1880 photographs provide evidence that Said Abdu AlGhafar was Makkah’s first photographer. While not knowing much about his personal life, we know that those photographs played an important role in documenting his experience in Makkah 1884-85. During that time, he met the Dutch scholar of Oriental Cultures and Languages, Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje.
Although a photographer, Abdu AlGhafar did not follow any systematic or scientific approach to taking photographs. In the timespan between 1886 and 1889, Abdu AlGhafar took close to 250 photographs of Makkah and its people, as well as pilgrims during Hajj.
In addition to his photography, he was a practicing dentist, clockmaker, and a gold smelter. Snouck reports that Abdu AlGhafar was fascinated with his modern photography equipment, and was very excited when he offered that he uses his studio.
Abou AlGhafar’s unpublished work is archived at Leiden University under Snouck’s name. In an 1889 publication, which included many photographs of pilgrims performing Hajj, Snouck merely mentioned him as “the doctor whose education I oversaw”, and not the actual photographer.
Today, the collection is 80 to 120 thousand pounds, and includes the first photograph of the Kaaba’s Kiswah.