The Old Walled City of Shibam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Old Walled City of Shibam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Map of the Arabian Peninsula in 1914
Map of the Arabian Peninsula in 1914
Coordinates: 16°N 49°E / 16°N 49°E / 16; 49
Countries or territories

Hadhramaut[a] (Arabic: حَضْرَمَوْتُ \ حَضْرَمُوتُ, romanizedḤaḍramawt / Ḥaḍramūt; Hadramautic: 𐩢𐩳𐩧𐩣𐩩, Ḥḍrmt) is a geographic region in South Arabia, comprising eastern Yemen, parts of western Oman and southern Saudi Arabia. The name is of ancient origin, and is retained in the name of the Yemeni Governorate of Hadhramaut. The people of Hadhramaut are called Hadarem. They formerly spoke Hadramautic, an old South Arabian language, but they now predominantly speak Hadhrami Arabic.


Hadhramaut in a 1732 copy of the map by Ottoman geographer Kâtip Çelebi (1609–57), from the first printed atlas in the Ottoman Empire

The origin of the name of Ḥaḍramawt is not exactly known, and there are numerous competing hypotheses about its meaning. The most common folk etymology is that the region's name means "death has come," from Arabic: حَضَر, romanized: ḥaḍara, lit.'he came' and Arabic: مَوْت, romanized: mawt, lit.'death'.

Ḥaḍramawt has also been identified with Biblical Hazarmaveth (Biblical Hebrew: חֲצַרְמָוֶת, romanized: Ḥăṣarmāweṯ; Genesis 10:26[1] and 1 Chronicles 1:20).[2] There, it is the name of a son of Joktan, who is identified with Qahtan in Islamic tradition, the purported ancestor of the South Arabian kingdoms. According to various Bible dictionaries, the name "Hazarmaveth" means "court of death," reflecting a meaning similar to the Arabic folk etymologies.

The origins of the name are unknown, with several scholarly proposals. Kamal Salibi proposed that the diphthong "aw" in the name is an incorrect vocalization.[3] He notes that "-ūt" is a frequent ending for place names in the Ḥaḍramawt, and given that "Ḥaḍramūt" is the colloquial pronunciation of the name and also its ancient pronunciation, the correct reading of the name should be "place of ḥḍrm." He proposes, then, that the name means "the green place," which is apt for its well-watered wadis whose lushness contrasts with the surrounding high desert plateau.

A now rejected etymology was proposed by Juris Zarins, rediscoverer of the city claimed to be the ancient incense trade route trade capital Ubar in Oman, who claimed that the name may come from the Greek word ὕδρευματα hydreumata, i.e. enclosed (and often fortified) watering stations in wadis.[4] Though it accurately describes the configuration of settlements in the pre-Islamic Wadi Ḥaḍramawt, this explanation for the name is anachronistic and phonetically inconsistent (for example, the name contains pharyngeal fricatives, which are neither found nor substituted for existing sounds in Greek).

Variations of the name are attested as early as the middle of the 1st millennium BC. The names ḥḍrmt (𐩢𐩳𐩧𐩣𐩩) and ḥḍrmwt (𐩢𐩳𐩧𐩣𐩥𐩩) are found in texts of the Old South Arabian languages (Ḥaḍramitic, Minaic, Qatabanic, and Sabaic), though the second form is not found in any known Ḥaḍramitic inscriptions.[5] In either form, the word itself can be a toponym, a tribal name, or the name of the kingdom of Ḥaḍramawt. In the late fourth or early 3rd century BC, Theophrastus gives the name Άδρραμύτα,[6] a direct transcription of the Semitic name into Greek.

Geography and geology

See also: Geology of Yemen; Geography of Yemen; and South Arabian fog woodlands, shrublands, and dune

Region close to Seiyun in the Hadhramaut Valley

Narrowly, Hadhramaut refers to the historical Qu'aiti and Kathiri sultanates,[citation needed] which were in the Aden Protectorate overseen by the British Resident at Aden until their abolition upon the independence of South Yemen in 1967. The current governorate of Hadhramaut roughly incorporates the former territory of the two sultanates[citation needed] It consists of a narrow, arid coastal plain bounded by the steep escarpment of a broad plateau (Arabic: ٱلْجَوْل, romanizedal-Jawl, averaging 1,370 m (4,490 ft)), with a very sparse network of deeply sunk wadis (seasonal watercourses). The undefined northern edge of Hadhramaut slopes down to the desert Empty Quarter. Where the Hadhramaut Plateau or Highlands (Arabic: هَضْبَة حَضْرَمَوْت, romanizedHaḍbat Ḥaḍramawt) meets the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea, elevation abruptly decreases.[7]

In a wider sense, Hadhramaut includes the territory of Mahra to the east all the way to the contemporary border with Oman.[8] This encompasses the current governorates of Hadramaut and Mahra in their entirety as well as parts of the Shabwah Governorate.

The Hadhramis live in densely built towns centered on traditional watering stations along the wadis. Hadhramis harvest crops of wheat and millet, tend date palm and coconut groves, and grow some coffee. On the plateau, Bedouins tend sheep and goats. Society is still highly tribal, with the old Seyyid aristocracy, descended from the Islamic prophet Muhammad, traditionally educated, strict in their Islamic observance, and highly respected in religious and secular affairs.[citation needed]


See also: Hadhramaut Mountains, Geology of Yemen, and Geography of Yemen

The Hadhramaut Mountains (Arabic: جِبَال حَضْرَمَوْت, romanizedJibāl Ḥaḍramawt),[9] also known as the "Mahrat Mountains"[10] (Arabic: جِبَال ٱلْمَهْرَة, romanizedJibāl Al-Mahrah), are a mountain range in Yemen.[11] They are contiguous with the Omani Dhofar Mountains to the northeast,[7] and James Canton considered Aden in the southwest to be in the mountains' recesses.[12]



Main article: Kingdom of Hadhramaut

An ancient sculpture of a griffin, from the royal palace at Shabwa, the capital city of Hadhramaut

The Hadhrami are referred to as Chatramotitai in ancient Greek texts. Hadhramautic texts come later than Sabaean ones, and some Sabaean texts from Hadhramaut are known.[13] Greek, Latin, Sabaean and Hadhramautic texts preserve the names of a large number of kings of Hadhramaut, but there is as yet no definitive chronology of their reigns. Their capital was Shabwa in the northwest corner of the kingdom, along the Incense trade route. Eratosthenes called it a metropolis. It was an important cult centre as well. At first, the religion was South Arabian polytheism, distinguished by the worship of the Babylonian moon god Sin. By the sixth century, the monotheistic cult of Rahmanan was followed in the local temple.[13]

The political history of Hadhramaut is not easy to piece together. Numerous wars involving Hadhramaut are referenced in Sabaean texts. From their inscriptions, the Hadhrami are known to have fortified Libna (now Qalat [ar])[14] against Himyar and to have fortified mwyt (Ḥiṣn al-Ghurāb حِصْن ٱلْغُرَاب) against the Kingdom of Aksum in the period following the death of Dhū Nuwās (525/7).[13] The kingdom ceased to exist by the end of the 3rd century CE, having been annexed by the Himyarite Kingdom. Hadhramaut continued to be used in the full titulature of the kings of Sabaʾ and Dhu Raydān (Himyar).[13]

Early Islamic authors believed the nomadic Kinda tribe that founded a kingdom in central Arabia were originally from Hadhramaut, although distinct from the settled Hadhrami population.[13]

Miqdad ibn Aswad, a companion of Muhammad, was reportedly from Hadhramaut.[15] Several prophets before them are believed to have dwelt here, including Hud of ʿĀd. He is thought to be buried at Qabr Hud,[16][17] which is also called Shiʿb Hud, but this is not universally accepted.[18][19]: 97/220–221 


Flag of the Kathiri state in Hadhramaut
Flag of the Qu'aiti state in Hadhramaut

The Qu'aiti sultans ruled the vast majority of Hadramaut, under a loose British protectorate, the Aden Protectorate, from 1882 to 1967, when the Hadhramaut was annexed by South Yemen. The Qu'aiti dynasty was founded by Umar bin Awadh al-Qu'aiti, a Yafa'i tribesman whose wealth and influence as hereditary Jemadar of the Nizam of Hyderabad's armed forces enabled him to establish the Qu'aiti dynasty in the latter half of the 19th century, winning British recognition of his paramount status in the region in 1882. The British Government and the traditional and scholarly sultan Ali bin Salah signed a treaty in 1937, appointing the British government as "advisors" in Hadhramaut. The British exiled him to Aden in 1945, but the Protectorate lasted until 1967.[citation needed]

In 1967, the former British Colony of Aden and the former Aden Protectorate including Hadramaut became an independent Communist state, the People's Republic of South Yemen, later the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. South Yemen was united with North Yemen in 1990 as the Republic of Yemen. See History of Yemen for recent history.[citation needed]

The capital and largest city of Hadhramaut is the port Mukalla. Mukalla had a 1994 population of 122,400 and a 2003 population of 174,700, while the port city of Ash Shihr has grown from 48,600 to 69,400 in the same time. One of the more historically important cities in the region is Tarim. An important locus of Islamic learning, it is estimated to contain the highest concentration of descendants of Muhammad anywhere in the world.[20]


Among Western explorers, British travellers Theodore and Mabel Bent ventured into the region on multiple occasions in the 1890s. "A few months before the Bents arrived in Southern Arabia, a German scholar, Leo Hirsch, reached Wadi Hadhramaut in search of Himyaritic inscriptions. He was the first European to penetrate so far inland. Although the Bents followed, Mabel could justly claim to be the first European woman to visit the Wadi (preceding Doreen Ingrams who went there in 1934, and Freya Stark in 1935)."[21] The Bents published these explorations in their monograph Southern Arabia (1900).


Historically, Hadhramaut was known for being a major producer of frankincense, which in the early 20th century was mainly exported to Mumbai in India.[22]: 84  The region has also produced senna and coconut. Currently, Hadhramout produces approximately 260,000 barrels of oil per day; one of the most productive fields is Al Maseelah in the strip (14), which was discovered in 1993. The Yemeni government is keen to develop its oil fields to increase oil production to increase national wealth in response to the requirements of economic and social development in the country. Oil contributes 30–40% of the nation's GDP, over 70% of total state revenues, and more than 90% of the value of the country's exports.[22]: 85 

Hadhrami diaspora

See also: Hadharem

Since the early 19th century, large-scale Hadhramaut migration has established sizable Hadhrami minorities all around the Indian Ocean,[23] in South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Africa, including Mombasa, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Maharashtrian Konkan,[24][25] Mangalore, Bhatkal, Gangolli, Malabar, Sylhet, Tanzania, the Malay Archipelago, Sri Lanka, southern Philippines and Singapore.[26] In Hyderabad and Aurangabad, the community is known as Chaush and resides mostly in the neighborhood of Barkas. There are also settlements of Hadharem in Gujarat, such as in Ahmadabad and Surat.

Earlier, several sultans in the Malay Archipelago such as the Malacca Sultanate,[27] Pontianak Sultanate or Sultanate of Siak Sri Indrapura were descents of Hadharem. In the 19th century, Hadhrami businessmen owned many of the maritime armada of barks, brigs, schooners and other ships in the Malay archipelago.[28] In modern times, several Indonesian ministers, including former Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and former Finance Minister Mar'ie Muhammad are of Hadhrami descent, as is the former Prime Minister of East Timor, Mari Alkatiri (2006).[29]

Hadhramis have also settled in large numbers along the East African coast,[30] and two former ministers in Kenya, Shariff Nasser and Najib Balala, are of Hadhrami descent. It has also been proved by genetic evidence[31] that the Lemba people of Southern Africa to the people of Hadramaut.[32]

Within the Hadramaut region there has been a historical Jewish population.[33][34][35]

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Also Hadramaut, Hadramout or Hadramawt


  1. ^ Genesis 10:26
  2. ^ 1 Chronicles 1:20
  3. ^ Salibi, Kamal (1981). al-Qāḍī (ed.). "Ḥaḍramūt: A Name with a Story". Studia Arabica et Islamica: Festschrift for Iḥsān ʿAbbās on His Sixtieth Birthday: 393–397.
  4. ^ "Lost City of Arabia" (NOVA online interview with Dr. Juris Zarins, September 1996). PBS. September 1996.
  5. ^ "General word list". DASI: Digital Archive for the Study of pre-islamic arabian Inscriptions. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  6. ^ Theophrastus: Historia Plantarum. 9,4.
  7. ^ a b Ghazanfar, Shahina A.; Fisher, Martin (April 17, 2013). "1–2". Vegetation of the Arabian Peninsula. Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman: Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 27–55. ISBN 978-9-4017-3637-4.
  8. ^ Schofield, Richard N.; Blake, Gerald Henry (1988), "Arabian Boundaries: Primary Documents, 1853–1957", Archive Editions, vol. 22, p. 220, ISBN 1-85207-130-3, ...should be made along the coast to the west as far as the DHOFAR-HADHRAMAUT frontier...
  9. ^ Bilādī, ʿĀtiq ibn Ghayth (1982). بين مكة وحضرموت: رحلات ومشاهدات (in Arabic). دار مكة.
  10. ^ Cavendish, Marshall (2006). "I: Geography and climate". World and Its Peoples: The Middle East, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. Cavendish Publishing. pp. 9–144. ISBN 0-7614-7571-0.
  11. ^ Scoville, Sheila A. (2006). Gazetteer of Arabia: a geographical and tribal history of the Arabian Peninsula. Vol. 2. Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt. pp. 117–122. ISBN 0-7614-7571-0.
  12. ^ Canton, James (August 25, 2014). "4: Modernising Arabia". From Cairo to Baghdad: British Travellers in Arabia. London and New York City: I.B. Tauris. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-8577-3571-3.
  13. ^ a b c d e A. F. L. Beeston (1971). "Ḥaḍramawt, I. Pre-Islamic Period". In Lewis, B.; Ménage, V. L.; Pellat, Ch. & Schacht, J. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Volume III: H–Iram. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 51–53. OCLC 495469525.
  14. ^ "South Arabia". nabataea.net. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  15. ^ al Asqalani, Ibn Hajar; Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shafii, Abū ʿAbdillāh; ibn Kathir, Ismail; ibn faisal al-Tamimi al-Darimi, Abu Hatim Muhammad. "Al-Isabah Fi Tamyiz Al-Sahabah by Ibn Hajr; al Istishaab by Shafii; al Bidayah wan Nihayah by Ibn Kathir; Kitab al Sahaba by Ibn Hibban". Islam story. Story of Islam. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  16. ^ Wensinck, A.J.; Pellat, Ch. (1960–2007). "Hūd" (PDF). In Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Brill. p. 537. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_2920. ISBN 978-90-04-16121-4.
  17. ^ van der Meulen, Daniel [in Dutch]; von Wissmann, Hermann (1964). Hadramaut: Some of its mysteries unveiled. Publication of the De Goeje Fund no. 9. (1st ed.). Leiden, the Netherlands: E.J. Brill. ISBN 978-9-0040-0708-6.
  18. ^ Serjeant, Robert Bertram (1954). "Hud and Other Pre-islamic Prophets in Hadhramawt". Le Muséon. 67. Peeters Publishers: 129.
  19. ^ Al-Harawi, Ali ibn Abi Bakr. Kitab al-Isharat ila Ma rifat al-Ziyarat [Book of indications to make known the places of visitations].
  20. ^ Alexandroni, S. (October 2007), No Room at the Inn, New Statesman
  21. ^ See, The British-Yemeni Society, With Theodore and Mabel Bent in Southern Arabia (1893–1897)
  22. ^ a b Prothero, G.W. (1920). Arabia. London: H.M. Stationery Office. pp. 84–85.
  23. ^ Ho, Engseng (2006), The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-93869-4
  24. ^ Khalidi, Omar (1996), "The Arabs of Hadramawt in Hyderabad", in Kulkarni; Naeem; De Souza (eds.), Mediaeval Deccan History, Bombay: Popular Prakashan, ISBN 978-8-1715-4579-7
  25. ^ Manger, Leif (2007), Hadramis in Hyderabad: From Winners to Losers, vol. 35, Asian Journal of Social Science, pp. 405–433 (29)
  26. ^ Tan, Joanna (July 20, 2018). "Singapore's Arab community traces ancestral roots to Yemen's Hadhramaut Valley". Arab News. Retrieved December 11, 2023.
  27. ^ Freitag, Ulrike; Clarence-Smith, William G. (1997). Hadhrami Traders, Scholars and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s to 1960s. Brill. ISBN 9-0041-0771-1.
  28. ^ Ibrahim, Hassan; Shouk, Abu (March 16, 2009). The Hadhrami Diaspora in Southeast Asia: Identity Maintenance or Assimilation?. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-474-2578-6.
  29. ^ Agence France-Presse
  30. ^ Bang, Anne K. (2003), Sufis and Scholars of the Sea: Family Networks in East Africa, 1860–1925, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-31763-4
  31. ^ Soodyall, Himla (October 11, 2013). "Lemba origins revisited: tracing the ancestry of Y chromosomes in South African and Zimbabwean Lemba". South African Medical Journal = Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Geneeskunde. 103 (12 Suppl 1): 1009–1013. doi:10.7196/samj.7297. ISSN 0256-9574. PMID 24300649.
  32. ^ Espar, David (February 22, 2000). "Tudor Parfitt's Remarkable Quest". NOVA. PBS. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  33. ^ Wahrman, Miryam Z. (January 1, 2004). Brave New Judaism: When Science and Scripture Collide. UPNE. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-58465-032-4.
  34. ^ Ahroni, Reuben (1994). The Jews of the British Crown Colony of Aden: History, Culture, and Ethnic Relations. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-10110-4.
  35. ^ Skolnik, Fred (2007). Encyclopaedia Judaica: Gos-Hep. Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 978-0-02-865936-7.