Penang was – and is – a hub for many things. One of the more unknown flows that it facilitated for almost 200 years was that of pilgrims making their way to and from the Muslim Holy Land. Much of the traffic went through Acheen Street, where tickets for the trip were sold. Shopping in Penang was a favourite activity for both the pilgrims and their well-wishers.
IN THE FIRST hundred years of Penang’s history as a British trading settlement, Muslim pilgrims in the region were transported by Arab and Indian Muslim sailing ships. These called at Aceh, Penang, Malacca and Singapore. Others involved in carrying aspiring pilgrims to Jeddah at this time included the Marraikayars, who regularly traded between Tamilnadu and the Straits of Malacca.
Around 1821, a wealthy Singaporean Arab merchant named Sayyid Ahmad bin Abdar-Rahman Al-Sagoff, better known as Nongchik, purchased two steamers named Sri Mekah and Sri Juddah to transport merchandise between Sumatra and the surrounding islands.
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