Huwala (ethnic group)

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Regions with significant populations
Gulf Arabic, Achomi
Sunni Islam and minority Shi’a Islam[1]

Huwala (Arabic: هوله‎, sing. Huwali هولي) also collectively referred to as Bani Huwala, is a blanket term usually used to refer to migrant Arabs who migrated from the Arabian peninsula around the 18th or 19th century to the area which is now the Hormozgan Province and Fars Province, mainly Bandar Abbas, Qishm and the mainland near Bandar Lengeh.[2][3] Although the term generally refers to the Persanized Arabs who remigrated back to the Arabian peninsula, the term may also be used to refer to both Persanized Arabs or Arabized Persians who both lived on the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf due to the intermarriage between Arabs and Persians. The imposition of restrictive economic policies by Reza Shah in the 1930s led to the migration of most of the Huwala back to the Arabian peninsula. [4]

Most of the Huwala Arabs settled in Iran for a period of time and intermarried with the indigenous Achomi and have adopted their language, hence they are sometimes called Ajam by the peninsular Arabs. The Huwala follows Sunni Islam, particularly the Shafi'i school, as opposed the majority Persian Shia and the Hanbali or Maliki peninsular Arabs. Most of the Huwala have remigrated back to the Arabian peninsula between 1850-1900s.


Al Bastakiya was built by the Huwala who remigrated back to Dubai and introduced the design of Windcatchers.

Huwala (Arabic: هوله), is a plural Arabic term for Huwali (Arabic: هولي), which is a word derived from the Arabic verb Huwwal (Arabic: حوّل) which means "to change over". A book by Dejanirah Couto and Rui Loureiro into Portuguese interactions in Hormuz defines Huwala as "migrant Arabs".[5]

Little is known about the Arab migrants who settled on the Iranian coast between Bushehr and Lengeh in the late 1500s. They were a disparate group of small tribes of sailors, traders, fishermen, pearl divers, and cultivators. Although they were all referred to as the Bani Hula, they were not a uniform group. In fact, they were each other's fiercest competitors for access to the pearl banks.

— The Persian Gulf: The Hula Arabs of The Shibkuh Coast of Iran by Willem Floor

Author Lawrence G. Potter defines Huwala as

..Groups of Sunni Arabs that migrated from Oman and the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula to the Iranian side the Gulf, between Bushehr and Bandar Abbas, probably starting in the eighteenth century. They eventually returned to the Arab side, especially after the discovery of oil and the imposition of restrictive economic policies by Reza Shah in the 1930s

— The Persian Gulf in History by Lawrence G. Potter


In the 18th century, the Arab Al Qasimi tribal affiliation, once a major maritime power, took control of southern Iranian coasts and islands around Bandar Lengeh. In 1779 the Iranian Zand dynasty acknowledged a fait accompli and recognized a Qasimi as local ruler (farmandar) of Bandar Lengeh. At about the same time the Zands allowed the British East India Company to establish its residency and presence in Bushehr. The Qasimis remained in control of Bandar Lengeh and surrounding region until 1887, when they were defeated by the British in their self proclaimed “anti-piracy” campaign which Emirati based scholars (including current Sharjah ruler Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi today argue that it was a myth used to dominate trade routes to India and Iraq). The Qasimis retreated to the southern coast of the Gulf, and their Iranian domains reverted to nominal rule by Tehran.

The Achomi (Larestani) Iranian population lived on the coast alongside the Qasimis. They prospered under Al Qasimi rule as merchants in pearl trading. Author John W. Limbert argues that in response to Reza Shah Pahlavi's policies of centralization, conscription, civil status reforms, and, most important, the forced unveiling of women led to many of the Achomi's to follow the Qasimis back to the Arabian Peninsula, further mixing the Huwala's Arabic and Persian roots.


The re-migration of the Arabs and some Persians to the Arabian Peninsula led to the transfer of the technology of windcatchers. Windcatchers (called Baadgir in Persian and Barjil in Arabic) is an ancient air-conditioning system that cools the airs inside living quarters in the hot and dry climate of the Iranian plateau and the Arabian peninsula. The Bastakis established Bastakiya in Dubai mirroring their original hometown of Bastak in southern Iran. The windcatcher designs today decorates many areas in Eastern Arabia such as Awadhiya in Bahrain (established by Huwala who named the region Awadhiya in honor of their hometown Awadh - now known as Evaz), Bastakiya in Dubai, and Souq Waqif in Doha by the Lari's. The Huwala established the many iconic Eastern Arabian cultural buildings seen including Qasr al-Hosn in Abu Dhabi which was designed by Mohammed al Bastaki.[6] Alongside the Qassimi maritime power, the Huwala windcatchers and Baghlah which formed the maritime unit of the Qassimi today formulated the majority of Eastern Arabian culture icons.[4]

Mahyawa, a tangy Iranian cuisine fish sauce was also introduced by the Huwala to the Arabian peninsula and many associate the sauce with the Huwala.[4]

Identity and origin[edit]

The Huwala and the Achomi (also called Larestani) share very similarities that have led scholars to even consider them sometimes as the same population. Both are Sunni Muslims and both may refer to themselves as Khodemooni, a colloquial Larestani word that means “among ourselves”, “casual”, “insider”, or just “us” which was used to differentiate them from the majority Persian Shia. The Achomi's language is a southern Iranian language with dialects such as Gerashi and Bastaki. Achomi is an endangered language as its usage has declined tremendously as most young people speak either Arabic or Persian. Both the Huwala and the Achomi lived in the subtropical region of southern Iran. This area was largely neglected by the central Iranian government as most of its inhabitants were nomads or Arabs.[4]

Huwala families[edit]

Zur is a reasonably large town which is fortifies in the local manner and which has some pieces of artillery. it is inhabited by a tribe of Huwala called Qawasim these have been in earlier times subject to the imam of muscat but they do not recognise his authority any more

— Baron van Kniphausen, The Blood-red Arab Flag: An Investigation Into Qasimi Piracy, 1797-1820 By Charles E. Davies, p.173

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 7 By William Bayne Fisher, P. Avery, G. R. G. Hambly, C. Melville, P.512
  2. ^ Studia Iranica - Volumes 1-2 و P. Geuthner, 1972 Page 80
  3. ^ Waqai-I Manazil-I Rum; Tipu Sultan's Mission to Constantinople – January 1, 2005 by Mohibbul Hasan, p20
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Limbert, John W. (16 August 2016). "Iranian and Arab in the Gulf: Endangered Language, Windtowers, and Fish Sauce". University of Durham, Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.
  5. ^ Revisiting Hormuz: Portuguese Interactions in the Persian Gulf Region in the ... edited by Dejanirah Couto, Rui Loureiro p.93
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m

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