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Egypt: Tour Egypt Monthly: Egyptian Hajj Paintings


Volume II, Number 8 August 1st, 2001


Egyptian Hajj Paointings

by Sonny Stengle

One fifth of humankind shares a single aspiration: to complete, at least once in a lifetime, the spiritual journey called the Hajj.

The hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, a central duty of Islam whose origins date back to the Prophet Abraham, brings together Muslims of all races and tongues for one of life's most moving spiritual experiences. Since the 7th Century, the Hajj, or Great Pilgrimage to Mecca, has been a lifelong goal of devout Muslims throughout the world.

Muslims trace the recorded origins of the divinely prescribed pilgrimage to the Prophet Abraham, or Ibrahim, as he is called in Arabic. According to the Qur'an, it was Abraham who, together with Ishmael (Isma'il), built the Ka'bah, "the House of God," the focal point toward which Muslims turn in their worship five times each day. It was Abraham, too - known as Khalil Allah, "the friend of God" - who established the rituals of the hajj, which recall events or practices in his life and that of Hagar (Hajar) and their son Ishmael. The hajj to Mecca is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation upon male and female adults whose health and finances permit it, or, in the words of the Qur'an, upon "those who can make their way there." It is not an obligation on children, though some children do accompany their parents on this journey.

When pilgrims undertake the hajj journey, they follow in the footsteps of millions before them. Nowadays hundreds of thousands of believers from over 70 nations arrive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by road, sea and air every year, completing a journey now much shorter and in some ways less arduous than it often was in the past.

Till the 19th century, travelling the long distance to Mecca usually meant being part of a caravan. There were three main caravans: the Egyptian one, which formed in Cairo; the Iraqi one, which set out from Baghdad; and the Syrian, which, after 1453, startedat Istanbul, gathered pilgrims along the way, and proceeded to Mecca from Damascus.

As the hajj journey took months if all went well, pilgrims carried with them the provisions they needed to sustain them on their trip. The caravans were elaborately supplied with amenities and security if the persons travelling were rich, but the poor often ran out of provisions and had to interrupt their journey in order to work, save up their earnings, and then go on their way. This resulted in long journeys which, in some cases, spanned ten years or more. Travel in earlier days was filled with adventure. The roads were often unsafe due to bandit raids. The terrain the pilgrims passed through was also dangerous, and natural hazards and diseases often claimed many lives along the way. Thus, the successful return of pilgrims to their families was the occasion of joyous celebration and thanks giving for their safe arrival.

Egyptian Hajjis traditionally celebrate their sacred journey by commissioning a local artist to depict their religious odyssey, and even possible and not-so-possible adventures (like showing lions to explain a "dangerous" travel to Mecca) on the walls of their homes. Hajj Painting is the first visual record of the richness and variety of this nave art form, considered Egypts most significant contribution to the contemporary international folk art scene.

Types of Travel to Egypt by Jimmy Dunn

Neil Bush Family Visits El Gouna by Hazel Heyer

Party Time in Ancient Egypt by Ilene Springer

Camel Trekking in the Sinai by Joyce Carta

Nuweiba by Jimmy Dunn

Egyptian Hajj Painting by Sonny Stengle

Where Have All the Pharaohs Gone by Anita Stratos

Marvelous Melokiyah by Mary Kay Radnich

Exploring Isis by Catherine C. Harris

Never Mind, Just Crossing the Moon by Arnvid Aakre

Editor's Commentary By Jimmy Dunn

Ancient Beauty Secrets By Judith Illes

Book Reviews Various Editors

Hotel Reviews By Jimmy Dunn & Juergen Stryjak

Kid's Corner By Margo Wayman

Cooking with Tour Egypt By Mary K Radnich

The Month in Review By John Applegate

Egyptian Exhibitions By Staff

Egyptian View-Point By Adel Murad

Nightlife Various Editors

Egypt On Screen By Carolyn Patricia Scott

Restaurant Reviews Various Editors

Shopping Around Various Editors

Web Reviews By Siri Bezdicek

Prior Issues

July 1st, 2001
June 1st, 2001
May 1st, 2001
April 1st, 2001

March 1st, 2001

February 1st, 2001

January 1st, 2001

November 1st, 2000
October 1st, 2000
September 1st, 2000
August 1st, 2000

July 1st, 2000

June 1st, 2000

Master Index

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