a collection of notes on areas of personal interest
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The Gulf is one of the two direct routes through this region by which passage from the Far East could be gained to the West. Its security has been perceived to be vital to those seeking to move materials through it, and has been the reason for the interest shown in it by a number of European, Arab and Ottoman powers. It was or is bounded on its east side by Persia – present day Iran, and on the west by the Arabian peninsula containing Saudi Arabia and the various Emirates including the associated islands of Bahrain. Iraq has access to the north end of the Gulf through the port of Basra.
As I mentioned on another page I generally refer to the Persian Gulf – its officially recognised name – as the Gulf though, to those on the Arabic side of that body of water, it is commonly referred to as the Arabian Gulf.
A particular characteristic of the Gulf is the relatively small marine passage at the Straights of Hormuz – between the United Arab Emirates and Iran – that allows marine traffic access from the Indian Ocean via the Arabian Sea to the Gulf.
The Gulf was the setting for the development of both strong maritime and land empires, attracting interest not only from the land masses adjacent to it, but also from further afield such as Europe to its west and the Indian sub-continent to its east. In fact it formed the western edge of the British Indian Empire from which its interests were controlled or administered rather than from Britain. It enjoyed a strong maritime economy based on the city states developed on its littoral though it might be considered that there were four arenas which governed development alongside it:
These played a part alone or in concert in the urbanisation of the region with the pressures from tribal expansion resulting in the development of urban settlements.
The earlier historical importance of the Gulf was due to its being situated at the south end of the eastern tip of the fertile crescent – that part of the Middle East which formed the cradle of so many civilisations. It stretched from present day Syria north and east through Turkey, then south along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, ending at Basra at the head of the Gulf. There is evidence to demonstrate that interest in this area goes back at least five thousand years, and arguments have been put forward that not only was the island of Bahrain the location of the legendary civilisation of Dilmun but, more tenuously, that it might also have been the location of the Garden of Eden. Dilmun was contemporary and traded with the great civilisations of the region now situated in the modern states of Syria, Iraq and Iran. These relationships, along with those it established with other trading partners, are recorded in the Code of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) – a product of Mesepotamian legislation which was designed to ensure honesty in trading. There is considerable evidence that trading on boats within the Gulf goes back at least to the third millenium BC, and that there is the probability of shipping in the region long before this date.
Although there is no evidence that Qatar was directly involved in the activities of Dilmun, there is certainly evidence of people living on the Qatar peninsula thousands of years ago. One of the more visual pieces of evidence can be seen on the limestone outcrops at al Jassassiyah where petroglyphs have been incised into the rock adjacent to the foreshore. It is thought that they are a combination of both illustration as well as a game played with small stones, both shown in this photograph. There are modern games played with stones and holes such as this, known as al aa’ilah and al haluwsah, and it is thought they are descended from these carvings. They are similar to manqala, a traditional game which goes back thousands of years to the Nabataean civilisation.
The Persian Gulf was first mapped almost two thousand years ago by Ptolemy. The first illustration is a copy of that first map and was made in the fifteenth century. You can see that the Gulf is shown as an almost land-locked body of water with a small number of islands shown at its north-east shore. The Straits of Hormuz are shown as being relatively wide and the Gulf itself has an amorphous shape to it. The map clearly illustrates the important position which the Gulf enjoys in its relationship with the Red Sea and Africa to its west, and the Indian sub-continent to its east. This pattern is replicated in the second illustration which is a detail of the Cantino world map of 1502 which appears to be heavily influenced by the upper map, though the Aden coast and India are represented differently.
Part of a map created by the French cartographer, Jacques-Nicolas Bellin in 1740, this illustration focusses on the coast rather than the hinterland of the Gulf, paying particular attention to the pearl banks, a major area of importance at that time. As can be seen, the map is not that accurate, showing the Bahrein islands oversized and suggesting that Qatar – written as ‘Katara’ – was a part of the Saudi hinterland and not the strongly modeled peninsula it really is. Like the map below, this may have had something to do with the difficult navigable character of the shallow waters between Saudi, Bahrein and Qatar. But is should also be noted that the mainland of the Saudi peninsula is named ‘Bahrayn’, a term referring to the baharnah, said to be shi’ite arabs related to the traditional tribes of the Saudi peninsula and the Qatif oasis – here written as ‘Al Katif’. The lower photograph has been added to illustrate something of the character of the shallow water in this part of the Gulf, and the possible difficulties associated with access to it for the purposes of mapping.
Here are two later maps, the first made by Jean Baptiste Bourguignon, and published in Paris by J.B.B. D’Anville in 1776. Although there were maps around this time which showed Qatar with varying degrees of accuracy, it is notable that this map omits it stating, though you can’t read it at this scale, that the eastern shore is ‘unknown’. But it clearly shows the islands of Bahrein, with the general shape and configuration of the Gulf being more recognisable, even if it is narrower than other maps illustrated and, of course, reality. By this time badu tribes were using the pensinsula regularly and, with the British and Indian interests being focussed in Bahrein, it might be thought unusual that the Qatar peninsula was not mapped at that proximity from Bahrein, and with Bahrein having an interest at least in Zubara. The second map, published again in Paris, but in 1797, is very similar to that shown a little way above but omitting the name ‘katara’. The width of the Gulf is here shown to be a little wider.
In fact at this time mapping was based in great part on interviews with local Arabs, and it is not surprising that important features and relationships were omitted or given undue prominence. The peninsula of Qatar seems to have been used as a marker of territories, its western coast marking the early understanding of Bahrein which was seen to be the area from Qatar in its east to Kuwait in its west; and its eastern coast marking the early understanding of Oman which was seen to be the area from Qatar in its West to the Oman in its east.
Reflecting its growing strategic importance, it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that maps illustrating the Gulf began to appear with the Qatar peninsula illustrated, this one published in 1903 showing something of its characteristic shape. Bear in mind that this was published a hundred and fifty years after the more recent activities and urbanisation within the peninsula. In this the maps reflected the interest, or lack of it, shown by those using the waters of the Gulf, but surprising when the importance of this region at that time is considered.
Originally, the Qatar peninsula differed from much of the hinterland in having a population that was mainly transient, tribes bringing their animals into the peninsula only during the winter months to benefit from the plants brought on by the winter rains in their dirah – the areas of land over which they claimed a right to graze. Here, to the right, two badu drive part of their tribe’s herd into the peninsula, an operation that takes place rapidly. I came across this group a long way from any track, and they passed and were out of sight in minutes.
The transient nature of migration placed constraints on the Ruler of Qatar whose strength was, in large measure, derived from his ability to control those living on the lands over which he claimed sovereignty. Customarily his control extended over tribes upon whom he could enforce the payment of zakaat or taxes and, as many of these owed their primary allegiances to the Wahhabi, the Ruler of Qatar had to have a finely developed political sense. Only two tribes could really be considered to be resident in the peninsula in the early days: the large tribe of the Bani Hajir with its roots in the Hasa district of what is now Saudi Arabia, and the smaller Kaban with its relationships in Bahrain.
But the peninsula had additionally been used on its littoral as an important trading base within the Gulf, and this seems to have been operating at the same time as badu moved around the peninsula, sometimes in conflict with the more settled littoral developments. This maritime tradition goes back centuries if not millennia.
With time a degree of settlement was attained in the peninsula though, due to the lack of records, it is difficult to be accurate with regard to dates until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when British, Egyptian and Ottoman interests in the region created more documentation relating particularly to the strategic and political issues that were of concern to their respective governments.
Conceptually it has been difficult to state ownership of the peninsula until relatively recently. The legal definition of the peninsula has only lately been settled and there has always been a difference in describing both boundaries as well as the extent of influence of those with an interest in the region. However, the first recorded ruler of Qatar was noted in 628 as belonging to the al-Musallam, a tribe that was part of the larger al-Tamim and based at Furaiha, a town two miles north of Zubara. Ottoman sources also confirm that the al-Musallam were still in charge of the peninsula in 1555, and based at al-Huwaylah.
It seems to be agreed that the principal badu tribes who migrated to the Qatar peninsula were the Al Murrah and Al Ajman from Hasa; the Al Manasir from Trucial Oman; and the Na’im, fluctuating between Bahrain and Trucial Oman. The dispersed pattern of these tribes’ origins, and their annual migratory patterns, demonstrates the degree of difficulty that was inherent in attempting to maintain control of the peninsula.
The most populous of the hadhar, or settled people, in the peninsula were the Sultan, Mahandah, Sudan, Al Bu Kawarah, Hamaydat, Huwalah, Al Buainain and the Al bin Ali. There were also a few Shia Arabs known as Baharinah, and Huwalah Arabs – Sunni Muslims who had lived on the Persian side of the Gulf and returned at a later date. In addition to the Persians there were also a number of Africans brought in as slaves but who were manumitted and assimilated within the Qatar society.
I have written a little more about the badu tribes on the population page, which include a couple of graphic illustrations to show where the families came from and where they settled. I should also state that I have made these notes from verbal sources as well as four or five written sources, the most important of which are the three books by Zahlan and that by Habibur Rahman which I particularly recommend to anybody wishing to learn more.
This simplified map and that a couple of paragraphs lower down the page have been placed here for rapid reference even though some of the locations of interest or importance on both sides of the Gulf, as well as those further down the coast, may be missing. Many of the locations are difficult to locate accurately, are relatively small, no longer exist or have had their names changed. A slightly more accurate map and accurate locations of places within Qatar are given on the geography page but if anybody could point me to a more accurate map suited to this page, I would be grateful.
The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw settlement around and within the peninsula with the development of what were, effectively, city states on the littoral of the Gulf. Kuwait at the head of the Gulf, Manama on Bahrein, Zubara and Bida on Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras al Khaimah at the east end of the Gulf were all established as, perhaps, tribal outposts and settlements from which to maintain control on the increasingly lucrative pearling trade.
The pearling fleets of Qatar and Bahrein were significant in their sizes, each supporting around six hundred to eight hundred boats in season, slightly more than the third largest area, that on the Shibkuh coast on the Persian side of the Gulf. Smaller fleets were based in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and at Lengeh on the Persian shores. Small fleets also sailed from Ras al Khaimah and Umm al Quwain at the east end of the Gulf, and Qatif, the latter north-west of Bahrein on the Saudi littoral. This sketch, based on an illustration by Lorimer, shows the location of the main pearl banks, with Qatar obviously well placed to have access to them. Lorimer wrote, apropos the banks off Zubara, ‘In this bay are the best, the most copious pearl-fisheries of the Persian Gulf’.
This development of tribal power brought those on the peninsula into varying degrees of conflict with those empires having an interest in the area, particularly the Safavid, Mughal and Ottoman, though not perhaps to the same degree, with the British who, with their control of the sea routes to the Indian sub-continent were in a stronger position to make their presence, and policies, felt.
Strong maritime trade had developed over time with Basra, particularly, playing an important role at the head of the Gulf. But increasing urbanisation on the littoral saw the development of entrepôts at Bashir, Lungi and Bandar Abbas on the north side of the Gulf, and Kuwait, Manama, Zubara and Dubai on the south side. This, combined with a very relaxed attitude to duties – effectively a free port system – saw the weakening of Basrah’s importance compared with the newer ports. This was reinforced by Persian occupation of Basra in 1775 which had the effect of merchants leaving Kuwait and Basra and establishing themselves in Zubara.
Qatar was originally considered to be established by segments of the bani Utbah who emigrated from the region of Kuwait – the Al Khalifah and Al Jalahimah settling in Zubara, situated in the north-east corner of the peninsula, in 1766, a settlement there having been established there in the early seventeenth century. Zubara was a larger settlement than its closest neighbours, Huwailah and Ruwaidhah. Being excluded from Zubara, they established a fort some distance beyond the outer wall of Zubara, at Murair in 1768. However, prior to this it is likely that clans of the Al Aniza tribe stayed a short time before moving on to settle in Kuwait in the sixteenth century. In 1766 there were only three fishing villages in the peninsula – Huwaylah, Fuwairat and Doha, dominated by the Al Musallam, the Sudan and the Ma’adhid and Al bin Ali tribes respectively. The Ma’adhid, were a branch of the Bani Tamim, and the Al Thani a branch of the Ma’adhid, tradition having that they came to the Qatar peninsula in the late seventeenth century from the Jibrin oasis, a hundred and fifty miles inside the Arabian hinterland.
Conquering Bahrain in 1783 the ’Utbah moved into Bahrain and became known as the Al Khalifahs – the name of the present Rulers of Bahrain. The Al Jalahimah originally settled in Zubara on the north coast of Qatar but had difficulties with their kinsmen, the Al Khalifah and moved on to Ruwais. In settling on the mainland of Qatar it is likely that they would have had some form of agreement originally with the bani Khalid who had a general presence on the peninsula, but who were relatively weak. At that time there were a number of small villages on Qatar, most of them associated with the sea, but having a general air of impermanence about them. The largest of these settlements was at Huwaylah. A number of the Al Thani qabila living there, as they did at the two smaller littoral settlements of Doha and Fuwairat on the east of the peninsula. The Al Jalahimah and the tribes already settled within the peninsula enjoyed an uneasy co-existence and it was not long before those living at Zubara felt the need to construct a wall around three sides of the town, the sea forming the protection on its north side.
I should mention here that the Al Khalifa claimed to have given permission for the Dowasir to settle on Hawar in 1800, though this was disputed in the International Court of Justice case, convened in 2000, when it was held that Lorimer stated that the Dowasir only arrived in Bahrain in 1845 from Najd via Zakhuniyah.
The pre-eminence of Zubara lasted until the 1790s when the rise of the wahhabi in the Arabian peninsula saw them overcome al-Hasa. Having concern for both the commercial importance of Zubara as well as a belief that pluralism was being practised there, a wahhabi army attacked and overcame Zubara in 1795, other tribes in Qatar as well as Bahrain having failed to support the inhabitants in Zubara for a number of reasons. By 1802 the wahhabi had overcome Bahrain as well, thus extending their influence the length of the coast from the Shatt al-Arab to Muscat. At the end of the eighteenth century, Zubara had been the main settlement of the Qatar peninsula with Khor Hassan the second most important, but the destruction of these two settlements not only relieved the pressure on the Gulf’s coast from the maritime threat posed by forces based at these two towns, but removed the political centre of gravity to al-Bida on the east coast.
Generally settlements were established in locations where there were accessible pearl banks and the ability to provide safe anchorage for shipping. They were, in this sense, an urban expression of socio-political and economic necessity. They were also established at points which were relatively easy to protect through the medium of shoals and sand banks making approach difficult for those not knowing their location, or for those using craft with deeper draught as, generally, did the British.
The early years of the nineteenth century saw considerable political movement in the region. Much of this revolved around the resolution of leadership in Bahrain and the activities of the wahhabi.
Britain, at this time, regarded Qatar as a dependency of Bahrain, falling under the operation of the Maritime Truce of 1835. For this reason the British did not deal with Qatar when treaties were signed with Bahrain and the other Gulf Sheikhdoms. However, Qatar and other areas of the Gulf including Bahrain, had come under the influence of Muhammad Abdul Wahhab (1703-1787) and despite their claim on Qatar, the Bahraini Al Khalifahs paid tribute to the wahhabis whom they recognised as having possessions in Qatar.
1835 also saw the Bahraini ruler sending troops to attack al-Huwaylah whose strength was now beginning to worry him. The Bahrainis landed at Zubara, abandoned in 1811 and then moved to establish themselves at Fuwairat, close to al-Huwaylah. Despite being reinforced by a small number of wahhabi horsemen and infantry, the chief of al-Huwaylah sought mediation which was successful in keeping the status quo but required the demolition of al-Huwaylah and the moving of its inhabitants to Bahrain.
However, members of the Bahraini Ruler’s family induced some of the al-Kuwara of Fuwairat to attack al-Huwaylah, in the process killing a member of the chief’s family. Moving to Abu Dhabi and intent on continuing his disagreement with Bahrain, Isa bin Tarif of al-Huwaylah found himself constrained by the British who refused to allow them to continue warfare against Bahrain. The British also brought pressure to bear on the inhabitants of al-Bida and Wakra who, too, were engaged in what were considered by the British as unlawful activities, though it is evident that the British were using their power unjustly.
There then followed considerable negotiations between Isa bin Tarif, the British, the Sultan of Muscat and Egypt, the latter of whom wished to expand their interests in the region. Isa bin Tarif’s wish was to return to al-Huwaylah or al-Bida along with certain guarantees of protection from the British. In the event he asked, and was given permission, to move to Wakra which was had been deserted by the al Bu ’Ainain. This failed to come about and, following more negotiations with the British, Isa bin Tarif settled on the Persian island of Qais in 1840 where he was considered to be no threat to the stability of the region.
The following year the British shelled al-Bida in a successful attempt to deal with outlaws from Abu Dhabi who had taken refuge there. 1841 was also the first time that the al Thani appear in the various records as having significance on the peninsula.
Thani bin Muhammad bin Thani bin Ali of the Ma’adhid tribe moved to Fuwairat from Furaiha where they formed a confederation with the al Bu-Kawara of the Bani Tamimi. In 1839 the al Bu-Kuwara moved to the Persian island of Kharg, having fallen out with Bahrain over the latter’s treatment of their tribe in Bahrain. Sheikh Muhammad bin Thani, who had been born at Fuwairat, appears to have been recognised by Bahrain and the British as having pre-eminence in Qatar as the British wrote to him, through Sheikh Abdullah of Bahrain, requesting he did not allow unlawful elements to settle in Fuwairat.
In 1841 Bahraini succession problems spilled over to Khor Hassan resulting in its being abandoned and the rebuilding of Zubara begun. In 1843 a contingent left Qatar with the backing of Sheikh Muhammad bin Thani and Isa bin Tarif, and faced Bahraini forces at Rifa and beating them back to Dammam on the mainland. Instead of returning to Qais or remaining on Bahrain, Isa bin Tarif moved to al-Bida, requiring the al-Suwaidi to move to Lingah on the Persian coast. Some members of the Ma’adhid and al Bu-Kuwara tribes also moved to al-Bida though this appeared to have no effect on the authority of Muhammad bin Thani, both he and Isa bin Tarif now enjoying friendly relations with the new regime in Bahrain.
This lasted only a couple of years as Isa bin Tarif, becoming alarmed at what he considered interference by Bahrain in the north of the peninsula, changed allegiances in 1847 and moved troops up to Fuwairat. Bahraini forces landed at Zubara and marched on Fuwairat, another group following and landing at al-Khor. The battle of the 17th November 1847 saw the death of Isa bin Tarif and eighty of his men. The Bahraini force then sailed to al-Bida and demolished it, sending its inhabitants to Bahrain. What is interesting is that no Qatari tribes took part in the battle of Fuwairat but continued to administer their parts of the peninsula almost regardless of the outcome of the battle, the al Thani in Fuwairat, the al-Suwaidi in al-Bida, and the al Bu ’Ainain in Wakra.
But with the removal of the al Bu ’Ainain to Wakra, the opportunity to assume control of Doha while retaining Fuwairat was taken by Sheikh Muhammad bin Thani, who probably moved to Doha in 1850. This also gave him the opportunity to develop his commercial interests in the pearling banks and other areas in association with merchants operating in these fields.
His position was further strengthened the following year when he supported the wahhabi Amir, Faisal bin Turki, who moved from Najd to take control of al-Bida as a step in his campaign to overcome Bahrain.
The British squadron and its presence in the Gulf brought considerable stability to the region, though their main interest was in maintaining the sea routes through the Gulf rather than involving themselves in activities on land. However, in this case the British warned Faisal and placed ships at Bahrain to intercept a naval attack, and blockaded al-Bida and Doha. In addition, the port of Qatif was also blockaded in order to prevent assaults on Bahrain from the direction of the mainland. This blockading fleet was attacked and routed and this, together with the support of the British emboldened the Bahraini ruler who refused to discuss the peace now requested by Faisal. By now there was increasing concern in the region for the continuing presence of Faisal in al-Bida and many initiatives were begun to reach a peace agreement. By July 1851, this was concluded under number of conditions with most of those involved agreeing. An exception was the chief of Wakra who left to Fars on the Persian coast.
In 1859 he returned, establishing himself at Wakra, to the annoyance of the ruler of Bahrain who considered there to be a continuing threat to him. In 1863 he captured Muhammad bin Said Bu Kuwara and scattered many of Wakra’s residents. The Bahraini ruler seems to have been the instigator of much of the disruption in the region. His main concern appears to have been to resist what he considered to be wahhabi interest in Bahrain, but it is also evident that he had his eye on all of the Trucial coast including the Qatar peninsula. Another factor may have been his poor governance of Bahrain, his overseas policies attempting to focus his people’s attention outside Bahrain.
This may well have been a factor when, in 1867, he imprisoned Jassim bin Muhammad bin Thani who had travelled to Bahrain as an emissary to discuss Bahrain’s capture of a badawi. The demand for his return saw Bahrain, backed by Abu Dhabi who regarded al-Bida as harbouring outlaws, attack Doha, al-Bida and Wakra, causing significant damage. Qatar appealed to the wahhabi Amir who threatened the Bahraini ruler, though to no effect. Because of this Qatar attacked Bahrain in 1868, a thousand men being killed and sixty ships sunk in the marine action. Bahrain released Jassim bin Muhammad bin Thani on the return of the captured Bahrainis.
The breaking of the Anglo-Bahraini treaty prompted the British to deal with Sheikh Muhammad bin Khalifa of Bahrain but, to avoid this, he fled to Khor Hassan. The British Resident, Pelly, then travelled to Wakra and met all those involved. The result of listening to their complaints about the Bahraini ruler led Pelly to depose Sheikh Muhammad, fining the new ruler, Muhammad’s brother, Ali bin Khalifa, a considerable sum and obtaining his agreement to hand over Muhammad bin Khalifa should he return to Bahrain. More significantly, Muhammad bin Thani agreed not to assist Muhammad bin Khalifa in any way, nor put to sea with hostile intent and to recognise the new ruler of Bahrain. In particular, the 1868 agreement recognised Qatar as a separate political entity, and Muhammad bin Thani as its head.
The following year, agreement was reached for Bahrain and Qatar to provide tribute annually to the wahhabi and Na’im tribe in order to safeguard the inhabitants of Qatar during the pearling season when houses could not be protected by the men out in the pearl fields.
Meanwhile Muhammad bin Khalifa returned to Bahrain intent on assuming power. This was resisted and he was exiled to Kuwait. A civil war saw Ali bin Khalifa killed and his son, Isa bin Ali bin Khalifa, take his place.
The treaty of 1868 served to stabilise the peninsula. One of the effects of this was to permit the relatively normal development of urban settlements which were, in effect, the establishment of the dynasties now governing the west littoral of the Gulf.
This stability was not absolute. Many of the families who had won or imposed their rule on their part of the Gulf felt the need to protect themselves with fortified structures of varying degrees of effectiveness such as at Zubara mentioned previously, al-Bida and at Ras al Khaimah where, later, their fortified position was destroyed by British naval guns. Watch towers were also constructed, generally circular, with their entrances high above the external level. There may have been such towers in Qatar, but I don’t recall seeing them or their remains, though this may not be surprising as, without continuous maintenance, they might be expected to fall within about thirty years due to the normal action of the elements.
Generally it was not possible to protect settlements with city walls as the shore-dependent location of the urban developments made this difficult. So the Rulers of the Gulf states such as Qatar developed their residences as relatively secure developments, generally a little way away from the shoreline where their greatest economic interests lay, though sometimes in the interior. Around them time saw the development of a spatial arrangement mirroring the relationship of the Ruler with merchants and others dependent upon him. This socio-political pattern was not dissimilar to that of the tribal interior, but its significant difference was that he and many of those around him enjoyed a co-dependency based on pearls, commerce and trade. At the same time, however, he had to maintain his position as a tribal leader. It must have been a difficult balance to maintain.
In establishing settlements an important element to be constructed would have been a Customs House where goods would have taxes levied on them, and around which trade would be effected including necessary concomitant activities such as money changers, scribes and porters. These were not necessarily popular, of course. Many settlements also contained offices for those claiming some form of control over the country, or that part of it. The Turks, for instance, had administrative posts sometimes strengthened by a small detachment of armed police or troops.
It has to be remembered that many of those working in the urban developments would not have been Qataris but would have come from Saudi Arabia, Persia, Africa and the Indian sub-continent, the latter having been agreed following the 1868 Treaty when the British Resident required Indian residents to be allowed to settle in Wakra. The Ruler needed much of this for his people to prosper, and the foreign workforce needed the Ruler to provide them with security and work.
At the same time, the wealth to be derived from trade and pearling subjugated the other industry of the peninsula, agriculture, creating poor conditions for its workers though still requiring the food produced – albeit necessarily supported by the increased importation of many other foodstuffs impossible to cultivate in the peninsula and required for an expanding population. In some parts of the Gulf this led to the system of land tenure being altered to the disadvantage of the workers who became increasingly impoverished.
Considered to be one of the more important reference works of the early twentieth century, E.J. Brill’s First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, was a nine volume work containing, among many other essays, an interesting description of Qatar. Relying on earlier, European scholars, he wrote:
Al-Katar, a peninsula on the east coast of Arabia on the Persian Gulf. It has an area of about 2,000 square miles and 2,600 inhabitants. The cape at the end of the peninsula, which runs northwards, is called Ras Rikken and forms a fairly steep tongue of land surrounded by rocks; it is an obstacle not without danger to navigation. The summit is crowned by an old fortress which belongs to a village situated in an adjoining ravine. The coast of the peninsula is steep everywhere, but not high, and is dotted with fishing villages. Its appearance is rather depressing. The soil is poor, nothing but gravel and marl with sand. A few springs provide water for wells, which have been dug with difficulty in the heavy soil. The climate is remarkably dry and the air unhealthy as a result of the stagnant sea-water along the coast. The few gardens are small and yield but little. There are no extensive cornfields or palm groves; only here and there do we find a few palms and bare crops. For miles low, bare hills parched by the sun rise from the muddy strand covered with driftsand and seaweed. Inland beyond these eminences stretch barren dunes which are scantily covered with vegetation; behind them lie groups of low miserable huts made of earth and palm leaves. These villages are surrounded by walls to protect them from the raids of robber Beduins of the tribes of Menasir and Al Murra; the dunes have towers on them and here and there is a building of some size that has been fortified.
In contrast to this poverty is the almost inexhaustible wealth yielded by the bay on the Persian Gulf surrounded by al-Katar, in which lie the islands of al-Bahrain celebrated for its pearl-beds. Food and sustenance is amply supplied by the sea, on which the inhabitants of the bay spend half the year seeking for pearls, while the other half is devoted to fishing and trading. Zabara is the largest place on the peninsula and al-Beda is regarded as the capital. The latter, like all the places on the peninsula, is chiefly inhabited by fishermen, but in the long narrow, dirty market place there are also a few merchants and artisans from al-Bahrain.
The houses of the town are huddled together in narrow, dirty, irregular streets; two mosques and the ancient castle are the only buildings of any importance in al-Beda, which may have about 6,000 inhabitants. Dawha, which lies north of al-Beda, is but half as large; it lies in a deep little bay which affords a rather picturesque view through the cliffs 60 – 80 feet high in the background. The houses of Dawha are still more unprepossessing and poorer than in al-Beda and the market place even smaller and filthier. Two forts command the town – one on a rock beside it and the other in the town itself. Al-Wakra is more pleasing and stands higher. It also shelters a number of merchants and artisans from al-Bahrain. The town has, on the whole, a prosperous appearance.
The peninsula was of some importance even in the ancient times on account of its important situation commanding the Gulf of al-Bahrain. A Sprenger has sought to identify the Cataraei of Pliny (Natural History, vi. 28, § 147) with the inhabitants of al-Katar. The peninsula used to belong to the Sultanate of Oman. From 1872 till 1914 it is under the suzerainty of the Turks, who had a garrison in al-Beda down to October 1914, and belonged to the province of al-Ahsa, forming the kada of the same name in the sandjak of Nadjd. Since 1913 ’Abd Allah al-Thani has been lord of the peninsula. But parts of it became independent earlier. For example, in 1882 Dawha made a treaty with England accepting her protectorate; in 1892 and in 1914 other places followed this example. Al-Katar is now under the control of the ruler of Central Arabia, Ibn Sa’ud, who has thus regained the position once held by the Wahhabi kingdom to the peninsula, which the Turks had for a time usurped.
Bibliography: W. Gifford Palgrave, Travels n Arabia, London 1865, ii. 232-235; A. Sprenger, Die alte Geographie Arabiens, Bern 1875, p. 116; E. Glaser, Skizze der Geschichte und Geographie Arabiens, ii., Berlin 1890, p. 75, 281; F. Stuhlmann, Der Kampf um Arabian (Hamburgische Forschungen, i., Braunschweig 1916, p. 177, 203, 204; Handbooks prepared under the direction of the Foreign Office, N° 76, Persian Gulf, London 1920, p. 45-47, 72, 75; L. Massignon, Annuaire du Monde Musulman, i., R.M.M., 1922/23, liii. 69.
You may notice there are a number of errors, inconsistencies or inaccuracies, nevertheless the account is still interesting for its snapshot taken around ninety years ago.
Great Britain had considerable interest in the Persian Gulf. However, it considered the areas as being comprised of two distinct entities, the northern shores comprising Persia and Iraq and the southern of Western Arabia. The first to be developed was the northern element in 1616, a base being established at Jask, later transferred to Bandar Abbas, for controlling the associated commercial interests. A number of factories were established in the following years, and brokerages in Kirman and Muscat in 1720 and 1750 respectively. But Muscat was the exception, the British having little economic interests along the southern coast of the Gulf, and there being considerable piracy which led to trading ships avoiding this coast. Trade and navigation was almost entirely in the hands of local Arab, Persian and India traders. But by the beginning of the nineteenth century, this began to change.
The East India company, established by Queen Elizabeth, had developed its commercial interests over time to become a powerful organisation, one that gradually moved away from commercial pursuits to administrative and military governance. Following the Battle of Plessey in 1757, the Company became the effective rulers of the sub-continent, a situation that was amended in 1858 with the Government of India Act when the British government took over the responsibilities.
The practice had developed in the Gulf for Arab craft to raid and levy tolls on passing vessels, a practice similar to badu raiding along desert routes. This was considered to be piracy and extortion so, in order to safeguard the Company’s commercial and British nationals’ interests in Arabian waters, the British imposed an anti-piracy treaty in 1820 on the Rulers of what was termed the ‘Pirate Coast’, effectively the present day United Arab Emirates, but including Bahrain at its own request. The post of Political Agent for the lower Gulf was created and based on the island of Qishm close to the Persian coast in the Straits of Hormuz. In 1822 the post was moved to Bushir on the Persian Coast and amalgamated with the post of Bushir Resident. In the 1850s this was expanded to cover the whole of the Gulf.
To support the Resident, a Gulf naval squadron was created based first on Qishm island from 1821 to 1863 and 1869 to 1879, and then on neighbouring Henjam Island from 1879 to 1935.
Following the treaty of 1820 the British imposed a number of treaties on the area, the most important of these being the first Maritime Truce which was signed in 1835 with the rulers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, ’Ajman and the Qasimi empire which consisted of Sharjah, Umm al-Qawain, Ras al-Khaimah, Rams, Dibba, Khor Fakkan, Fujairah, Kalba, Mughu, Lingah and Qishm. These culminated in the Perpetual Maritime Truce of 1853, the co-signatories being referred to as the ‘Trucial States’ and to which the states of Bahrain and Qatar were respectively invited to join in 1861 and 1916.
The emphasis on trade was consolidated in 1862 with the establishing of a regular navigation line between Basrra and Bombay. This was later developed to link the ports of Muscat in 1862, Manama in 1869, Qatif in 1874, Kuwait in 1874 and Dubai in 1903.
As mentioned above, the British had an interest in the Gulf that had much to do with its wider interests in the Indian sub-continent. For some time the government of India was effectively the chief administration system for the region. In this it seems that their concern was for political stability in order to safeguard their particular interests – successful commercial activity and the security of their nationals. This concentration on the Indian trade links is seen by some as a method the British used to consolidate their interests with the Gulf sheikhdoms, the latter trading with the East Indian interests, but this being a relatively small percentage of the overal trade passing through the region.
On the other hand the Turks saw themselves protecting their own sphere of interest, particularly their fellow Muslims though, even here, there appears to have been divisions between Constantinople and local administration that are generally recorded as being compounded by deceit, admittedly for the most part, in British records.
From earlier notes it can be seen that Qatar’s history in the first half of the nineteenth century was a continuing struggle between tribes for dominance of both trade, pearling and land areas, the conflict encompassing not only Bahrain and the Qatar peninsula, but also the Arabian hinterland and both island and land based settlements on the Persian shore. In many ways the focus was on the interests of those on Bahrain and those on Qatar, a problem that continued until recently with the resolution of the boundary dispute between the two countries. It was not until 1868 that the British were able to force through a form of truce.
The Pax Britannica continued to provide a semblance of normality, if not peace, in the region, though the transition from tribal communities to urban developments based on trade was not necessarily straightforward. This was particularly so in Qatar which had not seen much urban development until the late 18th century, and that not particularly associated with trade but of guarding and developing the resources of pearls and arable land.
Difficulties continued between Bahrain and Qatar over the years, coming to a head in 1867 with a confrontation at Wakrah where Bahrain dispatched its forces to crush the Qataris. This act violated the Anglo-Bahraini treaty of 1820 for which the British censured Bahrain.
Negotiations began between the two parties – a process which implicitly recognised Qatar as a sovereign entity – under the aegis of Colonel Lewis Pelly, the British Resident in the Gulf. The subsequent official relationship between Qatar and Britain and, therefore, its recognition as a State, began with the peace treaty signed between Colonel Pelly and Sheikh Muhammad bin Thani on the 12th September 1868. Sheikh Muhammad had, by that time, become the pre-eminent leader within Qatar.
I should mention here that previously the British, being settled in Bahrain, were thought to have had little interest in Qatar, rarely visiting it, and then, only when absolutely necessary. Bahrein certainly appeared to be a more pleasant place in which to be based. It is, perhaps, for this reason that the British appeared to take a relaxed attitude to the provocative occupation of the peninsula by the Turks.
Despite the treaty of 1868, the Turks extended their interest in the region, occupying Najd and occupying Qatar several times in the eighteen seventies, and warning Britain not to interfere with Qatar which they regarded as being their property. Sheikh Jassim bin Muhammad bin Thani accepted Turkish sovereignty and, in 1871 a Turkish detachment was sent to al-Bida. 1873 saw Bahrain attempt to re-establish its claim on Zubara. The Government of India considered that the Ruler of Bahrain had no rights in Qatar and that he should be restrained from pursuing his interests there. The Ruler of Bahrain, while informing the British Government that he would abide by their decision, did not give up his claims to Qatar, in particular continuing his association with the Na’im who occupied the north-west corner of the Qatar peninsula.
The acceptance of Turkish sovereignty by Sheikh Jassim bin Muhammad did not please all in Qatar. The al Bu Kawara took exception to it and moved from al-Bida to Fuwairat in 1879. This lack of respect was mirrored by members of the Bani Hajir tribe who, in 1880, attacked Doha and the next year, along with members of the Na’im, carried off camels. The Turks notably refused to support Sheikh Jassim in many of the initiatives he now embarked upon to settle issues with Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, as well as refusing to have a Customs House established in al-Bida, but resisted his attempts to resign as Qaim Maqam, an administrative position given him in 1872 by them.
In 1883 the British formally warned the Turkish Ambassador in London about their activities in and attitude to Qatar. This they reinforced in 1888 by conferring upon Sheikh Jassim the title of Kapucibasi for services to the Turkish empire though this year and 1889 saw him skirmishing with Abu Dhabi forces over lands he believed belonged to Qatar. In this fighting, one of his sons, Ali bin Jassim, was killed.
Turkey appeared to take a more serious interest in Qatar by planning to establish two administrative posts at Zubara and Khor al Udaid, fully staffed with administrators and a policing element. The British were concerned both by this initiative as well as by their location and requested clarification from the Turkish Ambassador in London. 1893 saw a strong rebuttal from the Turkish Government to Lord Roseberry claiming that Qatar was ‘a Turkish sub-governership’ and ‘a dependency of the Najd’ and that Sheikh Jassim was a Turkish citizen and government official. Moreover the Turks claimed sovereignty of the whole of the region and claimed to have no knowledge of the 1853 Maritime Truce, refusing to acknowledge its legitimacy even when given a copy.
In implementing their administrative plans the Turks landed troops at al-Bida in 1893. Sheikh Jassim had again submitted his resignation, refused to pay taxes, and moved to Wajbah where he gathered around him men of the Manasir and Bani Hajir tribes together with four hundred men from other Qatari tribes, a force totaling between three and four thousand men. The Turks took as hostage a number of important Qataris including Ahmad bin Muhammad, Sheikh Jassim’s younger brother. The Turks with a much smaller force attacked but were beaten back to al-Bida though the lighter armed Qatari forces lost four hundred men, women and children. The Turks lost about a hundred and it was only when they approached the coast that their warship, the Mirrikh, was able to use its guns to assist the Turks’ retreat. The victory was decisive and the Turks freed Ahmad bin Muhammad, in return Sheikh Jassim permitting the Turkish cavalry free passage by land to Hofuf.
The British attempted to intervene in the dispute between the Turks and Qatar but found theselves unable to take up Sheikh Jassim’s offer to place Qatar under British protection. The Turks made their peace with Sheikh Jassim though he moved to live peacefully at Lusail, leaving the running of the country to his brother, Sheikh Ahmad bin Muhammad.
Regrettably, at the end of 1905, Sheikh Ahmad was murdered by one of his servants from the Bani Hajir tribe, the murderer being killed a little later in Dammam. Sheikh Jassim again took over the running of Qatar, but appointing his son, Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim, as his Heir Apparent.
more to be written…
In 1903 the Sheikh of Qatar asked the British if his application for protection by the British would be favourably met and was told that there would be advantages to Qatar if this were to come about but, following discussions between the British and Turkish Governments, it was decided that the status quo would be maintained. The 1913 Anglo-Ottoman Convention, the 1914 Anglo-Turkish Convention, and the 1916 Treaty between Great Britain and Qatar confirmed British protection to Qatar, the latter being signed on the 3rd November 1916. The agreement required that Qatar would
For their part the British agreed to
It should be borne in mind that, prior to the discovery and exploitation of oil, half of the population of Qatar was comprised of foreigners – Baharinah, Persians and Africans.
Finally, I should mention that there have been a number of difficulties relating to borders. In 1992 an incident at a border post with Saudi Arabia resulted in two deaths. Relations have improved and a commission established with a view to coming to an agreement on the exact line of the border. It should be noted in this context that Qatar has only a land border with Saudi; access to the United Arab Emirates has to be through a strip of Saudi which leads to the Gulf east of Qatar.
In addition to the difficulties with Saudi Arabia, there have been continuing problems with Bahrain. The main ones relate firstly to a number of islands and reefs, the chief one being the Fasht al Dibal reef, north of Qatar and east of Bahrain. The more serious problem was Bahrain’s claim to the Hawar Islands, a group immediately off the north-west coast of Qatar. In the eighties, Bahrain placed troops on the islands and, eventually, the case was taken to the International Court of Justice. Although the islands’ proximity to Qatar is so close that natural inclination suggests they should belong to it, the Court found for Bahrain, but disallowed their claim to the Jann and Hadd Jann islands south of Hawar as well as Bahrain’s claim to land on the Qatar peninsula – including Zubara – while Qatar retained significant maritime areas and their resources. Bahrain is now said to be planning to construct a bridge to the islands.
These links with Britain continued until 1971 when a treaty of Independence was signed. This placed Qatar on a similar legal footing to the other Emirates of the Arabian Gulf – Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates which comprise the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujaira, Sharjah and Khor Fakkan. In addition there is Oman facing the Indian Ocean and ruled by a Sultan, and the Sultanate together with the Emirates are backed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to their north and west.
In focussing on the Gulf it has to be borne in mind that the Arab world extends considerably further than the Gulf and that there are different perceptions within this world of the history and status of the various countries of the region. In particular there is a widespread Arab belief that
By comparison, the Western states collectively appeared to believe that, despite the rhetoric of Arab unity, the Arab states are a disparate grouping at best, with conflicting goals and policies – many of them based on jealousies, dimly remembered slights or misconceptions. The argument is that it follows that Western states with their need to benefit from the oil and gas reserves of the region will continue to arrange matters to suit themselves. In this there is bound to be a conflict with the different Arab states with their desires to conform to a pan-Arab ethic. The Iraq/Kuwait conflict and now the Iraq problem demonstrates the various issues relating both to the conflict between the West and the Arab world, and to those between the Gulf states generally and their northern neighbours. This is a turbulent area.
In the context of the difficulties inherent in the geography and politics of the region, I should also mention the nineteenth century Lord Palmerston’s wish to place a state of Israel in the region in order to bring wealth to the area as well as acting as a counter to any Egyptian initiatives. More dramatically, in 1907 the British Prime Minister, Campbell-Bannerman, recognising the hidden assets of the region, declared his belief that, were the Arabs to come together in a single state, they would form a block to the access between Europe and the Far East, and that a body should be planted there in order to thwart this.
It is not my intention to write about the politics of the Middle East, but a few notes on its history might be useful to help flesh out the background to this troubled area with a view to giving context and perspective to the Gulf states. Mostly, these notes are based on entries in Wikipedia. While this is not a source recommended by academics, it appears to be clear enough to provide in more detail a fuller and more accurate understanding of any or all of the countries briefly mentioned below. The map to the side is there only to provide a basic indication of the area. For more detail, read the Wikpedia entries and other articles and books on the region. In particular you should be aware that the map changes every few years or so during the twentieth century. The more different sources you review, the more likely you are to gain a better understanding of the events of the last hundred years or so.
It is a very well-documented argument, if not belief, that most of the difficulties in the region stem from the West’s sub-dividing the area in their own interests after the First World War. In this they cut across ethnic and national borders, artificially creating states, dividing peoples and reneging on promises made to their allies. Much of this was encompassed within the twelve points of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of the 16th May 1916 between – in the main – the British and French, represented by Sir Edward Grey and Paul Cambon.
It was argued that this was an attempt to stabilise the Middle East by re-organising the Middle East territories and selecting leaders who, it was thought, would give the region the stability the West required. Oil wasn’t mentioned in the Sykes-Picot Agreement, though it had been found in Persia in 1908. It wasn’t until 1923 that it was discovered in Iraq and became a dominating issue in the collective minds of the West.
Returning to the end of the First World War, on the 28th June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, putting an end to German ambitions, and to its partner, the Ottoman Empire. It established mandates for France and Britain over the ‘Fertile Crescent’, that region of the Middle East stretching from the head of the Gulf, and including much of what is now Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, and following the line of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
The next year, 1920, the San Remo Conference completed the process of dividing up the Middle East. France was given mandates for Syria and Lebanon, while Britain was given mandates for Iraq, Transjordan and Palestine. Two issues should particularly be noted as they contain much of the seeds of present discontents: sunni and shi’ite interests were not separated, but mixed; and the Kurds were spread through Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Armenia.
There follows, in alphabetical order, a brief modern history of the main countries in the Middle East with relevance to the Gulf. Countries of the Maghrab, Africa and Indian sub-continent that might be thought to have an influence, have not been included:
Bahrain is a group of islands situated north-west of the north coast of Qatar. Its recent history really begins with the eighteenth century British involvement in supporting the Al Khalifah family in their liberation of the islands from Persia. This brought the British firmly into the Gulf, with them establishing residency on Bahrain. Persia and, latterly, Iran still lays claim to Bahrain.
Bahrain continued as the focus of British interests in the Gulf with oil being found and the lives of Bahrainis being improved through government expenditures and firm social policies as in the rest of the Gulf states.
Following the Second World War there was anti-British sentiment leading to rioting which was heavily put down. Despite this, development proceeded, though not at the same rate as in Qatar, for instance. But, in the 1960s this led to Britain requesting the United Nations to resolve the issue of Bahrain’s future. This they did through a plebiscite, the results rejecting Iran’s claims and the Bahrainis holding themselves to be Arabs, culturally.
Britain left Bahrain in 1971 under the control of the Al Khalifa family. Development continued, funded by the revenues from oil but the downturn in the economy of the 1980s forced Bahrain to diversify. Meanwhile the Iranian revolution was felt in Bahrain with a failed coup attempt intending to install an Iranian based cleric operating a theocratic government.
The mid-nineties saw rioting again, this time with Shi’ites upset by the dress of sportswomen and, later, sporadic violence leading to the deaths of over forty people. In 1990, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa succeeded his father as head of state, and introduced a number of progressive policies. In particular, 2002 saw women being given the vote.
Bahrain remains a focus in the Gulf with its highly developed transport and communication links. However, depleting fresh water and oil reserves, together with continuing unemployment cause difficulties that have not been alleviated with the construction of a permanent causeway linking Bahrain with Saudi Arabia as had been hoped.
The importance of Egypt in the region is due to a number of reasons, not least of which is the Suez Canal. Completed in 1869, it enables shipping to move from the Far East to the Mediterranean and, thence, the Atlantic, without having to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, shortening the distance between the Far East and Europe considerably.
Britain seized control of Egypt in 1882, ostensibly to protect British investments in the country which was badly in debt. Nominally, Egypt continued as a part of the Ottoman Empire until the beginning of the First World War.
The various agreements in the Middle East following the First World war brought semi-independence to Egypt in 1922. From 1924 to 1936 there were attempts to model a constitutional government along Western lines as was being attempted by Kemal Ataturk in Turkey. However, these attempts failed though full independence followed after the Second World War.
King Farouk, the constitutional monarch was deposed by Gamal Abdul Nasser’s revolution in 1952 and his son, King Ahmed Fouad II established in his place. General Muhammad Naguib became the first President of the new Egyptian Republic in June 1953, but resigned in 1954 in favour of Gamal Abdul Nasser. The West attempted to meet the perceived threat from the pan-Arabisim that they believed Nasser represented, instituting the Baghdad pact in 1954 which included Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran and Britain with the United States belonging to the crucial military, economic and counter-insurgency committees. The West’s attempts to frustrate Nasser ended with the Suez fiasco – organised between Britain, France and Israel in 1956 – and which succeeded in enabling the Arab world to align themselves against the common Western threat. Egypt and Syria combined to form the United Arab Republic in 1958, but Syria withdrew in 1961.
Nasser was succeeded by President Sadat and, upon the latter’s assassination, by President Hosni Mubarak in October 1981. Internal pressures continue in Egypt but, in September 2005, democratic elections are being held.
On the other side of the Gulf from the Arabian peninsula, the Qujar dynasty ruled from 1796, when it took over from the Zand dynasty, until 1921. During the nineteenth century, Persia came under the influence of both the Russians and British empires, the former taking over some parts of the northern regions and the British the south with its oil deposits.
The West influenced the Qujar Shahs, in 1906, to try to modernise, but internal disaffection saw Muhammad Ali Shah deposed in 1909 by Ahmad Shah for attacking the newly developed constitution.
In 1917 British troops invaded Russia in an unsuccessful attempt to counter the Russian Revolution and support the Tsar, a relative of the British Royal family. Reza Khan, a Cossack officer, deposed Ahmad Shah Qujar in 1921, declared himself Shah and establishing a new dynasty in 1925 under the name of Pahlavi.
Reza Shah began a programme of modernisation intending to create an industrialised and urbanised country, operated by an educated population and one that would have a distinct presence in the modern world. In 1935 the name, ‘Persia’, was changed to ‘Iran’.
The Shah was by nature, dictatorial, a characteristic that became increasingly disliked by many in the new Iran. His increasing unpopularity was exacerbated by his policy of not awarding contracts to British and Russian companies because of their colonial history with Persia – as well as because the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company controlled all Iran’s oil resources – though this, itself, was a cause of resentment to many Iranians. A number of the Shah’s engineers were Germans and, with the outbreak of the Second World War, Britain insisted that the Germans leave as they would be essentially, spies for Germany. The Shah refused as he was concerned their leaving would affect his development projects.
As a consequence, Britain and Russia, now allies, invaded Iran, arrested the Shah and sent him into exile. In 1942, the United States sent troops to Iran to maintain the railroad system which supplied materiel to Russia. The allies allowed the Shah’s son, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, to succeed him to the throne in September 1941, agreeing to leave Iran within six months of the end of the war. Though the Russians initially refused to make a similar agreement they left in May 1946 but the fluid political system, caused in some measure by the allies permitting, if not encouraging, the existing systems to deteriorate, helped fuel the Cold War.
The new Shah continued to develop the country along the lines his father had begun but found himself in conflict with the Prime Minister, Muhammad Mossadeq. His interests brought him into increasing conflict with the government and, following a failed assassination attempt in 1949, he strengthened his position by expanding his constitutional powers. This was again unpopular and, in 1951, Mossadeq forced the nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. He was consequently removed by the Shah but returned almost immediately. The Shah fled Iran and supporters instituted a coup in August 1953 against Mossaddeq, assisted by the British and Americans.
With the finances achieved by Mossadeq’s nationalisation of the oil company, the Shah financed a series of populist reforms, particularly the 1963 White Reform, relating to land reform, voting rights for women and the elimination of illiteracy. In addition, he used his security organisation to suppress opposition. These initiatives succeeded in uniting a variety of interests against him ranging from those wanting unionisation to the religious hierarchy fearing marginalisation. He compounded this with an extravagent celebration of 2,500 years of Persian monarchy in 1971 and the replacing of the Islamic Calendar in 1976 with a solar, Imperial calendar. This, together with his association with the West brought about the uprisings of 1978 and 1979 and the return of the fundamentalism of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1980.
The Iranian Revolution transformed Iran from an autocratic pro-west monarchy to an Islamic, populist, theocratic dictatorship under Ayatollah Khomeini.
The League of Nations established Britain’s mandate in Iraq following the First World War, independence being granted in 1932. In Iraq king Faisal of the Hashemite monarchy ruled until his death in 1933 when he was succeeded by his eldest son, Ghasi, who died six years later in a car accident.
Ghasi’s son, Faisal, was only three at the time and his duties were assumed by his uncle, the regent Prince Abdullah. In 1953 Faisal became, at the age of seventeen, King Faisal II. Five years later the King was deposed in the 14th July Revolution by General Abdulkarim Kassem who instituted a repressive regime. General Kassem, in turn, was overthrown by a group of officers under Colonel Abdul Salam Arif in 1963 and executed in 1968. Salam Arif died in 1966, the Presidency being assumed by his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif.
Abdul Rahman, in turn was overthrown in 1968 by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath regime, established by General Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr who became president, followed by Sadam Hussein who seized power in 1979 killing many of his opponents.
The Iran-Iraq war began along their long, joint border in 1980 and dragged on for eight years before ending in stalemate, draining the country of its wealth and resources. This was followed by Hussein’s campaign against the Kurds in the north and the Marsh Arabs in the south. Iraq has only a small access to the Persian/Arabian Gulf at Umm Qasr, immediately to the east of Kuwait and, in 1990, invaded Kuwait, which resulted in the Gulf War.
Sadam Hussein was deposed by Western powers in 2003 and an interim government established. With the different ethnic and religious interests in the country all wanting autonomy – the Kurds in the north, the minority Sunni around Baghdad and the Shi’ite s – representing 60% of the population – in the south – the future of Iraq in its present state is tenuous.
Now, there is the possibility of the Kurds breaking away, taking with them the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and, perhaps, associating themselves with the Kurdish minorities in Turkey and Iran; the Shi’ite s are strongly supported by the regime in Iran, have oil reserves and would control access to the Persian/Arabian Gulf; and the Sunni minority would be left with the centre of the country and a fear of repercussions caused by their treatment of the Shi’ite s and Kurds under Sadam Hussein.
Much of the background that would be written here can be read below on the section relating to Palestine. The main point to bear in mind is that Jews consider the Land of Israel to be their home both as a Holy Land and as a Promised Land.
The Jewish population of the area was relatively small for some time, the first wave of Jewish immigration starting in the late nineteenth century as Jews fled persecution in Europe. In 1917 the Balfour Declaration stated that there should be a homeland for Jews in Palestine and the British-administered mandate for Palestine was established in 1920. Between the wars immigration continued, rising more strongly with the impending Second World War.
By 1939, Palestinian pressures caused the British to reconsider their commitments to the Jews and produced the 1939 White Paper capping Jewish immigration and positing a shared government for Jews and Arabs.
The Holocaust in Europe led Jewish interests to increase illegal immigration into Palestine and violence escalated with the assassination of Lord Moyne in Cairo in November 1944. The British continued to prevent immigration and in 1946 their administration in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem was blown up with the loss of ninety-two lives. The British withdrew in May 1948, terminating their mandate.
The United Nations’ plan was to partition the area giving approximately half each to the Jews and Arabs, while leaving Jerusalem under international control. This was not supported by the surrounding Arab states and, following the proclamation of the State of Israel in May 1948, the Arab states attacked resulting in Israel gaining more land west of the Jordan and annexing it to its new State.
More immigration has been encouraged into Israel and there has been increasing levels of violence on both sides. It is believed by many that the difficulties in the Middle East would be diminished if not overcome, were there to be an equitable solution found to the settlement of the Palestine/Israel problem.
The rulers of Transjordan – which became known as Jordan in 1946 – and Iraq were established from two of the sons of the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein Ibn Ali – a friendly ruler of the Hashemite dynasty, tracing their history directly back to the Prophet. In 1922 the British established the semi-autonomous Emirate of Transjordan. Abdullah was made its Emir while Faisal was installed as the King of Iraq. In May 1946 the mandate ended and Abdullah proclaimed himself King.
Transjordan assisted the Palestinians in their opposition to the creation of a State of Israel and, following the armistice of April 1949, settled behind borders of the West Bank as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1950. Abdullah was assassinated in 1951 by a Muslim fundamentalist. Abdullah was succeeded by his eldest son Talal but, proving to be disbalanced, he was deposed by the national assembly who replaced Talal with his son, King Hussein who ruled Jordan from 1953 to 1999. He, in turn, was succeeded by his son, King Abdullah II.
Jordan again went to war with Israel in conjunction with Egypt, Iraq and Syria in the June 1967 war, losing control of the West Bank and Jerusalem for its pains.
1970 saw open warfare break out between Jordanian and Palestinians due to the strain brought about by the massive increase in Palestinians following Arab losses in the wars with Israel. This warfare ceased in July 1971 with a conclusive victory by the Jordanians.
In 1988 Jordan officially renounced claims to the West Bank and in 1994 agreed to a continuing role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem. However, these interests are being rapidly eroded by events on the ground.
Jordan has made peace with Israel in the Washington Declaration of July 1994, and the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty of October 1994. It now occupies a moderating role in the Middle East and has embraced democracy with free elections.
Kuwait was settled in the sixteenth century by clans from the Al Aniza tribe of Najd in central Arabia via a relatively short stay in Qatar. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the establishment and development of trading first in spices and, later, pearling before the influx of Japanese pearls brought this to a halt in the 1930s.
The Ottoman Empire incorporated Kuwait as they did much else in the Gulf, with Kuwait becoming a British Protectorate in 1899. It was one of the earliest of the Gulf states to develop its oil resources, to the extent that by 1953 it was the largest exporter of oil in the Gulf. The wealth this brought enabled Kuwait, in June 1961, to be the first of the Gulf states to declare its independence.
Iraq took exception to this as it considered Kuwait to be a province of Iraq and threatened to invade. This was deterred by Egyptian pressure. In the Iran/Iraq wars of the 1980s Kuwait sided with Iraq due to Kuwait’s wish to avoid the influences of shi’ite iran.
August 1990 saw the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, the excuse being twofold: that, as they had made clear earlier, their position was that Kuwait was a province of Iraq and, secondly, that Kuwait had been slant drilling into disputed territories – and taking Iraqi oil illegally. With the backing of the United Nations a large coalition of troops invaded and occupied Iraq in 1991, driving out the Iraqi forces from Kuwait who, in withdrawing looted and caused considerable damage to the whole of the country and its oil installations. The fires took nine months to put out.
The state has rebuilt much of the damage caused by Iraq and development continues. The Emir, Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al Sabah, is liberalising some of the state’s laws, particularly those that only permit 15% of the population to vote. Women’s suffrage has recently been given, effective for the 2007 Parliamentary elections, and subject to Islamic law, and there is now a female minister appointed to the Cabinet.
Lebanon’s constitution was drawn up in 1926 and was based on a careful balance of power between the major religious groups. It became independent in 1943 with the French leaving the country in 1946. For a period, Lebanon prospered with the focus being Beirut and its role as a regional centre for commerce and trade. It was a vibrant, popular capital, and an important entrepôt to the rest of the area.
However, the influx of Palestinians following the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli conflicts brought disaffection between them and the Lebanese to a head. The resulting civil war of April 1975 left Lebanon with no effective government and the different factions continued their chaotic and destructive warring. In 1976 the Syrians sent in troops to bolster the Maronite forces of Bashir Gemayel, head of the Phalange party, who was fighting a coalition of Palestinian, Sunni and Druze irregular forces. However, the Maronites came to believe that the Syrians were there more in their own interests – that were seen to be both strategic and to do with the drugs grown in the Beqaa valley – and fighting broke out between them.
In 1978, Israel attacked due to cross-border raids based in Lebanon, withdrawing two weeks later in response to a United Nations resolution. They invaded again in 1982 establishing a presence in the south but their position being weakened when the Phalangist leader thought to be sympathetic to Israel, President-elect Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated. There followed considerable turbulence with increasing terrorism developing.
Israel retreated from Lebanon in 2000 in accordance with the UN 1978 resolution and, eventually, Syria withdrew in early 2005. Some degree of normalcy is returning to Lebanon with considerable development started.
The Ottoman Empire included Libya by the nineteenth century, its previous history being under the control of Arab Muslims since they conquered the area in the seventh century. Italy took control of Libya in 1912 and, following the Second World War, it was granted independence as a condition of the Allied peace treaty with Italy.
King Idris, Libya’s ruler, was deposed by Colonel Muammar al Qadafi in 1969. Qadafi established an independence based on an alliance with third world countries, and charting a course between socialism and captitalism with large resources derived from oil to back his enterprises. One of these was the greening of the country using well-water brought from deep aquifers in the desert to the relatively dry coast, a massive engineering project.
The West, which appeared at best to consider Colonel Qadafi to be mercurial, attempted to find some kind of accommodation with him, but this deteriorated to the extent that, in December 1979, the American Embassy in Tripoli was sacked in a demonstration that Colonel Qadafi described as ‘spontaneous’, denying any involvement. The rationale for this is still debated, but the Americans withdrew their diplomats from Libya, though did not break off diplomatic relations with him.
The West accused Colonel Qadafi of continuing a policy of supporting international terrorism and, in May 1981 expelled Libyan diplomats and closed diplomatic ties between the United States and Libya. The next year the United States placed a ban on the import of Libyan oil and the export to it of industrial technology. Europe did not follow these acts, choosing to continue relationships with him, though in a subdued manner.
But 1984 saw the siege of the Libyan Embassy in London, resulting in the death of a policewoman, when the United Kingdom broke off relations with Libya, and the United States clashed with Libyan patrol boats in a disputed area of water known as the Gulf of Sidra. This was followed in 1986 with an explosion in a German nightclub frequented by Americans resulting in three deaths. This brought retaliatory bombing raids on Benghazi and Tripoli which caused the deaths of sixty people.
The bombing of PanAm Flight 103 in 1992 brought United Nations sanctions. Libya admitted responsibility in 2003 and made $2.3 billion available in compensation. A year later, in 2004, the United States lifted its travel ban to Libya and, later in the year, lifted its remaining economic sanctions.
In recent years, Colonel Qadafi has moved from an extreme anti-West position to considerable accommodation with the West, while expanding his interests and influence on the African continent.
Oman occupies a strategic position at the entrance to the Gulf where it has its main littoral along the Arabian Sea but, importantly, also the tip of the peninsula facing the Straits of Hormuz. Its capital, Muscat, has been an important port for centuries, being captured by the Portuguese in 1508, but losing it to the Ottoman Empire in 1659. The Ottomans were, in their turn, driven out in 1741 by the present line of sultans, beginning with Ahmed ibn Said.
Oman was, in its day, an important country having, but losing, possessions in Baluchistan and Zanzibar. The British, driven by their occupation of the Indian sub-continent and the need to police trade routes and contain piracy, occupied Oman in 1891 as a British protectorate.
In 1970 Sultan Said ibn Taimur was replaced, with British assistance, by his son, Qaboos ibn Said al Said, an anglophile. The British involvement lasted until the next year when their protectorate was brought to an end.
Oman has taken a pro-Western line under Sultan Qaboos, opening its bases to American forces involved in actions in Afghanistan in 2001, and maintaining economic progress and good relations with other Middle East countries. The country appears settled, the citizens enjoying basic civil liberties and the lower house of the Advisory Council being elected on a free vote for the first time in 2003.
The British mandate for Palestine covered an area incorporating what is now the entire state of Israel, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Transjordan. The mandate, issued by the League of Nations in June 1922, specifically stated that a national homeland for the Jewish people should be established in Palestine, and that the rights of non-Jews should be protected. In this they were repeating the wording of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Britain, in September 1922, excluded any Jewish interests in the Transjordan where they settled King Abdullah following his displacement from the Hejaz, and maintained British control in the Transjordan until 1946. It should be noted that Palestine and the Transjordan were a single mandate though, in practical terms, they were dealt with differently.
The 1920s saw Jewish immigration which was accomplished peacefully at first but, with the rise in anti-semitism in Europe, spilled over into Palestine where there were misunderstandings based on the lack of familiarity with land laws and the beginnings of Palestinian attacks on Jewish settlements which led to the establishment of the Jewish groups who, in turn, attacked Arab and British interests.
1936 to 1939 witnessed a rise in Arab nationalism led by the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin Al-Husseini and his Husseini family which is believed to have killed more Arabs than Jews. The Jewish organisation, Etzel, responded and the British were forced to put down the uprisings using draconian methods.
The Holocaust in Europe led Jewish interests to increase illegal immigration into Palestine and assassinated Lord Moyne in Cairo in November 1944. The British continued to prevent immigration and in 1946 their administration in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem was blown up with the loss of ninety-two lives. The British withdrew in May 1948, terminating their mandate.
In 1947, the newly formed United Nations attempted to partition Palestine with separate states for Palestine and Israel and with Jerusalem under an international control. Generally, the Palestinian Arabs rejected, and the Palestinian Jews accepted, the plan. However, Palestinian Arabs noted significant statements made by Chaim Weizmann and Menachem Begin reflecting a desire to create a State of Israel with Jerusalem its capital.
Wars between Israel and various Arab groupings such as the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, the Suez war of 1956, the Six-Day war of 1967 resulted in significant territorial gains by Israel at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs triggering considerably more terrorism.
It is widely believed that the problem of Palestine is the single issue that causes most of the difficulties in the Middle East.
Syria was established as an independent Arab Kingdom in 1920 under King Faisal of the Hashemite Kingdom but, following confrontations with the French, he was ousted and moved to Iraq as their King. Briefly the country was held by the Vichy until liberated by the Free French and British forces in 1941. The French remained in the country until April 1946 when they were eased out by republican forces.
There followed a series of military coups from 1949, this despite significant economic development. Colonel Adib Shishakli seized power in 1951 but was overthrown in 1954 by nationalistic social interests. These found comfort in the Egypt of Gamal Abdul Nasser and, in 1958 formed with Egypt, the United Arab Republic. This lasted until 1961 when Syria withdrew to form the Syrian Arab Republic.
Continuing instability characterised the next few years with the Ba’ath party having considerable influence. Their interests in a tripartite agreement with Egypt and Iraq foundered and they then explored a bipartite agreement with Iraq. President Amin Hafiz established a provisional constitution but was deposed by the army and, weakened by internal bickerings and the 1967 war with Israel, Minister of Defence, Hafiz al Asad took over control of Syria in November 1970.
Hafiz al Asad strengthened his grip on the country, crushing the various oppositions to his rule, and dying in June 2000 when, following a change in the constitution to permit it, his son, Bashar al Asad took over control of the country.
The most important figure in Turkish history is Mustafa Kemal – later known as Kemal Ataturk; some say the most important figure in the whole region in that he completely dominated his country, changing it in virtually all respects relating to customs, alphabet, dress, rejection of sharia and equal rights for women as he focussed on emulating the West.
The Ottoman Empire had reached its peak under Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent between 1520-1555. Its territories reached from Vienna to the Persian Gulf, and from the Crimea to Morroco. It covered most of the Middle East but, by the beginning of the twentieth century had begun to lose territory. This weakening led it to side with Germany in the First World War and, at its end, resulted in the allies’ intent to break it up with the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920.
Mustafa Kamal and his nationalist troops rejected the Treaty and expelled the Greeks from Asia Minor. In 1923, following the Treaty of Lausanne which recognised the new borders of Turkey, he established the Republic of Turkey on the 29th October 1923.
Kamal Ataturk, as he was now known, continued his programme of reform until his death in 1938 when he was succeeded by General Ismet Inöü who led Turkey until the first democratic elections in 1950. In 1960 a coup d’état was attempted, resulting in the execution of the Prime Minister, Adnan Menderes, and two of his ministers.
1965 saw the re-establishment of civilian rule, though this reverted in 1971 with Turkey invading Cyprus in 1974 in response to the Greek coup. A second coup took place in 1980 but this again reverted to civilian rule in 1983. Turkey has continued to play its role in supporting Western interests and negotiations with regard to its joining the European Union began in 2004.
The Persian/Arabian Gulf is one of the two sea routes leading to possible accesses to the Mediterranean and the countries surrounding them from the Arabian Sea. In a sense, it is an extension of the Fertile Crescent, the land following the curve of the twin rivers, Tigris and Euphrates. It has been the setting of a number of civilisations for millennia, and has seen trading through and across it in that time.
Along the littoral of the Arabian peninsula a number of settlements grew with time, acting as ports landing goods for their hinterland as well as containing the fishing and pearling fleets for the Gulf. In the nineteenth century Ottoman and British interests vied for control throughout the Gulf both in order to contain the piracy which was rife in the area as well as safeguarding the trade route and access to the Indian sub-continent and African east coast. The British eventually achieving ascendancy, this being formally confirmed by the beginning of the First World War. During that time the British made truce agreements with many of the Sheikhs in the area, giving the name ‘Trucial States’ to these states, a term which lasted until 1971. This period also saw treaties that gave Britain control of their defence and foreign policies.
After the war the histories of the different states was similar to that of Qatar, with oil and gas being discovered and developed to form the basis of the economy.
In the late sixties a number of the Gulf states began discussions with a view to amalgamating into a single entity. The different interests, perhaps exacerbated by old relationships, created difficulties of various sorts within each state and Bahrain and Qatar elected not to join. In 1971 Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah and Umm al Qawain merged to form the United Arab Emirates. A year later they were joined by Ras al Khaimah.
The United Arab Emirates shares many of the characteristics of Qatar, which I have written about above. Although they are a single political entity, each of the component Emirates has a different character. Dubai, for instance, which hasn’t got a supply of oil, has devoted itself to tourism and continuing its long-standing operation as an entrepôt.
Like Qatar, the Emirates is attempting to balance a number of socio-political issues within its borders as well as in its relationships with adjacent countries and those of the Arab world. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s President and driving force in its inauguration, died in 2004, his place being taken by his son, Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahayan.
Finally, a word about the Sykes-Picot Agreement that is germane to the study of the Gulf; and that is the agreement did not define the boundaries of the Arab states of the peninsula, but made mention of the continuing negotiations with the Arabs to establish the boundaries.
In 1974 and 1977 there were demarcation discussions between Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The results of these discussions were not made public but agreements do appear to have been made. Discussions have also taken place with Bahrain and Iran with regard to international marine boundaries, but this may be complicated by Iran’s claim to Bahrain itself.
The presence of oil and gas has focussed minds on issues relating to boundaries, and the area around the narrow Straits of Hormuz has been the location of a number of incidents relating to boundary definition. The United Arab Emirates lay claim to the Iranian-occupied islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tumb. This is probably the most serious outstanding border issue of the Gulf.
The last few decades have witnessed the continuing development and reinforcement of the State of Israel at the expense of Palestine with three Arab Israeli wars fought in forty years; the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait; civil wars in North and South Yemen, Oman, Lebanon, Sudan, Jordan and Iraq; the assassinations of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, King Faisal and the rest of the Royal Family of Iraq together with two successive rulers, Abdulkarim Kassem and Abdulsalam Arif; the assassination of President Sadat of Egypt; and the assassination of President Shishakli of Syria and Riad Al Solh of Lebanon as well as many of these two States’ leaders; the continuing struggle between Iraq and Syria, and between Iraq and Iran; and the deposing of Sadam Hussein in Iraq.
To the West Algeria and Morocco have fought, Libya has sent troops into Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan as well as into Chad and Uganda. Additionally, within Sudan and Ethiopia there are continuing revolutions or insurrections. The belligerence shown by Iraq to Kuwait was seen to be the first step in Iraq’s hegemony over the oil-producing States. Whether the war there will be able to deal with the issues raised by Iraq to their own satisfaction or even to that of the West, and whether the West will permit the Arab States to take the time to allow this to evolve naturally, is very much open to question. However, as long as the issues of Iraq’s territorial ambitions are subordinate to their internal difficulties, there will be a continuing feeling of anxiety among the Gulf States that, to a large extent, will govern the manner in which they will perceive and effect a variety of policies, including development, within the States themselves.
There is considerable resentment in the north of the Middle East at the status the Gulf States have achieved under the protection of the West – a status formed to a large extent by the Western colonial powers and their need for access and oil. Because of this jealousy there is a significant nervousness felt by the Gulf States and a concomitant perceived need to have the West safeguard them. The dichotomy between the wish for freedom from the West and the need for protection by the same powers exercises the minds of many in and outside the region and, correctly or not, this is characterised as a fundamental religious issue.
The movement of the United States bases out of Saudi Arabia to bases on the Qatar peninsula are seen by many as being a permanent development, protecting the West in its need for fossil fuels. This is resented by many in the area and another likely focus for animus against the West.
The Arab world contains approximately two hundred million people, and there is no reason to disbelieve the stated intent of many of their leaders that it is their wish to democratise and establish representative governments throughout the region. However, two issues are likely to have much to do with future development. Firstly, the fundamentalist intent to base any government on Islamic principles, an aim which seems to preclude democracy as defined by the West and, secondly, the socio-cultural argument that the operation of all Arab States is likely to be based on instincts developed from tribal legacies and, particularly in the Gulf States, the concepts of honour and shame. These are central to an understanding of the manner in which individuals and nations within the Arab world are influenced. Moreover, it is believed that the the history of the Middle East reflects this precisely.
Islam and tribal moraes comfort and guide the members of the society giving a firm code of conduct, protection to the members of the society and comforting assumptions about the outside world. Within this culture ambition for leadership of the tribe is a proper route for those who believe they can achieve and hold it, and in these circumstances the people will combine under firm leadership, their culture demanding that they honour their leader whether he is right or wrong.
Because of this it is incorrect to think of the Gulf States as a number of similar countries and peoples. There are similarities between the societies, land and history but, although essentially all are newly created, the States have distinctive and different identities, have developed separately from different dates and at different rates, and have goals decided for them by their different rulers – and outside powers.
Conversely, and perhaps, because of the short history of their establishment, it is apparent from conversations that many Arabs of the Gulf States put themselves forward as Arabs first, Muslims second and nationals of their various countries third. Formally, of course, it is obvious that they are Muslims first, but the conflict between the concepts of democratic and tribal societies, and the conflict between those who wish to learn from the West in order to progress and the majority who wish to return to more fundamental values will continue to ensure a lack of stability within the Arab world without an external power to safeguard a form of peace. This can not help the smaller Gulf States establish a coherent Arab legitimacy with respect to their stronger neighbours. There will continue to be felt unease towards the larger States, although they will maintain a fierce competitiveness towards their similarly sized neighbours while embracing both pan-Arab and Muslim brotherliness – a term borrowed from Arabic but which is difficult to translate correctly.
In particular Saudi Arabia – the state which forms the protective backbone of the Gulf states – is under internal strain from Islamic fundamentalism. Liberals in Saudi believe that more democratic reforms would isolate the religious fundamentalists, but it is unlikely that this novel system would be put to the test in the short term. The reverberations from this incipient revolt can be felt in all the Gulf States and it is this, perhaps more than any other issue, that will affect the manner in which the Gulf States develop their institutions and attitudes in the future.
I should also finally mention again the other issues that are always at the back of the minds of Gulf Arabs: those relating to the states of Israel and Iran. They are a constant source of concern and, in the case of the former, a humiliation forced on them by the West. It should always be remembered that a slight to another Muslim or Islamic state will always draw Muslims together – whatever issues one has in contention with the other.
The main tribes and communities living in Qatar in 1908 and 1939 are listed on the page dealing with population. It can be seen that a number of families are missing from the list, though I don’t know why this is. The Al Attiyah, Al Na’aimi, Al Dusari and Al Thani are ones that spring most immediately to mind but there are likely to be others. I shall have to carry out more research on this area. It would be useful to read the information which follows with the note here which looks at issues relating to the origins of the people of the peninsula.
Right up to the seventies there seems to have been considerable movement within the peninsula due to economic activity and, particularly, the efforts of the government to settle families in what was termed ‘public housing’. Generally families were settled on land which was not traditionally theirs as, in the case of urban families, their housing was levelled and land given them on the outskirts of the their towns and, in the case of less urbanised families, they were brought in and given land, also on the periphery of existing urban development.
The families who are mainly found in Doha are:
though many of these families originally came from – and in some cases, still live in – other settlements in Qatar. Some of these families also have close relatives living in other Gulf states due to the character of the tribes occupying the Arabian peninsula and their habits of movement and settlement.
You might notice that the last five names are of different origin from the others on the list and are those of merchant families.
According to The Handbook of Arabia, 1916, there were twenty-five groupings of whom the most numerous were:
The different families in the Gulf maintain their order, and through it, their status by internal social mechanisms; essentially, where the head of the tribe is primus inter pares– first among equals. This applies to the Al Thani family, for instance, who maintain their head and, therefore, the Ruler of the country, through familial accord. Bearing in mind that all families have a number of different branches – for instance the Al Thani have the bani Khalid, bani Hamad and bani Jassim branches – it is important that the different branches and the most capable individuals are recognised and used in some way that befits them within the overall and elemental parts of the family. In this way they are supported and give support to each according to their need. In a tribe most people will know their individual place within it, and the head of the tribe will be responsible for resolving difficulties, acting as arbitrator and ensuring that the good name of the family continues.
According to Lorimer, these were, at the beginning of the twentieth century:
One difficulty has arisen within this traditional hierarchical arrangement is that the government now provides some of the support which, previously, the head of the qabila used to give. For instance, not that long ago a mother might ask the head of the qabila for financial assistance in order to have a child receive specialist medical treatment. Now the state will provide that. However, the head of the qabila is still used to provide services, usually through influence in the majaalis and so maintain his place of priviledge. Nevertheless, the dichotomy introduced by the state’s wealth now providing resources does create ambiguities at least, and another difficulty for the society to come to terms with.
As described above, the Qatar peninsula has, for some time, been ruled by one of the families moving into and around it for centuries. The Al Thani family is now pre-eminent, rules Qatar and, with the increasing wealth of the country, has developed policies which have an influence across the modern world. But their more recent history goes back to Sheikh Thani bin Muhammad who was the head of that part of the family and living at Fuwairat. It was here that Muhammad bin Thani – whose name can be seen in green at the foot of this old chart – was born, taking over as head of the tribe in Fuwairat on the death of his father. A useful genealogical history of the Al Thani family can be found on one of the sites dealing with genealogies, but be warned, it is only the male side of the family who are noted on the trees, and there seem to be a number of variations in the trees I have seen.
In particular, I have found it difficult to follow the line before Muhammad bin Thani. But, with apologies for any misunderstandings of the Arabic, here is the line given on the different family trees I have seen, beginning with Muhammad bin Thani, taken in this case from the bottom of the above diagram:
Muhammad bin Thani bin Muhammad bin Thamr bin Ali bin Saif bin Muhammad bin Rashid bin Ali bin Sultan bin Barid bin Sa’ad bin Saalim bin ’Amruw bin Ma’dhaad bin Ris bin Zaakhr bin Muhammad bin Aluwy bin Wahib bin Qaasim bin Musa bin Musa’wd bin Aqba bin Sanya bin Nahashl bin Shadaad bin Zuhair bin Shahaab bin Rabiy’a bin Iba Suwd bin Maalik bin Handhala bin Maalik bin Zaidmanaah bin Tamim bin Murr bin Idd bin Taabakha bin Elias bin Madthar bin Nazaar bin Ma’ad bin ’Adnaan.
However, one of the charts on the above-mentioned site states:
Shaikh Jasim bin Thani gives the pedigree of his grandfather as follows: Jassim bin Thani bin Muhammad bin Thamr, bin Ali bin Muhammad bin Saalim bin Muhammad bin Jasim bin Sa’id bin Ali bin Thamr bin Muhammad bin Ali bin Ma’dhad bin Musharraf.
suggesting that there may be differences held in the perceived lineage of the al-Thani family.
Sheikh Muhammad bin Thani was born in Fuwairat in the north-east of the peninsula, the son of Thani bin Muhammad. In 1847, under his leadership, this group moved from Fuwairat to Doha and slowly extended control of the north of the peninsula to the whole of it by the mid 1860s, making alliances in 1851 with Faisal bin Turki, the Emir of Saudi, to strengthen his position with regards to the Arabian hinterland. As mentioned previously, Sheikh Muhammad made a peace treaty with the British on the 12th September 1868 but, in 1871 invited the Turks of Al Hasa to protect Qatar’s interests, the Turks taking up residence in Qatar in 1872 and warning the British against becoming involved. Sheikh Muhammad died around 1878 or 1879 having given over the rule of the country to his son, Sheikh Jassim bin Muhammad in 1876.
Sheikh Qasim (Jassim) bin Muhammad was born around 1825, probably in Fuwairat. As the effective ruler of the country he was accorded the Ottoman title, Qaim-Maqam – Deputy Governor in 1876 and, on the 18th December 1878 he assumed power. His early rule saw the Turks embarked upon a programme strengthening their position in the Qatar peninsula. They appointed Turkish administrators at Zubara, Doha, Wakrah and Khor al Udaid and established a Custom House at Doha while strengthening their garrison there. Differences continued between Sheikh Jassim and the Ottomans leading to open warfare when Shaikh Jassim defeated Turkish troops at Wajbah, fifteen kilometres to the west of Doha in March 1893. Sheikh Jassim is regarded as the founder of the modern State of Qatar, and died on the 15th Shawwal 1331, July 1913.
Although not officially a ruler of Qatar, I have added Sheikh Ahmad, born around 1860, as he took over many of the country’s responsibilities for his brother, Sheikh Jassim bin Muhammad, in 1898 following the battle of Wajbah after which his brother effectively retired to Lusail. Sheikh Ahmad was murdered by a Bani Hajir servant in 1905 after which Sheikh Jassim again assumed control of the country’s affairs.
Following the death of Sheikh Ahmad bin Jassim, the elderly Sheikh Jassim held discussions with three of his sons, Sheikh Abdulrahman, Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim, the latter being appointed by his father in 1906 as Heir Apparent. Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim was born in Doha in 1880 and, on the 17th July 1913, became the Ruler of Qatar on the death of his father. Two years later, following the outbreak of the First World War, the Turks were forced to leave Qatar and, the following year, Britain entered into a treaty with Sheikh Abullah effectively offering protection as noted above.
Two agreements were entered into with the British in 1935. The first, on the 5th May, guaranteed protection from both outside and inside the country whereas the second, on the 17th May, saw Sheikh Abdullah signing the first oil concession agreement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, this coinciding with British recognition of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah, the second son of Sheikh Abdullah, as the Heir Apparent. Regrettably, Sheikh Hamad died on the 25th April 1948 and, a month later, Sheikh Abdullah appointed his son, Sheikh Ali, as Heir Apparent on the 30th June and, on the 20th August 1948, abdicated in favour of Sheikh Ali. Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim died on the 25th April 1957.
Sheikh Ali was born around 1896 assuming his position as Ruler in August, as mentioned above.
The Second World War effectively delayed development in the country for its duration but, on the 5th August 1949, Sheikh Ali signed a Seabed Concession with Central Mining and Investment Corporation Ltd. This, and the previous agreement with Anglo-Persian set the seeds for the modern development of the State. The signing was quickly followed on the 31st December 1949 by the first transfer of oil from Qatar via the port of Umm Said in the south of the country where there was deep sea access for tankers.
Three years later, on the 1st September 1952, a new Agreement was signed with the Iraq Petroleum Company – which later became the Qatar Petroleum Company – under which Qatar acquired fifty per cent of the profits from oil exports. At this time, Sheikh Ali established the beginnings of an effective administrative system to manage the proceeds from oil. Sheikh Ali abdicated in favour of his son, Sheikh Ahmed on the 24th October 1960, at the same time appointing Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad as the Heir Apparent and Deputy Ruler. Sheikh Ali died on the 31st August 1974.
Sheikh Ahmed was born around 1920 in Doha and his rule witnessed considerable development of the oil industry, with the exceptions noted above relating the Second World War. In 1960 Sheikh Ahmed established the Ministry of Finance with Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad its Minister. Other organisations followed to deal with the administrative and financial areas of government.
1963 saw the finding of a large oil field and the establishment of an oil terminal on the island of Halul in 1965. January 1964 saw the first seabed field in the world operating as an off-shore facility.
In 1968 the British Labour government terminated its treaties in the Gulf as its policies moved to leave from the east of Suez. The nine Gulf States failed to form an effective political unit and Qatar promulgated a Provisional Constitution on the 2nd April 1970, following this with the country’s first Council of Ministers on the 28th May 1970. Qatar declared itself independent on the 3rd September 1971, effectively ending the Treaty with the British of the 3rd November 1916. Sheikh Ahmad died on the 25th November 1977.
Sheikh Khalifa was born in Rayyan in 1932 and assumed power on the 22nd February 1972 with the agreement of the Royal Family, and began the process of reorganising government and extending links to other countries in the world. He amended the Constitution on the 19th April 1972, enlarged the Ministerial Cabinet and established wide-ranging diplomatic relations. He also took the opportunity to bring in a number of Western consultancies. For instance, through the Ministry of Public Works, the first of the Western planning consultancies was instructed to produce an orderly development of the country and, particularly, of Doha, its largest conurbation.
On the 18th July 1989 Sheikh Khalifa re-shuffled and enlarged the Cabinet to fifteen members, most of them being new to the Cabinet and, again on the 1st September 1992, it was enlarged to seventeen members.
On the 4th December 1990 Sheikh Khalifa re-organised the Advisory Council, retaining eleven members and adding another nineteen. In addition to this he established and revised fiscal and monetary agencies with a view to controlling better the increasing revenues and expenditures of the State.
Sheikh Khalifa was also responsible for developing more production sharing agreements with foreign organisations. In January 1985 and February 1986 agreements were signed with the Standard Oil Company of Ohio and Amoco respectively, and these were followed in January 1989 with an agreement with the French government-owned Elf Aquitaine.
At the same time Sheikh Khalifa organised the development of the industrial sector with steel and cement plants being established at Umm Said and Umm Bab respectively together with a chemical fertilizer plant for the country’s growing agricultural initiatives.
Education, under the guidance of Sheikh Khalifa’s brother, Sheikh Muhammad bin Hamad, prospered with schools being rapidly constructed in all areas of the country and the model Gulf University established to the north of Doha along with the development of a large area of land – the New District of Doha or dafnah – being constructed through the reclamation of a large area of shallow sea in the bay north-west and adjacent to the capital.
Meanwhile security and the army were developed with respectively, at their heads, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad, Minister of the Interior and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, the oldest son of Sheikh Khalifa and Commander in chief of the army.
This period saw considerable expansion, though there was a slow down in development in the late eighties and early nineties.
Sheikh Hamad was born in 1952 and educated in Qatar and Sandhurst Military Academy in Britain, from which he graduated in 1971.
On the 31st May 1977 he was appointed Heir Apparent and Minister of Defence, establishing a progressive and modernised armed force capability. The early eighties saw him chair the Higher Planning Council, the organisation that establishes and guides the direction in which the country develops. He also took a keen interest in sports which continues with Qatar increasingly associated with both national and world-wide sports interests.
Sheikh Hamad assumed power on the 27th June 1995 with the agreement of the Royal Family. He has continued a programme of significant expansion in the development within the country and a wider recognition throughout the world with the movement of American troops onto the peninsula, the operation of Al Jazeera television station based there, his policies relating to the democratisation of the country, and the aforementioned sporting initiatives. In addition his wife, Sheikha Mosa, has been very much involved in advancing a number of aspects improving the life of Qatari women, particularly education.
This development has come at a time in regional affairs when there were considerable difficulties, notably the conflicts in Kuwait and Iraq and the influx of considerable military forces into the region. This conflict has seen Qatar drawn into the fight to free Kuwait, and it is notable that Qatar has aligned itself strongly with Western interests both in the search for a settled peace in the area as well as moving towards what the West would consider a more democratic society.
There are a number of photos of members of the al-Thani family on Flickr, but the main one has been taken down. A simple search will find others.
This diagram illustrates, perhaps a little crudely, the disposition of the chief industries upon which Qatar depends for its livelihood. The diagram can not show the importance of each of these, nor the reason for their location, but it is well enough known that Qatar has massive reserves of gas and significant reserves of oil.
Oil was first discovered on the west side of the peninsula but is mainly located off the north-east coast of Qatar in the area known as the North Dome, as well as to its east. By contrast gas is mainly found along the west coast from Dukhan in the north, to the south past Umm Bab where the cement industry is based. It is evident from their location near the gasfields that the Hawar Islands have a strategic importance, as can be seen in the diagram further up the page that shows the result of the dispute brought before the International Court of Justice to determine the border between Bahrein and Qatar. The islands have now been determined to belong to Bahrein, though the part of the peninsula which Bahrein also claimed has been allowed to remain with Qatar.
The two photographs here are of the terminal on Halul Island, and one of Qatar»s oil rigs out in the Gulf. They are two of a number of official photographs published by the Qatar government in the early 1970s when there were the first attempts to publicise the achievements of the country and the progress made to date. These efforts were aimed both externally, as well as within the country and were useful in illustrating a snapshot of the State at that time.
As the map above illustrates, elements of the country’s oil and gas resources lie on the west side of the country where, as I mentioned earlier, there has been conflict with Bahraini interests regarding the Fasht al Dibal reef, the Hawar islands and Zubara on the Qatar peninsula, but which has now been legally resolved. These resources have to be piped overland to the south-east coast of Qatar where there is access for tankers at the deep water port of the industrial city, Umm Said. Here, in the top photo, you can see the pipes leading across the country from the characteristic low landscapes of the west coast and, on the horizon, gas can be seen being flared off. You can also see the track beside the pipeline enabling access and a measure of security to be provided.
In the map above you can see the proximity of what is termed the North Dome or North Field to the north-east of the Qatar peninsula. This aerial photograph shows the industrial city of Ras Laffan which has seen remarkably fast growth in recent years with more planned. It has been established as an industrial city based on the gas and liquids derived from the North Field gas reserves. Qatar intends to be a world leader in liquified natural gas – LNG, and gas-to-liquid – GTL technololgies.
There are some industrial activities located on the west coast at Umm Bab and, on the south-east coast, at Umm Said, the industrial town which is also the deep water terminal for berthing tankers. The terminal was opened in 1949 for the loading of crude oil. For a long time there was little residential accommodation there but it is now better supported. There is also a dredged channel to accommodate shipping at Qatar’s main marine access.
The lower photograph is another of the government’s offical photographs, published in the early 1970s, and shows the Qatar Fertiliser Company’s terminal at Umm Said, established in 1968 as a joint venture and inaugurated in 1973.
As I suggested in the first paragraph, Qatar has significantly large supplies of natural gas in addition to its oil with the third largest reserves in the world after Iran and Russia. It follows that natural liquified gas, or NLG as it is usually referred to, is really the basis for Qatar’s future development. Qatargas, the company established to own and run, as well as market and export, the gas from the North Field is anticipated to generate approximately 2.8 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas.
In the nineteen seventies it was common to flare, or burn off, a lot of the gas that was produced as a by product of the crude oil. As much as 80% was flared but this has now been reduced to about 5%. More to be written on this…
While the nascent industries, powered by gas and oil got underway in the 1950s and 1960s, the need for drinking water was responded to by the development of the first desalination plant. This was located at Ras Abu Aboud, to the east of Doha. This aerial photograph of it, looking approximately south-west, is one of the official government photographs published in the early 1970s. Above it can be seen the port with four ships berthed and, beyond it, the West Bay with some of the development at al-Bida and Rumeillah.
Tourism, the newest industry, tends to be concentrated in Doha, particularly in the New District of Doha where there are a significant number of new hotels together with a many new sports facilities. Qatar University is also located here. Al Shahaniya, in the centre of the country, houses the national zoo, and there are a number of historic buildings around the country, perhaps the most important being in the north-west at Zubara. Within Doha there are a number of other facilities dealing with the past, the Doha Museum is the largest of these but there are many others both existing and planned.
This area to be developed…
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