Lot 304
  • 304

Mecca--Al-Sayyid Abd al-Ghaffar

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Fifteen early photographs of Mecca, the Mahmal, Taif and pilgrims on the Hajj. [c.1885-1888]
  • paper
14 ALBUMEN PRINTS (average 220 x 270mm.), 2 un-mounted, 12 mounted recto and verso on 7 card mounts (236 x 314mm.), and one collotype, many captioned in Arabic and/or signed in the negative by Abd al-Ghaffar, some additional Arabic captions in ink on the image, most captioned in French on the mount, some spotting and fading, mounts slightly bowed

Catalogue Note

A VERY RARE COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE FIRST ARAB PHOTOGRAPHER OF MECCA, INCLUDING THE EARLIEST KNOWN PHOTOGRAPH OF THE MAHMAL IN MECCA, together with three panoramic views of Mecca; two views of the holy mosque and Ka’bah at Mecca; a panoramic view of the pilgrims’ camp at Sittana Maymuna; a panoramic view of the pilgrims’ tents at Mount Arafat; two views of Taif; Sherif Jahir with his sons and camel; and a photograph of a painting of The Prophet’s Mosque at Medina.THESE ARE THE ONLY KNOWN ALBUMEN PRINTS OF THESE IMAGES IN PRIVATE OWNERSHIP. The only other known original photographs of many of these images are in Snouck-Hurgronje's archive at Leiden University. 

Abd al-Ghaffar was a doctor practicing in Mecca who was taught photography by Christian Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936), a Dutch scholar who assumed the name Abd al-Ghaffar when he converted to Islam. Snouck Hurgronje stayed in Mecca from February 21 to July 5, 1885 and for some of his stay lived as a guest in the doctor’s house, during which time he taught photography to his host.

Snouck Hurgronje had travelled to Mecca in 1885 intending to participate in the Hajj and had taken a camera and equipment with him and made a number of photographs, but had to leave suddenly before the pilgrimage season due to a false accusation against him of plotting to take an important Aramaic inscription, the Tayma stele, for the Dutch. Snouck Hurgronje left many of his possessions behind, including his camera and equipment, with Al-Sayyid Abd al-Ghaffar. After Snouck Hurgronje had returned to Leiden, he asked the doctor to take photographs for him at sites including the pilgrims’ camp by Mount Arafat and in the Mina Valley, as well as views of the city of Mecca and portraits of pilgrims and residents. Snouck Hurgronje reproduced a selection of Abd al-Ghaffar’s photographs in two important (and rare) publications: Mekka (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1888-89) and Bilder aus Mekka (Leiden: Brill, 1889); see lots 302 and 303.
The photographs comprise

1. Sherif Jahir and his sons on their territory; reproduced in Bilder aus Mekka. Leiden, 1889, plate 17.
2. A painting of The Prophet’s Tomb, Medina.
3. Panorama of Mecca.
4. Panorama of Mecca.
5. Panorama of Mecca.
6. View of the Ka’bah, captioned in Arabic in ink on the image “Pilgrims circling the Ka'bah”.
7. View of the Ka’bah. Arabic caption: "from Al-Salam gate to Al-Umrah gate"; reproduced with the Arabic caption and signature erased, in Bilder aus Mekka, plate 1.
8. Panorama of Sittana Maymunah Pilgrims' Camp; captioned in Arabic “The right side of Mecca"; reproduced with Arabic caption and signature erased, in Bilder aus Mekka, plate 8.
9. The Egyptian Mahmal at Mecca, in front of the Banajah family House; Arabic caption: “Al- Mahmal al-Masri"; the original photograph that Snouck Hurgronje received was not good enough to be reproduced, so a lithograph was made instead: Mekka, (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1888-89), plate 5; it has been recently suggested by one scholar that the original photograph may have been taken by Sadiq Bey.
10. The Pilgrims’camp at Arafat; Arabic caption “Jebel Arafat”.
11. View of Taif, near Mecca; captioned in ink in Arabic on the image.
12. A second view of Taif, near Mecca; captioned in ink in Arabic on the image.
13.View of Mecca, albumen copy-print
14. View of the Ka’bah, captioned in Arabic, albumen copy-print
15. View of Mecca beyond the north-western and south-western side of the Mosque, collotype  

References: Oostdam, D. West-Arabian Encounters. (Leiden, 2004); Reiss-Engelhorn Museums. To the Holy Lands. (Munich, 2007); Wal, D. van der. Christian Snouck Hurgronje. The First Western Photographer in Mecca, 1884-1885 (Amsterdam, 2011)