Abdullah Al’Utaibi

The slave journey of a man who was sold, and resold multiple times all across the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf.

As you can see in the map below, Abdullah Al’Utaibi had a much more extensive and widespread slave journey than the three slaves introduced elsewhere on the site. He was (1) born in Khartoum, Sudan in either 1873 or 1893—depending on which reported age you consider). Abdullah was then (2) kidnapped as a child by the Turkish army in Egypt and (3) brought to Dangala, Chad. He was then (4) sold to Hajji Ahmad al-Maghribi; however, he was able to (5) escaped from Hajji Ahmad and (6) went to Darab, Abbysinia where he remained for 2 years. Two years later, Abdullah was again (7) kidnapped by the Bishareyah tribe of Sudan and (8) brought to Jedda, Saudi Arabia where he was (9) sold to Abdullah bin Wasil for 1 year. His master then (10) sold Abdullah to Mutairi, a bedouin, for 6 months. While accompanying his new master in the desert, Abdullah was (11) kidnapped yet again by ‘Utaibah bedouins. The bedouins (12) sold him to Abdullah Izzir of Sha’arah of Najd, Oman where he remained for 2 months. Abdullah was then (13) brought to Hota, Saudi Arabia and (14) sold to Nasir bin Rashid for 3 months. Nasir bin Rashid then (14) brought Abdullah to Qatar and (15) sold him to ‘Amer bin Khalfan who enslaved him for 2 years. After this period, ‘Amer bin Khalfan (16) sold Abdullah for the seventh time to Ali bin Thani of Qatar where he remained enslaved for 11 years and work as a pearl diver under harsh conditions. He escaped to the British Bahrain office where he submitted a formal request for manumission citing his master’s ill-treatment, the confiscation of all his earnings, and failing to provide sufficient maintenance (i.e. food and clothing.) Abdullah was granted manumission on July 17th, 1933. A closer look at Abdullah’s journey out of and back into slavery in the Arabian Peninsula can be found below.

Abdullah’s story is interested for many reasons. The most obvious reason being that he managed to escape slavery, only to become enslaved again. Additionally, Abdullah was kidnapped three times and sold and resold a total of seven times. In addition to his extensive journey, Abdullah’s manumission statement also offers us an interesting insight to the power that British officials’ biases exercised over manumission records. When Abdullah reported that he was 40 years old, the British officer was sure to clarify that although Abdullah “claimed” to be 40, he “looked” 60. Additionally, when Abdullah reported that his ethnicity was Sudanese, the British official was sure to add “appears negro.” This latter characterization was not reserved just for slaves from the African continent, but also to enslaved Arabs, many of whom were from southern Yemen. When these Yemenis reported that they were Arab, the manumitting authority was sure to add “Arab but appears negro”. Instances like these demonstrate the continual attempt to dehumanize slaves as well as rob them of the power to define their very identity even at the very moment when these slaves are exercising agency by demanding manumission.