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'Gazetteer of Arabia Vol. II' [‎1212] (261/688)

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The record is made up of 1 volume (341 folios). It was created in 1917. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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(sml), the mosque is often flooded to a depth of several feet, since it lies lower than the
surrounding city whose level has been gradually raised by accumulated dibris through
the destruction and rebuilding of the houses. A former attempt to mitigate the inunda
tion by throwing a dam across the valley was not successful, and the flood-water is
allowed to escape through the town and out into the open valley by the south gate
During the pilgrimage there is always peril'of devastating epidemics, for the present
quarantine system is useless, and the camps of the poorer pilgrims are crowded and
most insanitary. Cholera is most dreaded; the bubonic plague, though equally
deadly, is not feared so much, owing to its comparatively slow rate of development
and to the speedy dispersal of the pilgrims after the ceremonies.
There are two old forts above the town, the larger on the south-east, and a smaller
one to the west on a mound below Jabal Hindi. Normally a Turkish garrison of at
least three battalions with field and mountain guns is stationed at Mecca. The Wali
of Hejaz resides there (in summer at Ta'if) and so does the Grand Sherif. In addition
to the profits of the pilgrimage, the town receives an annual Government grant (mrra),
and the customs duties levied at Jiddah and Yambo'. It is free of tax and military
The public buildings include a court-house, post-office, and other government offices •
there are also baths, a hospital, and hospices (ribdt*) for poor pilgrims from India'
Java, etc. A petroleum engine for a flour mill, turning out about l^ton of flour daily'
was set up in 1909, and in January 1912, two others of the same size had been import
ed and were being set up ; they are all of British manufacture. A weekly paper. The
Hejaz, is published in Turkish and Arabic. Telegraph to Jiddah and Ta'if.
Holding this position between two great routes between the lowlands and inner
Arabia and situated in a narrow and baren valley incapable of supporting an urban
population, Mecca must have been from the first a commercial centre. At all events,
long before Muhammad we find Mecca established in the two-fold capacity of a com
mercial centre and a privileged holy place, surrounded by an inviolable territory
known as the Haram, which was not the sanctuary of a single tribe but a place of
pilgrimage where religious observances were associated with a series of annual fairs
at different points in the vicinity. Indeed, in the unsettled state of the country
commerce was possible only under the sanctions of religion and through the provisions
of the sacred truce which prohibited war for four months of the year, three of these
being the month of pilgrimage with those immediately preceding and following.
The victory of Muhammadanism made a vast change in the position of Mecca. The
merchant aristocracy became satraps or pensioners of a great empire ; but the seat of
dominion was removed beyond the desert and though Mecca and the Hejaz strove
for a time to maintain political as well as religious predominance the struggle was vain
and terminated on the death of Ibn Zubair, the Meccca pretendant to the Khalifate
when the city was taken by Hajjaj in A. D. 692. The sanctuary and feast of Mecca,
however, received a new prestige from the victory of Islam. Purged of elements
obivously heathen the Ka'abah became the holiest site and the pilgrimage, the most
sacred ritual observance of Muhammadanism, and drew worshippers 'from so wide
a circle that the confluence of the petty traders of the desert was no longer the main
feature of the Holy season. The pilgrimage retained its impotance for the commercial
well-being of Mecca ; to this day the people live by the Hajj—letting rooms, acting as
guides and directors in the sacred ceremonies, as contractors and touts for land and
sea transport, as well as exploiting the many benefactions that flow to the holy city
while the surrounding Bedouins derive support from the camel transport it demands
and from the subsidies by which they are engaged to protect or abstain from molesting
* caravans. But the ancient fairs of heathenism were given up and the
traffic of the pilgrim season was concentrated at Muna and Mecca, where most of the
pilgrims have something to buy or sell, so that Muna, after the sacrifice of feast day,
presents the aspect of a huge international fancy fair.
Long before Muhammad, the chief sanctuary of Mecca was the Ka'abah, a rude
stone building without windows, and having a door seven feet from the ground ; it was
so named from its resemblance to an astragalus of about 40 feet cube, though the
structure is not really a cube nor even exactly rectangular. The exact measurements
to w ? ™ 2 T l nc , h f and 38 feet 4 inches ; ends 31 feet 7 inches and
' hei g ht 3o fee t- The Ka abah has been rebuilt more than once since Muham-

About this item


Volume II of III of the Gazetteer of Arabia. The Gazetteer is alphabetically-arranged and this volume contains entries K through to R.

The Gazetteer is an alphabetically-arranged compendium of the tribes, clans and geographical features (including towns, villages, lakes, mountains and wells) of Arabia that is contained within three seperate bound volumes. The entries range from short descriptions of one or two sentences to longer entries of several pages for places such as Iraq and Yemen.

A brief introduction states that the gazetteer was originally intended to deal with the whole of Arabia, "south of a line drawn from the head of the Gulf of 'Aqabah, through Ma'an, to Abu Kamal on the Euphrates, and to include Baghdad and Basrah Wilayats" and notes that before the gazetteer could be completed its publication was postponed and that therefore the three volumes that now form this file simply contain "as much of the MSS. [manuscript] as was ready at the time". It further notes that the contents have not been checked.

Extent and format
1 volume (341 folios)
Physical characteristics

Foliation: This volume's foliation system is circled in pencil, in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. of each folio.

Written in
English in Latin script
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'Gazetteer of Arabia Vol. II' [‎1212] (261/688), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/MIL/17/16/2/2, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 23 February 2020]

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