Ottoman Mecca and the Indian Ocean Hajj


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| In the Hijaz, the Ottoman Empire managed not only Mecca and Medina--the two holiest cities in Islam--but also port cities of the Red Sea with connections to the Indian Ocean and beyond. In this episode, Michael Christopher Low explains how the empire ruled this region as the hajj transformed thanks to steam travel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. While European colonial anxieties about the hajj focused on epidemic disease and subversive politics, Ottoman concerns centered on the legal status of the region and its infrastructural networks. Although projects such as the Hijaz Railway are often understood as manifestations of Abdulhamid II's commitment to pan-Islam, Low suggests that these measures were more accurately a product of emerging technocratic forms of Ottoman governance. He also discusses continuities with the Saudi state. Low's book is Imperial Mecca: Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj.
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