Shaykh of Medina and the aghawat of the Prophet’s chamber on Collections_2 Sphere from
Muhammad Sadiq Bey was the first person to take photographs of Mecca, Medina and the Hajj. An Egyptian army engineer and surveyor, he was also the treasurer of the Egyptian Hajj caravan, travelling numerous times to the Hijaz. Using a technique first invented in the 1850s, Sadiq Bey took his first photographs in 1861 using glass plate negatives, especially useful for large-format frames. His photographs are often signed and dated in the negative. His most important photographs, of both the buildings and interior of the sanctuaries at Mecca and Medina, as well as sites at Arafat and Mina, were taken in 1880 and 1881. For the first time, the pilgrimage and the holy cities were precisely and realistically documented. Sadiq Bey’s photographic achievements were recognized by both the Arab and European world and in 1881 he won a gold medal at the Venice Geographical Exhibition. He published two important works: The Mash‘al al-Mahmal (The Torch of the Mahmal) in 1881, and Dalil al-Hajj (The Guide to the Hajj) in 1896, both of which included his photographs and observations of his journeys. Twelve of his photographs are in the Collection.
Since the 14th century the eunuchs of Medina were responsible for looking after the Mosque and the internal areas surrounding the tombs of the Prophet and his Companions. The number of eunuchs varied over time, perhaps numbering in the thousands, but now there are only a few remaining.