Chronology of Tinco Lycklama’s stay in Ottoman Iraq (1866-67)

In November 2016, our travelogue will move to Iraq – the ancient Mesopotamia. Indeed, 150 years ago, our young Dutch aristocrat Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt (1837-1900) was the only ‘tourist’ to travel the region and record his erudite observations. Besides spending considerable time in Baghdad, Tinco also visited Ctesiphon, Babylon, Samarra, Khorsabad, Nimrud, Niniveh (Mosul)… – doing some occasional digging in the desert. Along the way, he observed local customs and reported on the practicalities of travel. And, interestingly, he also acquaints some of the most powerful men in the Ottoman empire. Our day-by-day travologue (also viewable on Facebook…) follows Tinco’s own journal (see Volume III of his “Voyage…“)

(continue reading below the French and Dutch notes, and the illustrations)

En novembre 2016, les récits de Tinco Lycklama se déplacent vers l’Iraq et l’ancienne Mésopotamie. Il y a 150 ans, Tinco réside plusieurs mois à Bagdad, et visitera également les sites antiques de Ctésiphon, Babylon, Samarra, Khorsabad, Nimrud et Niniveh (et ne se prive pas de quelques fouilles). Et bien sûr, fidèle à sa curiosité, Tinco nous parle d’histoire, des gens, des moeurs – et de ses rencontres avec quelques puissants hommes de l’empire Ottoman. (Suivez nos récits sur Facebook…, et consultez le Tome III de son “Voyage…“).

In november 2016 verplaatst het verhaal van Tinco Lycklama’s grote reis zich naar Iraq en het oude Mesopotamië. Hij verblijft meerdere maanden te Bagdad, en bezoekt de antieke plekken van Ctesifon, Babylon, Samarra, Khorsabad, Nimrud en Niniveh (en doet her en der ook wat opgravingen). Natuurlijk spreekt Tinco ook over de geschiedenis, de mensen en de gewoonten in de streek – en maakt hij kennis met enkele machtige personaliteiten in het Ottomaanse rijk. (Volg het verhaal op Facebook…, en zie Deel III van zijn “Voyage…“).

Itinerary of Tinco Lycklama’s travels in Iraq in 1866-1867 (red line), on a map by Victor Malte-Brun (1872)


We’re in November 1866. After spending nearly eight months traveling Persia, the young Dutch aristocrat Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt (1837-1900) arrives at the port of Bushehr. He embarks on a steamer that takes him across the Persian Gulf to the Shatt-al-Arab – the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers – and then upstream all the way to Basra. A river boat then takes Tinco along the Tigris to Baghdad.

Tinco Lycklama is in Iraq – the old Mesopotamia that captured his imagination through the books and exploration by previous travelers. He will spend a total of eight months in Iraq, mostly in Baghdad but also at various ancient sites where he will occasionally undertake some digging.

Tinco is not an archaeologist. He is a well-read, educated young man with an adventurous mind and a fascination for the history, the cultures and the customs of the Orient. Because of the timing of his travels, he is also the only Westerner who wrote detailed observations of what he learned and saw with his own eyes. Indeed, whereas many of the ancient sites in Mesopotamia had been discovered by famous explorers in the few decades before Tinco’s trip, the Crimean war and its aftermath had put an early stop to further exploration and scientific travel.

Thus, Tinco Lycklama was – within a timeframe of 20 years, say, between 1852-72 – the only private Western traveler in the region. As the French leading geographer and cartographer Victor Malte-Brun (1816–1889, president of the Société de Géographie in Paris) observed, Tinco’s writings offer most interesting clarification and, in certain cases, unique information that would be helpful to future travelers and explorers (source: Bulletin de la Société de géographie, 1876 – view at GallicaBNF…).

Exactly 150 years later, we will recount – in brief words and with illustrations – Tinco’s time in Iraq. The exact chronology of the travelogue is provided by Tinco himself. For non-French readers, this will provide background about events and people in Ottoman Iraq in that particular timeframe. For scholars or people interested in ancient times, this may provide useful insights into what an academically trained traveler like Tinco observed at recently discovered sites.


It is not our ambition to be complete (at this time). We consider the travelogue as a basis for further study, and therefor we only concentrate on some key facts. By doing so, we may spark broader interest and provoke inquiries. We welcome your reactions and will be happy to include readers that wish to join our future research projects.

Broad outline of the Iraq stay of Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt

  • November 1866 – Basra
  • December 1866 / May 1867 – Baghdad, Ctesiphon, Babylon
  • May 1867 – Samarra, Baqubah

After a brief stay in Western Persia and Teheran, return to Iraq…

  • September 1867 – Sulaymaniyah
  • October 1867 – Kirkuk, Erbil, Mosul
  • November 1867 – Niniveh, Nimrud, Khorsabad


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