Travels in Southern Arabia, Mahra and Hadhramawt


Reisen in Süd-Arabien, Mahra-Land Und Hadramut (Travels in South Arabia, Mahrah and Hadhramawt) recounts the travels of Leo Hirsch, a German Arabist and South Arabia scholar, in what was the Qu'aiti (circa 1858–1967), Kathiri (circa 1400–1967), and Mahra (1549–1967) Sultanates in the Hadramawt region of present-day Yemen. Hirsch first arrived in the British-administered Aden Protectorate as early as 1888. This book is based on a later journey that he made from Berlin which brought him to Aden in December 1892. In subsequent years he made separate journeys to the coastal cities of Ash Shihr, Qishn, and al-Mukalla and to the Hadramawt valley cities of Shibam, Seiyun, and Tarim. He is known to have been the first European to penetrate the valley of Hadramawt, which he did in 1893. Hirsch wrote separate chapters on each journey, in which he commented on local history and politics, ethnography, the places he stayed, and the native Arabic dialects. To secure his passage, he wore native dress and enlisted the help of local rulers, as shown in an Arabic letter he received from Jemadar (chief) Salah ibn Muhammad ibn Umar ibn Awad al-Qu'aiti, “inquiring about your situation.” The letter is one of three appendices. The other two are “lines” by local poet Umar ibn Muhammad ibn Said Baatwa “for our friend Leo Hirsch, ruler of the Germans,” and a list of plants Hirsch collected during his travels. The Qu'aiti, Kathiri, and Mahra Sultanates became British protectorates in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1967 they were absorbed into what became communist South Yemen. Hirsch is also the translator of Al-nahr al-fāʼiḍ fī ʻilm al-farāʼiḍ (The overflowing river in the science of inheritance and patrimony) by Yemeni author ʻAbd al-Qadir ibn Muhammad al-Naqshbandi, also available in the World Digital Library.

Last updated: February 18, 2016