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A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic

Esther-Miriam Wagner

II. Reader

33. Aḥmad b. Muḥammad al-Jarādī: Sīrat al-Ḵawāja al-ʾAkram al-Marḥūm Harmān al-ʾAlmānī

Alex Bellem et G. Rex Smith

Texte intégral

  • 1  He had undertaken several expeditions in Ethiopia and Yemen, some authorised, others not. When the (...)

1The text is a report written by the Ṣanʿānī secretary of Hermann Burchardt, a German traveller and photographer. Burchardt was murdered by bandits in December 1909 near Ibb in the Yemen (Mittwoch 1926), along with the Italian consular official Benzoni (Farah 2002, 238–39).1 Perhaps in response to a request for details of the journey and the murder, al-Jarādī (henceforth J) produced this report for the German and Italian authorities in Ottoman Yemen in early 1910. The text below is that edited by Eugen Mittwoch in 1926 from two manuscripts which, he states, are in Berlin and the Ambrosiana in Milan and which appear to have been written at different times and without connection one with the other (Mittwoch 1926, 6–7). The MSS are so far untraced and the text below is an exact copy of Mittwoch’s edition. The language is clearly Literary Mixed Arabic (LMA) and is dealt with in some depth below.


2Mittwoch (1926, 16.3–18.5)

  • 2  Ḏamār is a town some 50 miles due south of Ṣanʿāʾ; al-Hamdānī (1884–1891, 55, 80, 104, etc.), Yāqū (...)
  • 3  A town about 35 miles due east of Ḏamār; Hamdānī (1884–1891, 55, 93 etc.); Smith (1974–1978, II: 1 (...)
  • 4  5 Ḏū al-Qaʿda = 18 November 1909.
  • 5  This must refer to the government building.

3Note2 Note3 Note4 Note5

  • 6  Al-Manṣūr ʿAbd al-Wahhāb, third Tahirid sultan, 883–894/1478– 1489; see Smith, (1988, 129–39, 137, (...)



  • 7  We vocalise thus, although we can find no reference to the village in the geographical sources at (...)
  • 8  Earlier in the text (Mittwoch 1926, 10), J identifies Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad al-Nabhānī as a gendarme (...)

5[16] After we had taken our rest there for three days, we left, accompanied by five Ḏamārīs as guards. We set off with the intention of getting to know Radāʿ. We journeyed feeling safe and sound. We made our way through plains in which all day long we could see numerous baboons and wolves. We travelled in the direction of the village of Sanbān.7 We entered and stayed the night in the house of a Jew called Simon, since there were no innkeepers in Sanbān. This Jew showed us into a room in which there were two hundred untreated hides with the hair still on them which he tans; they were full of lice. These lice attacked us and we just could not sleep. The next day, Thursday, 5 [Ḏū] al-Qaʿda, we left Sanbān and made our way through Bayt al-Miṣrī and entered a plain full of baboons. We passed through the villages of Milḥ and al-Muṣallā, coming across at the village gate someone working on Radāʿī rugs, he and three of his daughters. The gentleman took photographs of the workman and his daughters and gave them four piastres. We left them and en route met fifty camels laden with salt. The gentleman took a photograph of the camels with the consent of the cameleers and gave them some money. We pressed on and came to the town of Radāʿ. We went in feeling safe and sound and made our way to the large caravanserai situated in the middle of the town market of Radāʿ. But it was not to the liking of the gentleman and we then took all the animals to the government building, where they remained. Now Shaykh Ṣāliḥ b. Ṣāliḥ al-Ṭayrī was in town, so the gentleman and his secretary went to greet him, since he was governor. He gave them a meal of a goat, them and the guards. The gentleman and his secretary climbed up to the citadel, the highest building in Radāʿ. The next day [18] the gentleman, his secretary, and al-Nabhānī8 went and the gentleman took photographs of the ʿĀmiriyyah from all sides, it being the greatest wonder because of the beauty of its construction, having been built by Sultan ʿAbd al-Wahhāb. The gentleman photographed all the mosques and he and soldiers left for a nearby village called al-Jirāf. He took photographs of it. Its inhabitants are Jews, who make clay pots of all kinds. Above this village is a mountain which the gentleman photographed. Then he noticed five kilns where they were burning lime and where there were ten Jewish women who were beating limestone with wooden mallets. The gentleman took their photograph and gave them money.


6Line 1

7nasam ‘rest, take rest’ (Landberg 1920–1942, III: 2767; Piamenta 1990–1991, II: 484).

8ʿazam min ‘depart, leave’ (Lane 1863–1893, 2037–38; form I = CA form VIII, with a Yemeni source; Landberg 1920–1942, III: 2289; Piamenta 1990–1991, II: 326).

9tawakkal ʿalā Allāh ‘set off, out’; often reduced to tawakkal in the Yemen (Piamenta 1990–1991, II: 531).

10Line 2

11ḫaṭī ‘make ones way’ (Piamenta 1990–1991, I: 32; Qafisheh 2000, 175; Watson 2000, 313).

12ribḥī, plural rubāḥ, ‘baboon’ (Landberg 1920–1942, II: 1061).

13ʾabsar/ʾabṣar ‘see’; SA, and indeed Yemeni Arabic (YA) in general, allow both forms (Piamenta 1990–1991, I: 32).

14Line 3

15tabt, tibt (or ṭabt) ‘in the direction of’ (Rossi 1939, 245; Serjeant and Lewcock 1983, 562); perhaps < tabb, tubūb ‘row, line’ (Landberg 1901, 264).

16maqhawī ‘keeper of small inn (maqhāya/makhāya)’. Smaller than a samsara (Rossi 1939, 143; Landberg 1920–1942, III: 2538; Piamenta 1990–1991, II: 416).

17Line 4

18sufra ‘hide, untreated and with the hair still on it’ (Rossi 1939, 226; Piamenta 1990–1991, II: 224).

19Line 6

20farda, plural farīd, ‘rug, mat’ (Landberg 1920–42, III: 2406; Piamenta 1990–1991, II: 369).

21Line 8

22ʾašraf ʿalā ‘reach, come to’ (Landberg 1920–1942, III: 2042; Mittwoch 1926, 66).

23Line 9

24samsara, plural samāsir, ‘caravanserai’. Larger than a maqhāya, (Serjeant and Lewcock 1983, 592; Piamenta 1990–1991, I: 232). Line 10

25šall ‘take’ (Landberg 1920–1942, III: 2073); Goitein 1941, Glossary, 89; Piamenta 1990–1991, I: 263).

26qāriša, plural qirāš, ‘animals’ in general, but often used of cattle. Here we take it to mean Burchardt’s riding animals, perhaps donkeys or mules, or both (Landberg 1920–1942, III: 2474; Piamenta 1990–1991, II: 393).

27saraḥ ‘go’ (Piamenta 1990–1991, I: 220).

28Line 11

29qāyimaqām, ‘governor’ (Redhouse 1890, 1429).

30Line 14

31istaʿmal ‘make’; this meaning of the verb is not CA, nor does it find a place in the Yemeni lexicographical literature at our disposal, though Dozy (1881, II: 157) gives us fabriquer.

32Line 15

33miḥrāq, plural maḥārīq, ‘kiln’ (Piamenta 1990–1991, I: 90).

34Line 16

35quṣṣ/qiṣṣ usually appears as juṣṣ/jiṣṣ in CA (Lane 1863–1893, 428), as well as in the vernaculars (Piamenta 1990–1991, II: 67– 68); from the Persian gaj or kaj (Steingass 1930, 1016, 1074).

Linguistic Notes

  • 9  For a fuller discussion of LMA and its features, see Bellem and Smith (2014, 9–10).

36The text is written in LMA and contains a mixture of Classical Arabic (CA) and Ṣanʿānī Arabic (SA), also including the use of purely CA features used outside the accepted norms of CA grammatical norms.9 Before the detailed linguistic observations below, three general features of the grammar of the text may be highlighted here.

371) the masculine plural nominal and adjectival ending in the oblique case -īn in all grammatical environments; e.g., li-anna al-maqhawiyyin maʿdūmīn fī sanbān ‘because there were no innkeepers in Sanbān’ (ln. 3);

382) the complete lack of ʾalif al-tanwīn; e.g., ʾasharnā sahar ʿaẓīm (ln. 5);

393) the complete lack of ʾalif al-wiqāyah; e.g., yastaʿmilū (ln. 15). Items of lexical interest are dealt with in the Commentary above. The following linguistic observations are presented line by line, as they occur in the Arabic text.

40Line 1

41maʿā-nā. SA has maʿā-hā with the 3fs pronominal suffix and maʿāwith all plural pronominal suffixes (Watson 1993, 196).

42Lines 1–2

43wa-niyyat-nā naʿrif radāʿ literally ‘our intention [was] that we get to know Radāʿ’. No verb ‘to be’ is expressed and the subject noun (niyyat-) is linked to the verb (naʿrif) asyndetically.

44Line 2

45kunnā nubsir al-rubāḥ fī-hā is thus a relative clause whose antecedent is qīʿān.

46Line 3

47wa-wajjahnā. Form II = CA form V, wa-tawajjahnā.

48wa-daḫalnā ʾamsaynā ‘we went in and spent the night’. The two verbs are linked asyndetically.

49Line 4

50miyatayn sufra ‘200 hides’. The first part of the iḍāfah construction retains the final nūn of the dual ending.

51bi-yadbaġ-hunn/bi-dbaġ-hunn ‘which he tans’, i.e., habitually, as a profession. The bi- prefix with the prefix conjugation verb “expresses continuous and habitual aspect” (Watson 1993, 62, 78 ff.); “une valeur de concomitance” (Naïm 2009, 72). The feminine singular antecedent, sufra, is followed in the asyndetic relative clause by the feminine plural pronominal suffix -hunn.

52fa-hajjamayn ʿalay-nā ‘they (feminine plural) attacked us’. The feminine plural suffix conjugation is always -ayn in SA (Watson 1993, 56). The collective noun qaml serving as subject following the plural verb hajjamayn is construed as a feminine plural here and in the previous sentence, wa-l-qaml malān-hunn.

53ʾasharnā. Form IV = CA form I, sahirnā, followed by a cognate accusative, sahar ʿaẓīm.

54Line 5

55yawm ṯānī, for al-yawn al-ṯānī, is used commonly in the text.

56Line 6

57bi-yaštaġil/bi-štaġil; see above, ln. 4.

58The plural noun farīd is qualified by the feminine plural adjective radāʿiyyāt.

59Line 7

60ḫamsīn ğamal muḥammalāt milḥ. The numeral is followed by the singular noun ğamal, which is then qualified by the feminine plural participle muḥammalāt.

61Line 9

62fī waṣaṭ al-sūq. The ṣād replaces the CA sīn in pronunciation because of the following emphatic ṭāʾ.

63al-sūq ḥaqq madīnat radāʿ ‘the market of the town of Radāʿ’. An example of the common analytic genitive; ḥaqq is the only possessive linker used in YA (Naïm 2009, 115–16); it can be declined (Behnstedt 1987, 62).

64wa-lam wāfaqat al-ḫawāğa ‘but it [the samsara] was not to the gentleman’s liking’. Lam with the suffix conjugation negating past time—a common feature in J’s text.

65Line 10

66šallaynā ‘we took’. For the vernacular suffix conjugation of the doubled verb, see Bellem and Smith (2014, 12). Watson (2009, 114) proposes that the form is due to an ‘-ay-’ infix rather than the common interpretation, that a geminate verb in the vernacular is, as it were, turned into a verb with third radical yāʾ and the gemination retained.

67Lines 10–11

68fa-saraḥ al-ḫawāğa wa-kātibu-h sallamū ʿalay-h ‘the gentleman and his secretary went and greeted him’. Note that sallamū is plural here and linked asyndetically to the preceding clause.

69Line 11

70wa-l-ḫawāğa wa-kātibu-h ṭalaʿū ʾilā al-qalʿa ‘the gentleman and his secretary climbed up to the citadel’. The form ṭalaʿū is plural.

71Line 12

72jamīʿ al-dūr ḥaqq radāʿ ‘all the buildings of Radāʿ’. See above, ln. 9.

73Line 13

74li-anna-hu ʿamar-hā al-sulṭān ʿabd al-wahhāb ‘because Sultan ʿAbd al-Wahhāb built it’. Note the ḍamīr al-šaʾn, here in bold.

75Lines 15–16

76ʾabsar ḫamsa maḥārīq allaḏī yaḥriqū fī-hinn al-quṣṣ ‘he saw five kilns in which they were burning limestone’. In an interesting example of mixed Arabic, the indefinite antecedent maḥārīq (grammatically feminine singular?) is qualified by the relative clause introduced by allaḏī followed by the feminine plural pronominal suffix -hinn. The form allī is the usual SA relative pronoun, irrespective of the number and gender of the antecedent (Naïm 2009, 121); allaḏī is the only relative pronoun used throughout the text.

77Line 16

78bi-yaḍribayn/bi-ḍribayn. See ln. 4 above.


1  He had undertaken several expeditions in Ethiopia and Yemen, some authorised, others not. When the Italian authorities insisted that the Sublime Porte find and punish the murderers, the Ottomans branded Benzoni a spy.

2  Ḏamār is a town some 50 miles due south of Ṣanʿāʾ; al-Hamdānī (1884–1891, 55, 80, 104, etc.), Yāqūt (1979, III: 7). Interestingly, it has the faʿāli pattern, along with other place names in the Arabian Peninsula, like Ẓafār, the medieval town on the southern coast of Oman, now the name of the whole southern province of Oman; Smith (2004, 264– 80, 276–77).

3  A town about 35 miles due east of Ḏamār; Hamdānī (1884–1891, 55, 93 etc.); Smith (1974–1978, II: 193), with full references. It may also be in the faʿāli pattern.

4  5 Ḏū al-Qaʿda = 18 November 1909.

5  This must refer to the government building.

6  Al-Manṣūr ʿAbd al-Wahhāb, third Tahirid sultan, 883–894/1478– 1489; see Smith, (1988, 129–39, 137, 139). J is wrong here! The ʿĀmiriyya mosque and madrasa were built in 910/1504 by the first Tahirid sultan, al-Ẓāhir ʿĀmir (reg. 858–864/1454–1460); on the mosque’s architecture mosque, see Porter (1992; 2017); Al-Radi (1997).

7  We vocalise thus, although we can find no reference to the village in the geographical sources at our disposal.

8  Earlier in the text (Mittwoch 1926, 10), J identifies Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad al-Nabhānī as a gendarme of the Zaydī tribe of Arḥab, appointed from the start of the expedition as Burchardt’s escort.

9  For a fuller discussion of LMA and its features, see Bellem and Smith (2014, 9–10).


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