The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, was one of the Prophet Muhammad’s five pillars of Islam, to be performed at least once in the life of all able-bodied Muslims. With the explosive growth in the number of believers generated by Islamic conquests and attendant proselytization, the network of pilgrimage routes in Arabia would see massive annual traffic by 1200. Around this time, the famous Islamic travellers, Nasir Khusraw, Ibn Jubeir and Ibn Battuta set out on hajj, from Persia, Spain and Morocco. The major assembly points for the final legs of the journey were Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad. The road from Baghdad to Mecca was known as the ‘Way of Zubaida’ after the wife of an Abbasid caliph who built wells and pools for pilgrims along the route. Eastern hajji travelled via Basra or the incense trading port of Salala, those from Africa crossed the Red Sea at Sawakin.
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