Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia Online

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Subject: Middle East and Islamic Studies

Compiled and written by: John Gordon Lorimer

The Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia is one of the most important European primary sources for the study of the modern Gulf region from the 17th to the early 20th century. The Gazetteer offers the fullest account of the state of knowledge of the region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and as such is both an unique and important tool for researchers.

Genealogical charts of the ruling families of the region will be added at a later date.


The Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia Online is based on the well-known Gazetteer written by John Gordon Lorimer (1870 - 1914). In addition to Lorimer’s famous Gazetteer, this online reference work also contains official documents in Arabic and English and includes reports about the region published by various departments of the British Government.

The original collection of all these materials adds up to about 6,400 pages in print. These have all been digitized and scanned with OCR software. The OCR result has been converted to full-xml files that preserve the structure of the original sources. Lorimer’s work – about 5,000 pages, including the 2,000 pages of the Geographical and Statistical Gazetteer, published in print as Volume 2 – is divided into 12 chapters and appendices, all now transformed into almost 1,000 separate xml files with an index added. A further 200 xml files cover the added official documents and other publications.

The pages, both in English and Arabic, have been digitized to the highest possible standards. Because of the physical condition of the original documents, there were a few pages with text that proved to be unreadable or not entirely suitable for automated OCR scanning; in such cases the wording “[Illegible text]” appears at the corresponding locations in the digital files. The original images and illustrations have also been digitized and each is presented at its corresponding location in the text. The many tables in the original source have been converted to full-text tables in XML. To enhance cross-referencing, hyperlinks to the Geographical Dictionary have been inserted throughout the digital texts. The 2,000-page Geographical Dictionary provides detailed information describing towns and villages, religion, tribes, dialects, districts, taxation, architecture, natural features, systems of administration, and archaeology, and now functions as a clickable glossary and index to this monumental work.

The Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia Online offers a great advantage to researchers because its full-text xml character allows for easy online searching and browsing.

VOLUME 1: Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia, by J.G. Lorimer. Superintendent Government Printing, Calcutta, India. 1915
  • 1. General History of the Persian Gulf Region
  • 2. The Oman Sultanate
  • 3. Trucial 'Oman
  • 4. History of Qatar
  • 5. History of Bahrain
  • 6. History of Hasa
  • 7. History of Kuwait
  • 8. History of Najd or Central Arabia
  • 9. History of Turkish 'Iraq
  • 10. History of 'Arabistan
  • 11. Persian Coast and Islands
  • 12. Persian Makrān
  • Appendices
  • VOLUME 2: Geographical and Statistical Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, 'Omān, and Central Arabia
  • Geographical Dictionary
  • Official documents
  • Treaties and Undertakings in force between the British Government and the Sultans of Maskat and Oman, 1845 - 1914
  • Undertakings of a confidential nature between the Trucial Chiefs of Oman and the British Government
  • Treaties and Undertakings in force between the British Government and the Rulers of Kuwait
  • Treaties and Undertakings in force between the British Government and the Rulers of Bahrain
  • Treaties and Agreements between the British Governement and Certain Arab Rulers and between these Rulers, Inter Se
  • Reports and Handbooks of the British Government
  • Persian Gulf, Naval Staff report June 1919
  • Persian Gulf, Handbook June 1919
  • Historical Summary of Events in Territories of the Ottoman Empire, Persia and Arabia
  • Persian Gulf Pilot
  • Military Report on the Arabian Shores of the Persian Gulf, Kuwait, Bahrein, Hasa, Qatar, Trucial Oman and Oman. 1933.
  • Military Report and Route Book The Arabian States of the Persian Gulf 1939
  • Introduction to Volume 1

    The Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, 'Omān and Central Arabia consists of two volumes, the first volume being a history of the Persian Gulf Region and its surrounding countries, the second a geographical dictionary covering the same area. The second volume was published in 1908. The first volume had been all but completed for the Press by the late Mr. Lorimer at the time of his death in the beginning of 1914, the only portions in fact of the work then remaining to be written being the "Introduction and the Table of contents." These have been prepared and the volume completed for the Press by the undersigned. The explanation of the "system of transliteration" referred to in the last paragraph of the introduction to the second volume, has for convenience of binding been formed into a separate note and will be found as Appendix S. A full explanation as to the division and contents of the second volume has been given by Mr. Lorimer in the introduction to that work (The introduction to Volume 2 is added below) and it only remains therefore to give a similar explanation in regard to Volume I.

    Volume I has been divided into twelve chapters geographically: Chapter 1 deals with the Persian Gulf region as a whole and the remaining chapters with each of the main political divisions in turn into which that region is divided, commencing with 'Oman, continuing with the States on the Western shores of the Gulf, Central Arabia, Turkish Iraq, the Persian districts on the eastern shores of the Gulf and ending with the chapter on Makrān. Each of the above chapters has been sub-divided into certain definite "periods" covering in some cases the reign of a Shāh or Sultān, the rule of a Shaikh, the regime of a Viceroy, and in others arbitrary divisions of time based on outstanding land-marks in the history of the State concerned. Each of these "periods" follows similar though not identical lines, referring in turn to the topics most prominent during the particular "period" under review.

    Under such a system it follows necessarily that a topic of considerable prominence during one period may have no sequel in the period immediately following though it may possibly be, and often is, continued in a later one. In order therefore to enable the reader to follow up the thread of any one particular subject a "detailed table of contents" has been prepared on the following lines.

    1. The various ''periods" 3 in each chapter have been given a number. Each period has again been subdivided into "subject headings" each of which has been lettered.
    2. When any particular subject is continued in a later period an entry to that effect in italics immediately below the "subject heading" concerned has been made, giving the number of the "period" and the letter of the "subject heading" in which the continuation will be found.
    3. It should be noted however that though the above system has been found capable of application in the majority of chapters and periods, instances occur throughout the volume in which special subjects (especially British policy and relations) are so inextricably woven into the general history of the State under review that no definite subdivision of its "periods" into "subject headings" is possible and in such cases the sequel to a particular Subject can only be traced by a careful perusal of the general text.
    4. In addition to the twelve chapters referred to above Volume I includes a number of Appendices, also written by the late Mr. Lorimer dealing separately with subjects of special importance or interest in the Persian Gulf Region, and also a series of genealogical trees of the ruling families of States in the same area.

    For convenience of binding Volume I has been divided into three parts.

    1. Part I consists of the first nine chapters, i.e., the General History of the Persian Gulf Region, the Histories of 'Oman, of the Arab States on the western shores of the Persian Gulf, of Central Arabia and of Turkish 'Iraq, in fact of what may conveniently be termed the "Arabian" portion of the Volume.
    2. Part II consists of the remaining three chapters, i.e., of the Histories of 'Arabistan, of the Persian Coast and Islands, and of Makran, in other words of the "Persian" section of the work and of the Appendices.
    3. Part III consists of a portfolio. containing genealogical trees, maps, etc. [Note: this part is not (yet) included in this online version]


    SIMLA, 10th October 1914.

    Introduction to Volume 2

    This second volume of the Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, 'Omān and Central Arabia is a geographical dictionary, presenting, in a series of alphabetically arranged articles, a detailed account of the physical and political conditions of the Persian Gulf and its surrounding countries. For a description of the Gulf region as a whole, however, the reader is referred to the Introduction to the first volume of this Gazetteer, some of the Appendices in which also deal with subjects of a general or statistical nature. The information contained in the Gazetteer has been specially collected or compiled, and much of it is entirely new.

    Of the articles composing the present volume those that are enumerated below, relating to the chief political divisions of the Gulf region and covering among them the whole of its extent, are the most important; they stand, in fact, on a different footing from the remainder, which are subordinate and explanatory; and they contain in themselves all that it is most essential to know in regard to the Persian Gulf.

    The principal articles in question are these:

    1. 'Omān Sultanate
    2. 'Omān (Trucial)
    3. Qatar
    4. Bahrain Principality
    5. Hasa Sanjāq
    6. Kuwait Principality
    7. Najd, supplemented by articles on Najd (Southern), Qasītr, and Shammar(Jabal)
    8. 'Irāq (Turkish)
    9. 'Arabistān, supplemented by articles on 'Arabistān (Northern) and 'Arabistān (Southern)
    10. Persian Coast, supplemented by the articles on the component districts, mentioned in the article itself and too numerous to be specified here
    11. Makrān (Coast of Persian)

    All these articles follow similar though not identical lines; and the topics discussed in each, though the order of arrangement is not invariable, are generally as follow:

    • Boundaries and sub-divisions of the tract.
    • Physical character and main features, viz., mountains, rivers, etc.
    • Climate and seasons.
    • Natural products, vegetable, animal and mineral.
    • Agriculture and crops.
    • Livestock, including transport animals.
    • Inhabitants, with reference to racial and tribal distinctions, religious differences, mode of life, character, language, customs, dress and arms; also estimates of population.
    • Trade, internal and external, with a notice of currency, weights and measures; also shipping, manufactures and industries, and miscellaneous occupations.
    • Communications by land and water, with descriptions of routes and estimates of transport.
    • Administration and government, especially police, justice, military resources, taxation and finance, and political constitution.
    • International position and foreign interests, especially British, and their representation in the country.

    Some of the principal articles contain in addition a paragraph on topography, dealing with that subject in so far as it has not been exhausted in subordinate articles; and a list of useful authorities and maps is given in a footnote at the beginning of each principal article. The fullest and most general information in regard to meteorology and health, date culture, transport animals and livestock, religions and sects, trade, sailing vessels, fisheries, pearl fisheries and postal and telegraphic communications will be found, however, not in the articles above cited, but in Appendices, which the reader will have no difficulty in finding, in the first volume of the Gazetteer.

    The subordinate articles deal in greater detail with the districts; places, tribes, etc., of which mention is made in the principal articles; and, to facilitate reference, names which form the subjects of separate articles have been printed in bold type throughout this volume. In subordinate articles on districts and tracts the arrangement and method of treatment are somewhat the same as in principal articles; but, so far as possible, repetition of the information already given in principal articles is avoided. Topographical information has generally been thrown into tabular form in order to avoid an excessive multiplication of separate articles, and most wells, villages of minor importance, etc., will be found described in the articles on the district to which they belong, or on the river, valley, etc., where they are situated. It has not been possible to prepare an index of these smaller places, and they, should accordingly be looked for first in the article on the appropriate district or, in a few cases, the main division, and then in the other articles containing topographical tables to which the article first consulted may afford a clue. The map issued with this Gazetteer will be found useful in tracing the articles in which minor features and places are described.

    The reader should understand that estimates of distance, where they depend on native information only, are not very reliable; and that a good deal of the geography—especially of the remoter Arabian districts—is more or less conjectural, though no pains have been spared in testing, where possible, the account of one native informant by that of another. Estimates of population are necessarily very rough and have generally been derived, subject to other checks, from numbers of houses and from reputed tribal fighting strengths; it appears to be the general opinion that on the average there are about five souls to a "house '' in settled populations, and that among nomads the proportion capable of bearing arms is about two-sevenths of the whole tribe. The figures for livestock and other agricultural resources have generally been obtained through untrained native reporters and cannot be regarded as altogether trustworthy, but they explain the general character of tracts and help to determine the relative importance of villages in the same neighbourhood. The common statement that water is" good "must be received with caution, for in many cases it probably means no more than that its taste is not disagreeable and that it may be drunk with impunity by natives of the country.

    It remains to define the sense in which some of the terms used in this Gazetteer are employed. When distances are computed by the" hour, "a pedestrian's hour of about three miles in ordinary ground is meant; but, when" days "are mentioned without a qualifying adjective, the reference is to the daily journey of a caravan, which may be anything from 25 to 30 miles. A "day" by riding camel may be taken as the double or more, in mileage, of a caravan day. "Miles" are common land miles, except where it is stated that they are geographical or nautical. By the "right" and "left" banks of rivers and valleys are meant those banks which a traveller would have on his right and left hand, respectively, in descending with the stream or slope. The term "foot" is used to indicate the end furthest from the sea of a bay or inlet; and "depth" , in the same connection, sometimes refers not to the soundings but to the depth of the indentation formed in the coast line, the sense in this case depending on the context.

    The system of transliteration followed in this volume is that explained in the Introduction to the first volume.

    J. G. LORIMER.

    STRATHMARTINE, DUNDEE:24th December 1908.