Images from Mecca


Bilder aus Mecca (Images from Mecca) by the Dutch orientalist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857–1936) is one of the earliest works by a non-Arab to document Mecca and the hajj in photographs. Hurgronje studied at Leiden University, where he earned a doctorate in Semitic languages and literature with a dissertation on Mecca and the pilgrim rituals and their historical background. He became a teacher at the Leiden training college for East Indian officials. In 1884–85 he was granted a leave of absence to go to Jeddah and Mecca to study Arabic and pursue research. He lived in Mecca for approximately six months, where he converted to Islam and adopted the name Abdul Ghaffar. In 1888, he published Bilderatlas zu Mekka (Photographic atlas of Mecca), a compilation of photographs that he had taken and collected in the city. Hurgronje published Bilder aus Mecca the following year as a supplement to the earlier work. Scholars have concluded that the photographs in this album were by al-Sayyid ʻAbd al-Ghaffār, an Indian physician living in Mecca who was a friend of Hurgronje. The album includes 18 photographs, with views of the city, mosques, shrines, and pilgrims. The Library of Congress copy presented here has an ink stamp in Japanese: Minami Manshū Tetsudō Kabushiki Kaisha Tōa Keizai Chōsakyoku zōsho no in (Seal of collection at the South Manchuria Railway Company, East Asia Economic Research Bureau). It also has a book stamp in Arabic on the inside front cover stating the connection with the South Manchuria Railway Company. An accompanying receipt from the Washington Document Center, with the date stamped August 27, 1946, indicates that the volume was confiscated by the U.S. armed forces at the end of World War II and subsequently transferred to the Library of Congress. The South Manchuria Railway Company engaged in extensive intelligence gathering and operational activities on behalf of the Japanese Imperial Army, including efforts to agitate Muslims against Chinese and Russian rule.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

E.J. Brill, Leiden


Title in Original Language

Bilder aus Mecca

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 portfolio (20 photographic prints) : albumen ; 38 x 29 centimeters (portfolio)



  1. Badr El-Hage, “The First Non-Arab Photographers of the Hijaz,” Saudi Arabia: Caught in Time 1861-1939 (Reading, United Kingdom: Garnet Publishing Ltd., 1997.

Last updated: January 8, 2018