Arab Gulf Cities

ISBN: 978-1-85207-540-8  First published: 1994
Extent: 4 volumes, 2,900 pages  Editor: R. Trench
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available


In four volumes Arab Gulf Cities draws together key documents reflecting the history and development of the major cities of the Arab Gulf up to the 1960s. There is detailed coverage of Kuwait City; Manama; Doha; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah; and Muscat and Mattrah. The range of material in the volumes is extensive: covering economic, municipal and social development; topography; water resources, electrification and road building, although the amount of detail surviving in the historical record naturally varies from place to place. The work is edited and introduced by the scholar and author on Middle East travel and topography, the late Richard Trench.


On Kuwait
... "Eighty years ago Kuwait was a small village of single-storey sand-coloured clay houses on an empty shore, surrounded by a crumbling wall. The wall was rebuilt and heightened in 1920 to protect Kuwait from Ikhwan raids... (The wall) had five high watch-towers and gates, and was four metres high and three miles long. Every male Kuwaiti was conscripted to work on its construction, and the wall was guarded each night by quotas of men supplied by the local merchants.
In June 1946 Kuwait´s first barrel of oil was exported. Exactly ten years later the city wall was bulldozed to rubble..."
On Manama
"The old town of Manama, with its traditional Gulf houses built of coral slabs and gypsum and its labyrinth of alleys, still exists, elbowed up against high-rise office blocks...
...What relevance does the Old Town, whose records are contained in this volume, have to the modern city that overshadows it? Not much, you could say. But what relevance does the photograph of the young child have to the grown-up adult studying it? Not much, either - except that the one grew into the other..."
On Doha and the cities of the Emirates
"From the early nineteenth century, the descriptions of Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah stress how alike they are: towns and villages of white buildings beside shallow lagoons...
...Yet though each is different, the nineteenth century traveller coming in from the sea was not entirely wrong. Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah have more than simple geographical proximity in common. They were ports and they were markets (and sometimes pirate ports . . . ) . "
On Muscat and Mattrah
"Until 1962, Muscat was still surrounded by a wall, guarded each night by rotas drawn from the Hawasina and Beni Umr tribes. There were three main gates: the Bab Kebir, the main gate which led to the oasis of the Wadi Kebir and the American Mission Hospital; the Bab Saghir, a narrow gate for pedestrians only, that led to the Ali Moussa mosque and Muscat´s only school; and the Bab Mathaib, which took you onto the road to Mattrah, a couple of miles and a volcanic outcrop away..."


Volume 1: Kuwait;  Volume 2: Manama;  Volume 3: Doha and the Emirates Cities;  Volume 4: Muscat and Mattrah


The range of material in the volumes extends over the following aspects, although the amount of detail surviving in the historical record naturally varies from place to place.
  • Topography of the cities: historical reports and surveys
  • Origins of the municipalities: financial accounts; food prices; reform movements; municipal regulations; elections of councillors
  • Wartime activities and developments, 1939; 1945
  • Development of facilities: water: (artesian supplies/piped supplies);electricity: (power stations);history of post office; role of cable & wireless
  • Urban development: public works programmes; construction contracts; local firms and foreign partners
  • Social services: health administration, hospitals; schools administration and inspection; Egyptian and Palestinian teachers; censuses/registration of births and deaths