Steaming on the Tigris

Five days ago, Tinco finally walked the soil of Mesopotamia. The experience was short-lived, as he’s been spending most of his time on water, on his way to Bagdad.

On November 28, 1866, Tinco had crossed the Persian Gulf and reached the Chatt-el-Arab. Here, at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, he transferred to a smaller boat that took him to Basra. He wasn’t particularly interested in this city, but he had to wait for the steamer that would take him to Bagdad. The caravanserai was in a very poor state, but he found refuge at the home of the patriarch of the local Armenian church.

s-s-bloss-lynch-1878-reframed
The Blosse Lynch, 1878

Bagdad relied heavily on the transportation of goods from Basra. Since 1861, the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company had obtained the concession for servicing the connection between the two cities. The company was founded by the English brothers Thomas Kerr and Stephen Finnis Lynch. In 1862, they employed their first steamboar, the City of London. In 1865, they added the Dijla to assure a more regular up- and downstream service.

It was on the Dijla (Arabic for Tigris) that Tinco embarked. Unfortunately, this boat sank in 1876, and we haven’t identified any pictures for it. The steamer was replaced in 1878 by the somewhat bigger and more powerful Blosse Lynch. The picture of that ship may give an idea of how Tinco’s steamer looked like.

Tinco was the only European on board, and had the privilege of choosing the best cabin. An influent sheik from Bagdad had to go for second-choice, as he arrived a few hours late. The boat was full of Arabs, Turks and Persians, and they tended to keep to themselves. Fortunately, Tinco didn’t have to stay alone, as he was the guest of the captain whom he joined for all his meals.

tomb-of-ezra
Tomb of Ezra

The banks of the Tigris are very fertile and rich with crops and greenery. But, overall, the landscape was quite monotonous. The only distraction on board was watching how the skillful captain was navigating the reacherous and very sinuous river. The first stop was at Al Qurnah, at the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Shortly after entering the Tigris, the boat steamed past the Tomb of Ezra. This is considered the actual burial place of Ezra (fl. 480–440 BCE), the jewish scribe of whom it is said that he introduced the Torah to Jerusalem, and even that he may have been its author.

After two days of navigation and other stops ar Amarah and Kut al Amrah, they have arrived at an interesting spot on the Tigris. On the left bank, there is Ctesiphon – the ancient city founded in the 4th century BCE and at some point the capital of the Parthian empire. On the right bank lies Seleucia, founded in 305 BCE and capital of the Seleucid empire.

ctesiphon
Ctesiphon

Tinco will come back to these places later and even do some digging there. For know, he is just admiring the view from the river. A welcome and majestic interruption from the boring voyage along the Tigris.

Tomorrow, he arrives in Bagdad.

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