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'Gazetteer of Arabia Vol. II' [‎1007] (44/688)

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The record is made up of 1 volume (341 folios). It was created in 1917. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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of the population. Drinking water is from the Husainlyah canal, or, in the months
when it is dry, from some 20 or 25 wells, mostly sunk in its bed.
Trade, manufactures, and resources. —Karbala is a place of considerable trade, the
most valuable imports being piece-goods, sugar, petroleum, spices, coffee, tea, Persian
carpets, and candles, almost entirely for local consumption ; while the leading exports
are dates, consecrated articles—such as rosaries, praying-tablets, and inscribed shrouds-
skins and hides, wool and tobacco. The bazaars are extensive and well-stocked, and
attached to the main bazaar in the old town is a Qaisariyah or arcade, in which are
about 20 good shops dealing in European and other wares.
Filigree work and engraving upon mother-of-pearl are the only two arts ; but all the
ordinary trades are carried on with success, and even mechanical professions, such aa
watch making and photography, are exercised with a fair degree of skill
The agricultural and garden produce of the environs is large, and the output of dates
is on such a scale as to leave a large balance for exportation. Karbala is not, however,
a good centre for the collection of ordinary supplies or transport: there are no mules,
and camels can only be procured in autumn when Bedouins of the 'Anizah and
Shammar tribes are in the vicinity.
Administration. —Karbala is the chief town and the headquarters of the administra
tion, both civil and military, of the Karbala Sanjaq in the Wilayat of Baghdad ; inter
nally it is administered as a municipality. The Mutasarrif of the Sanjaq had his
residence here. Under Turkish rule, a whole Tabur of Dhabitiyahs was supposed to be
located at Karbala, rarely more than 100 of the force were present. There is a post office,
and telegraphic connection is maintained with Baghdad and Basrah via Hillah : a branch
line of telegraph also connects Karbala with Najaf.
The interests of British subjects, both residents and pilgrims, are watched over by
a native Vice-Consul, and the Persian Government also maintain at Karbala a paid
Karpardaz or consular official of somewhat similar rank.
Religious importance. —We may now mention the holy places which are the sole cause
of the existence of a large Persian city on the verge of the Shamiyah Desert at a distance
of nearly 150 miles from the nearest part of the Persian frontier. The historical events
with which they are connected are related elsewhere : but for those events Karbala,
which does not appear to have been a seat of pre-Islamic civilisation, might never have
existed even as a petty town. The chief shrines within the town are the tombs of Husain
and 'Abbas and the Khaimahgah ; in the country outside the walls are the tombs of
'Aun and Hurr.
The shrine of Husain, called Bargah Hazrat Husain, stands in the old town tow'ards
its western end. The interior is not accessible to Christians, but it is known to consist,
in the first place, of a large enclosure called the Sahn or Outer Court; this enclosure has
7 entrances, the-xoaiaone surmounted by a clock-tower, and the enceinte wall is lined
upon the inner inside by no less than 53 arched recesses forming rooms, some of which
are of considerable site. In the midst of the Sahn stands the Haram or Sanctuary
proper : it is a roofed building surmounted by a lofty dome of gilded tiles and its facade
from either end of which shoots up a gilded minaret of great height, faces the main
entrance of the Sahn. A tile-work minaret, larger than those of the Haram but not so
magnificent, rises in the corner of the Sahn which is at the back of the Haram and behind
its proper left; and near this corner is a small external Sahn adjoining the main Sahn
to which it serves as an entrance. In the centre of the building, underneath the dome,
lies the Imam Husain with his son 'Ali Akbar on one side of him. The tombs of both
have an outer cover of steel lattice-work overlaid with silver and an inner one of carved
wood ; both are of hexagonal shape. Behind a silver grating in one of the corners are
the tombs of the 72 Shuhada or so-called martyrs, who died with Husain.
The tomb of 'Abbas, half-brother of Husain, to the east of that of Husain and so
nearer to the middle of the town, is similar but slightly smaller and has a dome of glazed
brick only ; the minarets however are gilded.
Each of these principal shrines has a treasury supposed to contain untold wealth,
but, as the treasury of Husain was looted by the Wahhabis in 1801 and is still admitted
ly the richer of the two, it does not seem that in either case the popular idea can be well
founded. Such treasures as remain are, along with the other endowments, in charge of
the Auqaf Department of the Turkish Government. Both buildings owe their gold

About this item


Volume II of III of the Gazetteer of Arabia. The Gazetteer is alphabetically-arranged and this volume contains entries K through to R.

The Gazetteer is an alphabetically-arranged compendium of the tribes, clans and geographical features (including towns, villages, lakes, mountains and wells) of Arabia that is contained within three seperate bound volumes. The entries range from short descriptions of one or two sentences to longer entries of several pages for places such as Iraq and Yemen.

A brief introduction states that the gazetteer was originally intended to deal with the whole of Arabia, "south of a line drawn from the head of the Gulf of 'Aqabah, through Ma'an, to Abu Kamal on the Euphrates, and to include Baghdad and Basrah Wilayats" and notes that before the gazetteer could be completed its publication was postponed and that therefore the three volumes that now form this file simply contain "as much of the MSS. [manuscript] as was ready at the time". It further notes that the contents have not been checked.

Extent and format
1 volume (341 folios)
Physical characteristics

Foliation: This volume's foliation system is circled in pencil, in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. of each folio.

Written in
English in Latin script
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'Gazetteer of Arabia Vol. II' [‎1007] (44/688), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/MIL/17/16/2/2, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 27 February 2020]

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