The Pilgrimage to Mecca: Religious, Social, and Public Health Considerations


Le pèlerinage de La Mecque au point de vue religieux, social et sanitaire (The pilgrimage to Mecca: Religious, social, and public health considerations) is a book by Dr. Firmin Duguet (born 1876), inspector general of the International Quarantine Board in Alexandria, Egypt. Duguet also served as inspector general of health services of Lebanon and Syria under the French Mandate and was responsible for the medical supervision of the pilgrimage to Mecca. The first part of the book gives some historical background to the Hajj, and its roots in the Qur’an. Duguet describes the obligations, restrictions, and propaganda associated with it, the countries of origin of the pilgrims, social classes, gender, means of transportation, their religious ceremonies, the visit to Medina, and the Hajj of Shiites from Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq, Syria, and Kuwait). Part two concentrates on the public health and sanitary problems of the Hajj, the international focus on Muslim pilgrims after the cholera epidemic of 1865 and the 1866 international sanitary conference in Constantinople and subsequent conferences, as the building of railroads and the new Suez Canal accelerated the spread of infectious diseases. Duguet looks at specific pilgrimage years, the last years of Ottoman Turkish administration of the holy sites, and the fall of Sharif Hussein in 1924. Part three considers the Saudi conquest of Hejaz, the roles of Ibn Saud and the Wahhabis, pilgrimage during 1925‒30, and the incidence of cholera affecting the Hajj. The work includes details of daily fatalities in different years, particularly during what Duguet describes as the pèlerinage de l’épouvante (pilgrimage of horror), the cholera outbreak in 1893. The pilgrimage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries took a huge toll on human lives. When disease struck, the loss of life could reach 40 percent of all pilgrims. In 1891, out of 46,000 pilgrims, 21,000 never returned home. Appendices include descriptions of the actions taken to protect pilgrims by the International Quarantine Board of Egypt in implementing the International Sanitary Convention of 1926, and the Beirut and Paris conferences on this subject of January 1929 and October 1930. The book is illustrated with photographs of the pilgrims and their caravans and has maps of the routes most used to reach Mecca.

Last updated: June 16, 2016