On the 20th of shawwal in the year 1081  … we departed Damascus in grand procession. Day by day pilgrims kept coming from all directions, until the reckoning of tents and marquees stood at 6,300. For this was the Greatest Hajj and only God knows how many were there.
Evliya Çelebi was an Ottoman cavalryman born into a wealthy family. From 1640 onwards, he travelled extensively around the Ottoman Empire and further afield on horseback. In February 1671, Çelebi had a dream in which the Prophet Muhammad told him to perform Hajj. He set off for Mecca in May 1671, travelled along the coast, through Syria to Jerusalem, and doubled back to join the Hajj caravan in Damascus.
Before reaching Mecca, Çelebi recounted that when they first sighted Medina, the caravan’s animals regained their strength and headed towards the town at great speed. Çelebi was so overcome with emotion when he prayed at the Prophet Muhammad’s tomb in Medina that he nearly fainted. After performing Hajj, he returned to Cairo with the Egyptian Hajj caravan. The notes from all his journeys formed his ten volume work called the Seyahatname – the Book of Travels.