1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aden

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ADEN, a seaport and territory in Arabia, politically part of British India, under the governor of Bombay. The seaport is situated in 12° 45′ N. lat., and 45° 4′ E. long., on a peninsula near the entrance to the Red Sea, 100 m. E. of the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb. The peninsula of Aden consists chiefly of a mass of barren and desolate volcanic rocks, extending five miles from east to west, and three from its northern shore to Ras Sanailah or Cape Aden, its most southerly point; it is connected with the mainland by a neck of flat sandy ground only a few feet high; and its greatest elevation is Jebel Shamshan, 1776 ft. above the level of the sea. The town is built on the eastern coast, in what is probably the crater of an extinct volcano, and is surrounded by precipitous rocks that form an admirable natural defence. There are two harbours, an outer, facing the town, protected by the island of Sirah, but now partially choked with mud; and an inner, called Aden Back-bay, or, by the Arabs, Bandar Tawayih, on the western side of the peninsula, which at all periods of the year admits vessels drawing less than 20 ft. On the whole, Aden is a healthy place, although it suffers considerably from the want of good water, and the heat is often very intense. From time to time additional land on the mainland has been acquired by cession or purchase, and the adjoining island of Perim, lying in the actual mouth of the strait, was permanently occupied in 1857. Farther inland, and along the coast, most of the Arab chiefs are under the political control of the British government, which pays them regular allowances. The area of the peninsula is only 15 sq. m., but the total area of British territory is returned at 80 sq. m., including Perim (5 sq. m.), and that of the Aden Protectorate is about 9000 sq. m. The seaport of Aden is strongly fortified. Modern science has converted “Steamer Point” into a seemingly impregnable position, the peninsula which the “Point” forms to the whole crater being cut off by a fortified line which runs from north to south, just to the east of the coal wharfs. The administration is conducted by a political resident, who is also the military commandant. All food requires to be imported, and the water-supply is largely derived from condensation. A little water is obtained from wells, and some from an aqueduct 7 m. long, constructed in 1867 at a cost of £30,000, besides an irregular supply from the old reservoirs.

From its admirable commercial and military position, Aden early became the chief entrepôt of the trade between Europe and Asia. It is the Ἀραβία εὐδαίμων of the Periplus. It was known to the Romans as Arabia Felix and Attanae, and was captured by them, probably in the year 24 B.C. In 1513 it was unsuccessfully attacked by the Portuguese under Albuquerque, but subsequently it fell into the hands of the Turks in 1538. In the following century the Turks themselves relinquished their conquests in Yemen, and the sultan of Sana established a supremacy over Aden, which was maintained until the year 1735, when the sheikh of Lahej, throwing off his allegiance, founded a line of independent sultans. In 1837 a ship under British colours was wrecked near Aden, and the crew and passengers grievously maltreated by the Arabs. An explanation of the outrage being demanded by the Bombay government, the sultan undertook to make compensation for the plunder of the vessel, and also agreed to sell his town and port to the English. Captain Haines of the Indian navy was sent to complete these arrangements, but the sultan’s son refused to fulfil the promises that his father had made. A combined naval and military force was thereupon despatched, and the place was captured and annexed to British India on the 16th of January 1839. The withdrawal of the trade between Europe and the East, caused by the discovery of the passage round the Cape of Good Hope, and the misgovernment of the native rulers, had gradually reduced Aden to a state of comparative insignificance; but about the time of its capture by the British the Red Sea route to India was reopened, and commerce soon began to flow in its former channel. Aden was made a free port, and was chosen as one of the coaling stations of the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company. Its importance as a port of call for steamers and a coaling station has grown immensely since the opening of the Suez Canal. It also conducts a considerable trade with the interior of Arabia, and with the Somali coast of Africa on the opposite side of the Red Sea. The submarine cables of the Eastern Telegraph Company here diverge—on the one hand to India, the Far East and Australia, and on the other hand to Zanzibar and the Cape.

In 1839 the population was less than 1000, but in 1901 it had grown to 43,974. The gross revenue (1901–1902) was ₨.37,25,915. There are three printing-presses, of which one is in the gaol and the other two belong to a European and a Parsee firm of merchants. The port is visited yearly by some 1300 steamers with a tonnage of 21/2 million tons. The principal articles of import are coffee, cotton-piece goods, &c., grain, hides, coal, opium, cotton-twist and yarn. The exports are, in the main, a repetition of the imports. Of the total imports nearly one-third come from the east coast of Africa, and another third from Arabia. Of the total exports, nearly one-third again go to the east coast of Africa. The Aden brigade belongs to the western army corps of India.