History of Hajj Travel
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, Muslims from all over the world travel to Mecca [the holiest meeting site in Islam] to offer hajj and perform their religious duty.
The history of Hajj travel begins 14 hundred years ago from the time of Prophet Muhammad [may peace and blessing of God be upon him]. Unlike modern means which are comfortable and time-saving, the travel in the past was toilsome and time taking. The most dependable way was to travel in camel caravan. Even if we do not go so far, and look into the 18th century, people did not have any dependable means to travel to Mecca, except the river boats; therefore, it took them month to reach Mecca. People used to start their journey on foot, they used to hire camels to cover land distance and then shift to boats as water intercept them and this way they used to carry on with the journey. In simple words, people used to travel by land in shape of camel caravans before the introduction of steamships which of course made traveling a little easier and quick as well.
Later, as the time travelled, traveling became easier with the invention of automobiles. The introduction of automobiles further contracted the distances. However, the major development in hajj traveling came in the 19th century with the launch of Hejaz Railways in 1908. The sole purpose of that launch was to establish connection between Constantinople and Mecca, so to lessen the travel issues facing the Muslims coming to perform Hajj.
The non-mechanic means of transport were insecure therefore mechanic transport spread quickly in the 19th century. Different automobile routes were opened and different vehicles were introduced to facilitate the hajis. A new route was opened in 1924 from Tehran, Baghdad, and Damascus to Hejaz. Now the present situation is that more than 20 transport companies are operating within Hejaz.
Things kept on evolving and the focus shifted to air transport to facilitate Hajjis. In 1936, Saudi government contacted Misr airlines to carry passengers from Jeddah to Madina, but the development was greatly impeded by the great depression and World War 2. Therefore, the actual work on modern transportation begins after the World War 2.
The hajj travelling experienced the biggest jump with the launch of Iraqi airways in 1945-46 closely followed by the launch of Saudi Airlines. These are one of the oldest airlines and their focus was the Middle East. The Iraqi airways kept on increasing their area of operation and quickly increased services in Middle East. As Middle East consist of large Muslim population, the hajj travel become considerably easy and affordable. Whereas Saudi Airlines over time increased its operations to the whole world and is now one of the major carriers serving the Hujjaj.
That was an era of rapid development, and as the dust of violence after World War II begins to settle down, countries started to strengthen ties and increased trade largely for this purpose. The increase in trade and relations brought boom in travel industry. The government and private sectors started launching airlines companies and competition begins to escalate. Millions of people travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj and Umrah, so the main interest of airlines always remained in people going to perform these religious duties, so they are always looking to attract them by giving different sorts of competitive advantages. The ultimate gainer is the consumer. Muslims going for hajj every year have so many options to choose from, so they choose what suites them best. Hajj travel has become so easy that neither people had to extract so much time of their busy schedule nor they have to be physically very fit to be able to travel so far. All they need is a ticket and good sense of decision making to choose best from the lot.