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Thread: The Bride of my Constant Desire: The Birth of Modern Arabia

  1. #1
    Lt. General Mike von Bek's Avatar
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    The Bride of my Constant Desire: The Birth of Modern Arabia

    Greetings all,

    In 1931, Betram Thomas - the financial advisor of the Sultan of Oman - became the first European to cross the Rub' al Khali, the Empty Quarter. He had been obsessed with crossing the Rub' al Khali since 1925, calling it the "bride of my constant desire".

    Which explains the title. I've decided to create an AAR describing my experiences leading Oman from uncivilised backwater to - hopefully - civilised empire. I will be playing on VH/Furious, and will mostly be relating the tale in history-book style - ie short on characterisation, and no dialog.

    So - lets see how we do.

  2. #2
    Oman? Wow. Good luck there; it may just be the most ahistorically difficult country to civilize with, so you're probably going to need it.

  3. #3
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    Cool stuff! At least you have little neighbors you can pick on, and colonies to expand into, etc.

    This should actually be very, very interesting, I would think!

    I'll be watching!

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    Bride of my Constant Desire



    'He is crazed with the spell of far Arabia,
    They have stolen his wits away.'
    Walter De La Mare, Arabia


    Introduction

    History is the story of man, and in the case of Arabia, the man in question depends largely on the side relating the history.

    British historians speak of Samuel Hennell, Captain Atkins Hamerton, Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Pelly, and Sir John Kirk. Soldiers, diplomats, explorers and adventurers – these men of the British Foreign Service would make their mark on the nations of the Peninsula

    Arabian historians speak of Sa`id al Said, Thuwayni ibn Sa`id, Turki ibn Sa`id, and Faysal ibn Turki. These were the powerful Sultans of Oman and Muscat, the sons of the Busaidi dynasty, who would claim for their nation a ‘place in the sun’.

    Perhaps it is best to say that a combination of these men – the drive of the British Foreign Service to safeguard the Empires interests, the desire of the Sultans to stand as equals with their neighbours – the Egyptians and the Ottomans – that would lead, in the wake of World War 1, to the creation of the modern Arabian state.

    Prior to the 19th century, Oman had always been a centre for traders. It was strategically located on the trade route between India and Egypt, as well as home to a thriving incense trade for over two thousand years. In the past the kingdom had been conquered by the Portuguese and the Ottomans – both had been overthrown in time, and in the case of the Portuguese the men of Oman had used the advanced ships of the Portugeuse that they had captured to create an empire that stretched from East Africa to Baluchistan. It was an empire rich in wealth and manpower, albeit one based on slavery.

    In 1741, a powerful Imam overthrew the last vestiges of Ottoman rule, and founded the Busaidi dynasty that survives to this day. Ahmad ibn Sa’id was the first Imam of Muscat and Oman – the supreme religious ruler of this rich land. His sons however, took not the title of Imam – with its connotations of religious leadership – but Sayyid, an honorific title held by any member of the royal family. Later, they would adopt the title of Sultan, implying purely coercive power. They thus relinquished all pretence of spiritual authority, although they patronised Muslim scholars and promoted Islamic scholarship. At the time, outside the Ottoman empire itself, Oman was the most sectarian of the Muslim powers of the time.

    However, no history of the Peninsula can be complete without a discussion of religion – particularly that of Ibadhism and Wahabism, which would come to divide the Peninsula between them. Ibadhism, dominant in the South, Wahabism in the north. One moderate – almost liberal. The other conservative – fundamental. The divisions between these two sects of Islam coloured many of the events that occurred in the late 19th century.

    Ibadhism was a form of Islam distinct from the Shi’ite and Sunni sects. Dominant in only one Muslim country, Oman, it was one of the earliest schools – having been founded in 751 AD – less than 50 years after the death of the prophet Mohammed.

    Ibadhism was a conservative, yet moderate sect that emphasised compassion above all. Unlike Wahabism that espoused violence against all non-believers, Ibadhism merely espoused dissociation – an internal attitude of withholding friendship that did not, of itself, imply enmity or hostility. Indeed, Ibadhism decried the use of violence against fellow Muslims – ruling that the property of Muslims should not be taken as spoils and their women and children should not be killed or taken in captivity.

    The British, who had long dealt with the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, considered the Ibadhis to be the least fanatic and sectarian of all Muslims, who openly associated with people of all faiths and prayed together with Sunni Muslims. The Ibadhis reserved hostile actions for one type of person: the unjust ruler who refused to mend his ways or relinquish his power.

    Wahabism could not be more different from Ibadhism. Fundamental and close-minded, it urged a return to traditional values based on a strict interpretation of the Qu’ran and Hadith. Founded in the late 18th century by Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab, it regarded all other sects as heretical. It was an ideology that sought a return to ‘pure’ Islam, a system under which invoking any prophet, saint or angel in prayer, other than Allah alone – even Mohammed himself - was polytheism, punishable by death. It was a powerful, fast-growing system that allied itself with the rulers of Nejd, the cunning and powerful Al Saud dynasty.

    By 1765, Wahabism had been established as the main religion of the powerful state of Nejd, to the north of Oman. In 1801 the Al Saud-led Wahabi armies had attacked and sacked the shrine of Husayn in Iraq. In 1802 they advanced on the Hedjaz, destroying monuments and grave markers in Mecca and medina, which they likened to Mohammeds destruction of pagan idols.

    This advance had alarmed the ruler of Egypt, Muhammad Ali. In 1812 he sent his son Tursun to the Hedjaz, and later joined him. Together they rapidly defeated the Wahabi forces arrayed against them, forcing them back to Riyadh – which soon became the capital of the Al Saud family, from whence they planned the resurgence of Wahabism.

    It was these destructive outbursts of the Wahabist religion that caused the British Empire to regard it warily. Whilst the divisions between the sects of Islam provided the British with the perfect ground to ply their ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, it could well be seen that sooner – or later – they would have to deal with the Wahabists.

    It was against this background that Samuel Hennell, the British Resident of Bahrain, who had oversight on the so-called “Trucial States” decided to act in the interests of the Empire. The interests of Britain must be safeguarded – at all costs. And in Oman, he had the perfect weapon.
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    Lt. General Mike von Bek's Avatar
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    Phew - we're on our way. Obviously this is just an intro to set the stage - the next post will begin in 1836, and the game will begin.

    Now, regarding religion - I realise that I have completely white-washed Ibadhism/Wahabism - so if I have offended anyone, I do apologise. Feel free to offer corrective pointers by PM if need be.

    El Presidente: Muchos gracias, Mr President! Some of the Indian states might be harder to civilise - but Oman is plenty hard

    Rensslaer: Thanks - as you say, Oman is well-placed - lets just hope we can make the distance.

    Gjerg: Again, thanks - same to you over in your excellent Nationalist China AAR. I doubt I can reach that level of delicious historical goodness, but Ill try
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    Remember Carcosa! Fiftypence's Avatar
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    This looks interesting, but Oman? I have to admit I've never had the patience play an unciv, so good luck!

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    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    MAGNIFICENT beginning! I like your attention to detail, which bodes well for an interesting AAR.

    And I enjoyed the history lesson, much of which I did not know. I'd like to have studied more Mideast history. Most of my study is foggy now, and much of what I remember is my instructor saying, "And so-and-so ruled for 14 years, and then he was poisoned..."

    And that's a remarkably atmospheric photo you've chosen to start you off... Except for the car. But then again, maybe this is the image of the future Kingdom of Sayyidi Arabia!

    Obviously, the Ibadhists aren't so strict on the display of images!

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    Good luck!
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    1836-1838: The Foundations



    The Arabs are an ignorant, savage and barbarous people. Those on the coast are pirates; those in the interior are robbers. – J. Olney, A Practical System of Modern Geography


    1836-1838: The Foundations

    In 1806 Sa'id al Said, fifth of his line, murdered his brother, with whom he shared the Sultanate, and became the undisputed Sultan of Muscat and Oman. For the next thirty years, he would increase Omani influence and revenue within the region tremendously.

    The British courted the powerful Sultan, wishing to maintain security on the route from Europe to India so that merchants could safely send goods between India and the Gulf. Britain also sought to increase their influence over the region at the expense of other powers, such as the Ottomans and France. Strategically located, and certainly the friendliest of the so-called “Trucial States”, Oman swiftly became Britain’s closest ally in the region.

    However, the British – who since 1807 had abolished slavery throughout most of the Empire - increasingly demanded that Oman abolish their own slave trade, which was the main source of wealth for the Sultanate. Flourishing trade centres for slaves existed in Kilwa, Bagamayo and Zanzibar – the latter to supply India and the Arab countries. The country resisted as long as possible, but eventually the British control of the Indian Ocean forced their hand. In 1822 the Sultan was reluctantly bound by the Governor of Mauritius to sign a treaty abolishing the human trade. The agreement did not affect traffic with other Arab countries, but it did prevent Oman from selling slaves to other Western Powers.

    The treaty was a blow to the economy of the Omani kingdom. Slaves, ivory and cloves were its largest exports. In fact, such was the volume of its cloves export that it would remain the worlds largest producer of cloves until well into the 20th century.

    However, even with their dominance of the clove market, the loss of one of their richest sources of income caused the kingdom to suffer. The Sultan could no longer afford to purchase the latest arms, and as time passed it became increasingly difficult to control the ever-volatile tribes of the interior. Unruly at the best of times, the Bedouin had no use for a Sultan who could not bring the disparate tribes under his control.

    Thus it was that in 1836, Sultan Sa'id sent diplomats to Constantinople to arrange a deal with Omans northern neighbours. Despite having thrown out the Turks in the previous century, relations between the two powers were friendly – mostly due to the actions of Mahmud II, the Great Reformer, who was at that time engaged in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to enact a series of Western-style reforms in the empire – the Tanzimat.

    A deal was soon arranged between the Padishah and the Sultan. In return for control of the province of Mogdishu, the Ottomans would supply arms – obsolete flintlock rifles in this case – to the Omani military. They would also loan some of their Western trained leaders, who would pass on knowledge of these new tactics to the Omani soldiers. These post-Napoleonic theories would be quickly accepted by the Royal Army of Oman, at that time 20,000 strong.

    The Royal Army of Oman would embrace these new methodologies with such vigour that they adopted what the Europeans called a Clausewitizian attitude to battle – a rarity amongst the Arab nations of the day, which usually pursued a more Jomnian style. In time, this embrace of the Western Way of War would prove to be one of Oman’s greatest assets in its battle for supremacy of the Peninsula. For themselves, the Ottomans fortified Mogdishu, hoping to use it to gain control of the Red Sea, and exert some measure of control over their truculent Egyptian vassals.

    For the next two years, the Sultan would ensure that the Royal Army of Oman fully embraced the new methods. Only two divisions strong, it was still one of the best armed and best led armies in the region.

    In 1838, the Sultan enacted a series of reforms designed to better the lives of his populace. Concerned both with the Wahabist growth to the north, and the Christian missionaries that unsuccessfully prowled the land under the aegis of the British, he urged Imam’s to increase their efforts to improve the literacy of the people. The ability to read, he proclaimed, was the one of the best ways to worship Allah – reading the words of Mohammed and understanding them, as well as the works of the founders of Ibadhism was also the surest way of preventing the fundamentalist attitudes of the Wahabists from making any headway into Oman.

    As well as increasing the education of his populace, the Sultan ensured that medical care was available to all. All Omani citizens would receive the very best medical care that the kingdom could give. In time, this would lead to increased immigration from the neighbouring states as other Arabs sought to take advantage of the Sultans generosity.

    Both of these reforms may have been brought about under pressure from the Chief Resident of Bahrain, Samuel Hennell, who was a vocal proponent in Britain of a united Arabia. As the Omani’s were the easiest to deal with, it made sense to Samuel that they would be the uniters. He was well aware that the process would take decades, and was prepared to do what was necessary to ensure this was the case. By urging the Sultan to increase the education ahd health of his subjects, he hoped to bring the Omani’s closer to Western interests.

    Following the Sultans promise of free health care, he sponsored a series of exchanges of personnel – British medics would serve in Oman, and Omani men travelled to London itself to learn the latest medical techniques of the Empire. In time, this cross-pollination of people and ideas would lead to a great friendship between Britain and Oman.

    However, it had become increasingly apparent to Samuel – who was in charge not just of British Affairs in Oman, but also in Abu Dhabi, Yemen, Nejd and Ha’il – that Oman required the presence of a full-time Resident. Thus it was that in January of 1839, he dispatched Captain Atkins Hamerton to Muscat, where he would serve as the British Resident for the next seventeen years. With the Captain he dispatched a series of secret orders that would change forever the face of the Peninsula.
    Last edited by Mike von Bek; 29-05-2005 at 12:07.
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    Lt. General Mike von Bek's Avatar
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    And were off! Next post Ill hopefully be able to add some graphics - it depends on whether I can find my copy of Photoshop 6, and reduce the graphics to a more manageable size - Im using Imageshack, so we'll see how that holds up.

    I'll be including a shot of real-life Oman at the start of every post - it truly is a beautiful country, as well as an irrelevant quote on Arabia, an Arabian proverb, things like that. This isnt just an AAR, its a cultural exchange! Happen to know a particularly smart Arabian proverb, quote, poem, what have you? PM and Ill gladly put it in the AAR, with due notice of the kind soul who passed it on.

    Fiftypence: Playing an Unciv can either be a mind-numbing bore-fest as you acquire the necessary points, or a harrowing battle for survival in the face of the Great Powers. Hopefully we wont be too boring.

    Actually, in order to provide a more lively AAR, Ive already played through the game four times, and I will be threading those various histories together to hopefully provide a rather exciting ride for one and all. After all, cant have -1836 start, 1891~ civilised - not fun at all.

    Rensslaer: Why thank you - may I say that your own Prussian AAR is also fantastically well written. You really must update it more often!

    As to history - its endlessly fascinating, and I was rather lucky to be taught by an exceptionally gifted teacher whose love for the Battle of Britain transferred itself to me in a general love for history. Sadly, there isnt much history available on Oman - prior to 1971, it was almost unknown. Since then however, its become one of the better countries in the Peninsula - quite a lovely place to live, Im told.

    As to the image - I , uh... I didnt notice the car - how embarassing!

    Sir Humphrey: Thanks! Always good to have another Aussie on board
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    Great stuff! You seem to be very knowledgeable of Arab culture, religion and the history of the region. * Subscribes *
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  13. #13
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    Great! A chance to soak up some Arab history and culture the easy way, and learn about a Victoria country I hadn't ever even considered playing!

    Good writing so far, this will be interesting.

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    Thanks! Glad to be able to read your work.
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    This will be interesting reading.
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    1839: Reasons for War



    The Bedouin are a right foul folk and cruel and of eveil kind. – Sir John Mandeville, 14th century


    1839: Reasons for War

    When Captain Hamerton arrived in Muscat in the early days of 1839, he was just past the first blush of middle-age. A career diplomat, he had long served in India under the Governor of Bombay, Sir Robert Grant, who had recently passed leaving the position temporarily vacant. It was Captain Hamertons consititution more than anything that had won him the post of Resident and Consul of Oman – his ability to survive in a climate that seemed tailor-made to destroying the health of his fellow Britons.

    He was also a man used to dealing with crises – the East-India Company seemed to attract them, and it was a wonder that John Company had survived as long as it had. Thus it was of no surprise to Captain Hamerton that the first crisis of his eventful Consulship was already occurring before he arrived in Muscat.

    For years, the Qawasim pirates of Aden had preyed upon the shipping of the Red Sea. They were powerful and bold, and of late had begun to harass British merchants on the passage to India.

    In January of 1839, shortly after Hamerton had been dispatched to Muscat, the East-India Company had decided to take action against the pirates. One option was to land a company of Royal Marines – in essence declaring war on the Arab kingdom of Yemen, which harboured the pirates in Aden. Initially this had been the most popular opinion – the East-India Company was given to more forceful solutions, and the plan had several other benefits as well. Particularly, a land base at the mouth of the Red Sea would serve the British well – allowing them to maintain close watch on the Egyptians, who whilst being nominal vassals of the Ottoman Empire – forged ever closer links with the British in an ultimately futile attempt to win their freedom.

    The port of Aden would also allow the British to keep an eye on the new Ottoman port at Mogdishu, which the Turks had occupied in 1838 following the deal made the Sultan of Oman.

    However, certain elements within the East-India Company thought that a proxy war would serve the Company’s interest’s better. A company of Royal Marines was an expensive thing to muster, and these elements – headed by the new Governor of Bombay, Sir James Rivett-Carnac – who was determined to avoid what he saw as a waste of John Company’s resources. Sir James consulted frequently with the Chief Resident of the Gulf, Samuel Hennell – ostensibly his underling – and the Governor was well aware of the political and religious situation in the Peninsula. He was convinced, like Hennell, that a strong quasi-secular Arabian presence could only be of benefit to the British. Certainly more so than directly establishing a British mandate in the region.

    It was these latter elements that would eventually win out, and the East-India Company decided it would postpone war with Aden, pending a successful outcome of Captain Hamerton’s mission. His orders, as he travelled to Muscat, were to convince Sultan Sa'id to invade Yemen, eliminate the pirates and if he so desired incorporate the tribes of Yemen into Oman.

    However, as Captain Hamerton was to discover, this was no easy task. Whilst Oman was certainly the most advanced Arab kingdom at that time, Yemen was a mountainous country that had for centuries withstood any attempts to take it by force. Indeed, the Busaidi dynasty – the ruling family of Muscat and Oman – was of Yemen extraction. A second complication arose in that Ibadhism forbade attacking fellow Moslems, except in defence.

    Captain Hamerton was therefore at a loss as to how to convince the Sultan to proceed against the pirates. For several months, he tried fruitlessly to convince the Sultan to act, only to be denied at every turn. Luck was with him however, as in May of 1839 the Qawasim pirates made a critical error.

    As the British presence had increased in Oman, so had the number of British merchants, which led to an increase in shipping to and from Oman. It was not until 1838 that the first steamer arrived. The Sultan was entranced by the great vessel that could move faster than his best clipper, and carry vastly more cargo besides. He swiftly ordered a dozen of the latest steamers to replace his ageing cargo fleet. From 1838 onward, steamships would handle the shipment of goods from East Africa to Oman.

    Unlike most Arabs of that period, Sultan Sa'id had a firm grasp of the mechanics of economy – under his reign, the disparate possessions of Oman had become the wealthiest kingdom in the region. With this in mind, the Sultan used the steamers to ship his most prosperous cargo – slaves. The increased speed with which the slaves were transported, the greater capacity afforded by the larger steamships – it all meant a stronger economy for Oman – but it was one that the British looked upon with anger, and they resolved to put an end to it.

    In May of 1839 the Qawasim pirates captured two large Omani steamers filled with slaves destined for Muscat and sale across the Peninsula. The pirates boarded the steamers, quickly took control and sailed them to their possessions in Aden.

    For Sultan Sa'id, it was an insult he was not willing to suffer. Captain Hamerton had little trouble convincing the now aggravated Sultan that the loss of two of his steamers – not to mention their priceless cargo – was the work of the Sultan of Yemen.

    Free now on both religious and political grounds to proceed, the sultan wasted no time, and in April of 1839, the Royal Army of Oman – trained in European tactics, equipped with European flintlocks – marched to war.

    The first war for control of the Peninsula had begun.
    Last edited by Mike von Bek; 29-05-2005 at 12:05.
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  17. #17
    Discoverer of Mombot Ciçatrix's Avatar
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    Yet another good update, this time without a car in the first picture. Good luck with the war.
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  18. #18
    Field Marshal Stuyvesant's Avatar
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    And so it's war. I like the way you paint your story as a shared Omani-British venture. Are you planning to 'oust' the British later in your story, or is Oman doomed to go the same route as Egypt, becoming a British satellite in all but name?

    Good luck with the war (if it's needed)! I'm also looking forward to the future conflicts with the Brits over slavery.

  19. #19
    I am really enjoying this AAR. If you need an image editing program, Irfanview is a good one.

  20. #20
    Lt. General Mike von Bek's Avatar
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    Wow, the first post I didnt proof-read and look at all the errors. *embarassed* Ive cleaned it up a bit, so it should be decent now. Still, cant find my copy of Photoshop - but once I do I'll go back and post a lot of in-game screenshots to flesh out the above posts.

    cthulhu: Thanks! Actually, my knowledge of the region and religion comes mostly from Wikipedia - which I highly recommend for those seeking historical details for their AARs.

    King of Minors: Ha ha, thanks. I made sure to avoid a car pic this time. I'll have to see if I can find some shots of the cities or such for the future banners.

    Stuyvesant: Thanks, Im definitely trying to portray this from both sides. My goal when I began writing this AAR was to justify my decisions as much as possible within a historical context - hence all the detail, economic and religious. As to the eventual fate of the kingdom - in RL 1891 Oman was declared a protectorate of Britain, and did not achieve independence until 1971. So, we shall see

    hasskugel: Why thank you! Ill look Irfanview up when I get home tonight - I definitely need an editor so I can start to get the graphics up to speed.
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