Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Hajj Routes in Kuwait

The British Museum just published a collection of papers from a conference held there in 2012 in conjunction with their special exhibit on the hajj.  That volume, The Hajj: Collected Essays, includes an article by Andrew Blair and myself on the sections of the Abbasid-period hajj route from Basra which passed through modern Kuwait.

This Basran road is the less famous twin of the Darb Zubayda which ran from Kufa to Mecca.  The main route passed down the Wadi al-Batin, which today forms Kuwait's northwestern boundary with Iraq.  This route, however, required significant investment to make it palatable for masses of travelers, and before this was done, pilgrims instead passed further east, through Kazima along the shores of Kuwait Bay.

The ongoing Kadhima Project has been excavating significant settlement sites along the north shore of Kuwait Bay which may or may not have been part of the pilgrimage route of the 700's.  The article covers the archaeology of both Kuwait Bay and the Wadi al-Batin, as well as important information in medieval written works and the existing modern Arabic historiography of the Basran hajj road.

This article is probably most useful in both giving English-language press to the hajj route from Basra and the review of archaeological excavations relevant to early Islamic Kuwait, a period which we can now see has far more activity than previously believed.  That said, the volume in general has lots of interesting articles about aspects of the hajj up to the present day, from souvenirs to French colonial policy in Algeria.  It is a useful collection on one of the world's most remarkable religious observances.

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