The people of Makkah have a history of their association with the Haj pilgrimage.
This history dates back to the pre-Islamic era, when Qusay bin Kalb provided pilgrims with food and water, a tradition that has since continued.
Residents and “motawifeen” (guides for circumambulating around the House of God) in Makkah shared memories of past pilgrimage seasons with Arab News.
Yahya Hamza Koshak, a prominent “motawwif” in Makkah and a member of one of the oldest families, said: “My father (may his soul rest in peace) was a motawwif and used to travel to Turkey and Bukhara to meet pilgrims in their countries before guiding them to the Holy Land.”
Serving the pilgrims was an act of pride, he added.
His family used to house them for periods of up to six months.
Back then, Koshak said, the relationship between residents and pilgrims was founded on religious and humanitarian values and was not based on material gain, as is the case today.
Talal bin Saleh Qutob, chairman of the Foundation of Iranian Pilgrims, said he always took a keen interest in accompanying pilgrims to the Grand Mosque himself to teach them the rituals and then take them back home for meals.
He said that in the old days, the people of Makkah used to leave their homes during the pilgrimage season to allow pilgrims to rest.
Tariq Angawi, chairman of the Foundation of Turkish pilgrims, said: “We never felt uncomfortable with the lengthy stay of pilgrims in our homes. In fact, we used to look forward to their arrival.”
Abdel Wahid Saifuddin also used to accompany his parents and grandparents to welcome pilgrims from Jeddah’s ports.
He said: “The pilgrims used to give us gifts, cash and sweets on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha. We would experience great sadness when pilgrims departed for their countries after spending nearly six months in our homes.”
“We would remain with our parents for long hours at the Grand Mosque to serve pilgrims and that was a sort of training for us to assume responsibility from a young age,” said Ahmed Burhan. “We continue to convey this message to our children today,” he said.