The fourth international lecture of the pre-con events of the international conference on Theology of Pilgrimage was held online on October 28, 2023. At this session, Dr. Andrew Petersen, Professor of History and Archeology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, delivered his speech under the title “Water and the Hajj: A Discussion on the Provision of Water to Pilgrims on the Hajj in Pre-modern Times”.
Here is the video of the session accompanied by the presentation file and written abstract:
The location of Mecca in the heart of one of the most arid regions of the world has meant that the presence and provision of water to pilgrims is both a practical and spiritual necessity. This paper will discuss the practical measures taken by Muslim leaders to ensure the provision of water and also factors which threatened the water supply. From the earliest times the principal Hajj routes from Egypt, Syria, and Iraq were provided with facilities to ensure that pilgrims could survive the harsh deserts of Arabia. The facilities included water cisterns and wells and in some cases, settlements were developed to provide provisions and services to the pilgrims. However political fragmentation during the 11th to 15th centuries meant that the Hajj routes were neglected and many of the facilities which had been built by the early Muslim rulers had fallen into disuse. With the Ottoman conquest of Arabia in the sixteenth century, there was a renewed interest in the Hajj routes with particular attention to the route from Damascus. During the sixteenth century, the Ottomans did not provide many new water facilities. They did build fortresses which protected the existing wells and cisterns which lined the route. However, from the seventeenth century onwards increasing attacks by Bedouin combined with larger numbers of people joining the Hajj meant that more water facilities were required. The increased pressure on the Hajj route culminated in the massacre of thousands of pilgrims in 1748. In response, the Ottomans built more stations along the route including in places where there were no natural water sources. Each year the new stations were provided with water carried in animal skins before the arrival of the Hajj caravan.