Tuesday, 22 May 2018 08:50 GMT

Revisiting old Haj routes from UAE

(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The major Haj routes that pilgrims embarked on the past were highlighted during a discussion 'Historical Haj Routes' hosted by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre (SZGMC).

The session is among the interactive series of public talks and discussions which explore the historic collections and unique artifacts on display at the 'Haj: Memories of a Journey' exhibition, taking place at the grand mosque.

"People had to travel long distances on land and for months. Pilgrims had to be careful to avoid trouble including being eaten by wild animals," Dr Hamad bin Seray, associate professor in history and archaeology, UAE University, said during the discussion. He gave a historical account of the evolution of the Haj routes from the era of ships and before the invention of aircraft to the present day.

Dr Seray explained that people from the UAE used to gather in camel caravans of about 20-30 pilgrims before they embarked on the journey to Makkah.

The pilgrims from Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Ajman and Sharjah used to gather at Khawaneej in Dubai, he said. They then started their journey to Makkah going through Jebel Ali, Abu Dhabi to Tarif, a very small village around the coast, where they met caravans from Al Ain and Buraimi.

Some of the most famous resting points along the way were one under the 'Shabhana' tree, near the small Emirati city of Al Sila, which shares its border with Saudi Arabia. The pilgrims from the UAE then crossed Al Sabkha before reaching Al Hessa in Saudi Arabia.

"They then moved to Al Wudhuf to Riyadh and then to Makkah. It took almost six months for the pilgrims from preparing to start the journey to returning back to the UAE. The pilgrims used to carry dry food with them - dry fish, dates, local oil and water."

According to Dr Seray, those going by ship travelled from Sharjah to Al Khubar in Saudi Arabia. They then went by land from Al Khubar to Makkah. "People used to die on the way especially when ships sunk during the times of the hurricanes when the Indian sea was very rough. Only a few families could afford pilgrimage."

Emiratis who performed Haj before 1970 Fergus Reoch, research consultant and project curator, British Museum, said in his research about the Hajj journey that he interviewed an Emirati pilgrim Saeed bin Rashid Al Zaabi, who gave him an account of his first Haj in 1939.

"He travelled by a camel from Sharjah along the north coast to reach Mecca. It took him 70 days to reach and another 70 days for his return back to the UAE. He stayed in Mecca for two weeks while performing Haj rituals," Reoch told Khaleej Times.

Other two persons Reoch interviewed who went to Mecca in the 1950s and 1960s were Umm Obeid from Khorfakkan and Abdullah bin Naseeb from Kalba. They both travelled from their cities to Dubai and then took a boat from Dubai to Khubar or Damam in Saudi Arabia. They travelled by a lorry and passed Riyadh, Hafeedh to Madina and then to Mecca. This was a much shorter journey compared to those who travelled by land. They spend one or two days on the boat and seven or eight days on the road.

"It took courage and faith for someone to travel for Haj during the early days," said Reoch.

Ismail Sebugwaawo


Revisiting old Haj routes from UAE

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