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The Arabian peninsula in 1914.
Kingdom of Hadhramaut (violet) in the 3rd century AD during the Sabaean - Himyarite war, it was eventually annexed by the Himyarite Kingdom

Hadhramaut, Hadhramout, Hadramawt or Ḥaḍramūt (Arabic: حضرموت‎‎ Ḥaḍramawt) is the name of the region currently retained in Hadhramaut Governorate of the Republic of Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula. The people of Hadhramaut are called Hadhramis and speak Hadhrami Arabic.


The origin of the name is not exactly known. It already had this name in the Old South Arabian period: Ḥaḑramautic ḥḑrmt; Sabaean and Qatabānian also had the form: ḥḑrmwt. The name appears in Greek as Άδρραμύτα.[1] There are various folk etymologies. One is that the region is named after a nickname of 'Amar ibn Qaḥṭān, meaning "death has come", from /ḥaḍara/ (Arabic for "has come") and /mawt/ ("death"), the reason being that whenever he entered a battle, there were always many people who died.[citation needed] Another theory is that after the destruction of Thamūd, the Islamic prophet Ṣāliḥ relocated himself and about 4,000 of his followers to the area known as Haḑramawt and it was here where he died and thus, the region was called "death has come".

Flag of the Quaiti Sultanate with three forts representing the principal cities Al Mukalla, Shibam and Ash Shihr.

Another folk etymology is that it is related to Hazarmawet in Genesis 10:26[2] and 1 Chronicles 1:20[3] in the Bible (meaning "court of death", according to various Bible dictionaries). There, Hazarmawet is the name of a son of Joktan, one of the sons of Shem in the table of the Sons of Noah[4] in Genesis 10—i.e., the founders of nearby nations including Sheba, also a son of Joktan. As Southern Arabia was and is one of the homelands of the South Semitic language subfamily, a Semitic origin for the name is highly likely. If the name did reflect a biblical- or pre-biblical-era naming convention in the Near East, this would make it ancient indeed, pre-dating both Islam and Greco-Roman civilization.

The name most likely derives from the Greek ὕδρευματα, or enclosed (and often fortified) watering stations at wadis. A hydreuma (singular) is a manned and fortified watering hole or way station along a caravan route. Juris Zarins, rediscoverer of the city claimed to be the ancient Incense Route trade capital Ubar in Oman, described that site in a Nova interview:[5]

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The site that we uncovered at Shisur was a kind of fortress/administration center set up to protect the water supply from raiding Bedouin tribes. Surrounding the site, as far as six miles away, were smaller villages, which served as small-scale encampments for the caravans. An interesting parallel to this are the fortified water holes in the Eastern Desert of Egypt from Roman times. There, they were called hydreumata.


Region close to Seiyun in the Hadhramaut Valley
An ancient sculpture of a griffin, from the royal palace at Shabwa, the capital city of Hadhramaut

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 (al-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.

In a wider sense, Hadhramaut includes the territory of Mahra to the east all the way to the contemporary border with Oman.[6] 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[citation needed], traditionally educated and strict in their Islamic observance and highly respected in religious and secular affairs.[citation needed]

Hadhrami diaspora

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Since the early 19th century, large-scale Hadhramaut migration has established sizable Hadhrami minorities all around the Indian Ocean,[7] in South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Africa including Hyderabad,[8][9] Bhatkal, Gangolli, Malabar, Sylhet, Java, Sumatra, Malacca, Sri Lanka, southern Philippines and Singapore. In the southern Philippines,the Hadramis families of Abubakar from Maimbung Sulu and Sheik Usman bin Husaifan from Panamao Sulu. In Palawan,Philippines Mayor Abraham Mohammad Ibba is grandson of Usman bin Husaifan from Hadramaut.[10][11]

In Hyderabad, the community is known as Chaush and resides mostly in the neighborhood of Barkas.

In Gujarat, the Surrati people reign from Hadhramaut.

Several Indonesian ministers, including former Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and former Finance Minister Mari'e Muhammad are of Hadhrami descent, as is the former Prime Minister of East Timor, Mari Alkatiri.[12](2006).

Hadhramis have also settled in large numbers along the East African coast,[13] and two former ministers in Kenya, Shariff Nasser and Najib Balala, are of Hadhrami descent. Genetic evidence has linked the Lemba people, an African Jewish community of Zimbabwe and South Africa, to the people of the Hadramaut region.[14] Among the Hadramaut region there has been a historical Jewish population, suggesting both religious and ethnic continuity between Hadhramis and the Lemba.[15]

Modern history of the Wadi Hadhramaut

The Qu'aiti sultans ruled the vast majority of Hadramaut[citation needed], under a loose British protectorate, the Aden Protectorate, from 1882 to 1967[citation needed], 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.

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.

The capital and largest city of Hadhramaut is the port Al Mukalla. Al 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 the Prophet Muhammad anywhere in the world.[16]


Historically, Hadhramaut was known for being a major producer of frankincense. They were mainly exporting it to Mumbai in the early 20th century.[17] The region has also produced senna and coconut.[18]

See also


  1. Theophrastus: Historia Plantarum. 9,4.
  2. Genesis 10:26
  3. 1 Chronicles 1:20
  4. Genesis 10:1–10:32
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  6. Richard N. Schofield, Gerald Henry Blake, Arabian Boundaries: Primary Documents, 1853–1957 Volume 22, Archive Editions, 1988, ISBN 1-85207-130-3, pg 220 ...should be made along the coast to the west as far as the DHOFAR-HADHRAMAUT frontier...
  7. Engseng Ho, The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean, University of California Press, 2006
  8. Omar Khalidi, The Arabs of Hadramawt in Hyderabad in Mediaeval Deccan History, eds Kulkarni, Naeem and de Souza, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1996
  9. Leif Manger, Hadramis in Hyderabad: From Winners to Losers, Asian Journal of Social Science, Volume 35, Numbers 4-5, 2007, pp. 405-433(29)
  10. Natalie Mobini-Kesheh, The Hadrami Awakening: Community and Identity in the Netherlands East Indies, 1900-1942, SEAP Publications, 1999
  11. http://www.sailanmuslim.com/news/wp-content/uploads/the-origins-and-affinities-of-the-sri-lankan-moors.pdf
  12. Agence France-Presse
  13. Anne K. Bang, Sufis and Scholars of the Sea: Family Networks in East Africa, 1860-1925, Routledge, 2003
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  16. Alexandroni, S. No Room at the Inn. New Statesman, October 2007
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External links