The Big Hadhrami Merchant Families of Jeddah, 1850-1950
This work addresses the history of Hadhrami merchant families settled in Jeddah from 1850 to 1950, a group that is still well-known for its economic role in the Hejaz and Saudi Arabia,. Built on private, Ottoman and European archives, it describes a specific group of the Ottoman provincial notability and of the Hadhrami diaspora. As soon as the 1850s, their being part of Jeddah’s notability was the result of three main factors: their success in adapting family agency to an extensive network of trade, their role in the local Hadhrami community, and their integration into the business group of the city. In the 19th century, Jeddah was Mecca’s harbor and a platform for trade between India, the East-African coast and Egypt. In this way, the history of these families from Hadhramaut was closely related to the economic and political history of Hejaz. It brings back the history of the Hejaz in its global context, evidencing the connections between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Changes in these merchants’ activities and in the composition of their group paralleled the changes in the economic and political situation of the Hejaz, which was successively a province of the Ottoman Empire and a Sharifian Emirate, the Hashemite Kingdom in 1916 and the western region the Saudi Kingdom from 1925 onwards. During the 1930s and the 1940s, the gradual disappearance of these traders from the economic elite of the country, and the emergence of other Hadhrami business men, illuminate the impact of new directions of trade and regional migrations, that proved as important as the new political regime and the beginning of oil wealth.