For all intending pilgrims, the desire to go on the Hajj was something that they had nursed throughout their lives. Yet, when the time came to leave for Mecca, they were often beset with fear and anxiety.1 Tales regarding the hardships of the journey were in constant circulation throughout South Asia; one had heard of the pilgrims’ mistreatment by colonial officials, pilgrim brokers or ship officials. What most worried the pilgrims though – especially from the 1880s onwards – was the prospect of an elaborate regime of medical surveillance confronting them from the moment they landed in Bombay. The journey to the holy places might have become quicker after steamships and the Suez Canal, but for pilgrims the experience had become much harsher because of the close association between Indian Hajjis and the global spread of cholera. This association began to be made after the first outbreak in 1865 but had become considerably strengthened by the 1880s. As a result, medical inspections began at the port of Bombay itself, but pilgrims were also subjected to quarantine in the Red Sea. This chapter examines the reactions against such measures, focusing in particular on quarantines between 1880 and 1930. The idea of quarantine in the Red Sea had been discussed for a long time but was imposed for the first time in 1882 on the desolate and sparsely populated island of Kamaran, about 500 miles south of Jeddah. Ships travelling from South Asia and South East Asia were obliged to stop there, with passengers and crew being asked to undergo a thorough medical examination.
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