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A Pilgrimage as Social Network

The Case of Evliya elebis Hajj of 1672

Essay: Final Draft


Course: Med. III: The Blue Network
Study: History, year 3
Name: Willem van der Sluis
Student number: S2413450
Date: June 1st , 2015

And when I heard a description of the seven climes and the four corners of the earth, I longed to
travel with all my heart and soul. So I became utterly wretched, a vagabond crying out, Might I roam
the world? Might it be vouchsafed to me to reach the Holy Land, Cairo and Damascus, Mecca and
Medina, and to rub my face at the Sacred Garden, the tomb of the Prophet, glory of the universe?

Evliya elebi, 16311

1 Evliya elebi, Volume I: Istanbul. in: Robert Dankoff and Sooyong Kim, An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book
of Travels of Evliya elebi. (London: Eland Publishing Limited, 2010), 3-4.

Table of Content

List of figures.page: 5
Introductionpage: 6-8
The Theory..page: 8-10
The Source.......page: 10-12
The Network...page: 12-18
Conclusion..page: 20-21
Bibliography...page: 22

List of figures

Figure 1: The layers of the social network of the Damascus caravan of 1672..page: 12
Figure 2: The route of the Damascus caravan of 1672..page: 13
Figure 3: The social network of the Damascus caravan of 1672...page: 19

Introduction
Evliya elebi (1611-ca.1684) was a member of a well-established Turkish family in Istanbul with ties
to the Ottoman court, however, he never aspired to hold an official government position. The only
thing he wished for was to become a world traveler, who and nowadays he is one of the best known
Ottoman travelers from the early modern period. He reached this fame because he distinguished
himself by writing a ten-volume detailed account of his travels, known as the Seyahatname or the
Book of Travels. When he completed the final redaction of his work in the late 1670s, he had written
what would be the longest travelogue in Islamic history and probably in the history of the world. 2
elebi was, due to his connections with the Ottoman elite, able to travel within the Ottoman
empire and beyond. He started by exploring his birthplace and capital of the Ottoman empire, Istanbul,
during which he developed a strong desire to engage in more extensive travels. 3 Starting in 1640 he
satisfied his desire for the next forty years by setting foot in many countries of todays Middle East
like Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Saudi-Arabia, of Europe like Hungary, Germany, Poland, Austria,
Crimea, Greece and the Balkans, and of Africa like Egypt and the Sudan. 4 By writing detailed
accounts of all his travels, elebi has provided historians with a great source on the seventeenth
century Ottoman world.
This essay will focus on Evliya elebis volume IX: The Pilgrimage, which consists of his
journey through the Middle East with the intent to perform the Muslim pilgrimage, known as the Hajj.
Even before he had made his first journey, elebi expressed his desire to go on the Hajj. 5 However,
since it is quite common for people to go at an older age, it is not surprisingly that it took a couple
decades before he finally undertook the journey. When elebi returned to Istanbul in 1670 after his
journey to Greece and Crete he felt the capital was like a prison. In need for spiritual guidance he
visited a holy shrine, recited a Ya Sin (Sura 36) in the hope to receive aid from above, and
subsequently went to bed. That night his religious teacher, Evliya Efendi, and his father, Dervish
Mehmed Aga Zilli, appeared in his dreams and encouraged him to undertake the Hajj by reciting
Quranic verses.6 Lo and behold, the next morning elebi had a visit from Saili elebi who said
Come, let us roam the world together, let us go to Arabia and India. Haply God will provide us a
2 Dankoff and Kim, An Ottoman Traveller, xi and xvii.
3 elebi, Volume I: Istanbul, 3.
4 Dankoff and Kim, table of content, v.
5 Evliya elebi, Volume II: Anatolia and Beyond, 35.
6 Evliya elebi, Volume IX: the Pilgrimage, 303-304.
6

leader on the path and a guide on the way, who will dispel our grief and lead us to Truth. 7 Evliya
elebi accepted the offer and subsequently set out, as a pious Muslim at the age of sixty, to fulfill his
religious obligation8 and his long-lasting wish.
The Hajj is not and never was just a religious but also a political, economic and social
phenomenon. Although the political, economic, and social circumstances under which the Hajj has
been conducted have changed throughout history, there exist some general characteristics. On the
political level, the Islamic ruler who controlled the Hejaz, the western part of the Arabian peninsula,
served as the Servant of the Two Holy Sanctuaries, meaning Mecca and Medina. It was his
obligation to ensure the security of the pilgrims along their journey to and from Mecca as well as in
the city itself, which meant that political stability was needed in this region. 9
During elebis journey to Mecca the Hejaz was controlled by the Ottoman empire and the
Sultan, Mehmed IV(1648-1687), was thus obliged to ensure the required political stability. To protect
thousands of pilgrims against potential Bedouin raids pilgrimage caravans were formed, of which the
two most important ones were the Cairo and Damascus caravans. They were well-structured financial
and bureaucratic hierarchies, which employed scores of Ottomans officials for maintaining order and
was accompanied by hundreds of soldiers for protection. 10 In February 1672 elebi joined the
Damascus caravan, which was headed by the governor of Damascus, Hsayn Pasha, in order to arrive
in Mecca before April, the pilgrimage month of that particular year.11
Economically, the Hajj, as an annually returning event, was very attractive for merchants, Arab
Bedouin communities and the local inhabitant of the Hejaz to supply the caravans with camels, food
and other necessary and unnecessary goods along their journeys. The extent to which they were
capable of supplying the caravans depended on the relative economic strength or weaknesses of the
adjacent regions of the Hejaz, Egypt and Syria. In a time in which the global trade expanded between
Europe, the Middle East and Asia, we find that the trade centered around the caravan routes was wellintegrated within this global market. In his account of the bazaar at Mzayrib, the first stop along the

7 elebi, Volume IX: The Pilgrimage, 303-304.


8 The Hajj is an obligation for every Muslim who is financially and physically capable of performing it. See F.E. Peters, The
Hajj: the Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places. (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994), intro, xxi.

9 Peters, The Hajj, 145.


10 Suraiya Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans: the Hajj under the Ottomans, 1517-1683. (London: I.B. Tauris, 1994), 35.
11 Dankoff and Kim, vi.
7

route to Mecca, elebi mentioned a sea of man existing of thousands of pilgrims, merchants and
Arab Bedouin all trading both camels and Asian goods with each other.12
The Hajj was a social phenomenon because it attracted Muslims from all over the Islamic
world. They travelled together in one of the caravans, prayed together, traded goods, fought with each
other, had to deal with the same conditions and exchanged their experiences. elebi wrote about how
day by day pilgrims kept coming from all directions, how everybody traded with each other in order to
secure their provisions, how they collectively endured a severe rainstorm and how subsequently a
group of pilgrims complained to Hsayn Pasha about their sorrows. 13
In this essay, instead of providing a chronological narrative of elebis journey to Mecca, I
will approach it from a social network theory perspective. The aim of this relative new perspective in
social history is to provide more insight in the patterns of interconnected relationships between social
actors.14 As stated, the success of the Hajj in the seventeenth century largely depended on the security
provided by pilgrimage caravans. From a social network theory perspective, we find within these
caravans a lot of patterns of interconnected relationships between the different social actors like the
Ottoman officials and soldiers, the pilgrims, the merchants, the Arab Bedouin communities and other
local inhabitants of the Hejaz. On the route to Mecca these actors were all interconnected via a variety
of relationships like kinship, shared membership, trade and conflict and together they defined the
political, economic and social structures of the Hajj.
Logically, the same thing was true for the Damascus caravan of 1672 in which Evliya elebi
took part. The aim of this essay is to unravel the social network of this particular caravan and to
explore what the position of elebi was in this larger network. My research question is:
What was the social network of the Damascus caravan during Evliya elebis Hajj in 1672, and
what was his position in it?
This essay consists of four sections. The first will be a short overview of the social network theory,
illustrated by some examples from the Damascus caravan of 1672. The second will be an analysis of
the source, or a source critique, in order to explain its historical relevance. In the third the theory will
be applied to the Damascus caravan of 1672 with a special emphasis on Evliya elebi. The fourth will
provide the conclusions and thereby an answer to the research question.

12 elebi, Volume IX: The Pilgrimage, 341-342.


13 elebi, Volume IX: The Pilgrimage, 343-344.
14 Bonnie H. Erickson, Social Networks and History: A Review Essay, Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative
and Interdisciplinary History, 30:3, (2010), 149.

The Theory
As already mentioned, the aim of social network theory is to provide a better understanding of the
patterns of interconnected relationships between social actors. According to Charles Witherell social
network theory is based on four theoretical starting points. First, the social actors in a respective social
network are not considered to be independent but rather interdependent. Second, relationships between
different social actors are transmitting material resources like money, information and goods, but also
non-material resources like love, fear, respect, loyalty and hatred. Third, the structure of these
relationships both constrain and encourage the social actors to act. Fourth, the patterns of
interconnected relationships between actors define economic, political and social structures. 15
Furthermore, in social network theory a special emphasis is given to key factors that can
provide a better understanding of how a social network functioned. One factor is the density between
different relationships, meaning the scale of the interaction. A second factor is the centrality of actors
within the social network, which depends for the large part on the amount of ties of a certain actor and
an actors role in controlling ties between other actors. Thirdly, the structural equivalence of social
actors, meaning the similar patterns the social actors have, is a important factor.16
As you might expect, historians who want to unravel the social networks of the past will have
to explore the sources for reliable data. But what data do they need? According to Bonnie H. Erickson
historian have to follow seven general guidelines. The first is to collect all the data that is available on
all the ties between all the social actors of a respective social network. In this way the whole network
is explored. However, it is also possible to focus on one particular actor, or ego, within the social
network. Historians can then limit themselves to all actors tied to that particular ego and all the ties
among these actors.17 In this essay the whole network of the Damascus pilgrimage caravan is explored
with a special emphasis on how the egocentric network of Evliya elebi fits into this larger network.
The second guideline is that historians, in addition to the collection of data for the social
network as whole, also needs to collect date for each separate pair of actors. 18 In the case of the
Damascus caravan of 1672 this means that not only data is needed for the general political, economic
and social structures of the caravan but also, for example, for the specific relationship between Hsayn
Pasha, the commander of the caravan, and the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed IV.
15Charles Wetherell, Historical Social Network Analysis, International Review of Social History 43 (1998), Supplement,
126-127.

16 Erickson, Social Networks and History: A Review Essay, 152.; Wetherell, Historical Social Network Analysis, 126127.

17 Erickson, Social Networks and History: A Review Essay, 150-151.


18 Ibidem, 151.
9

The third guideline is in accordance with the second starting point mentioned earlier and
emphasizes that one should explore different kind of ties, both material and non material, because they
have a different kind of structure and different causes and consequences. 19 The pilgrims, for example,
depended on the Ottoman officials and soldiers for their safety, on the Arab Bedouin largely for their
provisions and on each other for comfort, advice or help.
The fourth guideline is that historians need to seek data from earlier and later periods in order
to determine continuity and change.20 This allows historians to use additional primary sources but also
secondary literature that have explored this data for other purposes. In the case of the Damascus
caravan of 1672, the publication of Suraiya Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans: the Hajj under the
Ottomans, is the most useful. For example, the well-structured hierarchy of the Damascus caravan in
Ottoman times was for the large part inherited from the Mamluks, who controlled the Hejaz before
Ottoman rule.21 The changes that occurred, like decline in the amount of supplies that were provided
by the Ottoman bureaucracy to prominent pilgrims, happened only gradually.22
The fifth guideline is to collect as much detailed data on the relationships as possible. So
instead of just noticing a trade relationship between social actors, it is much more valuable to explore
the scale of the trade, the kind of commodities and the price. 23 The Arab Bedouin, for example,
provided the pilgrims of the Damascus caravan of 1672 with a certain amount of camels, but the price
for a camel was often already negotiated beforehand between the Ottoman officials and the Sheikhs of
the Bedouin communities in order to keep them affordable for the pilgrims. 24
The sixth guideline is to define the boundaries of a social network. Since social networks do
not contain themselves, historians need to drawn a line and thereby determine which social actors are
included and which are excluded.25 On the one hand, the Hajj in the seventeenth century was of
imperial importance. This meant that the social network of the Damascus caravan of 1672 therefore

19 Ibidem.
20 Erickson, Social Networks and History: A Review Essay, 151.
21 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 34.
22 Ibidem, 52.
23 Erickson, Social Networks and History: A Review Essay, 151.
24 Suraiya Faroqhi, Red Sea Trade and Communications as Observed by Evliya elebi (1671-1672). New Perspectives
on Turkey (fall, 1991), 5-6, 88.

25 Erickson, Social Networks and History: A Review Essay, 151.


10

extended to the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed IV.26 On the other hand, as an annually returning global
religious and economic event, the Hajj attracted pilgrims and merchants from all over the Islamic
world. In the case of the Damascus caravan of 1672 we find primarily pilgrims and goods from the
Middle East, Central Asia and India and therefore the geographical and economic boundary of this
social network is drawn here.
The seventh and last guideline is the special criterion that involves validating reliable data. In
addition the standard criteria, the historian who applies social network theory much keep in mind that
a social relationship is not a tie which provides just a piece of information but always contains two
perspectives of the same tie. 27 In the hierarchical bureaucracy of the Damascus caravan of 1672 not
one tie between the various Ottoman officials was totally equal and therefore were viewed differently
according to ones rank.28

The Source
The primary source that will serve as the basis for unraveling the social network of the Damascus
caravan of 1672 is Evliya elebis volume IX: The Pilgrimage of his Book of Travels. Since I dont
read early modern Ottoman Turkish, the English translation is used in Robert Dankoff and Sooyong
Kims An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya elebi. The problem is
however that it contains not a translation of the full account. 29 Thus, in order to collect more detailed
data on the social network of the Damascus caravan of 1672, secondary literature will be explored
which is based on the more extensive original Turkish source. 30
During all his travels elebi kept systematic notes of all the places he visited and the things he
encountered. It was when he returned from his journeys that he organized his notes and wrote the
Book of Travels.31 So volume IX: The Pilgrimage was written in Cairo, the city to which he travelled
from Mecca together with the Egyptian pilgrims. In his new hometown he spent the last ten years or so
26 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 127.
27 Erickson, Social Networks and History: A Review Essay, 151.
28 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 36.
29 elebi, Volume IX: The Pilgrimage, 302.
30 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans.; Faroqhi, Red Sea Trade and Communications as Observed by Evliya elebi (16711672); M.N. Pearson, Pious Passengers. (London: Hurst and Company, 1994.); Peters, the Hajj.

31 Dankoff and Kim, xxi.


11

of his life working to finalize his ten-volume travelogue. 32 elebis motivation to write his Book of
Travels, and therefore volume IX, is best illustrated by a quote from himself. In volume IX, he writes:
Because we humans are creatures of forgetfulness, lest their traces be effaced and their names be
concealed, I began to make a record of noteworthy items both man-made and God-made (i.e.,
naturally occurring) and to write them down in order to provide memory clues, using well-worn
expressions and a middling style, in accordance with the dictum, Talk to people according to the
measure of their intellect.33
elebis record of noteworthy items resulted for the large part in a description of the
geography and topography of the cities he encountered 34, but also contained useful data for unraveling
the social network of the Damascus caravan of 1672, as we will see later on. However, we must keep
in mind that the account of elebi is very subjective. First of all because he recorded only what he
considered to be noteworthy and according to Suraiya Faroqhi with the underlying intention to exalt
the glory of the Ottoman empire.35 But, and more importantly, he was, as a member of the Ottoman
elite, very close to the Ottomans bureaucracy of the Damascus caravan of 1672, and thus reflected
their official point of view. This means that he did not made any attempt to understand the perspective
of, for example, the Arab Bedouin communities.36
Furthermore, the quote above provides us with an indication of his intended audience. It seems
that he intended to reach an average educated audience by using certain common expressions and an
accessible style. Hatice Aynur confirms this by placing the writings of elebi in the orta category, one
of the three categories put forward by Fahir z to divide Ottoman prose. This orta category includes
prose in which the author is more concerned with the content than with demonstrating his literary
skills. This kind of prose is known as popular Ottoman and was intended for literate townspeople. 37

32 Dankoff and Kim, xxiii.


33 elebi, Volume IX: The Pilgrimage, 305.
34 Dankoff and Kim, xxi.
35 Suraiya Faroqhi, Approaching Ottoman History: An Introduction to the Sources. (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999), 134.

36 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 58.


37 Suraiya Faroghi, ed. The Cambridge History of Turkey, vol. 3: The Later Ottoman Empire, 1603-1839. (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2006), 517-518.

12

Despite this intended audience, it is true that before the end of the nineteenth century very few
people had ever read elebis Book of Travels.38 After his death it ended up in the private collection of
his Egyptian patron, zbek Bey, was only brought to Istanbul in 1742 39, and it would take more than a
century, during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II(1876-1908), before it ultimately was printed. 40
According to Caroline Finkel his intended audience was therefore rather the Ottoman elite, those
people that actually read his accounts.41 Among them were statesmen, rulers and other high-ranking
members of Ottoman society who ascribed a high status to travelers because they often depended on
news they brought back. elebi wrote sometimes warnings down about certain situations and
according to Dankoff and Gemici this was a result of his desire to give his accounts a practical
purpose.42 It was also this same Ottoman elite that encouraged, employed and patronized him, so
whenever he returned from a journey, in this case to Cairo, he found in these circles a particular
interest in his adventures.43
The question that remains is whether elebis Book of Travels, and for this particular essay
volume IX: The Pilgrimage, is a reliable sources for historians who want to explore the social
networks of his travels. Due to extensive historical research, there exist a consensus among historians
that elebis account does not contain the most accurate description of all the places and people he
encountered, and thus not of all the ways in which the social actors of the Damascus caravan of 1672
interacted. However, despite his subjectivity and with an critical eye, it is possible to derive a general
view of the interconnected relationships of the various social actors of the Damascus caravan of 1672
based on his account because historical research have shown that these relationships did exist.

The Network
In this essay the social network of the Damascus caravan of 1672 will for an analytical purpose be
divided into three layers: Ottoman officialdom, ranging from the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed IV, to the
38 Faroqhi, Approaching Ottoman History., 161.
39 Dankoff and Kim, An Ottoman Traveller, xi and xvii.
40 C.F. Beckingham, The Rihla: Fact or Fiction? in: I.R. Netton, ed. Golden Roads: Migration, Pilgrimage and Travel in
Medieval and Modern Islam. (Richmond, Curzon Press, Ltd., 1993), 88.

41 Caroline Finkel, Travellers Tales. in: History Today, vol. 61, issue 11,(November 2011), 7.
42 Robert Dankoff, and Nurettin Gemici. Evliya elebi in Medina The Relevant Sections of the Seyahatname. (Leiden:
Brill, 2012), 4.

Ottoman
Officaldom

43 Dankoff and Kim, xvi.


13

The
Pilgrims

The
Suppliers

lowest official rank; all the pilgrims from this particular caravan; and the suppliers consisting of the
Arab Bedouin communities, the local inhabitants of the Hejaz and the merchants. Within each layer
there existed various interconnected relationships but more importantly, and the focus of this essay,
these layers were interconnected with each other, forming together the whole social network.
Figure 1: layers of the Damascus caravan

As stated earlier, the Damascus caravan was a well-structured financial and bureaucratic
hierarchy. In 1672 the governor of Damascus, Hsayn Pasha, was the highest ranking Ottoman official
in this hierarchy serving as the commander of the caravan. On the political level, his ties reached
Figure 2: The route of the Damascus caravan of 167244

directly
upward to the
Ottoman
Sultan,
Mehmed IV, of
whom he was
the
representative.
In the name of
the Sultan,
Hsayn Pasha
was charged
with the
responsibility
to protect the
pilgrims and to
supply the
Ottoman
officials and
soldiers during
the journey to
Mecca, which
was financed
for the large
44 Copied from Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultan, xii.
14

part out of the Syrian provincial budget.45 In addition to these practical duties, he had a very important
symbolic duty, the safe transport and delivery to Mecca of the Sultans gifts and the state palanquin, or
the mahmil, representing the presence of the Sultan.46 During this particular Hajj, these symbolic
duties were even more important than usual because Mehmed IV was engaged in a political struggle
with the rebellious Sharif of Mecca. He provided Hsayn Pasha with extensive powers, which made
him outranked every other Ottoman official of the Hejaz, and was charged with the duty to end this
rebellion of the Sharif. Thus, in addition to a military show of strength, it was also very important for
Hsayn Pasha to deliver the gifts of the Sultan and the state palanquin to Mecca in order to symbolize
the power of the Sultan and thereby strengthening his rule in the Hejaz. 47
On the lower levels of Ottoman officialdom, Hsayn Pasha maintained ties to the Ottoman
officials and soldiers serving in the Damascus caravan. In order to maintain such a large enterprise as
the Damascus caravan, Hsayn Pasha needed to delegate some of his many duties. This meant that a
wide variety of officials were needed, each with special responsibilities, and thus a bureaucratic
hierarchy was formed. Faroqhi has laid out the duties of the most important officials based on the
Ottoman records of 1636-1637.48 Since the hierarchical structure of the Damascus caravan did not
significantly changed during the seventeenth century49, it is possible, based on these records, to form a
general idea of some of the responsibilities of the Ottoman officials in 1672.
The hierarchy of the Damascus caravan was for the large part determined by the amount of
camels and services each official had at its disposal, however, it is likely that his amount was higher in
1672 than in 1636-1637. As the head of the hierarchy, Hsayn Pasha had eight camels and his deputy,
or the ketkhda, who was responsible for the distribution of the pilgrims into the different subsections
of the caravan, had only two. On equal footing stood an amir, who was responsible for coordinating
the movement of the different subsections when they arrived at or departed from one of the stopping
point along the way. Other officials with two camels were a kadi, or judge, and a supervisor, who also
required the service of a scribe. Still on the same level there was also an official in charge of the horses
and camels of the officials and soldiers, the mirakhor, an official in charge of the supplies with two
scribes in his service, and an emin in charge of the finances with only one scribe in his service.
Furthermore, there were various other lower ranking officials, who all had one camel at their disposal,
45 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 54.
46 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 59.
47 Peters, the Hajj, 148.
48 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 35-37.
49 Faroghi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 35.
15

like the supervisor of the poor who handled the alms provided by the Sultan, prayer leaders, muezzins,
musicians, messengers etc.50
The pilgrims, who made up the second layer of the social network of the Damascus caravan of
1672, came from various places in the Islamic world. elebi noted at one point the arrival of twothousand Persian pilgrims51 but we can easily add pilgrims with other backgrounds. Most of the
pilgrims of Turkish or other Central Asian descent travelled first to Istanbul where they joined a
caravan to Damascus. The Arabs were likely to come from Syria, Arabia and Iraq because the Arabs
from the Maghreb travelled either individually or joined the Cairo caravan. It is possible that there
were Indian pilgrims, although the majority of them travelled via the Indian Ocean, since they, as
Sunni Muslims, could encounter trouble when travelling through Shii dominated Iran. 52
In general, all pilgrims were responsible for their own supplies which turned them into traders
and this resulted in many interconnected trade relationships. However, the ease in which a pilgrim was
able to acquire his or her supplies depended partly on ones social status. High-ranking pilgrims like
dignitaries or ambassadors were often considered vaciburreaye, prominent people who received a
certain amount of supplies. However, this practice declined during the seventeenth century and in 1672
it only covered just part of what they needed.53 On the other side of the social spectrum were the poor
pilgrims, who received, depending on the overall amount of supplies, a certain amount of provisions
from the Ottoman bureaucracy.54 As we have seen, there was an Ottoman official in charge of the alms
provided by the Sultan to the poor, which indicated that supplying the poor was part of official policy.
It seems that elebi was considered to be a vaciburreaye because he received some supplies.
He stated that he received supplies from Hsayn Pasha ranging from money, camels and a tent to food
and water for himself, his slave boys and his camels. 55 The list of supplies he mentioned seems like to
include everything he would need for the journey, however, according to Faroqhi elebi, due to the
decline of this practice, also had to engage in trade, just as any other pilgrim. 56 This was certainly true
50 Ibidem, 36-37.
51 elebi, Volume IX: the Pilgrimage, 341.
52 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 132-143.; Pearson, Pious Passengers, 87.
53 Faroqhi, Red Sea Trade and Communications as Observed by Evliya elebi (1671-1672), 78.; Peters, the Hajj, 145..
54 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 42-44.
55 elebi, Volume IX: The Pilgrimage, 341.
56 Faroqhi, Red Sea Trade and Communications as Observed by Evliya elebi (1671-1672), 87.
16

for his return journey to Cairo, since there is evidence that he did, but the extent to which he did this
during his journey to Mecca is difficult to say. He only once indicated that he was trading when he
stated that at the large fair of Mzayrib we were buying and selling and securing provisions. 57 It thus
seems that he engaged in trade but with whom, what commodities and for what price remains unclear.
elebi thus was, on the one hand, like any other pilgrims, maintaining economic ties with the suppliers
and other pilgrims, but, on the other hand, was considered to be a prominent person and therefore was
closer to the Ottoman bureaucracy than an average pilgrim. His tie with Hsayn Pasha transferred
material resources like money and goods and in return non-material resources like loyalty and respect.
As we have seen, Hsayn Pasha maintained ties both to the Sultan and the pilgrims and it
happened sometimes that these conflicted. During the ten-day stop at Mzayrib the Damascus caravan
was caught in a severe rainstorm which according to elebi sent everyone scurrying for their lives. 58
The rain turned the desert sand into mud and the wind blew some of the tents apart, thereby
jeopardizing the guarantee of enough supplies, and thus the arrival in Mecca on time. A delegation of
pilgrims went to Hsayn Pasha to complain about how the pilgrims have suffered loss of life and
property, and have been subject to pillage, and insisted that something had to be done. 59 Keeping in
mind the political tension between the Mehmed IV and the Sharif of Mecca, Hsayn Pasha reacted,
according to elebi, by saying that the Hajj is not obligatory as long as the road is not safe and that
my charge is not to convey the pilgrims, but rather to convey the noble mahmil and the two Egyptian
treasures60 of the holy endowment (i.e. the Sultans annual gifts) to Mecca. If the mahmil of Egypt
reaches there but the mahmil of Damascus fails to, that would be a stain on the honour of the Ottoman
dynasty.61 He proposed a forced march in order to reach Mecca on time and whoever was not able to
join him should go back. According to elebi this was greeted with applause by everyone 62, but we
must keep in mind his subjectivity towards the Ottoman officialdom. Moreover, this encounter shows
that the way Hsayn Pasha acted was more encouraged by his tie to Mehmed IV, which he considered
even more important at this time, than by his ties to the pilgrims.

57 elebi, Volume IX: The Pilgrimage, 342.


58 elebi, Volume IX: The Pilgrimage, 342-343.
59 Ibidem, 342.
60 A Egyptian treasure is an unit of expense, see Dankoff and Kim, glossary.
61 elebi, Volume IX: The Pilgrimage, 344.
62 Ibidem.
17

The third layer of the social network of the Damascus caravan were those people who
provided the Ottoman bureaucracy and the pilgrims with the supplies they needed. An important group
were the Arab Bedouin communities living the Syrian and Arabian desert. They maintained an
ambivalent position towards the Damascus caravan because, on the one hand, they were the key
suppliers of camels, food and other provisions but, on the other hand, they formed the main threat to
the safety of the pilgrims. In general the safety of the caravan was bought off by the Ottoman
government by paying official subsidies to the Bedouin, known as srre. In exchange they were
obliged to provide the caravan with the required supplies. However, when subsidies were not paid on
time or if the Bedouin considered them insufficient, the possibility of an attack was high. 63
Negotiation on the srre between the commander of the caravan, Hsayn Pasha, and the
Bedouin Sheikhs already started in Damascus before the caravan set out to Mecca. One of the
conditions for paying the srre was that the Bedouin had to charge a reasonable price for their camels.
However, the negotiations could continue along the way and it was never fully guaranteed that both
the Bedouin and the Ottomans bureaucracy would abide by them. It was at the fair of Mzayrib where
the first large scale trading took place. In his account elebi stated that In this bazaar, 40,000 or
50,000 Damascus pilgrims sped five or six Egyptian treasures and then get 40,000 or 50,000 camels
from the Arab tribes. In addition a couple thousand more were provided to the Ottoman officials. 64
These numbers were just a guess since there was never a serious attempt to count all the pilgrims or
camels.65 It is likely that elebi, who was probably impressed by the scale of Mzayrib, exaggerated
the amount of pilgrims and camels.
Due to the setbacks of the Damascus caravan caused by the heavy rainstorm, a different
arrangement was made with the Bedouin concerning the supply of grain than usual. elebi noted that
the transportation of the grain to Maan and al-Ula was entrusted to the Bedouin from Mzayrib.
However, according to Faroqhi it is likely that the grain was not physically transported but that allied
Bedouin at both towns supplied the caravan from their respective stock when they arrived there. This
shows that the Damascus caravan was depended on the tribal networks of the Bedouin, especially in
difficult circumstances.66
At Mzayrib the three layers of the social network interacted with each other in relative
peace, but this was not always the case. When further down the road the water supply of the caravan
63 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 54-55.
64 elebi, Volume IX: The Pilgrimage, 342.
65 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 46.
66 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 43. Faroqhi, Red Sea Trade and Communications as Observed by Evliya elebi (16711672), 89.

18

was threatened due to fighting Bedouin tribes, who filled up or defiled the water wells, the relationship
between these Bedouin and Hsayn Pasha turned into a less peaceful one. According to elebi Hsayn
Pasha refused to pay the subsidies to those Bedouin he accused of filling up the wells. This shows that
the subsidies also could be used as a punitive tool. Some of the Bedouin protested and were
subsequently arrested and in some cases even killed. 67 Thus, it was with the Arab Bedouin that the
Ottoman officialdom and the pilgrims maintained a delicate triangular interconnected relationship,
which defined for a large part the economic structure of the Damascus caravan.
A second important group, who also defined the economic structure of the Damascus caravan,
consisted of the Arab inhabitants of the Hejaz and the regular merchants. Trading with the local
inhabitants proved not always easy. When the Damascus caravan passed by the town of Katran Kalesi
the inhabitants initially refused to provide the caravan with supplies. They claimed that according to
an order by the local governor they were not obliged to and therefore had closed the gates. In reality
this was a bargaining trick in order to raise the price of their goods and thus to make more profit.
elebi noted that for horse fodder one gurus68 was charged, which resulted in large profits for the
inhabitants of Katran Kalesi.69 According to elebi the inhabitants of the fortress of Maan also made a
substantial wealth by trading both with the Bedouin and the Damascus caravan and estimated the
amount of profits at 5000 to 6000 gurus a year. In the town of al-Ula the Ottoman officials gained the
upper hand in the bargaining process due to a criminal offence. Some locals who had robbed a pilgrim
were punished by Hsayn Pasha and this made that the other inhabitants, feared by the military
reprisals, subsequently priced their goods very low.70 It thus seems that the trade with the local
inhabitants of the Hejaz varied from place to place and that the Damascus caravan not always could
determine the prices.
According to F.E. Peters the regular merchants consisted of small and great merchants. The great
merchants engaged in the trade between the Hejaz and India and some of them carried Asian goods
like spices, textiles, coffee and so on from the sea port of Jidda along the Red Sea to the markets in
Damascus and Cairo. It is likely that a portion of these goods were bought by the small merchants
from Damascus who then carried them along the caravan route in order to sell them to the pilgrims at
the various market places.71 Again the first market place where this trade happened was Mzayrib,
67 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 71-72.
68 A gurus was an unit of expense, see Dankoff and Kim, Glossary.
69 Faroqhi, Red Sea Trade and Communications as Observed by Evliya elebi (1671-1672), 88.
70 Faroqhi, Red Sea Trade and Communications as Observed by Evliya elebi (1671-1672), 89.
71 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 167.; Peters, the Hajj, 180-181.
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although it was for the large part a camel fair. elebi noted that in addition to the tents of the
Damascus caravan there were 5000 tents and huts belonging to tradesmen and he counted hundreds
of shops. According to elebi It was a sea of men, all jostling shoulders. Everything was for sale
except the elixir of life, including silks, brocades 72 and satins and other precious stuffs.73
It seems that these markets between Damascus and Mecca were mainly visited by the small
merchants. But why did they want to sell their goods along the caravan route? First of all, the
thousands of pilgrims constituted a significant market for the small merchants. Although these were
smaller markets than the ones in Medina, Mecca, Mocha and Jidda, it seems that also along the route
to Mecca a demand for goods existed which were not immediately needed by the pilgrims. 74 Together
with the trade in necessary goods, like camels and food, this made these markets economically very
important.75 However, the Damascus caravan of 1672 provided not the best trading opportunities
because it was, due to the delay caused by the rainstorm at Mzayrib, in a hurry to reach Mecca on
time. It therefore only rested in the towns of Maan and al-Ula, which meant that the overall trade
between the pilgrims and the small merchants were consequently limited. 76
In addition to this demand, the caravan route was often used by the small merchants to
transport their goods from Damascus to Mecca. This was attractive due to the relative safety of the
Damascus caravan and the avoidance of the maritime customs by using land routes, although some
taxes were charged by the Ottoman bureaucracy.77 In general, it thus seems that the Damascus caravan
provided some important incentives for the small merchants from Damascus who, by carrying the
Asian goods, integrated the market places along the caravan route into the larger global market
centered around the Indian Ocean.
Figure 3: the social network of the Damascus caravan of 1672

Mehmed IV

72 A brocade is a woven fabric, often made in colored silks and with or without gold and silver threads.
73 elebi, Volume IX: the Pilgrimage, 342.
74 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 168.
75 Pearson, Pious Passenger, 135.
76 Faroqhi, Red Sea Trade and Communications as Observed by Evliya elebi (1671-1672), 90.
77 Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans, 167.; Peters, the Hajj, 180-182.
20

Husayn Pasha

The Ottoman Officals


and Soldiers

The Arab Bedouin

Evliya Celebi

The Small
Merchants

The Pilgrims

The Local
Inhabitants

The Great
Merchants

Conclusion
Throughout the history of Islam, the Hajj was, and still is, besides a religious also a political,
economic and social phenomenon. In order to reach Mecca safely and on time, the pilgrims who
travelled over land were depended on the political, economic and social structures of their respective
21

pilgrimage caravan. In the structures of these caravans a wide variety of interconnected relationships
existed which makes it possible to approach them from a social network perspective.
In this essay an attempt was made to unravel the social network of the Damascus caravan of 1672 on
the basis of Evliya elebis volume IX: The Pilgrimage. Although he was far from an objective writer,
his account provides us with sufficient insights of the interconnected relationships between the
Ottoman officialdom, the pilgrims, the Arab Bedouin communities, the local inhabitants of the Hejaz
and the merchants along the route to Mecca. In combination with the available secondary research,
these insights formed the basis of the social network of the Damascus caravan of 1672.
As we have seen, the social network consisted of three layers, the Ottoman officialdom, the
pilgrims and the suppliers. Although a lot of interconnected relationships were maintained within each
layer, this essay focused on the relationships between these layers, often including all three. At the
heart of the social network was the interdependent relationship between the Ottoman state who, in the
form of the Ottoman officials, was obliged to ensure security and the pilgrims who subsequently
depended on this. In order to be able to provide this security the Damascus caravan maintained an
interdependent relationship with the suppliers, of which the Arab Bedouin also formed the greatest
militarily treat. However, for the most important part the suppliers were in their turn depended on this
relationship to maintain their livelihood. On the broader level, we thus find a triangular social network
in which all the other political, economic and social interconnected relationships existed.
The Ottoman officialdom was the most dominant layer of this social network controlling most
of the ties. The best example of this was the camel trade at Mzayrib, where the Bedouin were obliged
to sell their camels at a fixed price in exchange for the srre. More specific, Hsayn Pasha, as the
commander of the caravan, was the most central figure of the whole network. He maintained by far the
most ties and also controlled a lot of ties between other social actors. As we have seen, he considered
his tie to the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed IV, the most important and acted according to this. This ties
showed that Hsayn Pasha was not an independent actor, but rather dependent on the Sultans political
will. Visa versa, Mehmed IV was dependent on Hsayn Pasha for carrying out his responsibilities like
the protection of the pilgrims but more importantly to strengthen his power in the Hejaz. Furthermore,
he conducted the negotiations with the Bedouin Sheikhs thereby opening up the transfer of money and
goods between the Ottoman officials, including himself, the pilgrims and the Bedouin. He had
sometimes less control, as we have seen, over the local inhabitants in regards to the prices of their
goods. The trade between the merchants and the pilgrims was in this particular year severely limited
due to forced march Hsayn Pasha proposed to reach Mecca on time. This was again encouraged by
his tie to the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed IV.
The position of Evliya elebi in this social network was not that central, or even that
important. As a member of the Ottoman elite he was considered to be a vaciburreaye, or a prominent
pilgrim, and maintained a direct tie to Hsayn Pasha by receiving some supplies from him, which
distinguished him from the average pilgrim. However, in many other respects he was just an average
22

pilgrim. Not in an official government position he had, like all other pilgrims, no real influence on the
decisions that were made. Although he received some supplies, he had also to engage in trade in order
to secure his provisions. He thus was somewhat closer to the Ottoman bureaucracy than other
pilgrims, which does explains his subjectivity, but overall he was not an important central figure.
Economically, the social network approach provides us with insights on the position of the
Damascus caravan of 1672 in the larger global economic system. We find that it was well-integrated
into this market, although it was placed at the periphery. In a period where the global maritime trade
expanded, which its vocal point in the Indian Ocean, coastal port-cities of this region, like Jidda along
the Red Sea, grew even more in importance. As we have seen, the market places along the route from
Damascus to Mecca were connected with this port-city via some of the great merchants who carried
their goods to Damascus. They sold them to some extent to the small merchants of Damascus who
subsequently travelled in the wake of the Damascus caravan in order to trade with the Ottoman
officials, the pilgrims, the Bedouin and the local inhabitants of the Hejaz. The most important reason
for the well-integrated position of the Damascus caravan was that it provided some important
incentives for the merchants to travel along the land route to Mecca. Although elebis account of the
fair at Mzayrib is likely exaggerated, it shows that a wide variety of Asian goods were traded
between all the social actors of the Damascus caravan of 1672.

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