A Preliminary Syriac, Aramaic and Arabic Lexical and Toponymical Survey of Beth Qaṭraye

Based on Historical, Archaeological and Lexicographical Evidence


Beth Qaṭraye, Syriac for “region of the Qataris,” is a term found in Syriac literature from the 4th to 9th centuries referring to Northeast Arabia (including the modern-day countries of Qatar and Bahrain). Beth Qaṭraye was an important cultural, linguistic and religious crossroads in the pre- and early Islamic periods when it produced one of the most widely translated Syriac authors in history: Isaac of Nineveh (“the Qatari”). A number of other important Syriac authors also came from Beth Qaṭraye in this period, and scholarship has so far focused only on their writings instead of the region as a whole.

The team of this project has just published two ground-breaking books on these Syriac authors from Beth Qaṭraye (see Publications). Such a historical reality reveals that the area’s Syriac community was not only surviving but producing the finest and most educated authors of the time, many of whom were intellectual, spiritual, and religious leaders. The objective of this research project is to collect and analyze information on the pre- and early Islamic historical geography and toponyms of the Beth Qaṭraye region. The toponyms will shed light on the language of Beth Qaṭraye at time time by analyzing their Syriac, Aramaic, and Arabic etymology and name components. The historical and archaeological geography will clarify the cultural relations between this region and other areas around the Gulf, and how patterns of social predominance shifted over time. This will provide a better understanding of not only the dynamics of society within Beth Qaṭraye, but also the context of the region within the larger history of the Middle East.

The second objective of this project is to determine the set of lexemes that are designated in the Syriac/Arabic lexicon of Bar Bahlul and other Syriac texts such as the Synodicon Orientale and the East-Syriac Anonymous Commentary. This will shed important light on the languages and dialects that were in use in the Arabian Peninsula even after the early Islamic period – Ibn Bahlul, for example, belongs to the 10th century.

The project will produce a number of publications including a toponymical and lexical dictionary and an online lexical search tool and project website.

Team members / Key investigators

Dr Haya Al Thani (LPI. Qatar University)

Dr Saif al-Murikhi (Qatar University)

Dr Abdulrahim Abu-Husayn (American University of Beirut)

Dr George Kiraz (Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute and Rutgers University)

Dr Mario Kozah (American University of Beirut)

Submitting Institution: Qatar University

Collaborating institutions: American University of Beirut and Beth Mardutho The Syriac Institute.

Acknowledgment: This website was made possible by NPRP grant NPRP9-002-6-001 from the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of Qatar Foundation). The statements made herein are solely the responsibility of the authors.