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(Abridged Version)


By Daniel T. Potts



Kish Island.JPG (155100 bytes)

  (Click to enlarge)


A small Iranian island in the lower Persian Gulf (26037' N, 54000'E), almost 16 x 8 kms and 19.2 kms from the coast. Generally flat, Kish has always been noted for its palm gardens (so described by Ebn Khordâdhbeh, Ebn al-Mojâwer, and Yâqut, see Schwarz, p. 88), which are particularly dense on the island's north side (Handbuch des Persischen Golfs, p. 177). Kish is mentioned in itineraries, for example on the route from Shiraz to India and as a further destination appended to the Baghdad to Basra route, as related by Hamd-Allâh Mostawfi (Le Strange, p. 750, 762) and on the route from Obolla to India or China, given by Ebn Khordâdhbeh and Edrisi (Sprenger, p. 79; cf. Aubin, 1969).

Although a Nestorian bishop, David of Kish, is mentioned in 544 CE (Chabot, 1902, p. 680) this almost certainly refers to the Kiš/Kish (Šahr-e Sabz) in Transoxania (Bosworth, 1986, p. 181) and not to the Persian Gulf island of the same name (contra Sachau, 1916, p. 972; Streck, 1927, p. 649).

Reckoned to be part of Ardašir-khorra (q.v.; Streck, p. 649), Kish rose to prominence around the middle of the 11th century, when a line of rulers (amirs, maleks, or khans) of Kish was established there. The origins of these rulers, or indeed that of the population in general, are not entirely clear. According to traditions recounted by Wasásáaf (Šehâb-al-Din Širâzi; d. 1323) and Ebn al-Mojâwer, Kish may have first begun to be populated by settlers from Sirâf who left the trading center after its collapse (Aubin, 1959, p. 297).


The antiquities of Kish were first described in detail by Stiffe (Stiffe, pp. 644-49) who particularly noted the main historic settlement on the north side of the island, Harira, where mounds were strewn with Chinese porcelain, examples of which he sent to the British Museum. Stiffe also pointed to the presence of large water cisterns and an underground irrigation system (qanât). Harira was investigated briefly in 1974 by W. E. Hamilton and David B. Whitehouse, who identified the remains of numerous buildings, including a mosque, loading bays for boats, cisterns, kilns, shell middens, and quantities of imported ceramics, including East Asian exports such as Martaban stonewares, celadon, porcelain and Ting ware (Whitehouse, 1976, pp. 146-147).


During 1972 the Kish Development Organization was founded with a view to turning the island into a major tourist resort. In 1989 ministerial approval was given for the creation of a special industrial trade zone on Kish and in 1992 the Kish Free Trade Organization was established. Significant infrastructure investment has now taken place, making Kish an important tourist destination as well.




J. Aubin, "La ruine de Sîrâf et les routes du Golfe Persique aux XIe et XIIe sieàcles," Cahiers de civilisation me‚die‚vale 3, 1959, pp. 295-301. Idem, "La survie de Shilau et la route du Khunj-o-Fal," Iran 7, 1969, pp. 21-37. 

Benjamin of Tudela, The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, ed. and tr. Marcus Nathan Adler, London, 1907. 

C. E. Bosworth, "Kish," EI2 5, 1986, pp. 181-82. 

J. B. Chabot, "Synodicon orientale ou recueil de synodes Nestoriens," Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliotheàque Nationale 37, 1902, pp.1-685. 

W. J. Fischel, "The region of the Persian Gulf and its Jewish settlements in Islamic times," in Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, ed. S. Lieberman, New York, 1950, pp. 203-30. 

S. D. Goitein, "Two eyewitness reports on an expedition of the king of Kish (Qais) against Aden," BSOAS 16, 1954, pp. 247-57. 

Handbuch des Persischen Golfs, 5th ed., Hamburg, Deutsches Hydrographisches Institut, 1976. 

A. Sprenger, Die Post- und Reiserouten des Orients, Leipzig, 1864. 

G. Le Strange, "Description of Persia and Mesopotamia in the year 1340 A.D. from the Nuzhat-al-Kulub of Hamd-Allah Mustawfi, with a summary of the contents of that work," JRAS, 1902, pp. 49-74, 237-66, 509-36 and 733-84. 

N. M. Lowick, "Trade patterns on the Persian Gulf in the light of recent coin evidence," Near Eastern numismatics, iconography, epigraphy and history, ed., D.K. Kouymjian, Beirut, 1974, pp. 319-33. 

N. M. Lowick, "Further unpublished Islamic coins of the Persian Gulf," Stud. Ir. 11, 1982, pp. 247-61. 

V. F. Piacentini, L'emporio ed il regno di Hormoz (VII - fine XV sec. d.Cr.), Milan, Memorie dell'Istituto Lombardo-Accademie di Scienze e Lettere, Vol. 35/1, 1975. 

E. Sachau, "Vom Christentum in der Persis," Sitzungsberichte der Königlichen Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Kl. 39, 1916, pp. 958-80. 

P. Schwarz, Iran im Mittelalter nach den arabischen Geographen, vol. II, Leipzig, 1910. 

A.W. Stiffe, "Ancient trading centres of the Persian Gulf II. Kais, or Al-Kais," The Geographical Journal 7, 1895, pp. 644-49. 

M. Streck, "Kais," EI1 2, 1927, pp. 649-51. D. Whitehouse, "Kish," Iran 14, 1976, pp. 146-47. Idem, "Maritime trade in the Gulf: The 11th and 12th centuries," World Archaeology 14, 1983, pp. 328-34. 

J. C. Wilkinson, "The Julanda of Oman," Journal of Oman Studies 1, 1975, pp. 97-108. Ibid, Water and Tribal Settlement in South-east Arabia, Oxford, 1977. 

A.T. Wilson, The Persian Gulf, Oxford, 1928. F. Wüstenfeld, "Jâcût's Reisen, aus seinem geographischen Wörterbuch beschrieben," ZDMG 18, 1864, pp. 397-493.





Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica


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