Property of William Facey

Alan Villiers | Eighty-four photographs of a voyage from Kuwait to East Africa, 1938-39, via Bahrain and Oman

Lot Closed

May 24, 02:21 PM GMT


2,000 - 3,000 GBP

Lot Details


Property of William Facey

Alan Villiers

A collection of eighty-four photographs of a voyage from Kuwait to East Africa, 1938-39, via Bahrain and Oman

84 silver prints (255 x 200mm., or the reverse), printed later from the original negatives, each with manuscript caption and label on the reverse with National Maritime Museum catalogue number, preserved in modern ringbinder, a few photographs with minor stains

In 1938-1939, Australian writer and adventurer Alan Villiers (1903-1982) joined the crew of a Kuwaiti dhow as it travelled to East Africa. Trading to Mombasa, Zanzibar and the Rufiji Delta, the vessel made its way back to Kuwait, stopping at Oman and Bahrain en route. Villiers immortalised the voyage in Sons of Sindbad (1940), his classic of Arabian travel. See also lots 80 and 81.

The photographs cover Aden, the coast of East Africa, Zanzibar, the Rufiji Delta, the Hadramawt coast, Oman, Kuwait, and document the arduous activities of sailing, dhow building, and pearling in the Gulf. These fine prints were made from the original negatives preserved in the Villiers Collection at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

These photographs were published in Sons of Sindbad: the Photographs, 2006, edited by William Facey, Jacoub Al-Hijji, and Grace Pundyk.

Detailed list of the photographs:

1. Nejdi (Ali bin Nasr al-Najdi), nakhoda of the Kuwait boom on which Villiers sailed. (N 83095)

2. Booms stand propped on Ma‘alla beach, Aden, for overhaul, in late 1938. (PM 5052/34)

3. Nejdi’s boom, the Triumph of Righteousness (properly, Bayan), under full sail. (PM 5366/8)

4. Setting up the rigging after going about. (N 83097)

5. Hassan, one of the two helmsmen on board the Triumph of Righteousness, at the wheel. (PM 5276/13)

6. Mukalla, chief port of Hadhramaut and seat of the Qu‘aiti sultans, was flourishing in 1939. (PM 5373/13)

7. The palace of the na’ib of Shihr. Shihr, along the coast east of Mukalla, had known better days when Villiers visited it. 2 copies. (PM 5423/13)

8. Nejdi (right) and the mate, Hamed bin Salim, check passengers from Hadhramaut crowded on board the Triumph. (PM 5332/21)

9. Passengers throng the Triumph as she makes her way from Arabia to Africa. (PM 5260/27)

10. A Hadhrami passenger whiles away the time by playing the pipes. (PM 5387/33)

11. A Beduin baby from Hadhramaut bound for Mombasa. (PM 5358/30)

12. Kaleel the carpenter builds the small jalboot, Afra, on board the Triumph. (PM 5032/9)

13. Sailors repair the mainsail on deck, between Haifun and Mogadishu. (PM 5033/12)

14. Villiers was astonished at the strength and agility of the Kuwaiti sailors, who needed no footropes for their work aloft. (PM 5033/15)

15. On the halliards: hauling up the mainsail of the Triumph of Righteousness. (PM 5391/9)

16. Jassim, the boom’s cook, produced all the crew’s meals with the aid of a simple firebox. (PM 5164/21)

17. The mate, Hamed bin Salim, takes a shave on board. (PM 5012/16)

18. A small boom from the Batina coast of Oman, like the Triumph unable to let its passengers go ashore at Mogadishu. (PM 5193/4)

19. A boom crowded with passengers, at Mogadishu. (PM 5194/7)

20. Said, from the port of Sur in eastern Oman, was one of the “smugglers” on board who kept up the age-old tradition of petty trading down the East African coast. (PM 5440/14)

21. Said, from the port of Sur in eastern Oman, was one of the “smugglers”: another portrait. (PM 5440/07)

22. A transom-sterned sambuk, from Sur in eastern Oman, leaves Mogadishu for the voyage south. (PM 5197/25)

23. The poop of the Triumph: a haul in the mizzen sheet. The deck is covered with sacks of goods on the voyage south. (PM 5321/31)

24. The bustling dhow port of Mombasa. (PM 5211/30)

25. The bustling dhow port of Mombasa. (PM 5207/10)

26. Zanzibar. (PM 5104/7)

27. Stem-piece of a large sambuk, probably at Zanzibar. (PM 5078/18)

28. The Triumph of Righteousness beached for cleaning at Kwale Island. (N 83088)

29. Carrying sail, Kwale Island, with baggala and boom in the background. (N 83093)

30. Sailors sewing sail, Kwale Island. (N 83087)

31. Mubarrak, the Suri nakhoda who piloted the Triumph in the Rufiji Delta. (N 83100)

32. Hamed bin Salim, mate of the Triumph of Righteousness, in the Rufiji Delta. 2 copies. (N 83117)

33. Salale, in the Rufiji Delta. (PM 5124/9)

34. Hoisting the yard: on the voyage back from the Rufiji the sailors had to work on a deck packed with mangrove poles. (PM 5015/30)

35. Down tack! Hauling down the fore-foot of the mizzen sail. (PM 5320/29)

36. Aloft on the main lateen yard. (PM 5034/19)

37. With the Triumph packed to the gunwales with mangrove poles for the voyage home to the Gulf, her crew had to sleep where they could. (PM 5067/37)

38. A heavily laden Kuwaiti boom, possibly off the Omani coast. (PM 5175/8)

39. A fine large boom, sailing ‘goose-winged’, perhaps off the Omani coast. (PM 5066/33)

40. A fine large boom, sailing ‘goose-winged’, perhaps off the Omani coast. (PM 5066/34)

41. Happy to be homeward bound, her sailors drum and sing the Triumph of Righteousness into Mutrah harbour. One of the two serangs or boatswains is on the left. (PM 5177/21)

42. Mutrah harbour crowded with the distinctive Omani badans, with their detachable rudders, used for fishing and coastal trade. (PM 5098/9)

43. Kuwaiti and Suri: Nejdi (right) with a friend from Sur. (PM 5404/6)

44. The fine carved stern of one of the three surviving Kuwaiti baghlahs, drawn up for overhaul on the Kuwait waterfront. (N 83090)

45. A baghlah propped on the waterfront, Kuwait. (VIL/KUW/34)

46. A baghlah propped on the waterfront, Kuwait. (VIL/KUW/33)

47. A boum under full sail, Kuwait. (VIL/KUW/ no no.)

48. Covered suq, Kuwait. (PM 5230/24)

49. Decorative arch and side street, Kuwait. (PM 5230/24; V34/34)

50. With the discovery of oil in 1936, these Kuwaiti boys were destined for easier livelihoods than dhow sailing and pearl diving like their fathers. (PM 5054/8)

51. His Highness Shaikh Ahmad bin Jabir Al-Sabah, ruler of Kuwait, relaxes on board his steam yacht with the British Political Agent in Kuwait, Major A. C. Galloway. (PM 5236/20; V35/19)

52. On the pearl banks of the northern Gulf: a Kuwaiti pearling sambuk anchored with sweeps out, divers in the water, and haulers at the ready. (PM 5417/16)

53. Kuwaiti pearl divers take a breather between dives. (PM 5417/13)

54. A tawwash, or pearl buyer, inspects a pearl on board one of the boats on the banks. (PM 5082/5)

55. A tawwash, or pearl buyer, uses his scales on board one of the boats on the banks. (PM 5082/3)

56. Buying pearls with sieves, scales etc. Kuwait 1939. (V3/26)

57. Abdullah Al-Hamad, a member of the Kuwaiti merchant house that gave Villiers so much help. (N 83225)

58. Caulking the hull of a dhow, Kuwait 1939. (V6/32)

59. Laying the keel of a new dhow, Kuwait 1939. (V36/7)

60. A half-built dhow, Kuwait 1939. (V32/33)

61. Hauling a mast to a boum, Kuwait waterfront 1939. (V8/18)

62. A boum under sail off Kuwait waterfront, 1939. (V3/18; PM 5019/18)

63. The hull of a boum seen from the bow. Kuwait waterfront, 1939. (V8/29)

64. Kuwaiti seamen relaxing on a mastabah, Kuwait 1939. (V41/23)

65. Water hawkers, Kuwait waterfront, 1939. (V36/21)

66. Sailors’ market with spars, oars, rope etc, Kuwait 1939. (V6/15)

67. Mending nets, Kuwait 1939. (V6/2)

68. Sail-making, Kuwait 1939. (V6/6)

69. Women laundering clothes at the shore, Kuwait 1939. (V32/19)

70. Street scene with donkey, leading down to waterfront, Kuwait 1939. (VIL/KUW/14)

71. Street scene with women, Kuwait 1939. (V34/32)

72. Mosque and street with woman and girls, Kuwait 1939. (V34/17)

73. Street view, Kuwait 1939. (V10/6)

74. Man, bicycle and door, Kuwait 1939. (V36/20)75 

75. Scene in the main market, Kuwait 1939. (V34/27)

76. Street scene with arched gateway on right, Kuwait 1939. (VIL/KUW/12)

77. Building a new house, with car in street, Kuwait 1939. (V47/8)

78. Courtyard of house with colonnade, Kuwait 1939. (V34/35)

79. Class of boys in the Mubarakiyyah School, attended by sons of merchants, Kuwait 1939. (V10/23)

80. Palace of the Shaykh of Muhammarah, Kuwait 1939. (V1/25)

81. Beduin and camels in al-Safat square, Kuwait 1939. (V40/30)

82. Beduin encampment with two tents, Kuwait 1939. (VIL/KUW/5b)

83. Beduin family in front of their tent: three men and three children smiling for the camera, Kuwait 1939. (VIL/KUW/5g)

84. Alan Villiers with a group of Kuwaiti men and boys, Kuwait 1939. Villiers wears traditional dress, together with sword and silver-mounted dagger (khanjar). (N 83232)


Villiers, Alan J. (1940), Sons of Sindbad. London: Hodder & Stoughton

Villiers, Alan J. (1940), Sons of Sinbad. New York: Scribners

Facey, William, and Gillian Grant (1998), Kuwait by the First Photographers. London: I.B. Tauris

Al-Hijji, Ya‘qub Yusuf (2001), The Art of Dhow-building in Kuwait. London: LCAS

Villiers, Alan J. (2006), Sons of Sindbad: The Photographs. Introduced by William Facey, Yacoub al-Hijji and Grace Pundyk. London: National Maritime Museum / Arabian Publishing