'Abdali Sultanate

Sultanate of Lahej

سلطنة لحج
Flag of Lahej
Map of the Federation of South Arabia, with Lahej at bottom left
Map of the Federation of South Arabia, with Lahej at bottom left
CapitalAl Houta
Sunni Islam
Historical eraAden Protectorate
• Independence from the Zaidi Imamate
1740 1728
• British invasion
1839 1967
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Yemeni Zaidi State
Colony of Aden
Aden Protectorate
Federation of Arab Emirates of the South
South Yemen

Lahej (Arabic: لحجLaḥij), the Sultanate of Lahej (Arabic: سلطنة لحجSalṭanat Laḥij), or, sometimes, the Abdali Sultanate (Arabic: سلطنة العبدليSalṭanat al-‘Abdalī), was a Sheikdom based in Lahej in Southern Arabia. The Sultanate became self-ruled in 1728 and gained independence in 1740. In 1839, the Sultanate became Aden Protectorate of the British Empire, though nominally the 'Abdali Sultan retained his status. The Aden Protectorate was briefly ruled again by the Ottomans during World War I, but regained by the British and absorbed into Federation of South Arabia in 1963. The 'Abdali dynasty was officially abolished in 1967, with the proclamation of South Yemen.


Guest House of the Sultan of Lahej,
from an 1898 photograph by Henry Ogg Forbes.

Independent Sultanate[]

Lahej was sultanate of the 'Abdali dynasty. In 1740 the 'Abdali sultan became independent.[1] It became independent thanks to the fracturing of the Zaidi State in north Yemen.[2] The Sultanate of Lahej became an independent entity, from 1728 to 1839.


British protectorate[]

The Sultanate of Lahej lost its independence to the British, after the Royal Navy Aden Expion attack in 1839. The Sultan signed several treaties with the British.[3] The 1863 opening of the Suez Canal caused the formation of the Aden Protectorate.

The sultanate was one of the original "Nine Cantons" that signed individual British protectorate agreements with Great Britain, that in 1869 were joined together to become the Aden Protectorate. The Suez Canal also opened in 1869.

Ottoman rule[]

During World War I, the Ottoman Empire subjugated the Sultanate area.[3] In 1918 Lahej was captured from Ottoman Empire suzerainty and restored as a British protectorate.

Reinstalled British protectorate and Federation of South Arabia[]

Lahej typically enjoyed good relations with the British, despite the accidental killing of Sultan Fadhl ibn Ali al Abdali by British troops in 1918 who mistook him for an enemy Ottoman Turk soldier. In 1948, the Subayhi tribal area was absorbed into their sultanate.[3]

However, by 1958, Britain was worried that the sultan at the time, Ali bin Abd al Karim al Abdali, an Arab nationalist, would refuse to join the British-sponsored Federation of Arab Emirates of the South, and had him deposed. Lahej ended up joining the Federation and later the Federation of South Arabia in 1963.


South Yemen[]

In 1967 the new Communist regime expelled the Abdali Sultan. The dynasty of the Sultanate of Lahej was abolished with the founding of the Socialist state of People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (1967–1990).

Unified Yemen[]

The former territory of the Sultanate has been within the Republic of Yemen since its unification in 1990.[3]


The Sultans of Lahej had the title of Sultan Lahj.[4]

Abdali Sultans[]

Family of the Sultan of Lahej (mid-1870s)


British Empire[]

The Sultanate of Lahej and others surrounding the Port of Aden had economic influence by supporting the important trade economy of the British Empire from South Asia. Early 19th century industrial Britain, with its rapidly expanding economy, needed improved and reliable communication with British India and the East India Company operations.

The 1863 opening of the Suez Canal initiated further British trade protection strategies, securing the port of Adan and surroundings to serve the Red Sea shipping routes using its new canal. The Sultanate was part of an effort of the British Empire to protect the East India Route, the sea route between the Merranean and India, in and through the southern coasts of the Arabian Peninsula.


As of 1920, the Lahej region was producing salt, from salt mines owned by the Ottoman government, that passed through the Sultanate for shipping.[5]

See also[]


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1984 Edition, Vol. I, p. 11
  2. ^ Yaccob, Abdul (2012). "Yemeni opposition to Ottoman rule: an overview". Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. 42: 411–419. JSTOR 41623653.
  3. ^ a b c d "'Abdali sultanate". Encyclopædia Britannica. I: A-Ak — Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago. 2010. pp. 18. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.
  4. ^ States of the Aden Protectorates
  5. ^ Prothero, G.W. (1920). Arabia. London: H.M. Stationery Office. p. 97.

External links[]

Coordinates: 13°06′00″N 45°28′00″E / 13.1°N 45.4667°E / 13.1; 45.4667