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!


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.

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

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.


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.

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