04/12/1866 – Waking up in Baghdad

What do you do when you arrive in Baghdad? Well, you first go to the bank and get some money. Then you go look for a place to stay. You’ll also go to the post office, check your mail, and recover your luggage. And then you go and meet the consuls. At least, that’s what Tinco Lycklama did, all in one day – on December 4, 1866.

Tinco Lycklama started his ‘grand voyage’ in April 1865. He first travelled through Russia and the Caucasus, and then spent the winter in Tiflis, the capital of Georgia. Next, he spent seven months in Persia, mostly in Tehran. In October 1866, he headed south, via Qom and Isfahan, and visited the ancient site of Persepolis (a major moment of his life). Next, he travelled to the port city of Bandar Bushehr on the Persian Gulf. In 1867, he will return to Persia, but first he is going to discover Mesopotamia – the modern Iraq. Baghdad will be his base, from where he will do some archaeological excursions to places like ancient Babylon, Samarra and Ctesiphon.

The Dijla steamer, moored on the Tigris at Baghdad – by William Perry Fogg, 1874 (Collection : Harvard Art Museum, Fogg Collection)

This morning, Tinco woke up in some sort of anti-climax. His boat, the Dijla operated by the navigation company of the brothers Lynch and steaming over the Tigris river from Basra, had arrived at Baghdad shortly after midnight, when Tinco was deep asleep. It had anchored opposite the customs house. Tinco was neither a photographer nor a draughtsman, but we have a nice etching of William Perry Fogg, who recorded the Dijla at exactly the same spot eight years later, in 1874.

The first thing that sprang to Tinco’s mind was to send one of his servants to the Swiss merchants Weber, Jaeger & Wartman, who were also Tinco’s bankers. Mr. Weber himself turned up at the Dijla shortly later, and invited Tinco to stay at his home for a couple of days – just the time to look for decent lodgings for the next six months. We’ll see later that these Swiss merchants were very well connected throughout the Middle East. One of their associates will also accompany Tinco on his archaeological digs, and organize the shipment of Tinco’s collection of artefacts to Europe. Finance, trade, assistance… these Swiss were very active (as we saw when we discussed Tinco’s stay in Tabriz).

Tinco also went to recover his luggage. When leaving Tehran two months ago, he had sent his servant Reza Qoli directly to Baghdad (via Kermanshah), together with big travel cases. Reza Qoli had done his job well. The luggage just had to get through customs clearance (after all, this is the Ottoman Empire, and anything coming from Persia was per definition suspect). Of course, with a helping hand of Mr. Weber, the clearance became an easy formality.

Since the beginning of his voyage, Tinco had been travelling under the diplomatic protection of the French. He was a Dutchman, but The Netherlands had no formal representation in either Persia or Iraq. Hence, this was something Tinco had organized before leaving Paris, where he lived.

The previous winter, Tinco had spent many months in Tiflis, where he became close friends with the French consul, Charles Bugeaud, duc d’Isly (son of general Bugeaud, the legendary colonial administrator of Algeria). Later, in Tehran, Tinco was welcomed by Jacques-Adolphe Cousseau, comte de Massignac, the French minister plenipotentiary. In Baghdad, the French legation was once again his first visit. Like with his previous encounters, his meeting with consul Pierre Auguste Pelissier de Reynaud (1834-1884) was better than cordial. Pellissier’s father had served as well as the French consul in Baghdad.

NPG Ax51120; Sir Arnold Burrowes Kemball by Camille Silvy
Sir Arnold Burrowes Kemball (1820-1908), British consul general in Baghdad – by Camille Silvy, 1860 (Coll.: National Portrait Gallery)

Sir Arnold Burrowes Kemball (1820-1908), British Consul General in Bagdad – Photo by Camille Silvy, 1860 (Collection National Portrait Gallery)

During his travels, Tinco had also acquainted many British. In Tehran, he built close relationships with key people involved with the construction of the telegraph lines in Persia. And, he became a very close friend of the British minister at Tehran, Charles Alison. When travelling through Bandar Bushehr, this had given him easy access to the British consul Lewis Pelly (1825-1892), another key figure in Britain’s colonial administration. In Baghdad, the British courtesy to Tinco was extended by consul Arnold Burrowes Kemball (1820-1908). Kemball occupied that position since 1859, and in later years became a key diplomatic operator throughout the Middle East; he also was appointed the official attendant to Naser al-Din, the Shah of Persia, on the latter’s visit to England in 1873.

A lot of activity on Tinco’s first day in town! Then again, Tinco had a big agenda for his six months in Bagdad, so he’d better get organized straight away. He was planning many field trips to explore the ancient sites of Mesopotamia, in the footsteps of Sir Henry Rawlinson who, in the 1840s-50s was not only a British political agent but also did significant archaelogical work and contributed massively to the early collections of the British Museum.

But, besides exploring and digging, Tinco was also to develop a pretty close relationship with Mehmed Namik Pasha (1804-1892), the viceroy of Baghdad (who later became a key minister to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire). We’ll discover a lot of interesting anecdotes about Tinco’s stay in Iraq!

For now, Tinco will spend a couple of days walking the town, looking for a nice house for him and his servants. Noblesse oblige!


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