At the Court of the Amīr: A Narrative


At the Court of the Amīr: A Narrative is an account by John Alfred Gray, a British doctor who served as surgeon to ‘Abd al-Rahman Khan (circa 1844–1901), ruler of Afghanistan, for a number of years in the late 1880s‒early 1890s. Along with several British engineers, Gray had been recruited in England to provide advice and services to the amir. The book includes several chapters that relate specifically to health and the practice of medicine in Afghanistan at this time, including on Afghan hospitals, Afghan surgeons and physicians, an outbreak of cholera, and the illnesses and health of the amir and various members of the royal household. Other chapters cover primarily non-medical topics, such as Gray’s journey from Peshawar to Kabul, the inhabitants of Afghanistan, Afghan dwellings, life in Kabul, the seasons, and bazaars in Kabul. Gray recounts his meetings with the amir, who he describes as “a swarthy heavily built man,” who “seemed the personification of watchful strength,” and “who added to the courtesy of the Oriental something of the bluff heartiness of an Englishman.” He also describes his meetings with the sultana, wife of the amir, and conversations with her. A major role in the book is played by Gray’s interpreter, an Armenian Christian who had been educated at a missionary boarding school in India and had lived for many years in Kabul. A photograph of Gray and the interpreter, both in Oriental dress, is in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Macmillan and Company, Limited, London


Title in Original Language

At the court of the Amīr: A narrative

Type of Item

Physical Description

523 pages : illustrations ; 21 centimeters


  1. Henry Van der Weyde, “Dr Gray and his Armenian Interpreter.” (London: National Portrait Gallery).

Last updated: September 30, 2016