Protectorate of South Arabia

The Protectorate of South Arabia consisted of various states located at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula under treaties of protection with Britain.

Protectorate of South Arabia

محمية الجنوب العربي
Map of the Protectorate and the Federation of South Arabia.
StatusBritish Protectorate
Common languagesArabic
Historical eraCold War
January 18 1963
November 30 1967
CurrencyEast African shilling
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Aden Protectorate
South Yemen

The area of the former protectorate became part of South Yemen after the Radfan uprising and is now part of the Republic of Yemen.



The background of the Protectorate of South Arabia is part of an effort of the British Empire to protect the East India Route, the sea route between the Mediterranean Sea and India, in and through the southern coasts of Arabia. Already before the opening of the Suez Canal, industrial Britain with its rapidly expanding economy, needed improved communication with British India.

The coastal plains of the peninsula had been devastated earlier in the 19th century by Wahhabi puritan Muslims from Central Arabia followed by an Egyptian invasion.[1] From the first commercial treaty with the Sultanate of Lahej in 1802, various efforts were made to avoid looting of East India ships, leading to the annexing of Aden by the East India Company in 1839. The Aden Protectorate was established in 1869, the same year of the opening of the Suez Canal which heralded a new era of trade and communication.[2]

20th century

The Protectorate of South Arabia was designated on 18 January 1963 as consisting of those areas of the Aden Protectorate that did not join the Federation of South Arabia, and it broadly, but not exactly, corresponded to the division of the Aden Protectorate which was called the Eastern Aden Protectorate.

The protectorate included the Hadhrami states of Kathiri, Mahra, and Qu'aiti except the three Wahidi Sultanates in the Eastern Aden Protectorate, with Upper Yafa in the Western Aden Protectorate. The Protectorate of South Arabia was dissolved on 30 November 1967 and its constituent states quickly collapsed, leading to the abolition of their monarchies. The territory was absorbed into the newly independent People's Republic of South Yemen, which became part of the Republic of Yemen in 1990.


Flag Name Established Joined Notes
Mahra Sultanate 15th century 1886
Kathiri State 14th century 1888
Qu'aiti State 1858 1888
Upper Yafa circa 1800 1903 Consisted of five Sheikhdoms: Al-Busi, Al-Dhubi, Al-Hadrami, Al-Muflihi, and Al-Mausata
Sheikhdom of al-Hawra 19th century 1890
Sheikhdom of al-`Irqa 19th century 1890
Sultanate of Barhut Unknown Unknown Some sources mention a "Sultanate of Barhut" which existed until 1967[3][4]. It is absent from a 1946 map.[5]
Sultanate of Qasm Unknown Unknown Some sources mention a "Sultanate of Qasm" which existed until 1967[3][4]. It is absent from a 1946 map.[5]
Sultanate of Shabwa Unknown Unknown Absorbed by Say'un (Kathiri) in the 20th century.[3][4]
Sultanate of Tarim Unknown Unknown Absorbed by Say'un (Kathiri) in 1945.[3][4]

See also


  1. Sarah Searight, The Charting of the Red Sea. History Today, 2003
  2. Frank Edwards, The Gaysh: A History Of The Aden Protectorate Levies 1927-61 And The Federal Regular Army Of South Arabia 1961-67
  3. "States of the Aden Protectorates". Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  4. "WHKMLA : History of Yemen". Retrieved 2019-06-23.
  5. Division, Great Britain Admiralty Naval intelligence (1946). Geographical Handbook Series: Western Arabia and the Red Sea. H.M. Stationery Office.

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