41. The agent’s log book


1965¬–1975 CE
1384–1394 AH
Donated by the family of an agent for the Mecca regulation office, 2014

Between 1965 and 1975, I was the most important log book. I can tell you that within this decade, we had over 400,000 visitors, just in my jurisdiction!

Now there are hotels that keep these logs: the passport numbers, the IDs, the telephone numbers of the loved ones at home. But in my time, there was only us. We would register everything, from where everyone had travelled to where they had recently been, from where the pilgrims would be staying – which was often with friends of family or friends of friends – to how long they planned to stay in this great city. Not an easy feat! You can’t imagine how disorganised people were – arriving without even the last name of their hosts. This free-trade era was chaotic, no motawif guilds, so no one monitoring except us.

Imagine all the stories, all of that faith bundled up and summarised in this list of names. Handwritten, I may be the last record of some of the people here: it is not uncommon for pilgrims to come through the Miqat gates of Mecca never to leave again.

This work transcends the objects. Ultimately, what I’m working with isn’t only the artefacts themselves, but the stories attached to them. For me, each tale is the manifestation of the object, and each object is a tangible materialisation of an underlying narrative. The work finds its equilibrium somewhere between the stories and chronology they’re chaptered into, the objects becoming knots or points along the timeline, woven into stories as part of the language of this artwork. Each story draws out a tale that intends to trigger imagination and memory, mixing fact with fiction, with the ultimate aim of straddling, conflating and confusing fixed notions of history to open up the unofficial histories that shape the character of place and memory.
Ahmed Mater
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