Northern Arabia


This highly detailed map was produced by the British War Office for the Royal Geographical Society with the permission of the controller of His Majesty’s Stationery Office in March 1922. It shows the physical features of northern Arabia, i.e., the steppe from Arabian Hasa (often seen as Ahsa) in the southeast to Jerusalem in the northwest. Physical features include altitude contours, lakes, rivers, and seasonal stream courses (wadis). The map presumably was intended as a guide to travelers in this wilderness region. Among its interesting features are the trails and encampments of earlier travelers and explorers, such as Gertrude Bell (1868−1926), Charles Montagu Doughty (1843−1926), and Captain William Shakespear (1878−1915). As indicated by the stamp at bottom right, the map accompanied a journal article by Douglas Carruthers, “Captain Shakespear’s Last Journey,” published in Geographical Journal in May 1922. The pilgrimage routes to Mecca from Syria and Egypt are clearly shown. Significant human features, such as ancient ruins or contemporary oil fields, are absent. The international frontier between Iran and Iraq is boldly drawn, but it is the only such boundary shown, perhaps because the internal borders of the Arabian Desert were still under negotiation between the British and the tribal leaders of Kuwait, southern Iraq, and Nejd (or Najd) in present-day Saudi Arabia. The two-page map lacks a legend. Distance scales are given in both kilometers and miles. Relief is shown by contour lines and hacheurs. The predominant color is drab beige conforming to the hue of the landscape itself.

Last updated: May 3, 2016