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Ali Al-Karim, Sultan of Lahej

(born circa 1922), Deposed Sultan of Lahej (Yemen) 1952-58

Sitter in 1 portrait
The Sultanate of Lahej was one of the original "Nine Cantons" that signed protection agreements with Great Britain in the late 19th century and later became part of the Aden Protectorate. Britain became increasingly worried that the Sultan at the time, Ali Al Karim, an Arab nationalist, would refuse to join the British-sponsored Federation of Arab Emirates of the South and had him deposed in 1958. In 1963 Karim ended up joining the Federation and later the Federation of South Arabia before it was abolished in 1967 upon the founding of the People's Republic of South Yemen, now part of the Republic of Yemen.

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Ali Al-Karim, Sultan of Lahej, by Elliott & Fry - NPG x82355

Ali Al-Karim, Sultan of Lahej

by Elliott & Fry
half-plate glass negative, 18 June 1953
NPG x82355

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Richard Boggs

02 April 2020, 15:29

In The Poisoned Well Roger Hardy writes of the Sultan of Lahaj as paradoxically both a dynastic ruler and a staunch republican. The Sultan predicts the end of his own rule: 'We shall all be swept away and my comment would be - a very good thing too' (Hardy p186).

Hardy is quoting from the warm and intimate portrait of the Sultan written by June Knox-Mawer in her book describing her time in the 1950s in Aden, The Sultans Came to Tea. The Sultan tells her why he is pro-Nasser: 'I am not anti-British, I am merely pro-Arab. Is that so unnatural? Does the one thing have to imply the other? Surely it is right for every self-respecting young Arab to long for a return of the greatest influence we had in other centuries. And this can be done by unifying all the different national elements into a workable whole' (Knox-Mawer p149)

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