1902 Encyclopedia > Oneiza, Nejd , Arabia


ONEIZA, or ANEYSA, a town in the Neflid or sand country of Al-Kasfm and, after Riad, the most considerable place in Nejd or highland Arabia, appears to have been founded about 500 years ago,1 near the now ruined village of Jennah (settled some centuries before by colonists of the Bani Khalid). These new places were in the circuit of the old Banf Tamfm towns destroyed by the sword of Khalid b. Walfd, whose sites are now named Al-Tyarfa (3.1anzil Tyar) and Al-Owshazfa. Colonists of the Kaisite stock of Sbeya Arabs were the first builders of `Oneiza, and the emirs of the township are still of this blood. After them came in colonists of the Tamfm, who now form the chief element in the population. The old faction warfare between the villages Jennah and `Oneiza was incessant, and the Bani Khalid had the greatest name in Nejd till the rise of the Wahhabite power. Jennah then made alliance with the Montefilf Arabs in the north ; `Oneida sided with the Wahhabites, and, these soon overrunning all, a part of the Jennah villagers abandoned their country, and went to live in Mesopotamia, and the rest came in to inhabit `Oneiza. The site of their old village is now in the orchards of `Oneiza, enclosed by the common town-wall.

`Oneiza is built upon an old sell (freshet) strand (2600 feet above sea-level), and has been sometimes damaged by floods ; the houses are of clay; the population, greatly increased, as Mr Doughty was told, in the fifteen years preceding his visit, was computed by him at nearly 7000. The site is near the great Wadi al-Romma (comp. Yalat, iii. 738), and beyond the wadi, at 11 miles' distance, is the other great township of Middle Nejd, Boreida, less than `Oneiza, with a population probably of 5000.

The people of these and the neighbouring towns, as AlRuss,1 are in great part caravaners and merchants ; they are the Lombards of Arabia, and are called in the Mecca country "the easterlings," and in the Syrian and Mesopotamian border-lands the `Azeil. These world-wandering men are commonly of easy, liberal mind in doctrines of religion, whilst the large half of their home-dwelling fellow-citizens are sour Wahhabites. In these upper parts of the peninsula we see yet some remains of the ancient Arabian civilization, Here is found the art, elsewhere lost, of stone-cutting and well-building ; and at `Oneiza are goldsmiths whose work is among the best seen in the bazaars of Mecca. `Oneiza has an appearance of commercial prosperity, but the poor farmers are much indebted to the money-lenders. The townsmen are among the greatest coffee-drinkers in Arabia. The horse-dealers of `Oneiza procure young horses from the nomads round the town, even as far as Yemen, and ship these (known in India as "`Oneiza horses") at Koweyt for Bombay.

When Ibrahim Pasha marched to Nejd against the Wahhabite power this town was held by a resident for Ibn Sa'dd. Ibrahim shelled the clay fortress, but allowed the governor to depart with arms and baggage. After the building of Al-Riad 'Oneiza fell again to the Wahhabites. Jellowwy, a brother of the Wahhabite prince Feysel ibn Sa'ad, was resident, but, bearing himself oppressively, he was expelled, as had been determined in a secret council of the sheikhs. This brought Ibn Sa'ad with all Nejd under arms, and the Shammar prince Ibis Rashid, to recover the rebellious town. He encamped upon the borders of the Wadi al-Romma, and lay there till the second year (1853-54), but attempted nothing (since Arabs cannot be commanded or led to storm a clay town-wall even if, as in this case, it is no more than 18 inches thick), and then departed, making peace with the townsmen upon their own terms. A second war followed after eight years. Abdullah a]-Aziz al-Mohammed, the natural prince of Boreida, worsted by the Wahfaction, fled to 'Oneiza ; and a little later, when he was going to take refuge with the sherif of Mecca, the Wahhabites lay in wait for him in the desert and killed him. Word being carried to 'Oneiza, the townsmen sent out armed men, who overtook and fought with them because they had killed the guest of 'Oneiza, thus drawing a new conflict on the town. Mohammed, another brother of the prince Ibn Sa'ad, came against 'Oneiza, and all subject Arabia in arms with him ; and to meet this multitude 'Oneiza had little more than 1000 men. The Wahhabites had cannon, but could not handle them ; the 'Oneizians, in their walled township, followed their daily labours at leisure. The citizens made one sally in force, but after heavy fighting were driven back with a loss of 200 men. There were two slighter skirmishes in long months of warfare. At length the besiegers, impatient of the time vainly spent, drew homeward, and Ibn Sa'ad returned to Al-Riad.

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