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Makkuran Coastal Highway

Makran (Urdu/Persian: مکران) is a semi-desert coastal strip in the south of Balochistan, in Iran and Pakistan, along the coast of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. The Persian phrase Mahi khoran, fish-eaters (Mahi = fish + khor = eat) is believed to be the origin of the modern word Makkuran.[1]

The narrow coastal plain rises very rapidly into several mountain ranges. Of the 1,000 km coastline, about 750 km is in Pakistan. The climate is very dry with very little rainfall. Makkuran is very sparsely inhabited, with much of the population being concentrated in a string of small ports including Chabahar, Gwatar, Jiwani, Gwadar (not to be confused with Gwatar), Pasni, Ormara and many smaller fishing villages.

The Pakistani government is currently developing Ormara as a major naval base and Gwadar as a major new commercial port as well as a new highway along the entire length of the coast. These projects have been prompted by the commercial and military bottleneck at Karachi. The new naval base at Ormara will host about half of the Pakistani Navy, whilst Gwadar is planned to reduce the pressure on the two international ports at Karachi.

The Iranian government planned to develop Chabahar in the 1970s, but the toppling of the Shah put an end to those plans.

The coast of Makran possesses only one island, Astola Island, near Pasni, and several insignificant islets. The coastline can be divided into an eastern lagoon coastline and a western embayed coastline. The main lagoons are Miani Hor and Kalamat Hor. The main bays of the embayed coast are Gwadar West Bay and Gwatar Bay. This latter bay shelters a large mangrove forest and the nesting grounds of endangered turtle species.



Ancient era

Two ancient Harappan era settlements have been found at Sutkagen dor (on Dasht River) and Sokhta Koh (astride Shadi River). The coastal sites are evidence of trade between Harappan and Sumerian cities as well as those of the Persian Gulf region, possibly from around 3000 BCE.

Alexander the Great marched through Makkuran during a disastrous exodus after the Indian Campaign (325 BCE). According to one theory, Alexander's well-stocked fleet under Admiral Nearchus was supposed to have continuously provisioned the army as it marched West along the barren coast towards Persia. In the event, a major portion of Alexander's route through Makkuran (Bela-Averan-Hoshab-Turbat and then south to Pasni-Gwadar) turned out to be much further inland than expected, apparently due to faulty knowledge of the terrain. The fleet and the marching army were able to eventually rendezvous in Susa, Persia.[2]

Islamic conquest

Central Makkuran range

The first Islamic conquest of Makran took place during the Rashidun Caliphate in the year 643 A.D. Caliph Umar’s governor of Bahrain Usman ibn Abu al-Aas, who was on his campaign to conquer the southern coastal areas of Iran send his brother Hakam ibn Abu al-Aas to raid the Makran region, the campaign was not meant for whole scale invasion but merely was a raid to check the potential of the local inhabitants. The raid was successful[2] In late 644 A.D Caliph Umar sent an army for whole scale invasion of Makkuran under the command of Hakam ibn Amr. Reinforcement from Kufa joined him under the command of Shahab ibn Makharaq and Abdullah ibn Utban, the commander of campaign in Karman, also joined them, no strong resistance was faced by them in Makran until the Hindu King of Rai Kingdom in Sind, along with his army having contingents from Makran and Sind stopped them near River Indus. In mid 644, Battle of Rasil was fought between Radhisun Caliphate and Rai Kingdom where Raja's forces were defeated and retreated to eastern bank of river Indus. Raja’s army included War elephants, and they didn’t make any trouble for the Muslims veterans who handled War elephants during the conquest of Persia. According to the orders of Caliph Umar the war elephants were sold in Islamic Persia and the cash was distributed among the soldiers as a share in booty.[3] In response of Caliph Umar’s question about the Makran region, the Messenger from Makkuran who bring the news of the victory told him:

O Commander of the faithful! It's a land where the plains are stony; Where water is scanty; Where the fruits are unsavory Where men are known for treachery; Where plenty is unknown; Where virtue is held of little account; And where evil is dominant; A large army is less for there; And a less army is use less there; The land beyond it, is even worst (referring to Sind)

Umar looked at the messenger and said: "Are you a messenger or a poet? He replied “Messenger”. Thereupon Caliph Umar, after listening to the unfavorable situations for sending an army instructed Hakim bin Amr al Taghlabi that for the time being Makkuran should be the easternmost frontier of the Islamic empire, and that no further attempt should be made to extend the conquests. Thereupon on of the commander of Islamic army in Makran said the following verses:

If the Commander of faithful wouldn’t have stopped us from going beyond, so we would have bought our forces to the temple of prostitutes.[4]

Referring to the Hindu Temple in interior Sind where prostitutes used to give a part of their earning as alms. It remainned the part of Umayyad Caliphate and Abbasid Caliphate and was also ruled by Muslim Turks, Persians and Afghans. It was conquered by Mongols in 13th century A.D, and in 16th century A.D it became part of Mughal empire, it remained so until it came under the rule of British Empire.

Balochi attack on Mahmud Ghazni

Baloch raiders plundered Mahmud of Ghaznis ambassador between Tabbas and Khabis and in revenge his son Masud defeated them at the latter place ,which lies at the foot of the Karman Mountains on the edge of the desert


Modern era

From the 15th century onward, the area was ruled by Zikri families and sometimes by the Iranian government. In the late 18th century, the Khan of Kalat is said to have granted sanctuary at Gwadar to one of the claimants for the throne of Muscat. When that claimant became Sultan, he kept hold of Gwadar, installing a governor, who eventually led an army to conquer the city of Chabahar some 200 kilometres to the west.

The sultanate held onto the Makran coast throughout the period of British colonial rule, but eventually only Gwadar was left in the hands of the sultan. On the independence of Pakistan, Makran became a district within the province of Balochistan, minus an area of 800 km² around Gwadar. The enclave was finally transferred in 1958 to Pakistani control as part of the district of Makran. The entire region has been subdivided into new smaller districts over the years.

See also

External links


  1. ^ The origins of the name on
  2. ^ Al Baldiah wal nahaiyah vol: 7 page 141
  3. ^ Tarikh al Tabri vol:4 page no: 180
  4. ^ Tabri vol:4 pg:183
  5. ^ Denzil Ibbetson, Edward MacLagan, H.A. Rose "A Glossary of The Tribes & Casts of The Punjab & North-West Frontier Province", 1911 AD, Page 43, Vol II,

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MAKRAN, or Mekran, a province of Baluchistan, fringing the Arabian Sea from Persia almost to Sind for about 200 m. It is subject to the khan of Kalat under British political supervision. Estimated area, 26,000 sq. m.; estimated pop. (1903), 78,000. The long lateral valley of Kej is usually associated with Makran in early geographical records. The Kej-Macoran of Marco Polo is the Makran of to-day.

The long stretch of sandy foreshore is broken on the coastline by the magnificent cliffs of Malan, the hammer-shaped headlands of Ormarah and Gwadar, and the precipitous cliffs of Jebel Zarain, near Pasni. Within them lies the usual frontier band of parallel ridges, alternating with narrow valleys. Amongst them the ranges called Talana and Talur are conspicuous by their height and regular configuration. The normal conformation of the Baluchistan frontier is somewhat emphasized in Makran. Here the volcanic action, which preceded the general upheaval of recent strata and the folding of the edges of the interior highlands, is still in evidence in occasional boiling mud volcanoes on the coast-line. It is repeated in the blazing summit of the Kuh-i-taftan (the burning mountain of the Persian frontier)which is the highest active volcano in Asia (13,000 ft.), and probably the farthest inland. Evidence of extinct mud volcanoes exists through a very wide area in Baluchistan and Seistan. Probably the miri, or fort, at Quetta represents one of them. The coast is indented by several harbours. Ormarah, Khor Kalmat, Pasni and Gwadar are all somewhat difficult of approach by reason of a sand-bar which appears to extend along the whole coastline, and which is very possibly the last evidence of a submerged ridge; and they are all subject to a very lively surf under certain conditions of wind. Of these the port of Gwadar (which belongs to Muscat and is therefore foreign territory) is the most important. They all are (or were) stations of the Indo-Persian telegraph system which unites Karachi with Bushire. With the exception of the Kej valley, and that of the Bolida, which is an affluent of the Kej, there are no considerable spaces of cultivation in Makran. These two valleys seem to concentrate the whole agricultural wealth of the country. They are picturesque, with thick groves of date palms at intervals, and are filled with crops and orchards. They are indeed exceedingly beautiful; and yet the surrounding waste of hills is chiefly a barren repetition of sun-cracked crags and ridges with parched and withered valleys intersecting them, where a trickle of salt water leaves a white and leprous streak amongst the faded tamarisk or the yellow stalks of last season's grass. Makran is the home of remnants of an innumerable company of mixed people gathered from the four corners of Asia and eastern Africa. The ancient Dravidians, of whom the B.rahui is typical, still exist in many of the districts which are assigned to them in Herodotus. Amongst them there is always a prominent Arab element, for the Arabs held Makran even before they conquered Sind and made the Kej valley their trade highway to India. There are negroes on the coast, bred from imported slaves. The Meds of the Indus valley still form the greater part of the fishing population, representing the Ichthyophagi of Arrian. The old Tajik element of Persia is not so evident in Makran as it is farther north; and the Karak pirates whose depredations led to the invasion of India and the conquest of Sind, seem to have disappeared altogether. The fourth section includes the valleys formed by the Rakshan and Mashkel, which, sweeping downwards from the Kalat highlands and the Persian border east and west, unite to break through the intervening chain of hills northward to form the Mashkel swamps, and define the northern limits of Makran. In these valleys are narrow strips of very advanced cultivation, the dates of Panjgur being generally reckoned superior even to those of the Euphrates. The great Mashkel swamp and the Kharan desert to the east of it, mark the flat phase of southern Baluchistan topography. It is geologically part of an ancient inland lake or sea which included the present swamp regions of the Helmund, but not the central depression of the Lora. The latter is buttressed against hills at a much higher elevation than the Kharan desert, which is separated from the great expanse of the Helmund desert within the borders of "Afghanistan by a transverse band of serrated hills forming a distinct watershed from Nushki to Seistan. Here and there these jagged peaks appear as if half overwhelmed by an advancing sea of sand. They are treeless and barren, and water is but rarely found at the edges of their foot-hills. The Koh-i-Sultan, at the western extremity of the northern group of these irregular hills, is over 6000 ft. above sea-level, but the general level of the surrounding deserts is only about 2000 ft., sinking to 150o ft. in the Mashkel Hamun and the Gaod-i-Zirreh.

The whole of this country has been surveyed by Indian surveyors and the boundary between Persian and British Baluchistan was demarcated by a commission in 1895-1896. In 1898 a column of British troops under Colonel Mayne was despatched to Makran by sea, owing to a rebellion against the authority of the khan of Kalat, and an attack made by some Makran chiefs on a British survey party. The campaign was short and terminated with the capture of the Kej citadel. Another similar expedition was required in 1901 to storm the fort at Nodiz. The headquarters of the native governor, under the khan of Kalat, are at Turbat, with deputies at Tump, Kolwa, Pasni and Panjgur. A levy corps, with two British officers, is stationed along the western frontier. The port of Gwadur forms an enclave belonging to the sultan of Muscat.

Baluchistan District Gazetteer, vol. vii. (Bombay, 1907).

(T. H. H. *)

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|250px|Makran Coastal Highway]] Makran (Urdu: مکران) is a partly-desert coastal strip in the south of Balochistan, in Iran and Pakistan, along the coast of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. The Persian phrase Mahi khoran, fish-eaters (Mahi = fish + khor = eat) is believed to be the origin of the modern word Makran.[1]

The narrow coastal plain rises very rapidly into several mountain ranges. The coastline is 1,000km, 750km of this is in Pakistan. The climate is very dry with very little rainfall.


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