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'Gazetteer of Arabia Vol. II' [‎1354] (409/688)

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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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The town is divided between two turbulent political or municipal factions, tBer
Shumurd and Zugurd, ol which the origin and raison d'etre have not been explained,
and in the past the public peace was often disturbed by their frays ; even at the present
time serious fighting sometimes takes place' between them in the streets.
The atmosphere of Najaf is one of Shi'ah culture and bigotry, both carried to greater
lengths than at Karbala ; and most of the permanent residents depend for their liveli'
hood on functions connected with the shrine, the pilgrims, or religion^ There are many
Mujtahids, some of whom carry great weight in the Shi'ah world ; also real and nominal
students of Shi'ah theology to the number, probably, of several thousands. The town
boasts 15 Madrasahs or religious high schools and 90 mosques.
Resources. —In a place so artificial as Najaf, a large town situated in a desert, supplies
and transport are necessarily deficient. The water of the Bahr. when it contains any,
is not drunk except by animals ; but it serves for washing and other domestic purposes,
A better water supply is now furnished by the Hamidiyah, an open canal, which brings
the water of the Hindiyah to the town ; and the ancient jingling proverb—•" He who
takes up his hresidence in Najaf must he content with brackish Well-water barley-bread
! compensated for hy the virtue of the shrine of 'Ali ? '—has now lost its appropriateness.
Trade and manufacture. 1 !.—The trade of Najaf, of which the river port is Kufah,
depends on local consumption, on the influx of pilgrims, and in a minor degree on inter-
Course with Jabal Shammar. Two-thirds of the imports are said to be consumed by
pilgrims. The trade with Najaf is carried on by Hadrahs or commercial missions from
the interior, sometimes private enterprises and sometimes officially despatched by the
Amir of Jabal Shammar, which visit Najaf periodically to make purchases. In seasons
of scarcity inland there is a steady flow of grain from Najaf to Hail. The principal
exports of Najaf are lambskins, sheepskins and wool brought in from the adjacent
country, 'Abas manufactured in the town, and grain. The chief imports are Manches
ter piece-goods from Baghdad, sugar, Indian spices, tea, largely from Calcutta, hard-
Ware and timber.
The most important local manufacture is silken and woollen 'Abas, dyed in fast
Colours and embroidered with gold thread ; it maintains about 200 looms and 30 shops
in the town. There is a business also, as at Karbala, in praying tablets and inscribed
Administration. —-Najaf was the headquarters of the Qadha of the same name and the
seat of a Qaim-Maqam, but Turkish officialdom was never conspicuous.
A single telegraph wire connects Najaf with the Euphrates valley line at Hillah vid
Karbala and Tawairij, but the working of this branch is inefficient and in 1905 it remain
ed interrupted for several months continuously. There is also a post-office at Najaf.
The town itself is administered as a municipality. The municipal building consists
of 6 or 7 rooms, partly furnished, over the Bab-al-Husain : it was placed at the
disposal of the British Consul-General on the occasion of his last visit to Najaf (1905).
The interests of Persian subjects at Najaf are protected by a paid Naib-Karpardaz
or Persian Consular Agent.
In the early summer of 1915, the inhabitants of Najaf, incensed at the high-handed
methods of the Turks in regard to recruiting, broke into incipient revolt and a battalion
of Turkish tfoops and four guns were despatched from Baghdad to quell the disturbance.
The disgraceful behaviour of these troops so exasperated the inhabitants that they threw
off their allegiance to the Turkish Government and barricaded the streets and houses
I against the troops. During the fight which ensued, the Turks, either by accident or
design in turning their guns on to the townspeople, damaged the minarets round the
shrine. Fighting continued for three days and at the end of that time the populace
got the upper hand. The troops surrendered and were disarmed. The management
of affairs was then taken over by local Arab Shaikhs, in consultation with the
Chief Priest. (Murphy.)
' Religious importance. —Najaf owes its celebrity and even its existence to the estima
tion in which it is held by Shi'ah Muhammadans as a place of pilgrimage and inter
ment ; the subject of the Shi 'ah pilgrimages is fully dealt with in another place. The
consecrated cemetery of Najaf, known as the Wadi-as-Salam, or Valley of Salvation, is
even more highly esteemed than the corresponding necropolis of Karbala ; it covers
the sandy plain to the north and east of the town, and it contains, besides myriads of

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' [‎1354] (409/688), 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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