1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Arabia
|←Apponyi, Albert, Count||1922 Encyclopædia Britannica
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ARABIA (see 2.254). The political frontier of Arabia on the N. was indeterminate in 1921 except in so far as the boundaries between Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia, as laid down in the Franco-British Convention of Dec. 23 1920, affect it (see Syria). The limits of the various independent states of the peninsula, with the exception of the N. boundary of the Aden protectorate, all remain equally undefined. A natural frontier on the N. runs in an irregular curve from Akaba (‛Aqaba) first N.E. and then S.E. to the Persian Gulf, following the fringe of cultivation, which fluctuates according as the nomadic or sedentary population is the stronger. This line excludes Kerak, but leaves the transition area of the Hamad or Syrian Desert within Arabia, to which, both physically and ethnographically, it seems to belong.
Topography.—Up to 1914, even the best knowledge of Arabia was sketchy, but considerable advance has since been made by the discoveries of recent travellers and as a result, direct or indirect, of war operations. The progress to be noted falls under three main heads: new light has been thrown on the drainage of the peninsula; the positions of a number of places, previously very imperfectly known or only guessed at, have been accurately fixed; and a vast amount of topographic and ethnographic detail has been accumulated.
The compilation of the map of Arabia on the million scale has kept pace with discovery. For this purpose, the route traverse in northern and central Arabia from Huber's Journal, extending over 3,000 m., was replotted on a large scale and formed a groundwork on which to place the more hurried surveys of Wallin, Palgrave, Doughty, etc. All the labours of recent travellers, starting with Leachman (1910), and ending with Bell (1914), were reconsidered from the originals and adjusted with due regard to the proportionate value of each, while the information collected by Col. Lawrence during the World War and the surveys of Philby were incorporated. The work of compilation was undertaken by D. Carruthers in 1914 and in 1921 was still in progress. Provisional sheets covering the northern half of the country had already been issued.
The course of the main watershed of Arabia can now be traced with general accuracy. Prolonged northward from the highlands of Yemen and Asir, it passes inland between Taif and Wadi Turaba and runs E. — not W. as was previously supposed — of the Hejaz railway through the Kheibar harra, or lava outcrop. Perhaps some of the higher peaks of the ‛Aweiridh ridge overtop it.
Wadi Hamdh, the main drainage basin of the short western slope of Arabia, previously thought to have its head-waters in the vicinity of Medina, at about lat. 24° N., in all probability has its source in W. ‛Aqiq, at least 3° farther S., thus giving it a total length of 700 to 800 m. including windings. The ‛Aqiq, rising S.W. of Taif, passes well to the E. of Mecca and W. of Medina and is said to take the name W. Shaiba between these two towns. Some doubt remains whether the Shaiba discharges wholly into the Hamdh just N. of Medina, or whether it also forms a tributary eastward in W. Rumma (Rima). Wadi ‛Ais, coming from the N., and W. Jizil from the S., and joining W. Hamdh in the plain of Jurf are its two main affluents, and their courses, together with the middle reaches of the Hamdh, have been explored in great part and mapped.
Much new information has been obtained as to the drainage of the long eastward slope — effected mainly by the great wadi systems of the Dawasir, Sahaba and Rumma (naming from S. to N.). The town of Dam, in W. Dawasir, central Arabia, previously mapped near lat. 23° N., has had its position definitely fixed in lat. 20° 27' N. and long. 44° 40' E. The direction of the course of W. Dawasir, a matter long in dispute, proves to be S.E. towards the Ruba‛el Khali, or Great Southern Desert, and not N.E. as the old maps show. The point of junction of the important Asir wadis — Ranya, Bisha and Tathlith — is in all probability in the plain of Hajla about 50 m. N.W. of Dam. As to W. Sahaba, which has a practical monopoly of the surface-waters of the central mass of Arabia and the drainage of which trends to the sea at the southern end of El Qatar, it was found to have its remotest head-waters in W. Sirra in the very heart of the peninsula. Under the name of W. Birk, the Sirra breaks through the Tuwaiq plateau and, turning northward as W. ‛Ajaimi, joins W. Hanifa some 60 m. S.E. of Riyadh (lat. 24° 37' N., long. 46° 41' E.). W. Hanifa ultimately falls into the Sahaba, but the latter probably carries no surface-water, at any time, farther than the western fringe of the Dahana, about long. 48° E. Wadi Subai, rising somewhere in lat. 22° N., is probably the most southern tributary of W. Rumma.
Jebel Tuwaiq, the salient physical feature of central Arabia, was found to extend for some 60 m. S. of Wadi Dawasir — much farther S. than was previously suspected — giving this crescent-shaped plateau a length from Zilfi (lat. 25° N.) of over 500 m. It has an average breadth of 20 m. and a mean elevation of nearly 3,000 ft. above sea-level and 600 ft. above the great plain on the west. The positions of the southern Nejd oases, most of which are situated on or around the Tuwaiq plateau, have been ascertained; and much further light has been thrown on the limits and peculiar character of the Nefudh and Dahana sand-belts on the N. and N.E. respectively, the former proving to be comparatively hard gravelly plain covered at intervals with parallel sand-belts of varying width and the latter a continuous area of deep sand forced by wind pressure into high sand billows or dunes.
Exploration.—The journeys of recent travellers have been mostly confined to the central and northern parts of Arabia; but a little new ground has also been broken in the W. and S.W. Some of these explorers, notably Philby, Shakespear and Bell, made route traverses by prismatic compass, checked at intervals by determinations of lat. and long, which greatly enhanced the value of their work (see Map).
Central Arabia.—Foremost among the explorers since 1910 is H. St. J. B. Philby. In 1917, when on a mission to the emir of Nejd, he crossed the peninsula from sea to sea, a feat previously accomplished by only one other European — Capt. Sadlier, in 1819 — his line being from ‛Oqair (‛Ojair) on the Persian Gulf to Jidda, by way of Hofuf, Riyadh and Taif. He attributes the exceptional fertility of the Hofuf group of oases to the reappearance at the surface there of the rainfall of a very large area. Beyond Riyadh, Philby was the first European to follow, for most of the way, the great central pilgrim route to Mecca. He passed Ghat Ghat, a centre of the Wahabist revival (see Akhwan Movement). After 80 m. of limestone desert alternating with belts of Dahana, his route lay across the highlands of Nejd, a granitic tract 150 m. in breadth, where he found altitudes up to 3,100 ft.; this tract forms part of the great divide between the N.E. and S.E. slopes of Arabia in which, in about lat. 23½° N. and long. 43½° E., lie the head-waters of W. Sahaba. For no less than 200 m. between the small settlement of Qusuriya, long. 44° 30' E., and Khurma, lat. 22° N., long. 42° E. — a village of mud huts on the confines of the Hejaz and a point of conflict between the King of the Hejaz and the emir of Nejd — he found no settled habitation, but encountered vast herds of gazelles. After crossing the Rakba plain he reached Taif and, following down the gorge of W. Fatima, reached Jidda.
In a subsequent journey, May-June 1918, Philby explored southern Nejd, going 300 m. southward from Riyadh to Dam and back. His route outward lay through the previously unvisited oases of lowland Aflaj and W. Dawasir and he returned along the crest of Tuwaiq by way of highland Aflaj and El Fara. He determined astronomically the positions of a number of places, including Riyadh (lat. 24° 37' N., long. 46° 41' E.), Abu Jifan (lat. 24° 29' N.), Hair (lat. 24° 21' N.), Sulaiyil (lat. 20° 25' N., long. 45° 29' E.) and Dam (long. 44° 40' E.), and ascertained various heights by aneroid readings. As a result of the journey, the hydrography of the Tuwaiq plateau, the backbone of central Arabia, is now as well known as any part before the World War. Philby's estimate of the population of Riyadh is 12-15,000, and its most conspicuous buildings are the palace of the emir and the great Wahabi mosque. The oases of Nejd were found to comprise, usually, a nucleus town with scattered hamlets, and not more than a few square miles of cultivated land around in each case; and populations never exceeding 10,000. In Aflaj and Kharj he made a notable discovery of ruin fields of considerable area, scattered with stone circles varying from 10-45 paces in diameter about heaps of rubble, in the middle of which usually stand large blocks of stone resembling the bases of pillars. Situated on hillsides some distance from cultivation, they suggest burial mounds of an early era, and open up an interesting field for investigation. In both districts, the peculiar system of irrigation from natural reservoirs or deep well pits by means of subterranean channels, or karez, was unexpectedly found to prevail. At Umm el Jebel, just S. of Laila, is a lake ¾ m. by ¼ m., possibly the largest sheet of permanent water in Arabia, and also a number of reservoirs of unusual size, one measuring 500 by 600 yards. In the Makran depression, S. of Badia (lat. 22° N.), are other perennial pools of water surrounded by woods of well-grown trees. The oasis of Dam (his main objective) locally known as “the wadi,” Philby found to consist of some 20 separate settlements with a total population of 9,000, mostly of negro origin or of the Dawasir tribe. Dam itself has a population of about 3,000 and owes its importance to its situation near the line of trade between Yemen, Aden, Nejran (seven days distant), and central Arabia.
The negative results of Philby's journeys were almost as valuable as the positive: he found that the Nejd oases are not tropical paradises; that there is no chain of oases linking Nejd with either Asir or Yemen; and that there is no region of fertility between southern Nejd and Oman, or any settled spot between it and either Oman or Hadhramaut.
Northern Arabia.—In 1910, Lt.-Col. G. E. Leachman set out from Kerbela for Hail (J. Shammar) and Riyadh, but, after passing Leina, he had to return to Samawa. Again, in 1912, he left Damascus intending to cross Arabia from N. to S. He got as far as Riyadh by way of Hazil, Leina, and Boreida, but the emir of Nejd refusing him safe conduct, he was obliged to turn eastward and emerged by the usual road through El Hasa to ‛Oqair. As a result of these journeys he drew attention to W. Khar, an important affluent of the Euphrates, and discovered its possibilities as a line of communication between Syria and Iraq via the oasis of Jauf, noting that water is obtainable at regular intervals along it. He was first among Europeans to visit the remarkable wells of Leina, of which there are several hundreds, spread over an area of 56 sq. m.; and he is the only European who has made any record of a journey from J. Shammar to Suq esh Shuyukh. His travels were equally important politically, for he laid the foundations of a good understanding between Britain and the emir of Nejd; he was treacherously shot, Aug. 1920, in Mesopotamia.
In 1913-4, Miss Gertrude Lowthian Bell travelled alone, except for native guides, from Damascus to the neighbourhood of Teima. Thence she passed eastwards over new ground along the southern margin of the Nefudh to J. Shammar and visited Hail; then northwards by Loqa to Nejef and Bagdad. The latter part of the route was especially valuable, as it added considerably to knowledge of a region hitherto traversed only by Wallin in 1848. Miss Bell is the only woman traveller in Arabia, with the exception of Lady Anne Blunt, and one of the few women who can lay just claim to the title “explorer,” for she surveyed her route by prismatic compass from start to finish.
Capt. Shakespear, British political agent at Kuwait, who became political officer in Nejd in 1914, travelled much in northern and central Arabia. He made compass traverses of his journeys and left voluminous notes which proved of great value. In 1913-4 he crossed the peninsula from Kuwait to Suez by way of Riyadh, Boreida, Haiyaniya and Jauf el ‛Amr, following an entirely new course beyond the last-named place. He was killed in action Jan. 24 1915 in a conflict between the forces of Ibn Sa‛ud and Ibn Rashid whilst on special duty with the former; his death was a grievous loss to the Indian Political Service, to which he belonged, and to geography.
In 1909, Douglas Carruthers went, primarily, in search of the little known oryx beatrix, a rare antelope inhabiting the interior of Arabia, which hitherto had not been hunted by any European, and he obtained a complete series of skins and horns. His route, from Jiza (Ziza) in the Belqa, lay through an' unmapped region, Guarmani, in 1864, being his only forerunner, except at Teima. He surveyed his route southwards to Teima, thence northwards along the Nefudh towards Jauf el ‛Amr, and back to Jiza.
Alois Musil, in 1908-9 and again in 1910, explored extensive tracts between lat. 27° and 36° N. and long. 37° and 44° E., embracing the Hamad, W. Sirhan, Hajara and Wadiyan. He is reported to have made plane-table surveys of parts of these regions which should furnish valuable data towards the mapping of northern Arabia; he added greatly to knowledge of its ethnography, natural history and archaeology. He is the only European who may be said to have penetrated the Hamad to any great extent.
In 1912, a journey from Kuwait through Zilfi, Boreida, and Riyadh to Hofuf and the coast again was made by Barclay Raunkiaer on behalf of the Danish Geographical Society; he made a prismatic compass survey of his route which to a small extent covered new ground. Raunkiaer died in Copenhagen, July 1915.
Capt. Aylmer and Capt. S. S. Butler, in 1907, opened up comparatively new ground between Bagdad and Jauf.
The Hejaz.—The Arabian section of the Hejaz railway was so ill-known before the World War that even the stations could not be enumerated correctly. Determination, in 1917, of the lat. and long, of Ma'an and the observation of the long. of a few stations to the S. enabled valuable adjustments to be made in the trace of the line. A belt of the Hejaz slope, some 300 m. in length between Wejh and Rabugh and a smaller tract immediately S. of Akaba were pretty thoroughly explored as a result of war operations, and a Turkish staff map of the country within a 30-m. radius of Medina which fell into British hands added further useful data, so that a great part of the Hejaz can now be mapped with fair accuracy. Much was learnt about the Billi tribe who people the rolling country between Wejh and the railway. They were found to be pure nomads without a single settlement in their district except one small garden at El Kurr; while the Juheina and Harb to the S. of them are less nomadic.
Asir and Yemen.—Towards the end of 1918, in the course of Idrisi's final campaign against the Turks, British officers could mix somewhat freely with his people on the coast and were able to meet tribesmen from the least known parts of the interior, and so an amount of knowledge, topographical, social and political, was gained. In particular, the composition and distribution of the chief tribes of Asir and Yemen was learnt. The position of Ibha (formerly Menadhir), the headquarters of the Turks, was at long last ascertained, though no European got there even when they surrendered. Sabia, Idrisi's capital, about 23 m. N.N.E. of Jeizan, was visited by an Indian medical officer who, for the first time, was able to describe this hut village. In Yemen, in 1909, a considerable amount of survey work was done by M. A. Beneyton, a French engineer, for a proposed railway from Hodeida to San‛a and ‛Amran (see below) and, as a result, much unexplored territory was mapped on a scale of 1:250,000. G. Wyman Bury went from Hodeida to San‛a in 1912, and made a long stay at Menakha in the same year. He has thrown more light than perhaps any recent traveller on the topography and economic conditions of Yemen. A. J. Wavell visited San‛a in 1911 and gave the best description of the city since Manzoni, 1884. He found the population reduced to 18,000 as compared with Harris's computation of 50,000 in 1891. The decline in population and the commercial depression prevalent in Yemen may be attributed largely to the lawlessness of the intractable Zaranik and Qahtan tribes who occupy the country between the highlands and Hodeida.
Aden Protectorate and Hadhramaut.—There is little new information regarding these districts. Bury, in 1911, described his penetration of the Kaur watershed (alt. 7-9,000 ft.), N. of the Yafa‛ Fadhli country. He visited Yeshbum (pop. 4,000), the capital of the Upper ‛Aulaqi, situated in a plain producing cotton and indigo and carrying on an industry in cotton fabrics, and got as far as Beihan, 110 m. inland of Shughra and almost in touch with Mareb.
The Red Sea Coast.—The naval patrol during the World War added much to knowledge of the very intricate coastline from Akaba to Aden. The triple coral reef fringing it had kept this coast almost inviolate, but the very numerous openings through the reefs are now known and have been charted.
Political History.—Before the World War, the Porte claimed control of Arabia in its entirety as rightfully part of the Ottoman Empire in virtue of the Sultan's authority as caliph. In actual fact, most of the peninsula was under a number of independent native rulers, only some of whom acknowledged Ottoman influence, and that to a limited degree, while others were under British protection. Effectual Turkish jurisdiction was confined, in the Hejaz, to the two Holy Cities, their ports, and the line of railway; in Asir, to one or two small ports and the inland districts of Ibha and Muhail; and, in Yemen, to certain garrisoned towns in the interior and to the ports of Hodeida and Mocha and connecting roads. The Hejaz railway, built nominally for the benefit of pilgrims to Mecca but in reality to increase the Ottoman hold on Arabia, did not fulfil political hopes, partly because it served not more than a third of the territory that the Turks claimed and partly because of the immense difficulties of its maintenance and working; and it brought about little or no economic development in the peninsula.
The World War marked the passing of Turkish control from the whole of Arabia and, at the opening of 1921, there existed the following principal autonomous elements: the kingdom of Hejaz; the emirate of Nejd and El Hasa; the emirate of Jebel Shammar; the principality of Sabia in Asir; the imamate of Yemen; the sheikhdoms of Kuwait, of Bahrien Is., and of El Qatar; the Trucial Oman; the sultanate of Muscat in Oman; the Ka‛aiti and Kathiri sultanates of Hadhramaut; and the autonomous tribes under treaty with Aden. But this list does not exhaust the autonomies, for there are many tribal communities — settled, half-settled and nomadic — which owe allegiance to none but their own local chiefs, such as certain sections of the Anaza and Muntefiq in the N. and the Zaranik and Yam in the S. The parcelling of the peninsula among so many separate communities is largely the result of peculiar geographical conditions which hardly admit of homogeneous settled life except in certain favoured districts, or in oases or wadis; and it is only by virtue of some peculiar source of wealth, some common spiritual ideal or some external support that larger territorial dominions have been established.
The Hejaz.—War with Turkey entailed on Great Britain and her Allies certain dangers in Arabia owing to the efforts made by the Central Powers, through the Porte, to arouse Moslems to a jihad or Holy War. Whether this result followed or not, there was every likelihood that the Turks would try to hinder the free use of the sea route to the East and, if left in control in western Arabia, that Aden and the possessions of the Allies in East Africa and the Farther East would be dangerously accessible to the enemy. Great Britain therefore turned to the sherif of Mecca (Husein Ibn ‛Ali), believing that the metropolitan position of the Holy Cities of Islam and the venerated lineage of the sherif would make very effective his refusal to countenance a jihad, while if he declared against the Turks, the geographical position of the Hejaz would make the materialization of the other dangers improbable. Sherif Husein was known to desire the emancipation of the Meccan emirate.
Under the Ottoman régime, the Hejaz was a vilayet, with a vali resident at Mecca. Nominally, it included all the area S. of Ma‛an to Lith, and was subject to taxation; but the cities of Mecca and Medina were not only tax free but were in receipt of subsidies from the Ottoman treasury, as were also certain Harb sheikhs who were able to interfere with the passage of pilgrims or with the railway track. The whole vilayet was exempt from service in the Turkish army and successfully resisted an attempt to impose conscription in 1914. The Porte maintained forces in the Hejaz, the normal garrison being about 7,000.
Side by side with this foreign government, existed the authority of the sherif or emir of Mecca, enjoying extra-territorial independence at Mecca and Taif with the right to keep official representatives to watch over his interests at Medina, Jidda and elsewhere. The emir was able, at need, to call out considerable levies of Hejazi and other Bedouins and, by so doing, under semblance of helping the Turks, successive emirs not only made interest with the Porte but inspired it with a wholesome respect and, at the same time, kept in touch with a fighting force which could be used some day for their own ends.
Sherif Husein was nominated to the emirate in 1908, as a man of pacific character, likely to serve the Porte's purpose. In 1910 he took up arms for the Turks against the Asiri revolt under Idrisi. In the same year he extended his influence over a part of the territory of the emir of Nejd in central Arabia. But in 1913 he began to pursue an active anti-Ottoman policy, ostensibly opposing the extension to Mecca of the Hejaz railway and supporting the Harb tribesmen in their resistance to this and other Turkish projects; and he organized the Hejaz tribes acknowledging his authority, with a view to insurrection. He reconciled himself with Idrisi and tried (without success) to get the support of the imam of Yemen in his anti-Ottoman aim; and, in 1915, he sent ‛Abdalla, his second son, to bring about a truce between the emirs of Nejd and J. Shammar.
In the summer of 1915, Sherif Husein declared his desire for a revolt to the Allies, who thereupon agreed to support him with money, munitions and supplies. A long period of inaction followed, however, and it was not until June 1916 that the revolt actually broke out. After the loss of Jidda, Mecca and Taif by the Turks, Husein proclaimed himself independent of Ottoman rule June 5 1916. To explain his attitude to the Moslem world, he issued a proclamation (Aug. 1916) setting out a number of indictments against the Committee of Union and Progress; and, finding that the Ottoman Government was unable to spare any large force to oppose his aims, he was formally proclaimed “Sultan of the Arabs” in Oct., a large number of chiefs assembling in Mecca to support him. He relinquished this title for that of “King of the Hejaz” in Dec., and was so recognized by the Governments of Great Britain, France and Italy. In 1917, Wejh and Akaba being lost by the Turks, the newly established kingdom was able to maintain its separate existence, and the year 1918 witnessed further satisfactory developments. In spite of the Armistice, the Turks refused to surrender Medina until Jan. 1919. The Hejaz was represented at the Peace Conference by the Emir Faisal, King Husein's third son, and the state was admitted a member of the League of Nations in 1920. By the treaty of peace with Turkey, that country renounced all rights and titles to the Arabian peninsula and the King of the Hejaz undertook to ensure free and easy access of all Moslems to the holy places of Mecca and Medina. The treaty had not, however, been ratified by the Hejaz at the beginning of 1921.
King Husein maintained friendly, but formal, relations with the emir of Nejd during the World War; but, in 1919 and the early part of 1920, there was frequent friction between them over the debatable border at Khurma in the neighbourhood of Taif. A battle at Turaba, near Taif, in May 1919, resulted in a loss of 4,500 men to the Hejaz army; but the emir of Nejd did not follow up his advantage. In June 1920, relations between the disputants were reported to be more friendly; but the frontier still remained undefined in 1921.
The Central Emirates.—The emirate of Nejd, capital Riyadh, and that of Jebel Shammar to the N., capital Hail, comprise all the country between the main northern and southern deserts of Arabia. Between the two emirates lie the oases of Qasim and Sedeir, the overlordship of which has been in dispute for more than two generations. The two emirs control, more or less effectively, all the peoples both settled and nomadic of central Arabia, and the authority of the emir of Nejd extends to El Hasa on the E. and to certain tribes of the Asir border and Wadi Dawasir on the W. and S. Wahabism, or its more modern manifestation the Akhwan movement, supplies the moral basis of the power of the emirate of Nejd, while the settled nature of the population is its material basis. The emirate of J. Shammar, on the other hand, grew out of the desert power of a great nomadic society accustomed to maintain a group of permanent villages and hamlets around J. Aja and Selma, which served as rallying places and as market centres. The Shammar emirate, while inferior to its rival in wealth and settled population and lacking its religious tie, owes its strength to the unity existing between its oasis folk and the tribes of the surrounding regions, to the patriarchal tie binding them, and to the stimulus of the steppe desert upon its life.
Nejd (see 19.351) comprises all the oasis groups situated about or on the Tuwaiq plateau, extending well over 500 m. from N. to S., and is directly or indirectly under the rule of Ibn Sa‛ud of Riyadh. In addition, the emir lays claim to El Hasa, on the Persian Gulf between lat. 24° and 29° N. He drove the Turks from this district — which they had occupied as a sanjaq of Basra since 1871 — in May 1913, and was acknowledged by the Porte as vali of Nejd and El Hasa. He, however, effectively occupies only the Hofuf group of oases, with the ports of Qatif and ‛Oqair. In 1914, Ibn Sa‛ud entered into relations with the British Government — Capt. Shakespear being appointed political officer in Riyadh — and proved an unswerving ally throughout the World War. He declared himself definitely against Ibn Rashid, emir of J. Shammar, who had allied himself with the Turks. He fought a drawn battle with Ibn Rashid at Mejma‛ in 1915, the main point in dispute being the ownership of Qasim with the towns of ‛Aneiza and Boreida; it was in this battle that Captain Shakespear was killed. His attitude towards the Hejaz, while war lasted, was friendly but formal. By 1918, after intermittent and generally successful campaigns against the emir of J. Shammar, Ibn Sa‛ud had established his supremacy in central Arabia, including Qasim and Sedeir. His relations with the King of the Hejaz, in 1910-20, became less cordial, frequent disputes having arisen over the frontier question. He is believed to have steadfastly refused either spiritual or temporal allegiance to King Husein. Early in the summer of 1920, Ibn Sa‛ud turned his attention to E. Arabia and instigated an attack on Kuwait, which port he is said to covet. Several actions took place but without definite result, and subsequently efforts were made on the part of the British Government to bring about a territorial agreement between the emir and the sheikh of Kuwait.
Before the World War, the authority of Ibn Rashid was supreme in the group of oases about J. Aja and J. Selma; in the steppes N. of Qasim, from the Hejaz border (including the oasis of Teima) almost to Kuwait; and in the oasis of Jauf el A‛mr. On the N. and E., the southern Nefudh and the Dahana formed a neutral zone between his territory and the nomad tribes beyond. Ibn Rashid's attitude in the World War was consistently pro-Turkish, though relations between him and the adherents of the Committee of Union and Progress were probably never cordial. The comparative ease with which the Turks could reach Hail, from either the Hejaz railway (at Mu‛adhdham) or from Samawa and Nejef, contributed towards making him sensitive to Ottoman pressure. He was reported to have supplied the Turks with large numbers of camels, especially for the expedition against Egypt in 1915-6. As the World War proceeded, his power diminished, both territorially and economically. While Ibn Sa‛ud was fighting the Turks in El Hasa (1913), Ibn Rashid was able to maintain his position; but, in 1915, an attempt on his part to overrun Qasim and Sedeir resulted in the loss of the towns of ‛Aneiza and Boreida, and they were placed under tribute to Ibn Sa‛ud. The oasis of Jauf, on the caravan road from Damascus to Hail, was seized in 1910 by the Ruweila tribe of the Anaza under Nuri esh Sha‛lan, one of the most powerful and anti-Turkish of the nomad chiefs. Nuri had shown himself a successful rival of Ibn Rashid, for, in spite of determined attempts on the part of the latter to regain the oasis (notably in 1914), he was not able to reëstablish his authority in Jauf. The important oasis of Teima, also, reverted to the Hejaz in 1917. In the same year Ibn Rashid went to reside at Medain Salih and, for a year, did not set foot in his capital. In May 1920, his murder was reported.
Asir.—The limits of this district are indeterminate, but broadly it comprises the country lying between the territory under the jurisdiction of the King of the Hejaz — who claims control of the Tihama down to Qunfuda — and that of the imam of Yemen. Its eastern limit is contiguous with Nejd. There is a strong political and social distinction between the people of the Tihama lowlands and those of the highlands which constitute Asir proper; and there is no part of Arabia where the tribal elements are so sharply defined and their boundaries less changeable. Settled tribes are the predominant element in Asir, as the physical conditions favour the pursuit of agriculture sufficiently to render nomadism unnecessary. In religion, practically all the tribes are Shafei Sunnites; Wahabism has a few adherents and its tenets are regarded sympathetically all over the district; but everywhere there is a strong antipathy to Zeidism.
Asir cannot be regarded as a political entity. In 1914, it fell into four parts — sections acknowledging the Turks, the Idrisi of Abu ‛Arish, and the sherif of Mecca respectively, and small groups of nomad tribes on the E. who recognized no authority. The Turks claimed the whole of Asir as the northern section of the vilayet of Yemen, but never succeeded in subduing the country and, in reality, they only precariously held the inland towns and immediate surroundings of Ibha and Muhail and the port of Qunfuda, all of which they garrisoned. The authority of the Idrisi was restricted to a strip of the Tihama some 80 m. long and extending about 40 m. inland to the scarp of highland Asir, with Sabia as capital and Jeizan and Midi as ports. The influence of the sherif of Mecca was mostly confined to the Ghamid and Beni Shihir tribes on the inland side of the ridge.
Interest in Asir, during the World War, was centred on the Idrisi, Seyyid Mohammed. His aim throughout was to rid the district of Turkish control and to extend his own influence. By 1910, he had much reduced the Ottoman hold and, in 1911-2, subsidized and supplied by the Italians during their war with Turkey, he consolidated his position. In 1914, failing to obtain sufficient recognition of his power from the Turks, he declared himself definitely against them. He concluded an agreement with the British resident at Aden in May 1915, and was supplied by the Allies with material. He raised part of the Zaranik tribe and took the field, ostensibly against the Turks, with a nominal following of some 12,000 men and overran the Tihama of Yemen, but failed to capture Loheia, one of his main objectives.
In reality, his support of the Allies was not of a very positive character, as he was in constant fear of attack by the imam of Yemen; and the Turks held Ibha and Muhail, their strongholds in the interior, until the Armistice. He kept on good terms all the time with the King of the Hejaz. The actual extent of the Idrisi's control of Asir, at the beginning of 1921, still remained a matter of doubt; but his attitude towards the imam of Yemen continued to be hostile, though there had been short periods of truce between them. In Feb., information reached England that Idrisi forces had occupied Hodeida.
Yemen.—As in Asir, the social contrast between the highlands and lowlands is very marked, being the outcome of religious and racial differences reinforced by strongly contrasted geographical conditions. Broadly speaking, the central highland population is Zeidite (Shiah) and accepts the authority of the imam, whereas the population of the Tihama and the extreme N. and S. is predominantly Shafei and is strongly opposed to him. In consequence there has hardly ever been any semblance of administrative unity in the province. It is difficult to state the imam's territorial title as distinct from what he claims. While the Turks were in Yemen, there were districts or tribal groups (e.g. in the Yemen interior) who repudiated them, but were not unwilling to accept an imam wholly independent of them; there were others who accepted the Turks, but would have nothing to do with the imam except under pressure (e.g. the Isma‛iliya, the Daudiya sect along the Hodeida-San‛a road, and most of the northern Tihama tribes); and there were others again, such as the Zaranik, between the coast and hills S. of the Hodeida-San‛a road, and the Beni Yam in the interior, who accepted neither Turk nor imam.
The imam Yahya Ibn Mohammed came into power in 1904. After his revolt against the Turks (see 2.270), a patched-up peace was made between them, but in 1911 his forces again beleaguered San‛a. The city was eventually relieved by ‛Izzet Pasha, who became military governor and succeeded, after some difficulty, in establishing an entente with the imam, “for the sake of peace among Moslems.” An imperial firman, read at San‛a on Sept. 22 1913, proclaimed a “mediatized status” or condominium, by the terms of which the imam secured the religious and social control of all the Zeidites (roughly all the highlands from the Asir border to the Aden frontier) together with part of the central Yemen Tihama, but he received no sanction to impose taxation.
On the outbreak of the World War, the imam refused to enter into relations with Aden, and was strongly opposed to the Idrisi. In 1915, he showed his leaning towards the Turks, by writing a letter to Enver, “praying for the success of the Ottoman armies.” He refused to be drawn into any alliance with the sherif of Mecca. Details of the actual happenings in Yemen during hostilities are somewhat obscure, but the imam's chief activity lay in attempts to tamper with the loyalty of the tribes of the Aden protectorate and Hadhramaut, in which he met with partial success. Later, he sought a closer understanding with the King of the Hejaz and, at one time, an alliance seemed possible, but did not materialize. The Turkish garrisons were withdrawn from Yemen at the end of 1918 and a small British-Indian force occupied Hodeida; but there was evidence that Turkish influence did not wholly disappear at the same time. In Aug. 1919, a British mission, sent from Hodeida in the hope of negotiating with the imam at San‛a, was captured by Quhra tribesmen at Bajil about 25 m. inland, and was detained until Dec., when it returned to the coast without having accomplished its purpose. In March 1920, the garrison of Hodeida was temporarily increased owing to the uncertainty of the attitude of the imam and some of the Tihama tribes. In Jan. 1921, the forces of the imam, commanded by Mahmud Nedim Bey, the former vali of Yemen, were reported to be attacking the Tihama regions the conquest of which appeared to be his main objective and were threatening Hodeida. In Feb., the occupation of Hodeida by Idrisi troops was reported.
Persian Gulf States.—The sultanates and sheikhdoms, which extend along the Arabian shores of the Persian Gulf, have all come under British influence, in one form or another. Their rulers are controlled in matters of external relations, and maintain their authority internally by grace of their alliance with Great Britain. None rule effectively over territory more than about a day's march from the coast. The states are as follow:—
Oman.—The Sultan of Muscat (see 20.99 and 19.43), claims overlordship of all territory extending from Hadhramaut to the entrance of the Persian Gulf (including Dhofar) and, inland, to the Great Desert. In reality his direct rule is restricted to the town of Muscat and a stretch of coast N.W. and S.E. of it. The tribes of the interior are practically independent and have set up an Ibadhi imamate, and if not fighting among themselves are a constant menace to the sultanate. The sheikhs of Rostaq are among the most powerful of these independents. In 1912, under the insistence of the British Government, a warehouse was established at Muscat to control the traffic in arms and ammunition through Oman ports to the interior, which had been greatly abused. A rising of the Ibadhis against the Sultan, for which this control was made part pretext, took a serious form in 1913-4 and necessitated the bombardment of the ports of Quryat and Barka, and an Indian force occupied Beit el Felej near Muscat. The rebels attacked in strength in Jan. 1915, but met with defeat, which relieved the situation. The disaffected tribes continue to dominate the interior, and the authority of the imam, rather than of the Sultan, is recognized by most.
Trucial Oman, formerly known as the Pirate Coast, extends for over 300 m. from El Qatar almost to Ras Musandam, and receives its name from the truce established in 1853 between the five recognized ruling sheikhs of the districts of Abu Dhabi, Dibai, Sharja, ‘Ajman and Umm el Qaiwan. The position of the respective sheikhs is regulated by an agreement which, in 1892, placed all external relations under British control and made Great Britain responsible for their protection from aggression. The sheikhdoms are very unequal in importance — those of Sharja and Abu Dhabi are the most considerable territorially. The sheikh of Sharja claims to be paramount over all Trucial Oman, but this is repudiated by the other sheikhs and not recognized by Great Britain. An Arab political agent resides at Sharja.
El Qatar.—The sheikhdom of El Qatar comprises the peninsula of that name on the Arabian coast E. of Bahrein, of which latter it was formerly regarded as a dependency. Turkish control in El Qatar ceased in 1913, when the emir of Nejd drove the Turks from El Hasa, and the sheikh Abdalla ibn Jasim came into power in the same year. He maintained friendly relations with Britain and kept on good terms with the emir of Nejd.
Bahrein (see 3.212) consists of an archipelago, of which Bahrein is the most important island. The rule of the sheikh is effective only over that part of Bahrein I. adjacent to the port of Manama and over Muharraq I.: his authority over the remaining islands is little more than nominal. He agreed by treaty, in return for a subsidy, not to alienate any part of his territory except to Britain and to conform to British policy. A political agent, under the resident at Bushire, is stationed at Manama. Throughout the crisis in the pearl industry in 1913, and during the World War, the sheikh showed much goodwill to Britain.
Kuwait.—The Sultan of Kuwait (see 15.956), Salim, son of Mubarak, who succeeded his brother Jabir in 1917, claimed jurisdiction over 200 m. of territory from El Hasa almost to the head of the Persian Gulf, and ruled nominally westward to the wells of Hafar, where his district met that of the emir of J. Shammar on the N.E., and that of Nejd on the S.W. The late Sultan Mubarak formally repudiated all relations with the Turks at the outbreak of hostilities and his attitude towards the emir of Nejd was friendly, but towards the emir of Shammar intermittently hostile. In 1920, a serious attack on the independence of Kuwait arising out of the activities of the Akhwan sect of Nejd was threatened. Sultan Salim died early in 1921 and was succeeded by Ahmad ibn Jabir.
On March 1 1921, it was stated in Parliament that matters of policy and administration affecting Arab areas within the British sphere of influence and Aden were transferred to the Colonial Office; but questions regarding the Hejaz remained under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The tendency was for the British Government to rely considerably on officers of the Sudan Civil Service.
Trade.—Arabia produces little for export except pearls, dates, coffee, hides and skins; imports consist almost wholly of manufactured fabrics (cotton in particular) and food-stuffs (rice, cereals, flour, sugar and tea). Besides Aden only Muscat, Manama and Kuwait carry on any considerable direct and regular trade with the outer world the first named with Europe mainly, and the others almost exclusively with India and the East; and Arabian trade in general commodities tends to focus more and more on Aden and Manama. The trade of Jidda — depending largely on the pilgrimages, and seasonal in consequence — though considerable, is of a more local nature and is mainly with Egypt, the near African coast and the Persian Gulf, and India at farthest. The trade of Hodeida, Jeizan, Mocha, Makalla, and the other still smaller ports is almost entirely carried on by sailing craft, though before the World War, Hodeida was also a port of call, at regular intervals, for certain smaller lines of steamers. Commercial enterprise at Arabian ports is mainly in the hands of Indians, especially in Oman, Kuwait, Hadhramaut and even at Aden; second to them come Italians, commercially predominant in many of the Red Sea ports (notably Hodeida), Italian Somaliland and Eritrea offering a convenient base of operations. Prior to the World War, British and Turkish interests were political rather than commercial: neither power had any strong hold on the economic activities of the country, the trade relations between Turkey and the Holy Cities excepted.
The following comparative table gives approximate trade figures (including specie), in thousands of pounds sterling, of the chief ports, in the years just anterior to the World War:—
|(a) Western Littoral|
|(b) Eastern Littoral|
The Western Littoral.—Trade was much disorganized during the World War and shifted from port to port as the exigence of the time demanded. Normal conditions were by no means resumed even in 1921. General trade figures were not available, but the following table gives (in round numbers) the trade movement between Aden and the chief ports, from 1914-9:—
| (April 1 to
The marked increase at Jeizan was due to war operations in Asir; the almost total extinction of trade at Hodeida in 1916-9 and the temporary revival of Mocha, at the expense of Hodeida, to the blockade of the Yemen coast; and the sudden fall at Jidda in 1915-6 to the temporary blockade of the Hejaz coast just previous to the Arab revolt. There is normally a considerable direct trade between certain Red Sea ports and Egypt (Suez). In 1918, it amounted to about £E250,000 of which imports were £E225,000, chiefly cotton piece-goods (£E157,000), soap, dried beans, sugar and lentils; and exports, chiefly charcoal.
The main item in the trade figures of Jidda is the export of specie amounting, in normal times, to well over £1,000,000 annually. As to trade in general commodities, there is always an enormous excess of imports over exports, due largely to the requirements of pilgrims, the Hejaz producing little. In 1911, imports included rice £233,000 (from India); maize, wheat and barley £181,000; cotton piece-goods £150,000; silk goods and sugar, and, in that year, 287 steam vessels of 616,000 aggregate tonnage entered the port. Exports in the same year did not exceed £50,000 and consisted of skins and hides, wool, henna, gum and mother-of-pearl shells. The number of pilgrims passing through Jidda in 1912 was 83,295.
Midi (Asir), 45 m. S. of Jeizan, became a port of some importance during hostilities. In 1917, the construction of a stone pier for the discharge of cargo was undertaken.
Hodeida was formerly the most important of the southern Red Sea ports, but during the past decade its trade has steadily declined. In 1909, imports amounted to £650,000 and exports to £401,000, the latter consisting mainly of coffee, hides and skins. The Yemen coffee trade, valued at about £200,000 in 1911-2, has passed almost entirely to Aden on account of the greater security of the Aden routes and the better facilities there for husking the berries, and export. In 1921 the port was reported to be almost deserted. The scheme for a new harbour at Khor el Kethib, a good natural inlet 10 m. N., did not materialize.
The Eastern Littoral.—The following comparative table summarizes the value of the trade (including specie) of the chief ports, from 1912-20, the figures being in thousands of pounds sterling:—
Muscat is the main trade outlet of Oman. The decline in trade after 1913-4, shown in the table, was due partly to the opening of Dibai in the Trucial Oman as a free port and partly to the control placed upon the arms traffic in 1912. The import of arms fell from £180,000 to almost nil in the period 1913-5. In 1918-9, 80% of the total trade was with India, 12% with the Arabian coast, and 4.5% with Persian ports, and 42 steam vessels of gross tonnage 57,837 cleared the port; the tonnage carried by sailing vessels was 20,149. The most important article of export is dates (£123,000 in 1918-9), of which the better sorts of dry dates go to the New York and Boston markets; of secondary importance are pearls, mother-of-pearl and salt fish, mainly to India. Rice from India is the chief import.
Manama holds a somewhat similar position to Aden as a place of transhipment and centre of distribution for eastern and central Arabia. It is the headquarters of the Persian Gulf pearl industry, in which it is said that 5,000 boats are engaged. The exceptional decrease of exports 1914-6 (see above table) was due to the decline in the pearl trade, which fell in value from about £1,800,000 in 1912-3 to £320,000 in 1915-6, causing great economic stress. In 1919-20 the chief imports were rice £406,000, piece-goods £337,000, coffee £93,000, ghi £67,000 and sugar £33,000; exports, pearls £294,000 (£318,000 in 1918 and £702,000 in 1919), rice £261,000, cotton goods £219,000, and coffee. In the same year, 75% of the trade was directly with India and 23% with other ports of the Persian Gulf; and 56 steam vessels of 111,244 aggregate tonnage entered, of which 109,073 was British.
At Kuwait the principal imports (in 1919-20) were cotton piece-goods £384,000, rice £117,000, coffee £21,000, sugar and tea; and exports, rice £58,000 and ghi £14,000. In the same year, 47 steam vessels of 89,809 aggregate tonnage entered; India furnished 82.5% of the total imports, and 70% of the exports were destined for other Arabian ports. Pearl boats valued at £27,000 were built in 1912-3.
The Interior.—The principal market centres of the interior of Arabia are: Teima and Kheibar (Hejaz), Muhail and Khamis Musheit (Asir); San‛a (Yemen); Makhlaf (Nejran); Lahej (Aden hinterland); Shibam and Hauta (Hadhramaut); Sema‛il, Rostaq and Nizwa (Oman); Riyadh, Boreida and Hail (central Arabia); and Hofuf (El Hasa). Trade at these centres consists in the collection of the small surplus native agricultural products and in the distribution of manufactured articles and foodstuffs brought in from the coast.
Communications.—With the exception of the Hejaz line, Arabia was still without railways at the end of 1920. Two extensions of the Hejaz line were projected: (1) Medina-Mecca; (2) Ma‛an-Akaba. The first formed part of the original plan — the distance direct being 280 m. and the estimated cost just under £1,000,000. An alternative route, via Rabugh, was also considered and construction was begun at both Medina and Rabugh, but was abandoned. The Ma‛an-Akaba scheme did not go beyond the preliminary survey stage. In 1911, a survey of a railway from Mecca to Jidda was made by the Turks, but construction was postponed. In 1909, French engineers surveyed for a railway which the Turkish Government proposed to build from Hodeida to San‛a and ‛Amran. Alternative routes were considered one direct via Bajil and Hajla, and the other making a detour through Zebid, Ta‛izz and Yerim. As a preliminary, a French syndicate constructed 5.6 m. of metre-gauge track, between Hodeida and a proposed new harbour at Khor el Kethib, about 10 m. to the north. The work and all material and plant (including several locomotives) were destroyed in the Italian bombardment of Hodeida, in 1912. In 1918-9 a metre-gauge military line was extended from Sheikh ‛Othman to a few miles beyond Lahej, a total distance of 25 m. from Aden; when not required for military purposes it is available for ordinary transport.
There are no made roads of any considerable length in Arabia, except one of 173 m. from Hodeida to San‛a; but sections of certain of the caravan tracks were adapted, during the World War, for rough motor service, e.g. the road from Jidda to Mecca and from Akaba to Ma‛an. For purposes of trade, the old caravan routes have still to serve. The only route of trans-peninsular character is that from Zobeir to Boreida (379 m.), Mecca (479 m.) and Jidda (55 m.); total, 913 m. For the passage of trade as well as pilgrims, no other caravan route in Arabia compares with it in importance.
The lines of telegraph are: Jidda - Mecca; Jidda - Rabugh - Medina; Hodeida- San‛a; Hodeida - Mocha - Sheikh Sa‛id; Hodeida - Loheia - Midi; and Mocha - Ta‛izz - Yerim - San‛a.
For travelling or through-trade purposes the rafiq or companion system obtains. Each tribe has a recognized dira or range, and in passing from the territory of one tribe to that of another a rafiq of the last tribe is absolutely necessary for safe conduct. Inter-tribal trade is also facilitated by the ‛Uqeil, recognized carriers, who are “franked” by all tribes and are thus able to conduct a caravan with more or less security. They are chosen from among the tribesmen of central Arabia and El Hasa, care being taken to exclude members of the more powerful tribes and those who have blood feuds, so as to preserve the neutral character of the organization.
Industries.—Camel-rearing is mostly in the hands of the Anaza in the N., the Qahtan and Shammar in the centre, and the ‛Ajman and Muteir in the E.; but the herds of the first-named tribe far outnumber those of any other. The centre of the camel trade is in Damascus (where almost all the capital is supplied) and to a less extent in Bagdad. In normal times, the chief tribes are said to possess 720,000 head, but during the World War herds were much depleted. Only the surplus, possibly numbering 45,000 per ann., and those not the best, are sold. A little horse-breeding is carried on by the emir of Nejd and by the Shahran tribes and there is a small export to Mesopotamia and Syria. Considerable numbers of the white, large-boned breeds of asses of El Hasa are sent to Egypt. The fisheries of Arabia, other than pearl, are valuable for the supply of local needs and are capable of development. The salting of fish is an industry at most coast towns, but more particularly those of the Red Sea and Oman; considerable quantities are sent into the interior. During the war operations, some attention was paid incidentally to the study of the Farsan pearl industry and to the possibilities of its development. The rock salt quarries of Salif, opposite Kamaran I., were worked under the control of the Ottoman debt and 105,000 tons of salt were exported to India and the Straits Settlements in 1908. Just prior to the World War an English company was working the quarries; in 1920, operations had ceased for the time being.
Bibliography.—Alois Musil, Nord Arabien, Vorbericht über die Forschungsreise 1908-9 (1909), and Zur Zeitgeschichte von Arabien (1918); G. Wyman Bury, The Land of Uz (1911), Arabia Infelix (1915) and Pan-Islam (1919); A. J. B. Wavell, A Modern Pilgrim in Mecca and a Siege in Sanaa (1912 and 1918); C. Snouck Hurgronje, The Revolt in Arabia (1917); The Holy War “made in Germany” (1915) and Nederland en de Islâm (1915); Barclay Raunkiaer, Gennem Wahhabiternes Land paa Kamelryg; C. Doughty, Travels in Arabia, new ed. with introduction by T. E. Lawrence (1920); I. D. 1128, A Handbook of Arabia, vol. i., General, compiled by the Geographical Section of the Naval Intelligence Division, Naval Staff, Admiralty (1915).
Among valuable contributions to the study of Arabia are the following papers published in the Geographical Journal: — Captain S. S. Butler, “Baghdad to Damascus via Jauf, Northern Arabia,” vol. xxxiii. (May 1909); Douglas Carruthers, “A Journey in North-Western Arabia,” vol. xxxv. (March 1910); Lt.-Col. S. B. Miles, “On the Border of the Great Desert: a Journey in Oman,” vol. xxxvi. (Aug. 1910); Captain G. Leachman, “A Journey in North-Eastern Arabia,” vol. xxxvii. (March 1911), and “A Journey through Central Arabia,” vol. xliii. (May 1914); Gertrude Lowthian Bell, “A Journey in Northern Arabia,” vol. xliv. (July 1914); H. St. J. B. Philby, “Southern Nejd” (with map, scale 1:1,250,000), vol. lv. (March 1920) and “Across Arabia: From the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea” (with map, scale 1:2,000,000), vol. lvi. (Dec. 1920); D. G. Hogarth, “War and Discovery in Arabia,” vol. lv. (June 1920); and “An Account of A. Beneyton's Railway Surveys in the Yemen, and Maps,” vol. xliii. (Jan. 1914).
Maps.—Map on the scale of 1:1,000,000 compiled by the Geographical Section, General Staff, No. 2,555: Sheets I37 (Esh Sham, Damascus 1918); I38 (Bagdad 1918); H36 (Cairo 1918); H37 (El Djauf 1918); H38 (Basra, 1918); G39 (Hofuf, 1920); G37 (Medina 1921); and Sheet G38 (Riyadh) was in course of preparation (1921). Map on the scale of 1:1,000,000, compiled by the Survey of India: Sheets of Kunfida, San‛a and Mukalla (1917). Map of Arabia and the Persian Gulf, Survey of India; scale 1 in. = 48 m., two sheets; and scale 1 in. = 32 m., four sheets. Yemen: Chemin de Fer Hodeidah Sanaa et Embranchements, échelle 1-250,000e, A. Beneyton, Paris 1913. (H. W. M.)