The earliest guide to Mecca

Lari, Muhi al-Din. Futuh al-Haramayn [Description of the Holy Cities].

India or Persia, late 19th or early 20th century CE.

Royal folio (380 x 506 mm). Persian manuscript on paper. 140 pp., 9 lines in 2 columns to the page, first leaf and final 3 pp. blank save for the borders. Large nasta'liq calligraphy in black ink, chapter headings in red. Text enclosed within blue, black, gilt and red borders. Title in red to fol. 2r, large 'unwan headpiece on fol. 2v, column separator decorated with gilt floral designs on fols. 2v-3r, 2 meticulous gilt and coloured colophon decoration on fol. 69r. With a total of 18 coloured illustrations of the holy sites (7 full-page, the remainder half-page or larger). Splendidly ornamented embroidered cloth binding with pink morocco edges and pastedowns and fore-edge flap.


Monumental manuscript copy of the first Islamic guidebook for the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, which Muhi al-Din Lari (d. 1526/27) completed in India in 1505/06. The book provides instructions on the Hajj pilgrimage rituals and descriptions of important sites that Muslim pilgrims can visit, including of the Kaaba in Mecca. Whilst no early illustrated Indian copies are known, the work began to be widely copied with often lavish illustrations from the later 16th century onwards, mostly in in Ottoman Turkey.

The 18 large-scale illuminations in the present manuscript show the holy sites, locations between Medina and Mecca, and the various stages of the Hajj. The illustration of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca shows the Kaaba, the areas assigned for worship by the various branches of Islam, as well as the doors to the sanctum, minarets, and two rows of colonnades.

In excellent state of preservation throughout. Provenance: Dutch private collection.