

Publisher: School of Geography (Leeds)
Year: 1992
OAI identifier:

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