From: Doughty, Richard E []
Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 2004 2:29 PM
To: David Rahni
Subject: RE: The Arabian Penninsula article with the cover that read Sinvs Persicvs

Dear Dr. Rahni,

Thanks for your compliments on the article. Your question on cartographic labeling is an interesting and not infrequent one. While the body of water between the Asian mainland and the Arabian Peninsula is today most often called the “Persian Gulf” in the U.S. press, this is not the term in general use in all the countries along that body’s western shore, where it is called either “The Arabian Gulf” or simply “The Gulf.” Obviously it would be more diplomatic if in time the international community were to agree upon a name that embraced either a common geographical reference or none at all. (Here in Texas we have a not dissimilar situation: The river at our southern border is, on US-published maps, “Rio Grande,” but Mexican maps label it “Rio Bravo.”) You note correctly that the various bodies of water around the Arabian Peninsula have carried diverse names, and as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the situation goes well beyond what you mention below: On page 23 you will see that Jan Jannson called the body of water in question “Mare Elcatif olim Sinus Persicus;” on page 25 John Speed labeled it “The Sea of Elcatif / Sometimes the Arabian Gulf” and on the next page Pieter van der Aa wrote, “Golfo di Balsora.” And so on. We hope you continue to enjoy the magazine–and we do appreciate a critical eye!

Best regards,


Dick Doughty
Managing Editor
Saudi Aramco World


—–Original Message—–
From: David Rahni []
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2004 12:28 PM
Subject: The Arabian Penninsula article with the cover that read Sinvs Persicvs

Greetings Dear Mr. Parry and Editor-in-Chief,

It was with much fascination and immense appreciation that I re-read twice your excellent article on the “Mapping Arabia” that appeared in the January/February 2004 issue of the Saudi Aramco World Magazine. I, nonetheless, found myself confused, i.e., navigationally challenged! when I struggled to put my fingers on the “Arabian Gulf” on these maps, since several of these historical maps included in your stellar article use this designation for what modern maps refer to as the “Red Sea”; however, you seem to elute “Arabian Gulf” corresponds to that region of water that is labeled as “Sinvs Persicvs” in almost all the maps from the extensive Bukhari collection–that I incidentally visited in London last year–that you have included in your article; this latter region is nowadays called the “Persian Gulf” almost internationally recognized I reckon. On the other hand, this latter body of water is referred to as “Arabian Gulf” in the first modern 21st century map that you have on the first page of your beautifully otherwise article.

Thence, your providing the specific historically based evidence and guidance for me to navigate convincingly through the turbulent waters in your article is most trusted and deeply appreciated.

David N. Rahni


Dear Mr Rahni,

Many thanks for your email of the other week and my apologies for taking so long to respond, but I was away. And thank you for your complimentary remarks about my article, I’m very glad you enjoyed it.

Your point about the Persian Gulf is an interesting one. The nomenclature of the Arabian/Persian Gulf is not as straightforward as one might think. Yes, it has been known for many centuries by many people as the Persian Gulf, but to the countries and inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsular the name Arabian Gulf is generally preferred. In view of the forum in which the article was appearing, the decision was taken to use the latter (and Saudi Aramco World house style is to use Arabian Gulf). If space had allowed, I would have explored the interesting dual nomenclature in more detail; it helps explain, for example, the contemporary usage of the non-committal but vague term ‘the Gulf’, but there was no room to do so. It is a confusing picture, though, with ‘Sinus Arabicus’ used to denote the Red Sea on some historical maps, etc.


James Parry


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