(39) Arabia - Cities, Towns, Provinces, Regions, Physical Features
Territorial Divisions of Arabia
The principal territorial divisions of Arabia have been already indicated, but a detailed list may here not be out of place.
(A) Western Side
They are, accordingly, on the western side --
The Hejaz, subject in great measure to Ottoman authority, and extending from 28° to 21° N. lat. Its principal towns are YAMBO and JIDDAH on the sea-coast, MEDINAH and MECCA in the interior; all of which are separately described in the articles under these headings. The inhabitants are partly settled, in about equal proportions. The Hejaz includes the Beled-el-Haram, of sacred territory, immediately adjoining Mecca; and the Taif, a mountainous but fertile district to the S.E. of that town.
Jebel Aseer, a mountainous tract along the coast immediately south of the Hejza. Its inhabitants are the Wahhabbee sect, and are governed by their own sheikhs, with an emeer residing at Kolakh, the principal town or rather village of the region. The Turks have lately invaded it, but to no great purpose.
Aboo Areesh, along the coast, from 17° 40 to 15° 50 N. lat. This district, now occupied by the Turks, detached itself from Yemen about a century ago. Its inhabitants live in villages: the soil is poor, but the fisheries abundant.
Tehamah. This name is given to the shore strip from 15° 50 to Aden, 12° 47 N. lat. Its principal towns are Loheya, Hodeydeh, and Mokha; the two former of these are seaports of 4000 or 5000 souls each; the last is celebrated for its export of coffee, but its population does not exceed 8000 souls at most. There are numerous fishing villages along the coast, and some inland hamlets; the district is now partially occupied by the Turks.
Yemen. Under this title are included thirty mountain district, dependent on the "imam" or prince of Yemen, who resides at Sanaa, the capital, a town which is said, in the extent of its edifices and gardens, to have once rivaled Damascus, but which at present scarcely contains 20,000 inhabitants. It is surrounded by turreted walls, with seven gates: the mosques, public baths, and market place are all modern. Inland there are several small independent states, accurately enumerated by Niebuhr, the best, or rather the only authority for what regards this part of Arabia. In extent Yemen constitutes about one-tenth of the superficies of the peninsula. It is thickly peopled throughout, with countless villages; the nomads are few in number. It has been recently invaded by the Turks.
Jowf, a large oasis in the desert, adjoining Yemen on the east. It contains the ancient capital of south Arabia, Mareb, with the ruins of the famous dyke that bears its name, besides many villages. The inhabitants are warlike; the country is said to be fruitful, but little is known of it with certainty, nor has any European ever visited it.
Nejran, an independent province on the north-east of Yemen. It is fertile and thickly peopled; the inhabitants are mostly villagers, and belong to a sect allied to that of the Beyadees in Oman. The principal town, situated on the highroad of Sanaa, bears the same name as the district.
Kallat-Bisha, Shahran, Kahtan, Taslees, Belad-el-Kobeyel, and others-small districts, each governed by its own sheikhs, except the last named, of which the inhabitants are chiefly nomade; the others are agricultural. They are situated to the east and north of Yemen, on the confines of Nejd.
Hadramaut, an extensive region, occupying the south-east-coast and inland. Neibuhr, our best authority for this part of Arabia, as for Yemen, describes it as being divided into several small principalities, of which Shiban on the south, and Ainad further north, are the chief. The only towns really known are Dafar and Kesheen, ports of the coast; they are both small and unimportant. The inhabitants are all governed by their own chiefs. Of their race and language mention has been mafe before; their mode of life is partly nomade, partly settled.
Mahrah, a continuation of Hadramaut northwards, up to Ras-el-Hadd. Its inhabitants, who appear to be the least civilized among all the Arab races, pay an irregular allegiance to the sultan of Oman. The country is said to be sandy, and thinly people; the Bedouin tribes of Al-Morrah and Aboo-Alse frequent its pasturages.
(B) North and Center of Arabia
Returning inland, we find the north and centre of Arabia thus divided:-
Jowf, an oasis south of the Syrian frontier. It contain seven principal and some smaller villages. The population is set down at 40,000 souls; they are governed by an emeer, who depends on the prince of Shomer.
Teyma, a thinly-peopled district west of Jowf. Its inhabitants are mostly Bedouin, and each clan obeys its own sheikh. The total population is 12,000.00
Kheybar, a collection of small villages and encampments on the north-west of the Hejaz; several of the tribes inhabiting it are of Jewish origin. The population is given at 25,000.
Jebel Shomer, an important province, including the mountain ranges of Aja and Solma south of Jowf. Its capital, Hayel, stands on the highroad between Bosrah and Medinah; it possesses a public market-place, and may contain about 15,000 or 16,000 souls. The villages of the province are forty; the total population 162,000, who are given to agricultural and pastoral pursuits in about equal proportions. The emeer or prince is hereditary, and allied with, though not dependent on, the government of Nejd.
Upper Kaseem, an oblong strip of land, lying between the mountains of Shomer and the valley of Lower Kaseem, which latter belongs to Nejd. The soil is sandy, but not unfertile. It contains about twenty villages, besides many hamlets. The population is stated at 35,000. This district is subject to the emeer of Shomer.
The principal Bedouin tribes of this part of Arabia are the Shomer, who indeed have given their name to the province; the Sherarat; the Howeytat; the Benoo-Ateeyah; the Maaz; the Tey, a very ancient and famous tribe, of southern origin, whose emigration hither dates from many centuries before Mahomet; and the Wahhideyah. The total population is estimated at 166,000 souls; but this does not include the Bedouins of Teyma and Kheybar, who together, it is said, muster an equal number.
There remains Nejd, a name including the whole central inhabitable district of Arabia, and which is divided into nine provinces. They are as follows:--
Ared, the centre province, in which the present Wahhabee capital, Riad, is situated. The town is very ancient, and has a population of 30,000. it possesses a palace, where the sultan of Nejd resides, and many of other considerable buildings. The fortifications are extensive, but of unbaked brick only, as are also the dwellings of the town; near Riad may still be seen the ruins of the ancient capital, Dereyeeah, demolished by Ibrahim Pasha in 1817. Besides Riad, Ared contains many villages so large as to merit the name of towns; the land is generally fertile, cultivation abounds, and the total population exceeds, it is said, 100,000.
Sedeyr, an extensive province, north of Ared, and situated in the highlands of the Toweyk mountain chain. Its principal town, Mejmaa, is fortified, Arab fashion; the ancient towns, Jelajib, Toweym, and others are situated here. The number of large villages is twenty-five; the entire population is 140,000. they are a brave and intelligent race, and furnish the choicest contingent to the Wahhabee armies.
Yemamah, a fertile district, south of Ared, celebrated in all ages of Arab history for the bravery of its men and the beauty of its women. It forms an important part of the Wahhabee empire. Its principal town in Manfoohah; but it includes many others, such as Khorj, the neighbourhood of which, from its fertility, is called the paradise of Nejd; the number of inhabitants is said to equal that of Sedeyr.
Hareek, a mountainous oasis on the extreme southern verge of Nejd, at the commencement of the great desert, or Dahna. Principal town, Hootah. The inhabitants are all zealous Wahhabee; their number is stated at 14,000. the villages are 16 in number.
Aflaj, a small land hilly district south-west of Ared. The inhabitants are Wahhabees, and number 16,000; the villages, of which Jharfah is the chief, are twelve in all.
Wadi Dowasir, a long shallow valley, reaching down from Aflaj in the direction of Yemen; the soil is sandy and unproductive. It contains fifty small villages, besides hamlets, and the population is estimated at 100,000, all Wahhabees. They have a bad reputation for illiberality and meanness of disposition.
Soleyel, also a Wahhabee province. It forms the junction between Wadi Dowasir and Yemen, its principal town bears the same name as the district. Its villages are given at twenty-five, its inhabitants at 30,000.
Woshem, a small, compact, but important district west of Ared of which it is the key. Its principal town, Doramah, offered a determined resistance to Ibrahim Pasha in 1817. Here, too, is Shakrah, a large commercial center; Kowey, near which was fought the decisive battle between the Egyptian and Wahhabee troops; and other villages, twenty in all. Inhabitants, 80,000, all Wahhabees. The country is well supplied with water, and the ground productive.
Kaseem, a wide fertile valley west of Woshem, and belonging to the Wahhabee government. It possesses three large towns-Onezzah, Bereydah, and Rass-besides about 60 villages and numerous hamlets. The inhabtants are a busy and thriving, but not a very warlike race; they are computed at 300,000. These district constitute Nejd proper, and form the bulk of the present Wahhabee monarchy.
(C) East Coast of Arabia. Hasa
Coming now to the east coast, we find Hasa, a large province occupying almost the whole region conterminous with the upper half of the Persian Gulf. Its principal town, Hofhoof, possesses a remarkable fortress, said to be of Karmathian constructions, besides a large market-place and several handsome buildings. Close by is the more modern town of Mebarrez, almost equaling the capital itself in size. The province is in general well-watered and fertile; the number of villages about fifty, that of the population 160,000. this region belongs to the Wahhabee government, but has lately been occupied by the Turks.
Kateef, a small, marshy, but fertile district on the shores of the Persian Gulf, directly opposite to Bahreyn. It belongs, like Hasa, to the Wahhabees; the principal town, also called Kateef, was once the residence of the dreaded Karmathian princes. The climate is unhealthy; the population is estimated at about 100,000 souls.
The most considerable nomade tribes in this district are the Ajman, Benoo-Hajr, Benoo-Khalid, Meteyr, Oteybah, Sebaa, Kahtan, Harb (a numerous and warlike clan), Anezeh, and Almorrah. Their whole number does not probably exceed 80,000 the nomade population of central Arabia bearing no proportion to the settled, whereas a reverse condition exists on the northern frontier, and above all in the Syrian desert.
Continuing our review of the eastern districts, we next find --
Bahreyn (Bahrein), a name given to the two large islands of of Menameh and Moharrek, both celebrated for pearl fisheries off their shores. They are governed by a chief of their own, of the family name of Khaleefah; but pay an uncertain allegiance, sometimes to the government of Baghdad, sometimes to that of Oman. Numerous villages cover the islands, of which the soil is fertile; but the chief resources of the inhabitants are maritime and commercial. Population 70,000.
Katar (Qatar), the pearl-fishery coast east of Hasa. Its inhabitants, said to be 135,000 in number, find an almost exclusive occupation in the pearl trade; inland the region is barren and desert. This province depends on the chiefs of Bahreyn, but it also pays tribute to Oman.
Sharjah, a coast strip, with a seaport of the same name, east of Katar. It belongs to Oman, but has been often occupied by the Wahhabees. Sharjah is a great depot for slaves brough from the east African coast; the inhabitants are mostly concerned in the trade. The province counts thirty-five villages and 85,000 inhabitants. The present governor, Khalid-ebn-Sakar, whose authority also extends over the two next districts, is almost independent of the sultan of Mascat.
Roos-el-Jebal, also known as the Jowasimah, or Private Coast. The chief village, Ras-el-Kheymah, was destroyed by the English in 1810, and again in 1819; although since rebuilt, it has ceased to be a nest of robbers. This coast is very mountainous, and the inhabitants, mostly Wahhabees, are savage in the extreme. Their number is said not to exceed 10,000; they speak a dialect of their own, almost unintelligible to the Arabs of the neighbourhood.
Kalhat, the coast region east of Cape Mesandom. Its principal village is the small seaport of Leemah; the other hamlets are about forty in number. The population, a rough seafaring set, is stated at 60,000.
Batineh. This district includes the whole plain between the mountains of Oman and the sea-coast as far as Ras-Heyran, east of Mascat. It is the richest, best-watered, and most thickly populated in all Arabia, and contains several considerable towns, of which Mascat is the chief; and where the sultan or, as he is sometimes called, imam, of Oman resides. The other principal towns are Matrah, Barkah, Sohar, and Shenaz, all seaports of some activity along the coast; more than seventy other small towns and villages are reported to be scattered through the interior. The population, all Biadeeyah, and mortal enemies of the Arabs of Nejd, is said to be 700,000.
Dahirah, the north-western province of Oman, having for its principal town that of Bereymah, besides several places of less importance. It is the only district where the nomade population bears any proportion to the settled: the total population is given at 80,000. The Wahhabees of Nejd have often occupied and still continue to harass this part of the country.
Jebel Akhdar. This province, including the great fertile and well-people chain of the "Green Mountains," is to the kingdom of Oman what the province of Ared is to that of Nejd, the backbone of the land. Here are the two towns of Nejwah and Bahhileh, formerly residences of the sultan; besides Zekee, Minah, and about seventy villages. The inhabitants are warlike, the women stately and beautiful; all belong to the sect of the Biadeeyah. The population is stated at about 600,000.
Belad Soor, a coast district, said to be moderately fertile from Mascat to Ras-el-Hadd. The port of Soor is the only of any place of any note, but several small villages are said to exist near the coast. Population about 100,000; among them are the Benoo-Aboo-Alee Arabs, famous for their brave resistance to our troops in 1819-20.
Lastly, Jaylan, a wild region of which little is known, except that the inhabitants are uncivilized, and resemble in all respect those of Mahrah, with which province theirs is conterminous.
Read the rest of this article:
Arabia - Table of Contents