The Indonesian Hajj. Part 2: The archives of the Dutch Vice-consulate and Medical Officer at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 1937-1950
The Indonesian Hajj
Part 2: The archives of the Dutch Vice-consulate and Medical Officer at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 1937-1950
In 1872 the Dutch opened a consulate (elevated to legation in 1930) in the Red Sea port of Jiddah (also spelled Jeddah), the gateway to the holy city of Mecca, to care for and monitor the activities of the thousands of pilgrims coming each year from the Netherlands East Indies for the hajj. The consulate’s archive is available from Moran on microfiche (order no. MMP106).
Vice-consulate in Mecca
The Netherlands enjoyed a good reputation in Arabia and the Indonesian pilgrims were regarded as the “rice of the Holy Land”. They were often the most numerous as well as being the wealthiest and most willing of pilgrims. In recognition of this situation, the Netherlands, alone of all countries, including Muslim lands, was granted the privilege of opening a vice-consulate in Mecca itself in 1923, staffed by an Indonesian Muslim. He was joined there in 1927 by a medical doctor, also an Indonesian Muslim, who ran a permanent policlinic for the benefit of the visiting pilgrims and the important Djawa colony of some 2,000 Indonesians living full-time in Mecca (the so-called Moekimien). The archives of vice-consulate and legation doctor covering the years 1937-1950 are now also available on microfiche as a small, but interesting supplement to the Jiddah archive.
The pilgrimage was not only a religious event, but also formed an essential source of income for the cities of Mecca and Medina, the Hejaz region along the Red Sea coast and the country as a whole until supplanted by royalties from the production of oil. A primary task of the consulate and vice-consulate was therefore to protect the Indonesian pilgrims from possible exploitation by unscrupulous locals. A second major concern was the health of the individual pilgrims and the maintenance of public health by preventing contagious diseases such as small pox and cholera.
War and decolonization
The period covered by these archives stands in the shadow of the Second World War, the Indonesian revolution of 1945 and the ensuing drama of decolonization leading to the transfer of sovereignty in December 1949. In its best years between 1927 and the Depression an average of 40,000 Indonesians per year had made the pilgrimage. The 1930s were more difficult due to the economic collapse and the coming of war in 1939 stopped the flow of pilgrims entirely. The occupation of the Netherlands by the Nazis in May 1940 and especially the fall of the Netherlands Indies to Japan in 1942 brought difficult times for the Indonesian community in Mecca as remittances from home became impossible. The legation doctor in these years was reduced to making his own small-pox vaccine with whatever means he had at hand. After the war a cautious reprise begins for the Indonesian hajj in 1946, but the political and military conflict between the Dutch and Indonesian Republican nationalists continued to disturb the flow of pilgrims, as well as causing tensions among the Moekimien and among the Dutch-Indonesian diplomatic personnel. In 1947 some 4,000 Indonesians made the journey to Mecca. With more than 10,000 pilgrims in 1948 the best results in 10 years were achieved, but it was to be the last pilgrimage under the complete “door to door aegis” of the Dutch. The second “police action” against the Republic of Indonesia in December-January 1948-1949 was a military success, but a diplomatic disaster that finally forced the Netherlands to let its colony go. The 1949 hajj was overshadowed by the coming transfer of sovereignty, while that of 1950 was under Indonesian control, though for the final time Dutch ships were still used to transport the pilgrims. On May 1 of that year the Dutch diplomatic representation in Jiddah and Mecca passed to independent Indonesian hands and the archives of the legation and vice-consulate were repatriated to the Netherlands.
H.H. Dingemans, Bij Allah’s buren [With Allah’s neighbors]. Rotterdam, 1973.
Dingemans was chargé d’affaires at Jiddah in 1939-1940 and legation head (gezant) from 1945 until the mission’s closing in 1950.