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Amman

 | 
Jean Hannoyer
, 
Seteney Shami

Première partie. La ville et l’État, approches historiques

Amman in British Travel Accounts of the 19th Century

Amman dans les récits des voyages britanniques du xixe siècle

Mustafa B. Hamarneh

Résumé

Il s’agit dans cet essai de tenter la reconstitution de l’histoire de Amman et de son environnement au siècle dernier en s’appuyant sur des sources étrangères. A la différence du reste de la Syrie géographique, la TransJordanie et Amman étaient particulièrement isolées. Jusqu’à leur réintroduction sous l’autorité ottomane, elles ne figuraient dans aucun registre officiel. Les récits des voyageurs britanniques, malgré leurs déficiences méthodologiques, fournissent à l’histoire sociale des matériaux décisifs. Les observations des voyageurs sont particulièrement intéressantes pour ce qui touche à la vie quotidienne. On y trouve, par ailleurs, des informations de valeur pour illustrer des mécanismes de transition du nomadisme à la vie sédentaire où Amman et sa région occupent une place spécifique.

This essay is an exercise in reconstructing the history of Amman and its hinterland through the use of foreign sources. Unlike the rest of geographic Syria, Amman and Transjordan were isolated territories and, until the reintroduction of Ottoman rule, lacked official records. Thus British travel accounts, though methodologically deficient, provide the social historian with crucial raw materials. Particularly interesting are the traveller’s observations on everyday life. These sources also provide valuable information to help document the transition from nomadism to settled existence, and the specificity of the Amman region in this respect.

Texte intégral

INTRODUCTION

1The geographic regions of southern Syria east of the Jordan river, which formed the modern Arab state of Jordan in the 20th century, were the least accessible and most isolated lands of Bilâd i-Shâm. Ottoman rule was reintroduced only in the second half of the 19th century, and it gradually extended its institutionalization in the judicial and security apparati in the territory. Thus prior to this development, except for travel accounts, defined broadly, there are no other written records from which conclusions can be drawn on 19th century reality.

  • 1 This essay is based exclusively on available British travel accounts in an attempt to demonstrate t (...)

2Until a few years ago, our knowlege of the history of this territory was minimal indeed. Of the scant primary source material scattered in different parts of the globe, in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, England, the United States, Germany and elsewhere, the accounts of foreign travellers have proven to be significant in our attempts at reconstructing the reality of 19th century existence.1

THE SOURCES

3In the specific case of Transjordan, travel accounts as a source were largely ignored in the past for several reasons. First, 19th century developments in Transjordan attracted scholars less than developments in other parts of the Arab lands. Second, the new generation of scholars recognized the limitations of the orientalist approach which had dominated Western scholarship of Arab and Muslim society, in which the interpretation of these travellers was rooted. Third, the interpretative nature of these accounts resulted in their being methodologically excluded.

  • 1 Judith Tucker, “Taming the West: Trends in the Writings of Modern Arab Social History in Anglophone (...)

4The texts abound with references to the inhabitants of the lands under study as “barbarous”, “savage” and “treacherous” - a people of “dubious and inferior minds.” Even Christians of the eastern faith suffered equal categorization and often by the clergy. Still, by rejecting the basic assumptions and perspectives they were based upon, thus rejecting the travellers’ interpretation of reality, the texts of foreign travel accounts are useful depositories of information on what Judith Tucker calls the “micro” and “macro” levels1.

5From the beginning of the 19th century to well into its second half, travellers’ recorded observations are the only body of information on the micro level, i.e.: how ordinary people lived. It is only through careful reading of these accounts (because they are the sole source) that a glimpse of past reality is assembled. Travellers of diverse backgrounds and nationalities crossed Transjordan at various periods and explored different regions throughout the century. These travellers differed little in perspective, but their faculties of observation varied according to their fields of speciality and the objectives of their excursions. Still, and maybe as a result of the absence of relatively large urban centres, and no harems and courts to write about, the accounts provide us with a wealth of information. The availability of information on areas visited by various people over a century provides us with information on a century-old process of transformation. In the specific case of Amman and Balqa, the prominent features of social change, namely the passage from nomadism to settled existence, can only be studied with the help of travel accounts.

6On the micro level, when studying the pastoralists, we are provided with information on the size of tribes, frontiers of the dîra, water resources, type, size and quality of herds, inter-tribal alliances in the desert cycle of migration, dietary conditions, and relationships with the settled town centres. As for the cultivators, the accounts tell us about the location and size of settlements, types of crops, extension of arable land, size of landholdings, forms of agricultural exploitation, dietary conditions, alliances within the community and with outside centres of power, general conditions of agricultural development, transportation routes, trade, handicrafts, religious beliefs, inter-settlement relations, and relations between the desert and the sown in general. On the macro level, i.e. the “big changes,” we see the impact of two major factors on the people of the region. Concomitant with the Ottoman government’s efforts to extend its rule to the provinces in the age of tanzimât, another exogenous factor had a far-reaching effect on people’s lives, that is, the economic and political impact of the interaction with Europe.

7The panoramic view constructed after reading the accounts indicates clearly that the consequence of these two important factors was uneven for two reasons : first, the level of intensity of Ottoman rule and European penetration varied from one region to another and second, the level of development of the heterogeneous regions differed as well, and therefore the different processes of social change varied accordingly from one region to the other. These travel accounts on Transjordan in general and on Amman in particular represent a vast expanse of raw material for the social historian. Interpreted from an indigenous perspective, they shed light on the historic specificity of the evolution of Amman and the region.

THE TRAVELLERS

8Our interpretative chronicle begins with a note on the people who toured the land. Wherever possible, a brief account of their backgrounds, objectives and itineraries is provided. Most travellers toured the lands east of the Jordan River under the protection of local sheikhs, in return for gifts and monetary remuneration. As the century progressed and Ottoman authority was established, some travellers preferred still to be accompanied by local sheikhs because these sheikhs helped them evade detection by the Ottoman authorities and thus fulfil the objectives of their expeditions.

  • 2 Yehoshua Ben Arieh, The Rediscovery of the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century, Wayne State Univers (...)
  • 3 Ibid.
  • 4 John Lewis Burckhardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, The Association for Promoting the Discov (...)

9The Anglo-Swiss traveller, John-Louis Burckhardt (1774-1817), of Petra fame, left his native Basel for London, and there, in 1808, a general meeting of the British Association for Promoting the Discovery of Interior Africa decided to send “Burckhardt to explore the Niger region”2. First, Burckhardt headed for Syria to learn the language and the customs of the people. This, it was thought, would equip him for the difficulties that lay ahead. Burckhardt was to travel in Africa disguised as a Muslim. While in Syria, upon the request of the Association in London, he was to “tour portions of Syria which had not yet been sufficiently explored by Europeans”3. On one of these expeditions, in June 1812, he visited the lands east of the Jordan River. Unlike the aim of many who followed his footsteps, Burckhardt’s exploration was not motivated by religion. He was a researcher and possessed excellent faculties of observation. He crossed through the Jordan Valley, Salt, Amman, southward through Bani Hamideh lands, to Karak, Tafileh and Petra. A chapter in his book, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, has valuable information on conditions in these lands at the beginning of the century4.

  • 5 Ralph E. Turner, James Silk Buckingham: A Social Biography, Williams and Norgate, Ltd., London, 193 (...)

10Burckhardt was followed by James Silk Buckingham (1786-1855) who visited the area in 1816. Buckingham was a controversial figure whose career had a “wide geographical range,” from England to India, Europe and America. According to his biographer, “few men of his time saw more of the world and its inhabitants”5. But his intention was not to explore the lands east of the Jordan River like Burckhardt ; it was simply that these areas were located on his route travelling overland from Cairo to Bombay. In 1814, Buckingham met Muhammed Ali of Egypt and discussed with him the idea of linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea via a canal. Muhammed Ali, fearing that such a scheme would lead to British domination of Egypt, turned it down. So instead, two years later, Buckingham left for India with a proposal to lure trade through Egypt, with the support of Muhammed Ali, overland between Cairo and Suez.

11To visit the lands east of the Jordan River, Buckingham left Nazareth for Salt through Ajloun, and south to the Zarqa River. After a stay of several days, he toured Amman then proceeded southward to Um Rasas and back to Salt. He then headed northward to Jerash, Ajloun and the Hauran. Like Burckhardt before him, Buckingham travelled disguised as an Arab.

  • 6 Charles Irib and James Mangles, Travels in Egypt and Nubia, Syria and Asia Minor During 1817 and 18 (...)
  • 7 Henry Layard, Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana and Babylonia, 2 vols., John Murray, London, 1887

12In 1818, two British officers in the Royal Navy, Charles Irby and James Mangles, both very experienced explorers, travelled the region undisguised. For the most part, they travelled in Moab and the Balqa. Later, a selection of their letters was published in a book for private circulation in London in 18226. Sir Henry Layard was another traveller who was not particularly interested in the lands east of the river, but because a companion preferred overland travel en route to Colombo, he passed through Karak north to Amman and the Hauran in 18407.

  • 8 H.B. Tristram, The Land of Moab, John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1873, (see preface).

13Nearly 24 years later, a zoologist and canon, Henry Baker Tristram, began his long relationship with Palestine and Transjordan by first writing an article on the fauna of the Holy Land. On his initial trip, he collected specimens of the area. In the preface to his work Land of Moab, in which he recorded his observations of his second trip, his objective was described as “a careful examination of the present state of a country frequently referred to in the Old Testament scriptures... but which has not been traversed at leisure by any explorer since the fall of the Roman Empire”8.

  • 9 Ibid., p. 3.

14Two separate expeditions brought Tristram to the areas east of the Jordan River. The first, in May 1864, was sponsored by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. The second, in 1872, was sponsored by the British Association “for the purpose of undertaking a geographical exploration of the country to Moab”9. This later expedition took him to most parts of the territory including the ruins of Amman.

  • 10 Charles M. Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta, 2 vols, Jonathan Cape Ltd., London, 1923.
  • 11 Laurence Oliphant, The Land of Gilead, D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1881.
  • 12 Ibid., pp. 11-12.

15Charles Doughty, who accompanied the hajj caravan from Damascus to the holy cities in the Hijaz in 1876, left for posterity in Arabia Deserta some valuable observations on life in Amman, Karak and other parts of Transjordan10. In 1878, Laurence Oliphant, an eccentric Victorian diplomat of Scottish origin, spent several months probing and surveying lands east of the river11. Oliphant’s design was different than that of his predecessor explorers ; his was a colonization scheme aimed at developing a “single province” without “affecting the sovereignty of the Sultan”12. To implement his plan, Oliphant was to find people and a location for colonization.

  • 13 Ibid., p. 13.
  • 14 Ibid.

16He ruled out foreign Christian colonization because of existing Ottoman laws and what he called the “rivalries of the various Christian sects” and “the jealousy of the powers supporting them”, which, he thought, “would certainly render all attempts at harmonious colonization abortive”13. To colonize thousands of Muslim refugees from Bulgaria was also ruled out for what he believed were difficulties in raising capital from Christian Europe for such a venture. As a result of this logic, Oliphant found himself “by process of deduction” solving the two outstanding questions : the colonists, and the colony14.

  • 15 Ibid., p. 27.

17The colonists in this scheme were to be Jews, because they were rich enough and needed no Christian money, and would not arouse the fears of the Sultan. The colony would be Palestine. Thus Oliphant wrote : “[b]efore deciding definitely whether the scheme was a practical one or not, I found it would be necessary to visit the country, with the view of selecting the district and examining the local conditions”15.

  • 16 Ibid., p. 28.

18Before departing England, he received the unofficial blessings of the prime minister. Upon the advice of his government, he proceeded first to Paris, met with M. Waddington, the foreign minister, who was “sufficiently favorably impressed”16. With this objective in mind, he set sail.

  • 17 Thirty Years Work in the Holy Land, 1865-1895, published for the Committee of the Palestine Explora (...)
  • 18 Ibid., p. 222.

19Other expeditions and excursions were endeavoured under the auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund. The fund was formally established in London on June 22, 1865. Its aims included “the prosecution of systematic and scientific research in all the branches of inquiry connected with the Holy Land and the principal reason alleged for conducting this inquiry was the illustration of the Bible which might be expected to follow such an investigation”17. But the Palestine Exploration Fund left the lands east of the river to be explored and mapped to the American Exploration Society founded in 187018. This arrangement, however, did not endure.

  • 19 Claude Reignier Conder, Heath and Moab, Richard Bentley and Son, London, 1883.
  • 20 Our Work in Palestine, An Account of Different Expeditions Sent Out to the Holy Land by the Committ (...)

20Afterwards, in 1881, the Palestine Exploration Fund dispatched Captain C.R. Conder of the Royal Engineers to survey and map Moab. Before being interrupted by the Ottoman authorities, his party had completed 500 square miles of surveying. The results of Conder’s expedition were published in a report in the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly, The Survey of Eastern Palestine and in his book Heath and Moab19. Prior to the Conder survey, Captain Warren engaged in a journey east of the river in February 1868 and “geographical observations were taken during the expedition”20. In the autumn of 1884, Guy Le Strange toured the Balqa and visited the new Circassian settlements in Amman and Wâdi Sir.

  • 21 Selah Merrill, East of the Jordan: A Record of Travel and Observation in the Countries of Moab, Gil (...)
  • 22 Gray Hill, With the Bedouins: A Narrative of Journeys and Adventures in Unfrequented Parts of Syria (...)

21Other important, non-British travellers also toured the region. Selah Merrill, the American archaeologist of the Palestine Exploration Fund, which was disbanded in 1884, made two separate trips in 1875 and 1877. These are well recorded in his book East of the Jordan21. Merrill was followed by Gray Hill in 1887, Dr. F. J. Bliss in 1895, and the American Robinson Lees in the first years of the 20th century22.

AMMAN IN THE BALQA

22For the purpose of this essay, the Balqa shall represent a region that provides a minimum level of cohesiveness. Its bounderies extend from the Zarqa river in the north to Zarqa-Ma’in in the south. To the east lay the hajj road and the dira of the powerful Bani Sakhr. Westward, the boundaries are drawn along the Jordan Valley, the winter headquarters of some Balqa tribes, including the Adwan.

23So far, it has been customary when writing the history of 19th century Amman to begin with the arrival of the Circassians and the rebuilding of modern Amman. This approach can be misleading, however. Prior to the settlement of the Circassians, other models of life existed. At the beginning of the 19th century, two precapitalist ecosystems coexisted in the Balqa. On the one hand, there was a pastoral system in transition, i.e., bedouins practising animal husbandry with diversified herds and practising primitive cultivation. Nomadism in its pure form is a mobile system where plant cultivation is excluded by members of the tribe. In this system, the basic means of subsistence are the animals and their products. The surplus produced is exchanged for other use values with the settled communities. The powerful tribes increase their surplus mainly by raiding other tribes and extracting khawa from the settled communities. In the case of the Balqa, until the arrival of the Circassians, Salt was the only settled community. Until the instalment of a garrison at Salt in 1867, the Bani Sakhr and the Adwan alternated in their domination of this agrarian community and the extraction of khawa.

24The other ecosystem in the Balqa was an agrarian one. Plant cultivation was primitive; cultivators grew immediate needs. Agricultural surplus was a function of favourable climatic and security conditions.

25The most salient feature of the process of social change in the Balqa of the 19th century is the transition from nomadism to land cultivation and settlement. It is not suggested here that this process began in the 19th century, but it was towards the end of that century that conditions existed for the irreversibility of the process of sedentarization. Equally important to note is that conditions for the disintegration of nomadism, and thus the movement towards settlement, began long before the arrival of the Circassians at Amman and other localities and the reintroduction of central rule. Furthermore, the new agrarian settlements had no cumulative effects on the process of transition towards settlement in the Balqa.

26In the past, most scholars working on 19th century developments have maintained that Ottoman attempts at subjugating Transjordanian tribes and consequently their sedentarization have succeeded only when the Ottoman government introduced superior weaponry. A careful analysis of the 19th century evolution in the Balqa renders this interpretation deficient. Historical evidence clearly indicates that first it was internal developments which exerted pressures on the tribe, which in turn made it less mobile, be it through diversified animal husbandry and some tribes’ reduced status as a result of loss of battle which facilitated government domination of the Balqa tribes. With the establishment of the garrison in Salt in 1867, the improved security conditions led to the extension of arable lands and subsequently the development of new communities. Except for Salt, the settlements of Amman, Wâdi Sir and Madaba evolved because of immigration from outside the Balqa. The rest of the communities which evolved in the fourth quarter of the 19th century were the result of both the disintegration of nomadism and governmental intervention.

  • 23 Travels in Syria, p. 368.

27Drawing on information provided by the travellers, we can say that the century began with the Bani Sakhr as the most powerful tribe. They had access to the pastures of the Balqa, which afforded good grazing grounds when favourable climatic conditions existed. In 1812, Burckhardt noticed “the superiority of the Belka [Balqa] over that of that all southern Syria”23. The Bani Sakhr and the Adwân shared the waters of Amman. In the wâdi of Amman, Burckhardt detected no cultivation. Yet further west, near Khalda, on his way from Salt, he did record seeing some fields of grain.

28In 1812, the powerful position of the Bani Sakhr allowed them to extract khawa from the people of Salt. But as we shall see later, alliances shifted, and the Adwân again rose to push the Bani Sakhr eastward, and extracted khawa from Salt.

  • 24 John Silk Buckingham, Travel Among the Arab Tribes Inhabiting the Countries East of Syria and Pales (...)
  • 25 Travels in Syria, pp. 364-65.
  • 26 Early Adventures, p. 7.
  • 27 Ibid., p. 126.

29In the winter of 1816, Buckingham visited Amman and recorded no cultivation in the wâdi of Amman24. Like Burckhardt before him, he described the ruins of Amman in the wâdi and on the citadel. But he left for posterity records of cultivation by some Balqa tribes south of Madaba. During this period, the tribes’ relationships with the state were antagonistic. Taxes were paid irregularly, and the tribes and the Ottomans sporadically engaged in battle. In 1812, the Bani Sakhr defeated a detachment of Ottoman troops sent from Damascus25. In 1818, on a brief visit to Amman, Irby and Mangles described the ruins of the city, but also made no mention of cultivation in the wâdi-s. Sir Henry Layard passed through Amman in 1840, on his way from Jerusalem to Hauran. Before his journey, Layard was informed by the English consul in Jerusalem that Arab tribes “recognized no authority and were generally at war with each other”26. Yet, near the ruins of Amman, he observed “here and there green patches of corn and barley” adding that “peasants...were to be occasionally seen driving the plow”27. He mentioned that on his trip he was accompanied by a peddler from Hebron to Damascus.

  • 28 The Land of Gilead, p. 254.
  • 29 The Land of Moab, p. 320.
  • 30 H.B. Tristram, Land of Israel: A Journal of Travels in Palestine, 2nd ed., Society for Promoting Ch (...)
  • 31 Ibid., p. 567.

30Throughout this century, farm implements were “of the rudest and most primitive... a light wooden plow, which one man could carry easily, and which can be drawn by a single ox”28. In the second half of the 19th century, we have more information on conditions in Amman and the Balqa than in the past, and the picture that emerges of the region is different. On his second trip to the region in 1872, Canon Tristram observed in the Balqa, and specifically in the area west of Madaba, “an almost unbroken reach of corn-land, the wheat well up, thick and vigorous, and of the deepest green ; while many yokes of dwarf oxen were dotted about, plowing”29. He also detected cultivation near Ma’in, north through Madaba, Hisban and Amman, to Yajouz, and west to Wâdi Sir and Naur. During his expeditions, he wrote about the Adwan being in Hisban, the vicinity of Salt and Yajouz, and around Amman. On his earlier expedition in 1864, the canon witnessed a violent encounter at Jubeiha, a section of modern Amman, between members of the Adwân tribe over land boundaries30. The record of the incident testifies that land distribution began to take place prior to government intervention and capitalist penetration. Also evident was the shift in the relations of power. The Adwân had replaced the Bani Sakhr in extracting khawa from the people of Salt31. This practice was stopped with the setting up of the garrison at Salt in 1867.

  • 32 Our Work, from an account of a narrative by Captain Warren in February 1868, p.231
  • 33 Public Records Office FO 195-927, July 16, 1869.

31Equally important was the change that took place in the relationship between the inhabitants of the Balqa and the central government. Although still antagonistic, they no longer could challenge efficiently the government’s attempts to subjugate them. In 1868, Captain Warren, of the Palestine Exploration Fund, noted that Turkish soldiers were able to enter the Balqa and had access to the Adwan granaries32. On a later government expedition, the English consul at Damascus, who requested permission to accompany the expedition, observed that the Adwan proved no challenge to the Turks. In attempting to subjugate the Al-Fayez, the sheikhs of Bani Sakhr, they forced them to retreat southward to Wala. The governor then made “himself master of the supplies of water”, thus instead of facing starvation, the Al-Fayez surrendered to the Ottoman authorities33.

  • 34 Travels in Arabia, p. 18.
  • 35 Land of Gilead, pp. 180-82.

32With the relative improvement of security, the decade of the 1870’s in general witnessed an expansion in the extent of land under cultivation in the Balqa. In Amman in 1876, Doughty found Salti Arabs staying in the ruins of Amman, cultivating plots of land34. These same conditions allowed for the situation in Salt to alter. In 1879, Oliphant estimated the population of Salt to be 6 000, double the estimate of Burckhardt in 1812. By the end of the 1870’s, the land under cultivation by the Saltis was estimated at 1 200 faddân (the area plowed by a pair of oxen in a day). With central rule firmly established in the town, taxes were paid regularly. That same year, Oliphant estimated the total amount of taxes paid by the Saltis to be 1 000 L.P35. The relative improvement in security conditions in the Balqa in general led to an increase in expansion of land under cultivation and consequently an increase in trade activity.

  • 36 Ibid., p. 181.
  • 37 Ibid., p. 179.

33Most of the exchange that took place was in use values, except for the export of keli and sumac from the hillsides of Salt and the vicinity of Amman. Peddlers usually accompanied travellers and hajj caravans. Because of the availability of water, Amman was a station on the hajj route and it was assumed that bedouin in the vicinity exchanged goods with the pilgrims depending, for the most part, on the season in which the hajj journey took place. Trading with the bedouin whose dîra-s were located in and around Amman and other parts of the Balqa, meant good profits for traders and merchants. Prices for most goods were at half the levels that existed in Jerusalem and Nablus, the main markets for the inhabitants of the Balqa in general36. After the establishment of the Salt garrison, Oliphant remarked that “strangers with capital” were moving to Salt, and some houses “boast[ed] of white wash, two stories and verandas”37.

  • 38 Ibid., p. 218.
  • 39 Heath and Moab, p. 162.

34It was during this period, and as a result of conditions developing outside the Balqa, that the Circassians settled in Amman. The first eyewitness account was given by Oliphant. He came across the Circassians immediately after their arrival. Oliphant was told by some of the Circassian men he encountered at Amman that the first wave of immigrants totalled 500, but only 150 of them remained. Those who endured “had already planted a vegetable garden, had got a good herd of cattle, a flock of sheep, and seemed likely to do well”38. But the overall condition of these immigrants seemed to be primitive. Two years later, Major Conder visited Amman and gave a dismal account of the new settlers’ conditions. “[T]hey have... the listless and dispirited look of exiles who find it impossible to take root in the uninviting district to which they have been sent. Hated by Arab and fellâh, despoiled of money and possessions, and having seen many of their bravest fall or die of starvation, they seem to have no more courage left, and will probably die out by degrees or become scattered among the indigenous population”39.

35Conder’s prophecy never materialized. Instead, the new settlement survived and later flourished under very difficult conditions. In 1887, Gray Hill wrote of the Circassian settlement in his account. Other than descriptions of their manners and clothing and references to their wheeled carts, there was nothing of significance to be mentioned. Furthermore, except perhaps for the ruins and their immediate vicinity, the bedouin of the Balqa continued their activities as they did in the past. But in the few years that followed, it seemed that the arrival of new Circassians to Amman had strengthened the existing settlers and expanded the settlement.

  • 40 Robinson Lees in Jane M. Hacker, Modern Amman: A Social Study, Department of Geography, Durham Univ (...)

36Robinson Lees visited Amman in 1890 and in 1893 and noted the progress of the community. In 1893, he wrote that “the change that had taken place since my last visit three years ago was most marked”. Lees estimated the number of Circassians to be 1 000. But most importantly, Arabs from Salt, who in the past cultivated land in and around Amman, had moved into the new village and opened shops. Furthermore, “[t]wo streets had been formed, one for shops alone”. By 1893, the Circassians had built homes “and nearly all... were surrounded by a yard enclosed by a wall of stone”40.

  • 41 Robinson Lees’ claim that most of the corn grown in the Balqa was being sent to Jerusalem by the Ci (...)
  • 42 “Narrative of An Expedition to Moab.” Dr. Bliss’ estimate of the total number of Circassians at 10, (...)

37Despite this evolution of Amman, Salt remained the largest and most important town in the Balqa. Exchange was taking place between the inhabitants of Amman and the bedouin of the vicinity, as well as between the inhabitants of the new Christian settlement of Madaba to the south of Amman. But Salt remained the seat of the mutasarrif and the most important trading centre of Balqa41. Still in 1895, Dr. Bliss who undertook an expedition to the lands east of the Jordan River, described Amman as having “a neat, thrifty appearance. Every room had a chimney ; every house its porch or balcony. The yards are nicely swept”42. By the end of the century, Amman was an established community of almost exclusively Circassian character. Farm implements used were superior to those employed in other parts of the Balqa. Wheeled carts increased the efficiency and reduced the waste involved in transporting goods. They also linked Amman with other Circassian communities. The building of the railroad increased the relative importance of Amman.

  • 43 Eugene Rogan, Incorporating the Periphery: The Ottoman Extension of Direct Rule of Southtern Syria (...)

38Historians differ on why the Circassians settled in Amman. The most prevalent explanation so far has been that it was part of the Ottoman government’s centralization efforts. Still, evidence supports Eugene Rogan’s conclusion “that the specifics of the Ottoman settlement policy were determined at the provincial level”43. But it was events that took place in the 20th century, rooted in conditions outside Amman and Balqa, that led to the expansion of Amman and its becoming the capital of the modern Arab state of Jordan.

Notes

1 Judith Tucker, “Taming the West: Trends in the Writings of Modern Arab Social History in Anglophone Academia,” in: Hisham Sharabi. Theory, Politics and the Arab World: Critical Responses, Routledge, New York, 1990, p.198.

2 Yehoshua Ben Arieh, The Rediscovery of the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century, Wayne State University, Detroit, 1979, p. 36.

3 Ibid.

4 John Lewis Burckhardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, The Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa, London, 1822

5 Ralph E. Turner, James Silk Buckingham: A Social Biography, Williams and Norgate, Ltd., London, 1934, p. 11.

6 Charles Irib and James Mangles, Travels in Egypt and Nubia, Syria and Asia Minor During 1817 and 1818, White & Co., London, 1823.

7 Henry Layard, Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana and Babylonia, 2 vols., John Murray, London, 1887.

8 H.B. Tristram, The Land of Moab, John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1873, (see preface).

9 Ibid., p. 3.

10 Charles M. Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta, 2 vols, Jonathan Cape Ltd., London, 1923.

11 Laurence Oliphant, The Land of Gilead, D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1881.

12 Ibid., pp. 11-12.

13 Ibid., p. 13.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid., p. 27.

16 Ibid., p. 28.

17 Thirty Years Work in the Holy Land, 1865-1895, published for the Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, A.P. Watt and Sons. London, 1895, pp. 11-12.

18 Ibid., p. 222.

19 Claude Reignier Conder, Heath and Moab, Richard Bentley and Son, London, 1883.

20 Our Work in Palestine, An Account of Different Expeditions Sent Out to the Holy Land by the Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, Bentley and Son, London, 1874, p. 223.

21 Selah Merrill, East of the Jordan: A Record of Travel and Observation in the Countries of Moab, Gilead and Bashan, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1881.

22 Gray Hill, With the Bedouins: A Narrative of Journeys and Adventures in Unfrequented Parts of Syria, T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1891; F. J. Bliss. “Narrative of an Expedition to Moab and Gilead in March 1895”, Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly, July 1895; G. Robinson Lees, Life and Adventure Beyond Jordan, D. Appleton & Co, New York, 1909.

23 Travels in Syria, p. 368.

24 John Silk Buckingham, Travel Among the Arab Tribes Inhabiting the Countries East of Syria and Palestine, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme. Brown and Green, London, 1825, p. 67.

25 Travels in Syria, pp. 364-65.

26 Early Adventures, p. 7.

27 Ibid., p. 126.

28 The Land of Gilead, p. 254.

29 The Land of Moab, p. 320.

30 H.B. Tristram, Land of Israel: A Journal of Travels in Palestine, 2nd ed., Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London. 1866, p. 557.

31 Ibid., p. 567.

32 Our Work, from an account of a narrative by Captain Warren in February 1868, p.231

33 Public Records Office FO 195-927, July 16, 1869.

34 Travels in Arabia, p. 18.

35 Land of Gilead, pp. 180-82.

36 Ibid., p. 181.

37 Ibid., p. 179.

38 Ibid., p. 218.

39 Heath and Moab, p. 162.

40 Robinson Lees in Jane M. Hacker, Modern Amman: A Social Study, Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, 1960. p. 17.

41 Robinson Lees’ claim that most of the corn grown in the Balqa was being sent to Jerusalem by the Circassians is an exaggeration. There is no evidence to support this claim.

42 “Narrative of An Expedition to Moab.” Dr. Bliss’ estimate of the total number of Circassians at 10,000 is exaggerated.

43 Eugene Rogan, Incorporating the Periphery: The Ottoman Extension of Direct Rule of Southtern Syria (Transjordan) 1867-1914, Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1991, p. 100.

Notes de fin

1 This essay is based exclusively on available British travel accounts in an attempt to demonstrate the usefulness of these accounts as a source of the historiography of Amman and Transjordan. It is not meant to be an exhaustive analysis of social change in 19th century Jordan.

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Department of History Director, Center for Strategic Studies University of Jordan

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 1996

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