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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hadramut

HADRAMUT, a district on the south coast of Arabia, bounded W. by Yemen, E. by Oman and N. by the Dahna desert. The modern Arabs restrict the name to the coast between Balhāf and Sihut, and the valley of the Wadi Hadramut in the interior; in its wider and commonly accepted signification it includes also the Mahra and Gāra coasts extending eastwards to Mirbat; thus defined, its limits are between 14° and 18° N. and 47° 30′ to 55° E., with a total length of 550 m. and a breadth of 150 m.

The coastal plain is narrow, rarely exceeding 10 m. in width, and in places the hills extend to the seashore. The principal ports are Mukalla and Shihr, both considerable towns, and Kusair and Raida, small fishing villages; inland there are a few villages near the foot of the hills, with a limited area of cultivation irrigated by springs or wells in the hill torrent beds. Behind the littoral plain a range of mountains, or rather a high plateau, falling steeply to the south and more gently to the north, extends continuously from the Yemen highlands on the west to the mouth of the Hadramut valley, from which a similar range extends with hardly a break to the border of Oman. Its crest-line is generally some 30 m. from the coast, and its average height between 4000 and 5000 ft. A number of wadis or ravines cutting deeply into the plateau run northward to the main Wadi Hadramut, a broad valley lying nearly east and west, with a total length from its extreme western heads on the Yemen highlands to its mouth near Sihut of over 500 m. Beyond the valley and steadily encroaching on it lies the great desert extending for 300 m. to the borders of Nejd. The most westerly village in the main valley is Shabwa, in ancient days the capital, but now almost buried by the advancing desert. Lower down the first large villages are Henān and Ajlania, near which the wadis ‘Amd, Duwān and el ‘Ain unite, forming the W. Kasr. In the W. Duwān and its branches are the villages of Haura, el Hajrēn, Kaidun and al Khurēba. Below Haura for some 60 m. there is a succession of villages with fields, gardens and date groves; several tributaries join on either side, among which the W. bin Ali and W. Adim from the south contain numerous villages. The principal towns are Shibām, al Ghurfa, Saiyun, Tariba, el Ghuraf, Tarim, formerly the chief place, ‘Ainat and el Kasm. Below the last-named place there is little cultivation or settled population. The shrines of Kabr Salih and Kabr Hud are looked on as specially sacred, and are visited by numbers of pilgrims. The former, which is in the Wadi Ser about 20 m. N.W. of Shibām, was explored by Theodore Bent in 1894; the tomb itself is of no interest, but in the neighbourhood there are extensive ruins with Himyaritic inscriptions on the stones. Kabr Hud is in the main valley some distance east of Kasm; not far from it is Bir Borhut, a natural grotto, where fumes of burning sulphur issue from a number of volcanic vents; al-Masudi mentions it in the 10th century as an active volcano. Except after heavy rain, there is no running water in the Hadramut valley, the cultivation therefore depends on artificial irrigation from wells. The principal crops are wheat, millet, indigo, dates and tobacco; this latter, known as Hamumi tobacco, is of excellent quality.

Hadramut has preserved its name from the earliest times; it occurs in Genesis as Hazarmaveth and Hadoram, sons of Joktan; and the old Greek geographers mention Adramytta and Chadramotites in their accounts of the frankincense country. The numerous ruins discovered in the W. Duwān and Adim, as well as in the main valley, are evidences of its former prosperity and civilization.

The people, known as Hadrami (plural Hadārim), belong generally to the south Arabian stock, claiming descent from Ya‘rab bin Kahtān. There is, however, a large number of Seyyids or descendants of the Prophet, and of townsmen of northern origin, besides a considerable class of African or mixed descent. Van den Berg estimates the total population of Hadramut (excluding the Mahra and Gāra) at 150,000, of which he locates 50,000 in the valley between Shibām and Tarim, 25,000 in the W. Duwān and its tributaries, and 25,000 in Mukalla, Shihr and the coast villages, leaving 50,000 for the non-agricultural population scattered over the rest of the country, probably an excessive estimate.

The Seyyids, descendants of Ḥosain, grandson of Mahomet, form a numerous and highly respected aristocracy. They are divided into families, the chiefs of which are known as Munsibs, who are looked on as the religious leaders of the people, and are even in some cases venerated as saints. Among the leading families are the Sheikh Abu Bakr of Aināt, the el-Aidrus of Shihr and the Sakkāf of Saiyun. They do not bear arms, nor occupy themselves in trade or manual labour or even agriculture; though owning a large proportion of the land, they employ slaves or hired labourers to cultivate it. As compared with the other classes, they are well educated, and are strict in their observance of religious duties, and owing to the respect due to their descent, they exercise a strong influence both in temporal and spiritual affairs.

The tribesmen, as in Arabia generally, are the predominant class in the population; all the adults carry arms; some of the tribes have settled towns and villages, others lead a nomadic life, keeping, however, within the territory which is recognized as belonging to the tribe. They are divided into sections or families, each headed by a chief or abu (lit. father), while the head of the tribe is called the mukaddam or sultan; the authority of the chief depends largely on his personality: he is the leader in peace and in war, but the tribesmen are not his subjects; he can only rule with their support. The most powerful tribe at present in Hadramut is the Kaiti, a branch of the Yāfa tribe whose settlements lie farther west. Originally invited by the Seyyids to protect the settled districts from the attacks of marauding tribes, they have established themselves as practically the rulers of the country, and now possess the coast district with the towns of Shihr and Mukalla, as well as Haura, Hajrēn and Shibām in the interior. The head of the family has accumulated great wealth, and risen to the highest position in the service of the nizam of Hyderabad in India, as Jamadar, or commander of an Arab levy composed of his tribesmen, numbers of whom go abroad to seek their fortune. The Kathiri tribe was formerly the most powerful; they occupy the towns of Saiyun, Tarim and el-Ghuraf in the richest part of the main Hadramut valley. The chiefs of both the Kaiti and Kathiri are in political relations with the British government, through the resident at Aden (q.v.). The ‘Amudi in the W. Duwān, and the Nahdi, Awāmir and Tamimi in the main valley, are the principal tribes possessing permanent villages; the Saibān, Hamumi and Manāhil occupy the mountains between the main valley and coast.

The townsmen are the free inhabitants of the towns and villages as distinguished from the Seyyids and the tribesmen: they do not carry arms, but are the working members of the community, merchants, artificers, cultivators and servants, and are entirely dependent on the tribes and chiefs under whose protection they live. The servile class contains a large African element, brought over formerly when the slave trade flourished on this coast; as in all Mahommedan countries they are well treated, and often rise to positions of trust.

As already mentioned, a large number of Arabs from Hadramut go abroad; the Kaiti tribesmen take service in India in the irregular troops of Hyderabad; emigration on a large scale has also gone on, to the Dutch colonies in Java and Sumatra, since the beginning of the 19th century. According to the census of 1885, quoted by Van den Berg in his Report published by the government of the Dutch East Indies in 1886, the number of Arabs in those colonies actually born in Arabia was 2500, while those born in the colonies exceeded 20,000; nearly all of the former are from the towns in the Hadramut valley between Shibām and Tarim. Mukalla and Shihr have a considerable trade with the Red Sea and Persian Gulf ports, as well as with the ports of Aden, Dhafar and Muscat; a large share of this is in the hands of Parsee and other British Indian traders who have established themselves in the Hadramut ports. The principal imports are wheat, rice, sugar, piece goods and hardware. The exports are small; the chief items are honey, tobacco and sharks' fins. In the towns in the interior the principal industries are weaving and dyeing.

The Mahra country adjoins the Hadramut proper, and extends along the coast from Sihut eastwards to the east of Kamar Bay, where the Gāra coast begins and stretches to Mirbat. The sultan of the Mahra, to whom Sokotra also belongs, lives at Kishin, a poor village consisting of a few scattered houses about 30 m. west of Ras Fartak. Sihut is a similar village 20 m. farther west. The mountains rise to a height of 4000 ft. within a short distance of the coast, covered in places with trees, among which are the myrrh- and frankincense-bearing shrubs. These gums, for which the coast was celebrated in ancient days, are still produced; the best quality is obtained in the Gāra country, on the northern slope of the mountains. Dhafar and the mountains behind it were visited and surveyed by Mr Bent's party in 1894. There are several thriving villages on the coast, of which el-Hafa is the principal port of export for frankincense; 9000 cwt. is exported annually to Bombay.

Ruins of Sabaean buildings were found by J. T. Bent in the neighbourhood of Dhafar, and a remarkable cove or small harbour was discovered at Khor Rori, which he identified with the ancient port of Moscha.

Authorities.—L. Van den Berg, Le Hadramut et les colonies arabes (Batavia, 1885); L. Hirsch, Reise in Südarabien (Leiden, 1897); J. T. Bent, Southern Arabia (London, 1895); A. von Wrede, Reise in Hadramut (Brunswick, 1870); H. J. Carter, Trans. Bombay As. Soc. (1845), 47-51; Journal R.G.S. (1837).

(R. A. W.)