Hajj Materials and Rites from Egypt

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Hajj Materials and Rites from Egypt

Richard McGregor


The pre-modern pilgrimage to Mecca, or hajj, included several public rituals that contributed significantly to Islamic visual culture. Perhaps the two most prominent were those associated with the mahmal (litter) and the kiswa (covering) of the Ka‘ba. For centuries, both of these textile objects were produced in Egypt, and celebrated with large parades in Cairo. More than simply popular expressions of piety, these spectacles also enjoyed the support of social and political elites. The objects themselves reflected the breadth of this appeal: the elaborate inscriptions on the kiswa typically named their royal sponsor, including his titles among Qur’anic quotations, and the mahmal also advertised its patron in the tandem of devotional inscriptions.


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Richard McGregor, “Hajj Materials and Rites from Egypt,” Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online, published 9 February 2021.

Richard McGregor is Associate Professor of Religion and Islamic Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. His primary field of research is medieval Egypt and Syria, with a focus on religious thought, ritual, and Sufism. His most recent book, Islam and the Devotional Object: Seeing Religion in Egypt and Syria (2020), explores the lives of a series of religious objects. He also works on the devotional gaze, in theory and historical Islamic practice.