WHERE the valley is wider than in other interior parts of the town, stands the mosque, called Beitullah, or El Haram, a building remarkable only on account of the Kaaba, which it encloses; for there are several mosques in other places of the East nearly equal to this in size, and much superior to it in beauty.
The Kaaba stands in an oblong square, two hundred and fifty paces long, and two hundred broad, none of the sides of which run quite in a straight line, though at first sight the whole appears to be of a regular shape. This open square is enclosed on the eastern side by a colonnade: the pillars stand in a quadruple row: they are three deep on the other sides, and united by pointed arches, every four of which support a small dome, plastered and whitened on the outside. These domes, according to Kotobeddyn, are one hundred and fifty-two in number. Along the whole colonnade, on the four sides, lamps are suspended from the arches. Some are lighted every night, and all during the nights of Ramadhan. The pillars are above twenty feet in height, and generally from one foot and a half to one foot and three quarters in diameter; but little regularity has been observed in regard to them. Some are of white marble, granite, or porphyry, but the greater number are of common stone of the Mekka mountains. El Fasy states the whole at five hundred and eighty-nine, and says they are all of marble, excepting one hundred and twenty-six, which are of common stone, and three of composition. Kotobeddyn reckons five hundred and fifty-five, of which, according to him, three hundred and eleven are of marble, and the rest of stone taken from the neighbouring mountains; but neither of these authors lived to see the latest repairs of the mosque, after the destruction occasioned by a torrent, in A.D. 1626. Between every three or four columns stands an octagonal one, about four feet in thickness. On the east side are two shafts of reddish gray granite, in one piece, and one fine gray porphyry column with slabs of white feldspath. On the north side is one red granite column, and one of fine-grained red porphyry: these are probably the columns which Kotobeddyn states to have been brought from Egypt, and principally from Akhmim (Panopolis), when the chief El Mohdy enlarged the mosque, in A.H. 163. Among the four hundred and fifty or five hundred columns, which form the enclosure, I found not any two capitals or bases exactly alike: the capitals are of coarse Saracen workmanship; some of them, which had served for former buildings, by the ignorance of the workmen have been placed upside down upon the shafts. I observed about half a dozen marble bases of good Grecian workmanship. A few of the marble columns bear Arabic or Cufic inscriptions, in which I read the dates 863 and 762. (A.H). A column on the east side exhibits a very ancient Cufic inscription, somewhat defaced, which I could neither read nor copy. Those shafts, formed of the Mekka stone, cut principally from the side of the mountain near the Shebeyka quarter, are mostly in three pieces, but the marble shafts are in one piece. Some of the columns are strengthened with broad iron rings or bands, as in many other Saracen buildings of the East: they were first employed here by Ibn Dhaher Berkouk, King of Egypt, in rebuilding the mosque, which had been destroyed by fire in A. H. 802.
This temple has been so often ruined and repaired, that no traces of remote antiquity are to be found about it. On the inside of the great wall which encloses the colonnades, a single Arabic inscription is seen, in large characters, but containing merely the names of Mohammed and his immediate successors: Abou Beker, Omar, Othman, and Aly. The name of Allah, in large characters, occurs also in several places. On the outside, over the gates, are long inscriptions, in the Solouth character, commemorating the names of those by whom the gates were built, long and minute details of which are given by the historians of Mekka. The inscription on the south side, over Bab Ibrahim, is most conspicuous; all that side was rebuilt by the Egyptian Sultan El Ghoury, in A.H. 906. Over the Bab Aly and Bab Abbas is a long inscription, also in the Solouth character, placed there by Sultan Murad Ibn Soleyman, in A.H. 984, after he had repaired the whole building. Kotobeddyn has given this inscription at length; it occupies several pages in his history, and is a monument of the Sultan’s vanity. This side of the mosque having escaped destruction in 1626, the inscription remains uninjured.
Some parts of the walls and arches are gaudily painted, in stripes of yellow, red, and blue, as are also the minarets. Paintings of flowers, in the usual Muselman style, are no where seen; the floors of the colonnades are paved with large stones badly cemented together.
Seven paved causeways lead from the colonnades towards the Kaaba, or holy house, in the centre. They are of sufficient breadth to admit four or five persons to walk abreast, and they are elevated about nine inches above the ground. Between these causeways, which are covered with fine gravel or sand, grass appears growing in several places, produced by the Zemzem water dozing out of the jars, which are placed in the ground in long rows during the day. The whole area of the mosque is upon a lower level than any of the streets surrounding it. There is a descent of eight or ten steps from the gates on the north side into the platform of the colonnade, and of three or four steps from the gates, on the south side.
Towards the middle of this area stands the Kaaba; it is one hundred and fifteen paces from the north colonnade, and eighty-eight from the south. For this want of symmetry we may readily account, the Kaaba having existed prior to the mosque, which was built around it, and enlarged at different periods. The Kaaba is an oblong massive structure, eighteen paces in length, fourteen in breadth, and from thirty-five to forty feet in height. I took the bearing of one of its longest sides, and found it to be N.N.W. ½ W. It is constructed of the grey Mekka stone, in large blocks of different sizes, joined together in a very rough manner, and with bad cement. It was entirely rebuilt as it now stands in A.D. 1627: the torrent, in the preceding year, had thrown down three of its sides; and preparatory to its re-erection, the fourth side was, according to Asamy, pulled down, after the olemas, or learned divines, had been consulted on the question, whether mortals might be permitted to destroy any part of the holy edifice without incurring the charge of sacrilege and infidelity.
The Kaaba stands upon a base two feet in height, which presents a sharp inclined plane; its roof being flat, it has at a distance the appearance of a perfect cube. The only door which affords entrance, and which is opened but two or three times in the year, is on the north side, and about seven feet above the ground. In entering it, therefore, wooden steps are used — of them I shall speak hereafter. In the first periods of Islam, however, when it was rebuilt in A.H. 64, by Ibn Zebeyr, chief of Mekka, the nephew of Aysha, it had two doors even with the ground-floor of the mosque. The present door (which, according to Azraky, was brought hither from Constantinople in 1633) is wholly coated with silver, and has several gilt ornaments. Upon its threshold are placed every night various small lighted wax candles, and perfuming-pans, filled with musk, aloe-wood, &c.
At the North-east corner of the Kaaba, near the door, is the famous “Black Stone;” it forms a part of the sharp angle of the building, at four or five feet above the ground. It is an irregular oval, about seven inches in diameter, with an undulated surface, composed of about a dozen smaller stones of different sizes and shapes, well joined together with a small quantity of cement, and perfectly smoothed: it looks as if the whole had been broken into many pieces by a violent blow, and then united again. It is very difficult to determine accurately the quality of this stone, which has been worn to its present surface by the millions of touches and kisses it has received. It appeared to me like a lava, containing several small extraneous particles, of a whitish and of a yellowish substance. Its colour is now a deep reddish brown, approaching to black: it is surrounded on all sides by a border, composed of a substance which I took to be a close cement of pitch and gravel, of a similar, but not quite the same brownish colour. This border serves to support its detached pieces; it is two or three inches in breadth, and rises a little above the surface of the stone: Both the border and the stone itself are encircled by a silver band, broader below than above and on the two sides, with a considerable swelling below, as if a part of the stone were hidden under it. The lower part of the border is studded with silver nails.
In the south-east corner of the Kaaba, or, as the Arabs call it, Roken el Yemány, there is another stone, about five feet from the ground; it is one foot and a half in length, and two inches in breadth, placed upright, and of the common Mekka stone. This the people walking round the Kaaba touch only with the right hand: they do not kiss it.
On the north side of the Kaaba, just by its door, and close to the wall, is a slight hollow in the ground, lined with marble, and sufficiently large to admit of three persons sitting. Here it is thought meritorious to pray: the spot is called El Madjen, and supposed to be that where Abraham and his son Ismayl kneaded. the chalk and mud which they used in building the Kaaba; and near this Madjen, the former is said to have placed the large stone upon which he stood while working at the masonry. On the basis of the Kaaba, just over the Madjen, is an ancient Cufic inscription; but this I was unable to decipher, and had no opportunity of copying it. I do not find it mentioned by any of the historians.
On the west side of the Kaaba, about two feet below its summit, is the famous Myzab, or water-spout, through which the rain-water collected on the roof of the building is discharged, so as to fall upon the ground; it is about four feet in length, and six inches in breadth, as well as I could judge from below, with borders equal in height to its breadth. At the mouth, hangs what is called the beard of the Myzab, a gilt board, over which the water falls. This spout was sent hither from Constantinople in A.H. 981, and is reported to be of pure gold. The pavement round the Kaaba, below the Myzab, was laid down in A.H. 826, and consists of various coloured stones, forming a very handsome specimen of mosaic. There are two large slabs of fine verde-antico in the centre, which, according to Makrizi, [See, in his work, the chapter “On the Excellencies of Egypt.”] were sent thither as presents from Cairo, in A.H. 241. This is the spot where, according to Mohammedan tradition, Ismayl, the son of Ibrahim, or Abraham, and his mother Hagar, are buried; and here it is meritorious for the pilgrim to recite a prayer of two rikats. On this west side is a semicircular wall, the two extremities of which are in a line with the sides of the Kaaba, and distant from it three or four feet, leaving an opening which leads to the burying-place of Ismayl. The wall bears the name of El Hatym, and the area which it encloses is called Hedjer, or Hedjer Ismayl, on account of its being separated from the Kaaba: the wall itself, also, is sometimes so called; and the name Hatym is given by the historians to the space of ground between the Kaaba and the wall on one side, and the Bir Zemzem and Makam Ibrahim on the other. The present Mekkawys, however, apply the name Hatym to the wall only.
Tradition says that the Kaaba once extended as far as the Hatym, and that this side having fallen down just at the time of the Hadj, the expenses of repairing it were demanded from the pilgrims, under a pretence that the revenues of government were not acquired in a manner sufficiently pure to admit of their application towards a purpose so sacred, whilst the money of the hadjys would possess the requisite sanctity. The sum, however, obtained from them, proved very inadequate: all that could be done, therefore, was to raise a wall, which marked the space formerly occupied by the Kaaba. This tradition, although current among the Metowefs, is at variance with history, which declares that the Hedjer was built by the Beni Koreysh, who contracted the dimensions of the Kaaba; that it was united to the building by Hadjadj, and again separated from it by Ibn Zebeyr. It is asserted by Fasy, that a part of the Hedjer, as it now stands, was never comprehended within the Kaaba. The law regards it as a portion of the Kaaba, inasmuch as it is esteemed equally meritorious to pray in the Hadjer as in the Kaaba itself; and the pilgrims who have not an opportunity of entering the latter, are permitted to affirm upon oath that they have prayed in the Kaaba, although they may have only prostrated themselves within the enclosure of the Hatym.
The wall is built of solid stone, about five feet in height, and four in thickness, cased all over with white marble, and inscribed with prayers and invocations, neatly sculptured upon the stone in modern characters. These and the casing are the work of El Ghoury, the Egyptian Sultan, in A.H. 917, as we learn from Kotobeddyn. The walk round the Kaaba is performed on the outside of the wall — the nearer to it the better.
The four sides of the Kaaba are covered with a black silk stuff, hanging down, and leaving the roof bare. [The Wahabys, during the first year of their residence at Mekka, covered the Kaaba with a red kesoua, worked at El Hassa, of the same stuff as the fine Arabian Abbas.] This curtain, or veil, is called kesoua, and renewed annually at the time of the Hadj, being brought from Cairo, where it is manufactured at the Grand Seignior’s expense. [During the first century of Islam, the kesoua was never taken away, the new one being annually put over the old. But the Mekkawys at length began to fear that the Kaaba might yield under such an accumulation, and the Khalif El Mohdy Abou Abdallah removed the coverings in A.H. 160. (See Makrizy.)] On it are various prayers interwoven in the same colour as the stuff, and it is, therefore, extremely difficult to read them. A little above the middle, and running round the whole building, is a line of similar inscriptions, worked in gold thread. That part of the kesoua which covers the door is richly embroidered with silver. Openings are left for the Black Stone, and the other in the south-east corner, which thus remain uncovered. The kesoua is always of the same form and pattern; that which I saw on my first visit to the mosque, was in a decayed state, and full of holes. On the 25th of the month Zul’ Kade the old one is taken away, and the Kaaba continues without a cover for fifteen days. It is then said that El Kaaba Yehrem, “The Kaaba has assumed the ihram,” which lasts until the tenth of Zul Hadje, the day of the return of the pilgrims from Arafat to Wady Muna, when the new kesoua is put on. During the first days, the new covering is tucked up by cords fastened to the roof, so as to leave the lower part of the building exposed: having remained thus for some days, it is let down, and covers the whole structure, being then tied to strong brass rings in the basis of the Kaaba. The removal of the old kesoua was performed in a very indecorous manner; and a contest ensued among the hadjys and people of Mekka, both young and old, about a few rags of it. The hadjys even collect the dust which sticks to the walls of the Kaaba, under the kesoua, and sell it, on their return, as a sacred relic. At the moment the building is covered, and completely bare, (uryan, as it is styled,) a crowd of women assemble round it, rejoicing with cries called “Walwalou.”
The black colour of the kesoua, covering a large cube in the midst of a vast square, gives to the Kaaba, at first sight, a very singular and imposing appearance; as it is not fastened down tightly, the slightest breeze causes it to move in slow undulations, which are hailed with prayers by the congregation assembled around the building, as a sign of the presence of its guardian angels, whose wings, by their motion, are supposed to be the cause of the waving of the covering. Seventy thousand angels have the Kaaba in their holy care, and are ordered to transport it to Paradise, when the trumpet of the last judgment shall be sounded.
The clothing of the Kaaba was an ancient custom of the Pagan Arabs. The first kesoua, says El Azraky, was put on by Asad Toba, one of the Hamyarite kings of Yemen: before Islam it had two coverings, one for winter and the other for summer. In the early ages of Islam it was sometimes white and sometimes red, and consisted of the richest brocade. In subsequent times it was furnished by the different Sultans of Baghdad, Egypt, or Yemen, according as their respective influence over Mekka prevailed; for the clothing of the Kaaba appears to have always been considered as a proof of sovereignty over the Hedjaz. Kalaoun, Sultan of Egypt, assumed to himself and successors the exclusive right, and from them the Sultans at Constantinople have inherited it. Kalaoun appropriated the revenue of the two large villages Bysous and Sandabeir, in Lower Egypt, to the expense of the kesoua; and Sultan Solyman Ibn Selym subsequently added several others; but the Kaaba has long been deprived of this resource. [Vide Kotobeddyn and Asamy]
Round the Kaaba is a good pavement of marble, about eight inches below the level of the great square; it was laid in A.H. 981, by order of the Sultan, and describes an irregular oval; it is surrounded by thirty-two slender gilt pillars, or rather poles, between every two of which are suspended seven glass lamps, always lighted after sun-set. Beyond the poles is a second pavement, about eight paces broad, somewhat elevated above the first, but of coarser work; then another, six inches higher, and eighteen paces broad, upon which stand several small buildings; beyond this is the gravelled ground, so that two broad steps may be said to lead from the square down to the Kaaba. The small buildings just mentioned, which surround the Kaaba, are the five Makams, with the well of Zemzem, the arch called Bab-es’-Salam, and the Mambar.
Opposite the four sides of the Kaaba stand four other small buildings, where the Imaums of the orthodox Mohammedan sects, the Hanefy, Shafey, Hanbaly, and Maleky, take their station, and guide the congregation in their prayers. The Makam el Maleky, on the south, and that of Hanbaly, opposite the Black Stone, are small pavilions, open on all sides, and supported by four slender pillars, with a light sloping roof, terminating in a point, exactly in the style of Indian pagodas. The Makam el Hanefy, which is the largest, being fifteen paces by eight, is open on all sides, and supported by twelve small pillars; it has an upper story, also open, where the Mueddin who calls to prayers, takes his stand. This was first built in A.H. 923, by Sultan Selym I.; it was afterwards rebuilt by Khoshgeldy, governor of Djidda, in 947; but all the four Makams, as they now stand, were built in A.H. 1074. [Vide Kotobeddyn and Asamy] The Makam-es-Shafey is over the well Zemzem, to which it serves as an upper chamber.
Near their respective Makams, the adherents of the four different sects seat themselves for prayers. During my stay at Mekka, the Hanefys always began their prayer first; but according to Muselman custom the Shafeys should pray first in the mosque; then the Hanefys, Malekys, and Hanbalys. The prayer of the Magreb is an exception, which they are all enjoined to utter together. [Vide Fasy.] The Makam el Hanbaly is the place where the officers of government, and other great people, are seated during prayers; here the Pasha and the Sherif are placed; and, in their absence, the eunuchs of the temple. These fill the space under this Makam in front, and behind it the female hadjys, who visit the temple, have their places assigned, to which they repair principally for the two evening prayers, few of them being seen in the mosque at the three other daily prayers: they also perform the towaf, or walk round the Kaaba, but generally at night, though it is not uncommon to see them walking in the day-time among the men.
The present building which encloses Zemzem, stands close by the Makam Hanbaly, and was erected in A.H. 1072 [Vide Asamy.]: it is of a square shape, and of massive construction, with an entrance to the north, opening into the room which contains the well. This room is beautifully ornamented with marbles of various colours; and adjoining to it, but having a separate door, is a small room with a stone reservoir which is always full of Zemzem water: this the hadjys get to drink by passing their hand with a cup through an iron grated opening, which serves as a window, into the reservoir, without entering the room. The mouth of the well is surrounded by a wall five feet in height, and about ten feet in diameter. Upon this the people stand, who draw up the water, in leathern buckets, an iron railing being so placed as to prevent their falling in. In El Fasy’s time there were eight marble basins in this room, for the purpose of ablution.
From before dawn till near midnight, the well-room is constantly filled with visitors. Every one is at liberty to draw up the water for himself, but the labour is generally performed by persons placed there on purpose, and paid by the mosque: they expect also a trifle from those who come to drink, though they dare not demand it. I have been more than once in the room a quarter of an hour before I could get a draught of water, so great was the crowd. Devout hadjys sometimes mount the wall, and draw the bucket for several hours, in the hope of thus expiating their evil deeds.
Before the Wahaby invasion, the well Zemzem belonged to the Sherif; and the water becoming thus a monopoly, was only to be purchased at a high price; but one of Saoud’s first orders, on his arrival at Mekka, was to abolish this traffic, and the holy water is now dispensed gratis. The Turks consider it a miracle that the water of this well never diminishes, notwithstanding the continual draught from: it there certainly is no diminution in its depth; for by an accurate inspection of the rope by which the buckets are drawn up, I found that the same length was required both at morning and evening to reach the surface of the water. Upon inquiry, I learned from one of the persons who had descended in the time of the Wahabys to repair the masonry, that the water was flowing at the bottom, and that the well is therefore supplied by a subterraneous rivulet. The water is heavy to the taste, and sometimes in its colour resembles milk; but it is perfectly sweet, and differs very much from that of the brackish wells dispersed over the town. When first drawn up, it is slightly tepid, resembling, in this respect, many other fountains of the Hedjaz.
Zemzem supplies the whole town, and there is scarcely one family that does not daily fill a jar with the water: this only serves, however, for drinking or for ablution, as it is thought impious to employ water so sacred for culinary purposes or on common occasions. Almost every hadjy, when he repairs to the mosque for evening prayer has a jar of the water placed before him by those who earn their livelihood by performing this service. The water is distributed in the mosque to all who are thirsty for a trifling fee, by water-carriers with large jars upon their backs: these men are also paid by charitable hadjys for supplying the poorer pilgrims with this holy beverage immediately before or after prayers.
The water is regarded as an infallible cure for all diseases; and the devotees believe that the more they drink of it, the better their health will be, and their prayers the more acceptable to the Deity. I have seen some of them at the well swallowing such a quantity of it as I should hardly have thought possible. A man who lived in the same house with me, and who was ill of an intermittent fever, repaired every evening to Zemzem, and drank of the water till he was almost fainting, after which he lay for several hours extended upon his back on the pavement near the Kaaba, and then returned to renew his draught. When by this practice he was brought to the verge of death, he declared himself fully convinced that the increase of his illness proceeded wholly from his being unable to swallow a sufficient quantity of the water! Many hadjys, not content with drinking it merely, strip themselves in the room, and have buckets of it thrown over them, by which they believe that the heart is purified as well as the outer body. Few pilgrims quit Mekka without carrying away some of this water in copper or tin bottles, either for the purpose of making presents, or for their own use in case of illness, when they drink it, or for ablution after death. I carried away four small bottles, with the intention of offering them as presents to the Mohammedan kings in the Black countries. I have seen it sold at Suez by hadjys returning from Mekka at the rate of one piastre for the quantity that filled a coffee-cup.
The chief of Zemzem is one of the principal olemas of Mekka. I need not remind the reader that Zemzem is supposed to be the spring found in the wilderness by Hagar, at the moment when her infant son Ismayl was dying of thirst. It seems probable that the town of Mekka owes its origin to this well; for many miles round, no sweet water is found, nor is there in any part of the adjacent country so copious a supply.
On the north-east side of Zemzem stand two small buildings, one behind the other, called El Kobbateyn; they are covered by domes painted in the same manner as the mosque, and in them are kept water jars, lamps, carpets, mats, brooms, and other articles used in the very mosque. These two ugly buildings are injurious to the interior appearance of the building, their heavy forms and structure being disadvantageously contrasted with the light and airy shape of the Makams. I heard some hadjys from Greece, men of better taste than the Arabs, express their regret that the Kobbateyn should be allowed to disfigure the mosque. Their contents might be deposited in some of the buildings adjoining the mosque, of which they form no essential part, no religious importance being attached to them. They were built by Khoshgeldy, governor of Djidda, A.H. 947: one is called Kobbet el Abbas, from having been placed on the site of a small tank said to have been formed by Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed.
A few paces west of Zemzem, and directly opposite to the door of the Kaaba, stands a ladder or staircase, which is moved up to the wall of the Kaaba, on the days when that building is opened, and by which the visitors ascend to the door: it is of wood, with some carved ornaments, moves on low wheels, and is sufficiently broad to admit of four persons ascending abreast. The first ladder was sent hither from Cairo in A.H. 818, by Moay-ed Abou el Naser, King of Egypt; for in the Hedjaz it seems there has always been so great a want of artizans, that whenever the mosque required any work, it was necessary to have mechanics brought from Cairo, and even sometimes from Constantinople.
In the same line with the ladder, and close by it, stands a lightly-built, insulated, and circular arch, about fifteen feet wide and eighteen feet high, called Bab-es’-Salam, which must not be confounded with the great gate of the mosque bearing the same name. Those who enter the Beitullah for the first time, are enjoined to do so by the outer and inner Bab-es’-Salam: in passing under the latter, they are to exclaim, “O God, may it be a happy entrance!” I do not know by whom this arch was built, but it appears to be modern.
Nearly in front of the Bab-es’-Salam; and nearer to the Kaaba than any of the other surrounding buildings, stands the Makam Ibrahim. This is a small building, supported by six pillars about eight feet high, four of which are surrounded from top to bottom by a fine iron railing, which thus leaves the space beyond the two hind pillars open: within the railing is a frame about five feet square, terminating in a pyramidal top, and said to contain the sacred stone upon which Ibrahim (Abraham) stood when he built the Kaaba, and which, with the help of his son Ismayl, he had removed from hence to the place called Madjen, already mentioned. The stone is said to have yielded under the weight of the patriarch, and to preserve the impression of his foot still visible upon it; but no hadjy has ever seen it, as the frame is always entirely covered with a brocade of red silk richly embroidered. Persons are constantly seen before the railing, invoking the good offices of Ibrahim; and a short prayer must be uttered by the side of the Makam, after the walk round the Kaaba is completed. It is said that many of the Sahabe, or first adherents of Mohammed, were interred in the open space between this Makam. and Zemzem, from which circumstance it is one of the most favourite places of prayer in the mosque. In this part of the area, the Khalif Soleyman Ibn Abd el Melek, brother of Wolyd, built a fine reservoir, in A.H. 97, which was filled from a spring east of Arafat; but the Mekkawys destroyed it after his death, on the pretence that the water of Zemzem was preferable. [Vide Makrizi’s Treatise — “Manhadj myn el Kholafa.”]
On the side of Makam Ibrahim, facing the middle part of the front of the Kaaba, stands the Mambar or pulpit of the mosque; it is elegantly formed of fine white marble, with many sculptured ornaments, and was sent as a present to the mosque in A.H. 969, by Sultan Soleyman Ibn Selym: [The first Mambar was sent from Cairo in A.H. 818, together with the steps above mentioned, by Moay-ed, King of Egypt. See Asamy.] a straight narrow staircase leads up to the post of the Khatyb, or preacher, which is surmounted by a gilt polygonal pointed steeple, resembling an obelisk. Here a sermon is preached on Fridays, and on certain festivals; these, like the Friday sermons of all mosques in the Mohammedan countries, are usually of the same tenor, with some slight alterations upon extraordinary occasions. Before the Wahabys invaded Mekka, prayers were added for the Sultan and the Sherif; but these were forbidden by Saoud. Since the Turkish conquest, however, the ancient custom has been restored; and on Fridays, as well as at the end of the first daily evening prayers, the Sultan, Mohammed Aly Pasha, and Sherif Yahya are included in the formula. The right of preaching in the Mambar is vested in several of the first olemas in Mekka; they are always elderly persons, and officiate in rotation. In ancient times, Mohammed himself, his successors, and the Khalifes, whenever they came to Mekka, mounted the pulpit, and preached to the people.
The Khatyb, or preacher, appears in the Mambar wrapped in a white cloak, which covers his head and body, and with a stick in his hand; a practice observed also in Egypt and Syria, in memory of the first age of Islam, when the preachers found it necessary to be armed, from fear of being surprised. As in other mosques, two green flags are placed on each side of him.
About the Mambar, the visitors of the Kaaba deposit their shoes; as it is neither permitted to walk round the Kaaba with covered feet, nor thought decent to carry the shoes in the hand, as is done in other mosques. Several persons keep watch over the shoes, for which they expect a small present; but the vicinity of the holy temple does not intimidate the dishonest, for I lost successively from this spot three new pairs of shoes; and the same thing happens to many hadjys.
I have now described all the buildings within the enclosure of the Temple. [The ground-plan of the Temple given by Aly Bey el Abbassi is perfectly correct. This cannot be said of his plan of Mekka, nor of his different views in the Hedjaz: a comparison of my description with his work will show in what points I differ from him, as well in regard to the temple, as to the town and its inhabitants. His travels came to my hands after I had returned from Arabia. The view of the mosque given by d’Ohsson, in his valuable work, is tolerably correct, except that the Kaaba is too large in proportion to the rest of the building. The view of the town of Mekka, on the contrary, is very unfaithful. That in Niebuhr, which was copied from an ancient Arabic drawing, is less accurate than d’Ohsson’s. The original seems to have been taken before the last alterations made in the buildings of the Temple.]
The gravel-ground, and part of the adjoining outer pavement of the Kaaba, is covered, at the time of evening prayers, with carpets of from sixty to eighty feet in length, and four feet in breadth, of Egyptian manufacture, which are rolled up after prayers. The greater part of the hadjys bring their own carpets with them. The more distant parts of the area, and the floor under the colonnade, are spread with mats, brought from Souakin; the latter situation being the usual place for the performance of the mid-day and afternoon prayers. Many of these mats are presented to the mosque by the hadjys, for which they have in return the satisfaction of seeing their names inscribed on them in large characters.
At sun-set, great numbers assemble for the first evening prayer: they form themselves into several wide circles, sometimes as many as twenty, around the Kaaba as a common centre before which every person makes his prostration; and thus, as the Mohammedan doctors observe, Mekka is the only spot throughout the world in which the true believer can, with propriety, turn during his prayers towards any point of the compass. The Imam takes his post near the gate of the Kaaba, and his genuflexions are imitated by the whole assembled multitude. The effect of the joint prostrations of six or eight thousand persons, added to the recollection of the distance and various quarters from whence they come, and for what purpose, cannot fail to impress the most cool-minded spectator with some degree of awe. At night, when the lamps are lighted, and numbers of devotees are performing the Towaf round the Kaaba, the sight of the busy crowds — the voices of the Metowefs, intent upon making themselves heard by those to whom they recite their prayers — the loud conversation of many idle persons — the running, playing, and laughing of boys, give to the whole a very different appearance, and one more resembling that of a place of public amusement. The crowd, however, leaves the mosque about nine o’clock, when it again becomes the place of silent meditation and prayer, to the few visitors who are led to the spot by sincere piety, and not worldly motives or fashion.
There is an opinion prevalent at Mekka, founded on holy tradition, that the mosque will contain any number of the faithful; and that if even the whole Mohammedan community were to enter at once, they would all find room in it to pray. The guardian angels, it is said, would invisibly extend the dimensions of the building, and diminish the size of each individual. The fact is, that during the most numerous pilgrimages, the mosque, which can contain, I believe, about thirty-five thousand persons in the act of prayer, is never half filled. Even on Fridays, the greater part of the Mekkawys, contrary to the injunctions of the law, pray at home, if at all, and many hadjys follow their example. I could never count more than ten thousand individuals in the mosque at one time, even after the return from Arafat, when the whole body of hadjys were collected, for a few days, in and about the city.
At every hour of the day persons may be seen under the colonnade, occupied in reading the Koran and other religious books; and here many poor Indians, or negroes, spread their mats, and pass the whole period of their residence at Mekka. Here they both eat and sleep; but cooking is not allowed. During the hours of noon, many persons come to repose beneath the cool shade of the vaulted roof of the colonnade; a custom which not only accounts for the mode of construction observed in the old Mohammedan temples of Egypt and Arabia, but for that also of the ancient Egyptian temples, the immense porticoes of which were probably left open to the idolatrous natives, whose mud-built houses could afford them but an imperfect refuge against the mid-day heats.
It is only during the hours of prayer that the great mosques of these countries partake of the sanctity of prayer, or in any degree seem to be regarded as consecrated places. In El Azhar, the first mosque at Cairo, I have seen boys crying pancakes for sale, barbers shaving their customers, and many of the lower orders eating their dinners, where, during prayers, not the slightest motion, nor even whisper, diverts the attention of the congregation. Not a sound but the voice of the Imam is heard during prayers in the great mosque at Mekka, which at other times is the place of meeting for men of business to converse on their affairs, and is sometimes so full of poor hadjys, or of diseased persons lying about under the colonnade, in the midst of their miserable baggage, as to have the appearance of an hospital rather than a temple. Boys play in the great square, and servants carry luggage across it, to pass by the nearest route from one part of the town to the other. In these respects, the temple of Mekka resembles the other great mosques of the East. But the holy Kaaba is rendered the scene of such indecencies and criminal acts, as cannot with propriety be more particularly noticed. They are not only practised here with impunity, but, it may be said, almost publicly; and my indignation has often been excited, on witnessing abominations which called forth from other passing spectators nothing more than a laugh or a slight reprimand.
In several parts of the colonnade, public schools are held, where young children are taught to spell and read: they form most noisy groups, and the schoolmaster’s stick is in constant action. Some learned men of Mekka deliver lectures on religious subjects every afternoon under the colonnade, but the auditors are seldom numerous. On Fridays, after prayer, some Turkish olemas explain to their countrymen assembled around them a few chapters of the Koran, after which each of the audience kisses the hand of the expositor, and drops money into his cap. I particularly admired the fluency of speech of one of these olemas, although I did not understand him, the lecture being delivered in the Turkish language. His gesticulations, and the inflexions of his voice, were most expressive; but like an actor on the stage, he would laugh and cry in the same minute, and adapt his features to his purpose in the most skilful manner. He was a native of Brusa, and amassed a considerable sum of money.
Near the gate of the mosque called Bab-es’-Salam, a few Arab Sheikhs daily take their seat, with their ink-stand and paper, ready to write, for any applicant, letters, accounts, contracts, or any similar document. They also deal in written charms, like those current in the Black countries, such as amulets, and love-receipts, called “Kotob muhbat o kuboul.” They are principally employed by Bedouins, and demand an exorbitant remuneration.
Winding-sheets (keffen), and other linen washed in the waters of Zemzem, are constantly seen hanging to dry between the columns. Many hadjys purchase at Mekka the shroud in which they wish to be buried, and wash it themselves at the well of Zemzem, supposing that, if the corpse be wrapped in linen which has been wetted with this holy water, the peace of the soul after death will be more effectually secured. Some hadjys make this linen an article of traffic.
Mekka generally, but the mosque in particular, abounds with flocks of wild pigeons, which are considered to be the inviolable property of the temple, and are called the Pigeons of the Beitullah. Nobody dares to kill any of them, even when they enter the private houses. In the square of the mosque, several small stone basins are regularly filled with water for their use; here also Arab women expose to sale, upon small straw mats, corn and durra, which the pilgrims purchase, and throw to the pigeons. I have seen some of the public women take this mode of exhibiting themselves, and of bargaining with the pilgrims, under pretence of selling them corn for the sacred pigeons.
The gates of the mosque are nineteen in number, and are distributed about it, without any order or symmetry. I subjoin their names, as they are usually written upon small cards by the Metowefs: in another column are the names by which they were known in more ancient times, principally taken from Azraky and Kotoby.
|Modern Names.||Number||Ancient Names.|
|Bab-es’-Salam, composed of smaller gates, or arches.||3||Bab beni Sheybe.|
|Bab el Neby||2||Bab el Djenaiz,||The dead being carried through it to the mosque, that prayers may be said over their bodies.|
|Bab el Abbas. Opposite to this the house of Abbas once stood.||3||Bab Sertakat.|
|Bab Aly||3||Bab Beni Hashem.|
|Bab el Zeyt||2||Bab Bazan.|
|Bab el Ashra|
|Bab el Baghle||2|
|Bab el Szafa||5||Bab Beni Makhzoum.|
|Bab Sherif||2||Bab el Djyad.|
|Bab Medjahed||2||Bab el Dokhmase|
|Bab Zoleykha||2||Bab Sherif Adjelan (who built it.)|
|Bab Om Hany. So called from the daughter of Aby Taleb.||2|
|Bab el Wodaa. Through which the pilgrim passes in taking his final leave of the temple.||2||Bab el Hazoura|
|Bab Ibrahim [So called, not from Abraham, but from a tailor who had his shop near it.]||1||Bab el Kheyatyn, or Bab Djomah.|
|Bab el Omra Through which the pilgrims issue to visit the Omra. Also called Beni Saham.||1|
|Bab Ateek||1||Bab Amer Ibn el Aas, or Bab el Sedra.|
|Bab el Bastye||1||Bab el Adjale.|
|Bab el Kotoby [Taking its name from the famous author of a History of Mekka, who lived in an adjoining lane, and opened this small gate into the mosque.||1||Bab Zyade Dar el Nedoua.|
|Bab Dereybe||1||Bab Medrese.|
|Total number of arches||39|
The principal of these gates are:— on the north side, Bab-es-Salam, by which every pilgrim enters the mosque; Bab Abbas; Bab el Neby, by which Mohammed is said to have always entered the mosque; Bab Aly. On the east side, Bab el Zeyt, or Bab el Ashra, through which the ten first Sahabe, or adherents of Mohammed, used to enter; Bab el Szafa; two gates called Biban el Sherif, opposite the palaces of the Sherif. On the south side, Bab Ibrahim, where the colonnade projects beyond the straight line of the columns, and forms a small square; Bab el Omra, through which it is necessary to pass, on visiting the Omra. On the west side, Bab el Zyade, forming a projecting square similar to that at Bab Ibrahim, but larger. Most of these gates have high pointed arches; but a few round arches are seen among them, which, like all the arches of this kind in the Hedjaz, are nearly semi-circular. They are without any ornament, except the inscription on the exterior, which commemorates the name of the builder; and they are all posterior in date to the fourteenth century. As each gate consists of two or three arches, or divisions, separated by narrow walls, these divisions are counted in the enumeration of the gates leading into the Kaaba, and thus make up the number thirty-nine. There being no doors to the gates, the mosque is consequently open at all times. I have crossed at every hour of the night, and always found people there, either at prayers, or walking about.
The outside walls of the mosque are those of the houses which surround it on all sides. These houses belonged originally to the mosque; the greater part are now the property of individuals, who have purchased them; they are let out to the richest hadjys, at very high prices, as much as five hundred piastres being given, during the pilgrimage, for a good apartment, with windows opening into the mosque. Windows have, in consequence, been opened in many parts of the walls, on a level with the street, and above that of the floor of the colonnades: Hadjys living in these apartments are allowed to perform the Friday’s prayers at home; because, having the Kaaba in view from the windows, they are supposed to be in the mosque itself, and to join in prayer those assembled within the temple. Upon a level with the ground-floor of the colonnades, and opening into them, are small apartments formed in the walls, having the appearance of dungeons: these have remained the property of the mosque, while the houses above them belong to private individuals. They are let out to watermen, who deposit in them the Zemzem jars; or to less opulent hadjys, who wish to live in the mosque. Some of the surrounding houses still belong to the mosque, and were originally intended for public schools, as their name of Medrese implies: they are now all let out to hadjys. In one of the largest of them, Mohammed Aly Pasha lived; in another Hassan Pasha. [One of the finest Medreses in Mekka, built by order of Kail Beg, Sultan of Egypt, in A.H. 888, in the side of the mosque fronting the street Masaa, has also become a private building, after having been deprived of its revenue by the peculation of its guardians. Besides the Medreses, there were other buildings of less extent erected by different Sultans of Egypt and Constantinople for similar purposes, called Rebat, where poor pilgrims might reside, who chose to study there; but these have shared the fate of the Medreses, and are now either the private property of Mekkawys, or let to individuals on long leases by the mosque, and used as common lodging-houses.]
Close to Bab Ibrahim is a large Medrese, now the property of Seyd Ageyl, one of the principal merchants of the town, whose ware-house opens into the mosque. This person, who is aged, has the reputation of great sanctity; and it is said that the hand of Sherif Ghaleb, when once in the act of collaring him, for refusing to advance some money, was momentarily struck with palsy. He has every evening assemblies in his house, where theological books are read, [The cousin of this man is the famous pirate Syd Mohammed el Ageyl, who has committed many outrages upon European ships in the Red Sea, and even insulted the English flag. In the beginning of 1814 he was called to Djidda, with offers to enter the service of Mohammed Aly Pasha, who, it was then thought, had some hostile intentions against Yemen. The Pasha made him considerable presents, either in the hope of engaging him in his service, or of securing his friendship; but the pirate declined his proposals. He has amassed great wealth; has establishments in almost every harbour of the Red Sea; and is adored by his sailors and soldiers for his great liberality. Like his cousin at Mekka, he has succeeded in making people believe that he is endowed with supernatural powers.] and religious topics discussed.
Among other buildings forming the enclosure of the Mesjed, is the Mehkam, or house of justice, close by the Bab Zyade: it is a fine, firmly-built structure, with lofty arches in the interior, and has a row of high windows looking into the mosque. It is inhabited by the Kadhy. Adjoining to it stands a large Medrese, inclosing a square, known by the name of Medrese Soleymanye, built by Sultan Soleyman, and his son Selym II., in A.H. 973. It is always well filled with Turkish hadjys, the friends of the Kadhy, who disposes of the lodgings.
The exterior of the mosque is adorned with seven minarets, irregularly distributed:— 1. Minaret of Bab el Omra; 2. of Bab el Salam; 3. of Bab Aly; 4. of Bab el Wodaa; 5. of Medrese Kail Beg; 6. of Bab el Zyade; 7. of Medreset Sultan Soleyman. They are quadrangular or round steeples, in no way differing from other minarets. The entrance to them is from the different buildings round the mosque, which they adjoin. A beautiful view of the busy crowd below is obtained by ascending the most northern one.
It will have been seen by the foregoing description, that the mosque of Mekka differs little in its construction from many other buildings of the same nature in Asia. The mosque of Zakaria at Aleppo, the great mosque called El Amouy at Damascus, and the greater number of the larger mosques at Cairo, are constructed exactly upon the same plan, with an arched colonnade round an open square. None is more like it than the mosque of Touloun, at Cairo, built in A.H. 263; and that of Ammer, situated between Cairo and Old Cairo, upon the spot where Fostat once stood: it was built by Ammer Ibn el Aas, in the first years of the conquest of Egypt; it has an arched fountain in the midst, where at Mekka stands the Kaaba; but is only one-third as large as the mosque of Mekka. The history of Beitullah (or God’s house) has exercised the industry of many learned Arabians: it is only in latter times that the mosque has been enlarged; many trees once stood in the square, and it is to be regretted that others have not succeeded them.
The service of the mosque occupies a vast number of people. The Khatybs, Imams, Muftis, those attached to Zemzem, the Mueddins who call to prayers, numbers of olemas, who deliver lectures, lamp-lighters, and a crowd of menial servants, are all employed about the Beitullah. They receive regular pay from the mosque, besides what they share of the presents made to it by hadjys, for the purpose of distribution; those not made for such purpose, are reserved for the repairs of the building. The revenue of the mosque is considerable, although it has been deprived of the best branches of its income.
There are few towns or districts of the Turkish empire in which it does not possess property in land or houses; but the annual amount of this property is often withheld by provincial governors, or at least it is reduced, by the hands through which it passes, to a small proportion of its real value. El Is-haaky, in his History of Egypt, states, that in the time of Sultan Ahhmed, the son of Sultan Mohammed, (who died in A.H. 1027,) Egypt sent yearly to Mekka two hundred and ninety-five purses, destined principally for the mosque, and forty-eight thousand and eighty erdebs of corn. Bayazyd Ibn Sultan Mohammed Khan (in 912) fixed the income of Mekka and Medina, to be sent from Constantinople, at fourteen thousand ducats per annum, in addition to what his predecessors had already ordered; and Sultan Solyman Ibn Selym I. increased the annual income of Mekka, sent from Constantinople, which his father Selym had fixed at seven thousand erdebs of corn, to ten thousand erdebs, and five thousand for the inhabitants of Medina. [See Kotobeddyn.] He likewise fixed the surra from Constantinople, or, as it is called, the Greek surra, at thirty-one thousand ducats per annum. [See Assamy. These surras (or purses) were first instituted by Mohammed Ibn Sultan Yalderem, in A.H. 816.] Almost all the revenues derived from Egypt were sequestrated by the Mamelouk Beys; and Mohammed Aly has now seized what remained. Some revenue is yet drawn from Yemen, called Wakf el Hamam, and a little is brought in annually by the Hadj caravans. At present, therefore, the mosque of Mekka may be called poor in comparison with its former state. [The princes of India have frequently given proofs of great munificence towards the mosque at Mekka. In A.H. 798, large presents in money and valuable articles were sent by the sovereigns of Bengal and Cambay; those of Bengal, especially, are often mentioned as benefactors by Asamy.] Excepting a few golden lamps in the Kaaba, it possesses no treasures whatever, notwithstanding the stories prevalent to the contrary; and I learnt from the Kadhy himself, that the Sultan, in order to keep up the establishment, sends at present four hundred purses annually, as a present to the Kaaba; which sum is partly expended in the service of the mosque, and partly divided among the servants belonging to it.
The income of the mosque must not be confounded with that of a number of Mekkawys, including many of the servants, which they derive from other pious foundations in the Turkish empire, known by the name of Surra, and of which a great part still remains untouched. The donations of the hadjys, however, are so ample as to afford abundant subsistence to the great numbers of idle persons employed about the mosque; and as long as the pilgrimage exists, there is no reason to apprehend their wanting either the necessaries or the luxuries of life.
The first officer of the mosque is the Nayb el Haram, or Hares el Haram, the guardian who keeps the keys of the Kaaba. In his hands are deposited the sums bestowed as presents to the building, and which he distributes in conjunction with the Kadhy: under his directions, also, the repairs of the building are carried on. [The honour of keeping the keys of the Kaaba, and the profits arising from it, were often subjects of contention among the ancient Arabian tribes.] I have been assured, but do not know how truly, that the Nayb el Haram’s yearly accounts, which are countersigned by the Sherif and Kadhy, and sent to Constantinople, amount to three hundred purses, merely for the expenses of the necessary repairs, lighting, carpets, &c., and the maintenance of the eunuchs belonging to the temple. This officer happens at present to be one of the heads of the three only families descended from the ancient Koreysh who remain resident at Mekka. Next to him, the second officer of the mosque in rank is the Aga of the eunuchs, or, as he is called; Agat el Towashye. The eunuchs perform the duty of police officers in the temple; [The employment of slaves or eunuchs in this mosque is of very ancient date. Mawya Ibn Aly Sofyan, a short time after Mohammed, first ordered slaves for the Kaaba. — Vid. Fasy.] they prevent disorders, and daily wash and sweep, with large brooms, the pavement round the Kaaba. In time of rain, I have seen the water stand on the pavement to the height of a foot; on such occasions many of the hadjys assist the eunuchs in removing it through several holes made in the pavement, which, it is said, lead to large vaults beneath the Kaaba, though the historians of Mekka and of the temple make no mention of them. The eunuchs are dressed in the Constantinopolitan kaouk, with wide robes, bound by a sash, and carry a long stick in their hands. The engraving of their dress given by d’Ohsson is strikingly correct; as are, in general, all the representations of costume in that work, which I had an opportunity of comparing with the original. [This excellent work is the only perfect source of information respecting the laws and constitution of the Turkish empire; but it must not be forgotten that the practices prevalent in the provinces are, unfortunately, often in direct contravention of the spirit and letter of the code of law, as explained by the author.] The number of eunuchs now exceeds forty, and they are supplied by Pashas and other grandees, who send them, when young, as presents to the mosque: one hundred dollars are sent with each as an outfit. Mohammed Aly presented ten young eunuchs to the mosque. At present there are ten grown-up persons, and twenty boys; the latter live together in a house, till they are sufficiently instructed to be given in charge to their elder brethren, with whom they remain a few years, and then set up their own establishments. Extraordinary as it may appear, the grown-up eunuchs are all married to black slaves, and maintain several male and female slaves in their houses as servants. They affect great importance; and in case of quarrels or riots, lay freely about them with their sticks. Many of the lower classes of Mekka kiss their hands on approaching them. Their chief, or Aga, whom they elect among themselves, is a great personage, and is entitled to sit in the presence of the Pasha and the Sherif. The eunuchs have a large income from the revenues of the mosque, and from private donations of the hadjys; they also receive regular stipends from Constantinople, and derive profit from trade; for, like almost all the people of Mekka, and even the first clergy, they are more or less engaged in traffic; and their ardour in the pursuit of commercial gain is much greater than that which they evince in the execution of their official duties, being equalled only by the eagerness with which they court the friendship of wealthy hadjys.
Most of the eunuchs, or Towashye, are negroes; a few were copper-coloured Indians. One of the former is sometimes sent to the Soudan countries, to collect presents for the Kaaba. The fate of a eunuch of this description is mentioned by Bruce. Some years since a Towashye obtained permission to return to Soudan, on presenting another person to the mosque in his stead. He then repaired to Borgo, west of Darfour, and is now the powerful governor of a province.
Whenever negro hadjys come to Mekka, they never fail to pay assiduous court to the Towashyes. A Towashye, after having been once attached to the service of the Kaaba, which confers on him the appellation of Towashye el Neby (the Prophet’s eunuch), can never enter into any other service.
In the time of Ramadhan, (the last days of which month, in 1814, I passed at Mekka,) the mosque is particularly brilliant. The hadjys, at that period, (which happened to be in the hottest time of the year,) generally performed the three first daily prayers at home, but assembled in large crowds in the mosque, for their evening devotions. Every one then carried in his handkerchief a few dates, a little bread and cheese, or some grapes, which he placed before him, waiting for the moment of the call to evening prayers, to be allowed to break the fast. During this period of suspense, they would politely offer to their neighbours a part of their meal, and receive as much in return. Some hadjys, to gain the reputation of peculiar charitableness, were going from man to man, and placing before each a few morsels of viands, followed by beggars, who, in their turn, received these morsels from those hadjys before whom they had been placed. As soon as the Imam on the top of Zemzem began his cry of “Allahou Akbar,” (God is most great!) every one hastened to drink of the jar of Zemzem water placed before him, and to eat something, previous to joining in the prayer; after which they all returned home to supper, and again revisited the mosque, for the celebration of the last evening orisons. At this time, the whole square and colonnades were illuminated by thousands of lamps; and, in addition to these, most of the hadjys had each his own lantern standing on the ground before him. The brilliancy of this spectacle, and the cool breeze pervading the square, caused multitudes to linger here till midnight. This square, the only wide and open place in the whole town, admits through all its gates the cooling breeze; but this the Mekkawys ascribe to the waving wings of those angels who guard the mosque. I witnessed the enthusiasm of a Darfour pilgrim, who arrived at Mekka on the last night of Ramadhan. After a long journey across barren and solitary deserts, on his entering the illuminated temple, he was so much struck with its appearance, and overawed by the black Kaaba, that he fell prostrate close by the place where I was sitting, and remained long in that posture of adoration. He then rose, burst into a flood of tears, and in the height of his emotion, instead of reciting the usual prayers of the visitor, only exclaimed, “O God, now take my soul, for this is Paradise!”
The termination of the Hadj gives a very different appearance to the temple. Disease and mortality, which succeed to the fatigues endured on the journey, or are caused by the light covering of the ihram, the unhealthy lodgings at Mekka, the bad fare, and sometimes absolute want, fill the mosque with dead bodies, carried thither to receive the Imam’s prayer, or with sick persons, many of whom, when their dissolution approaches, are brought to the colonnades, that they may either be cured by a sight of the Kaaba, or at least have the satisfaction of expiring within the sacred enclosure. Poor hadjys, worn out with disease and hunger, are seen dragging their emaciated bodies along the columns; and when no longer able to stretch forth their hand to ask the passenger for charity, they place a bowl to receive alms near the mat on which they lay themselves. When they feel their last moments approaching, they cover themselves with their tattered garments; and often a whole day passes before it is discovered that they are dead. For a month subsequent to the conclusion of the Hadj, I found, almost every morning, corpses of pilgrims lying in the mosque; myself and a Greek hadjy, whom accident had brought to the spot, once closed the eyes of a poor Mogrebyn pilgrim, who had crawled into the neighbourhood of the Kaaba, to breathe his last, as the Moslems say, “in the arms of the prophet and of the guardian angels.” He intimated by signs his wish that we should sprinkle Zemzem water over him; and while we were doing so, he expired: half an hour afterwards he was buried. There are several persons in the service of the mosque employed to wash carefully the spot on which those who expire in the mosque have lain, and to bury all the poor and friendless strangers who die at Mekka.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05