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Ali Akbar Bushiri collection

Call Number



1839-1977, inclusive
; Bulk, 1895-1960, bulk



25 Linear Feet in 12 document boxes, 17 oversize boxes.

Language of Materials

Persian , Arabic , English , Gujarati .


The Ali Akbar Bushiri collection consists of correspondence, property deeds, financial records, business ledgers, and other related materials that document the business and social activities of merchant families of Iranian origin based in port cities around the Gulf, including Manama and Bushire, from the late 19th to the mid 20th centuries. Included are records of the family of merchant Hussain Ali Kazem Bushiri, of Manama, Bahrain; as well as materials related to Mohammed Rahim Safar, of Bushire and Manama, and his nephews Mohammed Khalil Sharif and Mohammed Taher Sharif, related to their business activities and roles as intermediaries who worked for the British Residency in Bushire.

Biographical and historical note

Ali Kazim Bushiri (1840-1937) was born in Bushire, Iran, and migrated to Bahrain around 1860, establishing himself as a merchant in Manama, where by the early 20th century, he had grown wealthy and was able to become a sponsor and patron of a Shi'ite house of mourning in Manama, or Matam al 'Ajaam. One of his sons, Hussain Ali Kazem Bushiri (1901-1973), continued and expanded the family's general merchandise business, expanding the range of goods imported to include items from Europe, the United Kingdom, and the Indian subcontinent, in addition to Iran. His eldest son, Habib Ali Kazem Bushiri (1921-2005), joined the family business in 1934 and helped expand its geographic reach further, and along with his father, became actively involved in a variety of civic activities and organizations in Manama. Of Habib's nine children, his second son, Ali Akbar Bushiri, took an active interest in the history of his family and community, and began assembling this collection in the years following his return from university studies in the United States in the 1970s.

The Safar family, although based in Bushire, had family members who also operated businesses around the Gulf and beyond, including as far away as Muscat and Mokha (Yemen). Abdulnabi Safar, in addition to working in his family's business and buying property in Iran as well as in the Ottoman-held region of what is now southern Iraq, also worked for the British Residency, which was based at the time in Bushire, as a "news agent" or "confidential agent," up until his death in 1884. In this role, he used his extensive business and family networks to obtain information about tribes and governments around the Gulf region, which was useful to the British. His son, Mohammed Rahim Safar, continued this role, and in 1893, settled in Bahrain and served as a "native" political agent, performing a similar function there up until his death in 1900. Historians have noted that the roles of merchant and of political or news agent were symbiotic, in that their businesses benefited from the contacts with the British, and at the same time, their business networks enabled them to gain the confidence of local populations and their leaders, and to gather the political information that was passed on to the British authorities.

Mohammed Khalil Sharif, a nephew of Mohammed Rahim Safar, worked alongside his uncle at the agency in Bahrain, but following Safar's death, continued working for the British Residency, first in Kuwait (1904-1909) and in Bushire (from 1909 onward), primarily as a dragoman, or translator, until his own retirement in 1924. Following this, he moved to Basra where he lived up until shortly before his own death in 1940.

Mohammed Taher Sharif was a cousin of Mohammed Khalil, and was based in Manama, Bahrain. His grandfather, Mohammed Ismail Sharif, worked for the shipping firm of Gray Paul and Company in Bushire, the predecessor company to Gray Mackenzie, but in 1889 moved to Bahrain to establish a branch there, which he and other family members operated for the next several decades. His grandson, Mohammed Taher, appears to have begun working there in the late 1920s and was affiliated with them through at least the 1940s, while also developing other business interests in Bahrain.


The Ali Akbar Bushiri collection is arranged into several series, based on origin and format. Papers collected by Bushiri from his own family comprise the first three series, "Bushiri family: personal," "Bushiri family: business" and "Bushiri family: civic activities and real estate." There was no original order to these documents, so the existing arrangement was devised by archival staff in consultation with Bushiri, and some identifications of material are tentative. Files are largely in alphabetical order by folder title.

The "Safar and Sharif family documents" contain some original documents, but largely arrived as photocopied documents that were in no discernible order. Duplicate photocopies have, for the most part, been withdrawn, and remaining documents arranged by family member and function, where they could be identified. Most of the arranged documents are in English, and several boxes remain of photocopied documents in Persian and Arabic that are unsorted.

Most folders in the above materials are dated as well, but many of the dates assigned are approximate or tentative, due to the use of three different calendar systems in the correspondence and documents: Gregorian, Hijri, and Persian. In some cases, Persian correspondence uses Hijri dates, and Arabic correspondence, in particular from the mid-20th century onward, uses Gregorian dates. Charts were used to convert between these three calendars, but when there was uncertainty about interpreting the date, the date that best fit within the correspondent's lifetime and period of activities was often chosen. Dates in the finding aid are presented in the Gregorian calendar, in approximation to Hijri and Persian dates.

The remaining series of materials include "Business ledgers and other oversized materials," and "Qur'an segments," the latter of which are still in process. The "Business ledgers and other ovesized materials" includes documents from the previous series that were too large to fit into standard-sized archival boxes, as well as large format ledgers and bound manuscripts. These include business ledgers from the Bushiri family businesses, ledgers of a Gujarati merchant in Bahrain, Ioverohangos Dheramdes, and copy books of correspondence from Mohammed Taher al Sharif, among other materials..

Content Description

The documents that comprise the Ali Akbar Bushiri collection consist of materials collected by Bushiri from his own family, who were merchants of Iranian ancestry living in Manama, Bahrain; as well as materials he collected about other similar families in the course of his historic research, in particular those of Mohammed Rahim Safar and his family, with an emphasis on Safar's nephews Mohammed Khalil Sharif, who served the British representatives of the region at their residency in Bushire, Iran; and Mohammed Taher Sharif, who worked as a shipping agent for the firm Gray Mackenzie and Company in Bahrain. The collection is grouped by families and by types of records.

The series of records from the Bushiri family focus largely on the activities of Hussain Ali Kazem Bushiri (1901-1973), whose business imported foodstuffs and other grocery items to Bahrain; but whose business dealings also included purchases and sales of property in Bahrain as well as in his family's ancestral home of Bushire, and in other parts of southwestern Iran. Most of the documents date from the 1930s to the 1950s, and are especially strong in correspondence between Hussain Ali Kazim and business contacts in various locations in Iran, such as Bushire, Shiraz, and Tehran; as well as records of properties held or transferred by the Bushiri family and others in Iran and Bahrain.

Personal documents include correspondence among extended family members and associates in Bahrain and Iran, and similar correspondence received by his son, Habib Kazim Bushiri. Business records include financial statements and correspondence with various suppliers of foodstuffs and other products imported by the Bushiris, chiefly from Iran and the United Kingdom.

The Bushiri family's civic activities and property holdings are reflected in another series, which includes property deeds and records of transfer, including transfers of property in Bahrain and Iran among family members as well as to those outside of the family. This series also includes some collected materials, such as reports provided to the British by Persian informants during the Tangaseri Uprising in southwest Iran, near Bushire, in 1914. In addition, this series of documents contains materials from the municipal government of Manama, in whose council Hussein Ali Kazim Busheri served, and documents related to the Matam al 'Ajam, a Shi'ite house of mourning in central Manama in which the Bushiri family acted as patrons.

Related to this latter institution is a separate series of over 250 printed and bound Qur'an texts, which were apparently used in Matam al 'Ajam for memorial activities, and in which information was recorded about decedents, typically handwritten on the inside cover of each volume. As such houses of mourning were significant institutions that helped newly-arrived Iranian migrants assimilate and network within the Shi'ite communities of Manama, the information contained in these Qur'an texts can be helpful in documenting personal and demographic information about a subset of this population in Manama over the course of several decades.

Also included are approximately 45-50 bound volumes, primarily business ledger books and shipping records, documenting the business activities of Hussain Ali Kazim Bushiri, of Manama, Bahrain, and other local merchants, such as the Gujarati merchant Ioverohangos Dheramdes, dating from the late 1930s through the 1950s.

The series of documents related to the Safar and Sharif families consists largely of photocopies--but with a few originals among them--as Ali Akbar Bushiri had transferred a previous grouping of documents about these families to the Bahrain National Museum, retaining photocopies, the latter of which are represented in this collection. These documents trace the history of the Safar family from Mohammed Ali Safar, a merchant based in Bushire in the early 19th century, and his son and grandson, Abdulnabi Safar and Mohammed Rahim Safar, both of whom served the British Residency in Bushire and the British Agency in Bahrain. While their documents reflect some of their activities in this capacity, much of their material relates to family property holdings and disputes about estates, in particular about land holdings in Basra, in what is now Iraq. Also included with these papers are copies obtained from British archives, chiefly the India Office Records, that help frame the history of the Safars during this period.

A larger grouping of documents can be found from their nephews, Mohammed Khalil Sharif and Mohammed Taher Sharif. The former's documents include correspondence related to business activities and property holdings, as well as materials that document his relation to the British Residency in Bushire, and the operation of agricultural properties in Basra that he inherited from his uncle. Many documents are included about the dispute over the property his family inherited in Basra from his uncle, as well as correspondence and other documents that attest to the value he placed on his role of working with the British and the "protection" offered to him for that service. Correspondence includes letters from British officials such as Percy Cox, Herbert Chick, and Major C.J. Edmonds, whom he counted as friends and continued to correspond with after his retirement. The activities of Mohammed Taher Sharif, as reflected in his papers, relate primarily to his role as a shipping agent with the firm of Gray Mackenzie in Bahrain, as well as nearby operations in Saudi Arabia, and chiefly document his role in provisioning the company's ships and providing labor for unloading their cargo.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for use in the Reading Room of the Archives and Special Collections department of the NYU Abu Dhabi Library.

Preferred citation

Identification of item, date; Ali Akbar Bushiri collection; MC.039; box number; folder number or item identifier; Archives and Special Collections, New York University Abu Dhabi Library.

Existence and location of originals

Most of the documents pertaining to the Safar and Sharif families consist of photocopies, as the originals were transferred by Ali Akbar Bushiri to the National Museum of Bahrain prior to the transfer of his remaining collection to NYU Abu Dhabi.

Immediate source of acquisition

This collection was transferred from Ali Akbar Bushiri to the NYU Abu Dhabi Library in two increments, in February and May 2018.

Custodial history

The Ali Akbar Bushiri collection was compiled by Bushiri from various sources over many years. Upon returning to Bahrain from his university studies in the United States in the 1970s, Bushiri took an interest in his own family's history, and was surprised to learn how many archival records related to his family's business had either been discarded or simply lost due to neglect. He resolved to collect as many remaining documents as he could locate. In addition, he took an interest in the wider history of immigrant merchants in the development of Bahrain, and subsequently acquired the documents and ledger books from the Safar and Sharif families, and those of Indian merchant Ioverohangos Dheramdes, among other collected materials.

Collection processed by

Brad Bauer

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 18:13:23 +0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is written in: English, Code for undetermined script script.

Processing information

The collection was processed by Brad Bauer and Kainaath Ahmed Shah Mumtaz between 2018 and 2020.


NYU Abu Dhabi, Archives and Special Collections
NYU Abu Dhabi
New York University Abu Dhabi, C-2
P.O. 129188
Abu Dhabi