The use of Aleppo Rosette on commercial mail

by Bernardo Longo


The purpose of this article is to show the postage use of so-called “Flueron d’Alep” stamps. For the complete philatelic description of this stamps issue I leave the task to some other brave collector.


A series consisting of nine French stamps overprinted by second Gedeon type “O.M.F. Syrie” and new value, further surcharged with a small floral seal hence also named “Rosette” (fig 1). The nine values, from 0.25ct of Piastre to 100 Piastres, i.e. 0.25ct, 0.50ct 1P, 2P, 5P, 10P, 25P, 50P and 100P, were surcharged with the Rosette, first in black and then in red (fig 2).


fig 1

fig 2

Here I do not want and cannot talk about values highest than 2 Piastres stamps because I have never seen these on genuine commercial envelopes. All high values stamps were subject to speculation and consequently hoarded to be resold at prices significantly higher than their face value. Let’s try to understand what motivations led the French occupying forces to order the issue of stamps with this unusual surcharge.

On 24 July 1920, after the French victory on the hill of Maysalun over the weak armed forces of the Kingdom of Syria, General Gouraud subjected the regions of Damascus and Aleppo to a military occupation as it had already done for the coastal region (fig 3). This lasted until 31 August, after which the following day the states of Greater Lebanon, Damascus and Aleppo were unilaterally proclaimed by French, the same old story “to divide to win and rule easy”. The rich caravan city of Aleppo was the financial hub of the Kingdom of Syria and as such was much more sensitive to economic aspects than to political ones, like we’ll see a prerogative of Damascus city. So, when the French, following their “political marketing of the image”, wanted to adopt their O.M.F. stamps already in use on the coastal area (from Alexandretta to Tyre passing through Beirut and Mont Lebanon), the Aleppian public opinion did not oppose except to induce the French administration to use nominal value to be given to these stamps: the Egyptian Gold Piastre.

fig 3 – General Gouraud before the battle of Maysalun

The postage stamps of the former Kingdom of Syria were also expressed in the Egyptian gold Piastre, it was worth about three times the Syrian Piastre value applied on the stamps used on the coastal area since 1 May 1920. It was the British military government that issued a decree on 18 November 1918 to imposing Egyptian currency establishing the exchange rates between Turkish Lira, the Damascus Piastre and the Egyptian Piastre. As can be seen from the attached document (fig 4), the Egyptian Piastre was the privileged currency reference between the three currencies. It was therefore decided by adopting the OMF stamps to give them the value in Egyptian Piastre only for the “intramuros” city of Aleppo. So the postage stamps that on the coast had a value of about 1/3 of an Egyptian Piastre are found almost three times overvalued in our Syrian city. So far nothing too complicated, in fact there was no territorial contiguity between the city of Aleppo and the coastal territories where these stamps were common used and therefore theoretically no risk of “fraudulent infiltration”. But I would like to return to the concept of “history written by the winners” in fact a macroscopic inconsistency exists in the catalogs and especially in the Maury one where it is written “Overprint on purpose for monetary reasons: …..” and it is right but if you observe that which took place in the contiguous state of Damascus will certainly be perplexed. In fact, in the former capital of the Kingdom of Syria the stamps in Egyptian currency were still used.

fig 4 – On the left a copy of the decree and its translation on the right.

This lasted until 31 May 1921, in fact only from 1 June the same stamps of the K.o.S. overprinted “O.M.F. Syrie” with new monetary values in Syrian currency were issued (fig 5). In conclusion, I am led to affirm that not an economic motivation led to adopt Rosetta surcharge seal in Aleppo, but rather a compromise between the French, wanted to display their “national symbolic icons” show by stamps (semiology enters into this context) and the local population, flexible towards the will of the occupant but sensitive to economic aspects. To refute this statement, it is sufficient to observe what happened in Damascus, a city more prone and sensitive to ideological-cultural aspects and where French occupying authority considered it wiser to keep in use stamps of former Kingdom of Syria, always in Egyptian currency, in order not to hurt a public opinion that had experienced what can certainly be referred to as the first example of a self-proclaimed Arab Democratic State.

fig 5 – 1/6/1921, first day of issue of the K.o.S values overprinted “O.M.F.”

Having removed this pebble from my shoe, I can move on to what I believe is an interesting chapter in Syrian postal history.

In Aleppo for the whole month of September the K.o.S. stamps were still used (fig 6), only towards the end of the month we can see some sporadic use of the “O.M.F. Syrie” stamps (fig 7).

fig 6 – 1 Piastre KoS stamp used in Aleppo on 2/9/1920


fig 7 – Two 50ct O.M.F. without Rosetta to fulfill 1 Egyptian Piastre rate used in Aleppo on 30/9/1920

The 1 October 1920 Rosettes were issued and I know only two envelopes sent on the first day of use, one is the one shown here (fig 8). Do not forget also the use of old E.E.F. stamps still valid in mixed franked with Rosette, these are to be counted as rare (fig 9). The postal rate for letter up to 20 grams continued to be established by postal authorities of Kingdom of Syria in June 1920: 1 Piastre indiscriminately for domestic and abroad destinations. For letters of greater weight, the postage was increased by 1 Piastre for each 20 grams more.

fig 8 – 1 Piastre O.M.F. stamp overprinted Rosetta used in Aleppo on 1/10/1920 First Day of Use

fig 9 – Mixed franking using 2P E.E.F. and 1P Rosetta on double rate Registered cover

Insufficiently franked letters were taxed instead (fig 10). One natural conversion was used for postal rate of postcards with more than five words (fig 11) or for unsealed envelope with message inside equated to post card rate that was 5 mills or ½ Piastre equivalent to 50ct. If the 50ct postage stamp are perfectly suited to the postcard rate, as far as the “printed matters” rate the 25ct stamp was used rounding reduced from 3 mills to 2½ mills or ¼ of Piastre equivalent precisely at the 25ct stamp issued (fig 12).

fig 10 – Insufficiently franked cover taxed in Granz, Austria on 2/11/1920

fig 11 – 50ct Rosetta used to pay unsealed envelope rate

fig 12 – 25ct Rosetta used to pay wrapper for printed matter

The postcards sent in this period are scarce to find, the printed matter are very rare. I don’t know “samples without value” franked by Rosette stamps. The registered letters even if scarce are known; normally franked with 2 Piastres (fig 13), those with upper franking (fig 14) are rare.

fig 13 – Registered letter using 2P Rosetta stamp on 2/3/1921

fig 14 – Registered double letter rate from Aleppo on 1/1/1921 to Beirut

It should also not be forgotten that the value in Syrian currency had to be multiplied by three for which the highest I know is the one franked for 5 Egyptian Piastres (fig 15) equivalent to 15 Syrian Piastres. For this envelope I am still shedding tears of pain since I deprived myself of it in a moment of madness. The last date of use on cover that I know is 14 March 1921 (fig 16), I do not think it is the last ever and you can find rosettes used until the end of March.

fig 15 – Registered quadruple letter rate from Aleppo on 24/11/1920

fig 16 – Cover from Aleppo on 14/3/1921 showing last day of use recorded

In any case in April you should no longer find, the use of “O.M.F.” with High Commissioner overprint, used as a tax due stamp on the envelope from Egypt proves this (fig 17). The cover was insufficiently franked only with 10 mill Egyptian stamps equivalent to 15ct instead of 25ct gold franc or 15 mill. The tax equivalent to the double of deficiency (20ct gold franc) equivalent to 2.40 Syrian Piastres was instead valued at 1 Piastra. Concluding with tariff issues, I add that in the short period from the end of March to 15 May 1921 in Aleppo was used system of multiplying by three the rate value expressed in Egyptian Piastre, like the registered envelope of 3 May 1921 (fig 18) franked for 6 Syrian Piastres (3P for letter up 20gr and 3P for registered service).

fig 17 – Taxed cover in Aleppo on 13/4/1921 using O.M.F. stamps.

fig 18 – Registered cover using O.M.F. stamps from Aleppo on 3/5/1921 at 6 Piastres rate.

An envelope of the same weight sent from Beirut (fig 19) or from another coastal location at the same period paid 4P (2P + 2P). Only from 15 May 1921, issuing new tariff, French administration standardize rates throughout all Lebanon and Syria territory and in Aleppo they noticed nothing as the above rate was increased to just 6 Syrian Piastres.

fig 19 – Registered cover using O.M.F. stamps from Beirut on 5/5/1921 at 4 Piastres rate.


All images are taken from the Cedarstamps auction catalog
or belong to my collection.

Bernardo Longo





Non solo ora – Disinfezioni e quarantene nel passato – Not just now – Disinfections and quarantines in the past

Questo articolo e’ dedicato a tutti i miei connazionali in Italia costretti alla quarantena dal virus Covid 19. Eccezionalmente esso sara’ pubblicato anche nella lingua di Dante per facilitarne la lettura a quelli che come me poco sono avvezzi a quella di Shakespeare.

This article is dedicated to all my compatriots forced to quarantine in Italy by the Covid 19 virus. Exceptionally it will also be published in Dante’s language to facilitate its reading to those who, like me, are not very accustomed to that of Shakespeare.


Nel passato non poche furono le epidemie che colpirono le popolazioni umane, esse furono causate sia da batteri che da virus.  Come oggi anche nel passato gli scambi commerciali ed il turismo, che all’epoca si manifestava sotto forma di pellegrinaggio religioso, erano vettori di epidemie. Nel Bacino del Mediterraneo dal XVII secolo si generalizzarono i presidi sanitari di controllo finalizzati alla circoscrizione di queste forme epidemiche. Altri supposti vettori epidemici erano le comunicazioni epistolari: le lettere (fig 1). Tra le azioni di prevenzione attiva verso queste ultime, vi era quella della fumigazione, cioe’ si sottoponeva la lettera in arrivo da luoghi sospettati di essere focolai epidemici, al passaggio tra fumi di incenso, resine ed altri aromatizzanti (fig 2).

In the past there were many epidemics that affected human populations, they were caused by both bacteria and viruses. As today, even in the past, commercial exchanges and tourism, which at the time manifested itself in the form of a religious pilgrimage, were vectors of epidemics. In the Mediterranean basin from the 17th century was generalized a form of health supervision posts aimed at circumscribing these epidemic forms. Other supposed epidemic vectors were the epistolary communications: the letters (fig 1). Among the active prevention actions towards the latter, there was that of fumigation: the letter arriving from places suspected of being epidemic outbreaks was subjected to the passage between incense fumes, resins and other flavorings (fig 2).

(fig 1) Lettera spedita dal Console Sardo in Algeri il 15/8/1828 per Marsiglia via Livorno. Nella citta’ toscana venne apposto il tampone di controllo del Lazzareto di San Rocco. Sulla lettera non e’ visibile nessuna azione disinfettante.

(fig 1) Letter sent from the Sardinia Consul in Algiers on 15/8/1828 to Marseilles via Leghorn. The control seal of the San Rocco’s Lazaret was placed in the Tuscan city. No disinfectant action is visible on the letter.


(fig 2) Lettera spedita il 28/2/1829 dall’Agenzia consolare Sarda di Beirut per il Console generale di Alessandria d’Egitto. Non vi sono tracce apparenti di tamponi di controllo del Lazzareto Egiziano ma invece sone evidenti le tracce di disinfezione tramite fumigazione che ha provocato un imbrunimento della carta.

(fig 2) Letter sent on 28/2/1829 by the Sardinian consular Agency of Beirut to the Sardinian Consul General of Alexandria in Egypt. There are no apparent traces of Egyptian Lazaret control seal but evident traces of disinfection by fumigation that has browned the paper.


Un’altro sistema di “supposta” disinfezione era quella del taglio o della punzonatura della lettera per farne uscire la “cattiva aria” (fig 3, 4 e 5). Inutile dire che si trattava, come quello precedente, solo di un metodo empirico che non garantiva assolutamente la sterilizzazione da eventuali batteri o virus, ammettendo che essi fossero sopravvissuti alla lunga traversata marittima. Insomma un palese atto tendente piu’ ad un simbolico tentativo funzionale all’immagine di chi gestiva l’emergenza.

Another system of “supposed” disinfection was that of cutting or punching the letter to excrete out the “bad air” (fig 3, 4 and 5). Needless to say it was just an empirical method, like the previous one, that absolutely did not guarantee sterilization from any bacteria or viruses, admitting that they had survived the long sea crossing. In short, a clear act tending more to a symbolic attempt functional to the image of those who managed the emergency. 

(fig 3) Anche le lettere che accompagnavano i beni spediti via nave venivano sottoposte al taglio disinfettante. Come in questa lettera che accompagnava un sacco spedito da Aleppo il 29/3/1790 e diretto alla ditta Guerin basata presumibilmente a Marsiglia.

(fig 3) Even the letters that accompanied the goods sent by ship were subjected to the disinfection slits. As in this letter which accompanied a sack sent by Aleppo on 29/3/1790 and directed to the Guerin company presumably based in Marseilles.


(fig 4) Posta consolare sarda, inviata da Alessandria il 24/03/1837 per Beirut, all’epoca di Muhammad Ali, Khedive d’Egitto. Arrivando a Beirut in quella che ancora oggi si chiama “Quarantina”, la lettera fu sottoposta a disinfezione tramite i due tagli verticali inferti alla lettera. Si tratta di un’importante testimone del Lazzareto di Beirut, installato da Ibrahim Pasha nel 1834 e per molto tempo unico presidio sanitario sulla costa siriana.

(fig 4) Sardinian Consular mail, sent from Alexandria on 24/3/1837 to Beirut, under Muhammad Ali, Khedive of Egypt. In arrive at the “Quarantine” of Beirut, the letter was subjected to disinfection by two piercing vertical slits. Important witness of the operating Lazzaretto in Beirut, installed by Ibrahim Pasha in 1834, for a long time the only health facility on the Syrian coast.



(fig 5) Lettera spedita da Smirne il 29/5/1843 per Marsiglia. Uno dei presidi sanitari più importanti del Mediterraneo era quello di Malta. L’isola era tappa obbligata delle navi della compagnia di navigazione francese Messageries Maritimes, fondata nel 1835. Le lettere trasportate,  transitando dall’isola, venivano sottoposte a controllo e vistate con un caratteristico timbro a doppio cerchio con la dicitura in francese “PURIFIE AU LAZARET MALTA”. Ne esistono due tipi di differenti dimensioni.

(fig 5) Letter sent from Smyrna on 29/5/1843 to Marseilles. One of the most important health facilities in the Mediterranean was that of Malta. The island was a stop for ships of the French shipping company Messageries Maritimes, founded in 1835. The letters transported passing through the island, were checked and endorsed with a characteristic double circle stamp with the French wording “PURIFIE AU LAZARET MALTA “. There are two types of different sizes.


Sorprendente come l’azione di coordinamento tra le varie amministrazioni che supervisionavano i cordoni sanitari avvenisse in modo cosi formale come illustrato nella lettera ufficiale nella figura 6. Si ebbe notizia di focolai epidemici a volte in modo particolarmente anomalo, se non altro per la zona da cui venne divulgata l’informativa. Come nel caso di un rapporto sanitario partito non si sa come dalla Svizzera e diretta a Marsiglia a proposito di un’epidemia di colera manifestatasi sulla costa siriana, tappa abituale dei mercantili francesi.

Surprising how the coordination action between the various administrations that supervised the sanitary cordons took place in such a formal way as illustrated in the official letter in figure 6. There was news of epidemic outbreaks sometimes in a particularly anomalous way curiously from the area from which the information was disclosed. As in the case of the health report left from Switzerland and directed to Marseilles about a cholera epidemic that occurred on the Syrian coast, an usual stage of the French merchant ships.

(fig 6) Importante lettera del 17/12/1843 indirizzata al Presidente del Consiglio della Sanita’ di Napoli, allora capitale del Regno Delle Due Sicilie, spedita da Costantinopoli dall’Intendenza Generale della Salute dell’Impero Ottomano. Oltre che per i sigilli, il timbro del Lazzareto di Malta e l’arrivo a Napoli attraverso la linea francese di navigazione marittima, quello che rende particolarmente interessante la lettera e’ il contenuto scritto nel quale, oltre a redigere un sommario rapporto sulla situazione in Turchia, lo scrivente manifesta l’interesse per quelle che sono i sistemi di quarantena a cui sono soggetti gli arrivi a Napoli dall’Impero Ottomano. La lettera e’ firmata M. Marchand. Sicuramente si tratta del primo contatto tra i due presidi sanitari.

(fig 6) Important letter dated 17/12/1843 for the President of the Health Council of Naples, then capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies sent from Constantinople by the General Healthcare Manager of the Ottoman Empire. In addition to the wax seal, the stamp of the Lazaret of Malta and the arrival cancel of Naples via the French navigation line, what makes the letter particularly interesting is the written content where, in addition to drawing up a summary report on the situation in Turkey, it manifests the interest in what are the quarantine systems to which arrivals in Naples from the Ottoman Empire are subject. The letter is signed by the Healthcare Manager M. Marchand. It is certainly the first contact between the two health centers.


Curiosa e grave inefficienza si deduce dalla lettera nella figura 7, scritta dal “Console di Marina” di La Spezia, spedita da Genova il 27/2/1855 e diretta a Costantinopoli per chiedere notizie sulla morte li avvenuta per colera di un marinaio ligure. Dopo solo un mese il Regno di Sardegna partecipo’ alla guerra di Crimea senza tener conto alcuno dell’epidemia qui denunciata: essa provoco’ la maggior parte di morti nelle file sarde in quella spedizione militare.

Curious and serious inefficiency can be deduced from the letter in figure 7, written by the “Consul of Marina” of La Spezia but sent from Genoa on 27/2/1854 and directed to Constantinople to ask about the death of a Ligurian sailor due to cholera. After only a month the Kingdom of Sardinia participated in the Crimean war without taking into account any of the cholera epidemic: it caused most of the deaths in the Sardinian ranks in that military expedition.

(fig 7) La lettera di doppio porto, come si evince dalla cifra “2” apposta il alto a sinistra, fu spedita da Genova il 27/2/1855 tramite un battello delle Messageries Maritimes grazie alla convenzione tra la compagnia e l’Amministrazione Postale sarda. Essa giunse a Costantinopoli il 10 marzo seguente e fu assoggettata ad una tassa di 20 decimi di Franco (2 franchi Francesi) essendo appunto di doppio porto.

(fig 7) The double rate letter, as can be report by number “2” affixed to the top left, was sent from Genoa on 2/27/1855 by a steamer of Messageries Maritimes thanks to agreement between the company and the Sardinian Postal Administration. It arrived in Constantinople on 10 March following and was subject due the wight to a tax for double rate of 20 tenths of Franc corresponding to 2 French Francs. 


Virus e batteri si dice che non conoscono confini, ed e’ vero. Questo si evince dalla rara lettera con testo alla fig 8, spedita durante l’epidemia di colera del 1855 in Toscana. Lo scrivente, direttore del Real Collegio di Lucca, spiega al padre di uno degli allievi che a causa di alcuni focolai nella citta’ e stato costretto a rifugiarsi in campagna nella localita’ di Vicopelago da cui scrisse questo importante testimone cartaceo giunto fino a noi. Assicura della buona salute degli allievi e del fatto che essi siano sotto controllo medico ed allo stesso tempo impegnati a studiare per gli esami che si terranno “secondo le circostanze” in settembre o ottobre.

Viruses and bacteria are said to know no boundaries, and it’s true. This can be seen from the rare letter with text in fig 8, sent during the 1855 cholera epidemic in Tuscany. The writer, director of Real Collegio of Lucca, explains to the father of a student that due to some outbreaks in the city he was forced to take refuge in the countryside in the locality of Vicopelago from which he wrote this important paper-witness that has come to us. It ensures the good health of the students and that they are under medical supervision and at same time committed to studying for the tests that will be held “according to the circumstances” in September or October.

(fig 8) La lettera fu scritta in Vicopelago il 21/7/1855 ma fu spedita da Lucca per Ferrara il giorno dopo. Fu affrancata con una coppia orizzontale del francobollo da 2 crazie azzurro verdastro annullata con il muto a rombi di Lucca. La tariffa corrispondeva a quella stabilita dalla convenzione tra la Toscana e lo Stato Pontificio di cui Ferrara faceva parte. In arrivo fu attuata la punzonatura sanitari preventiva tramite due tagli verticali ed al verso fu apposto il timbro circolare con scritte in corsivo “Ferrara Netta Fuori e Dentro”.

(fig 8) The letter was written in Vicopelago on 7/21/1855 but was sent from Lucca to Ferrara the next day. It was franked with a horizontal pair of the stamp from 2 crazie greenish blue stamp canceled with the Lucca diamond mute. The rate correspond to that established by the agreement between Tuscany and the Papal States of which Ferrara was a part. On arrival the preventive health punching was carried out by means of two vertical slits attested by the circular seal affixed on the back with italics written “Ferrara Netta Fuori e Dentro” referred to the letter and translatable like “Ferrara Clean Inside and Outside”. 


Non solo le lettere trasportate dalla linea di navigazione francese erano soggette alla disinfezione. Nel Meditterraneo essa era generalizzata e come abbiamo gia visto si attuava anche sui tragitti brevi interni qualora vi erano focolai epidemici attivi. Ma le epidemie spostandosi generalmente da est ad ovest provocavano sovente il controllo e la supposta disinfezione sopratutto alle lettere provenienti dal levante e trasportate dalle varie compagnie di navigazione tra cui anche quella del Lloyd Austriaco (fig 9).

Not only were the letters carried by the French shipping line was subject to disinfection. In the Mediterranean Sea it was generalized and, as we have already seen, it also took place on internal surface transport, also short when there were active epidemic outbreaks. But epidemics, generally moving from east to west, often caused control and supposed disinfection above all to letters come from the Levant, transported by various shipping companies including that of the Austrian Lloyd (fig 9).

(fig 9) Lettera spedita da Costantinopoli il 27/1/1872 per Livorno via Brindisi con un inconsueta affrancatura di 35 soldi, trasportata dalla compagnia marittima del Lloyd Austriaco. Questa compagnia come quella francese, inizio’ ad operare dalla seconda meta’ degli anni 30 del XIX secolo. Ignoro se i due tagli di disinfezione furono effettuati a Brindisi o a Livorno ma sicuramente essi vennero inferti in un Lazzareto dell’allora territorio del Regno d’Italia.

(fig 9) Letter sent from Constantinople on 27/1/1872 to Livorno via Brindisi with an unusual franking of 35 soldi, transported by the Austrian Lloyd shipping company. This company, like the French one, began operating from the second half of the nineteenth century. I do not know if the two disinfection cuts was originated in Brindisi or Livorno but were certainly made in a Lazaret on then Kingdom of Italy.


Concludo con una rara cartolina (fig 10) del Lazzareto di Trieste, all’Epoca facente parte dell’Impero Austro-Ungarico. Essa fu scritta da un Viaggiatore proveniente dal levante e sottomesso a quarantena preventiva di “tre giorni” (sic) appunto nello stabilimento di prevenzione sanitaria di Trieste. All’epoca si riteneva impossibile d’estirpare le epidemie che avevano mietuto milioni di vittime ma con i progressi scientifici del XX secolo si e’ arrivati a debellarne la maggior parte. L’umanita’ ha sempre convissuto con le malattie epidemiche e se siamo giunti ad essere piu’ di sette miliardi di abitanti sulla terra significa che abbiamo superato crisi maggiori di questa attuale. Passera’.

I conclude with a rare postcard (fig 10) of the Lazzareto of Trieste, at the time belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was written by a traveler come from the Levant and subjected to a “three day” (sic) preventive quarantine in the Trieste health prevention facility. At the time, it was considered impossible to eradicate the epidemics that had claimed millions of victims, but with the scientific progress of the twentieth century, most of them were eradicated. Humanity has always lived with epidemic diseases and if we have reached more than seven billion inhabitants on earth it means that we have overcome major crises than this one. It will pass.

(fig 10) Cartolina impostata tramite la cassetta di bordo del piroscafo del Lloyd Austriaco caratterizzato dal numero XLVII (47) come riportato nell’annullo postale che annullo’ il francobollo del Levante Austriaco da 20p/5k il 15/5/1900. Inoltrata all’ufficio di Trieste n1 il giorno dopo, arrivo’ a Bruxelles il 18 maggio del 1900. Alla luce delle nostre conoscenze risulta ridicola una quarantena di soli tre giorni, ma nel passato un povero ricco turista che poteva permettersi il Grand Tour aveva pur diritto a qualche piccolo sconto. O no?

(fig 10) Postcard posted on the post-box on board of the Austrian Lloyd steamer characterized by the number XLVII (47) as reported in the postmark that cancels on 15/5/1900 the 20p/5k Austrian Levant stamp. Forwarded to the Trieste Post branch n. 1 the next day, she arrived in Brussels on 18 May 1900. In the light of our knowledge, a quarantine of only three days is ridiculous, but in the past a poor wealthy tourist who could afford the Grand Tour had right to small discount. Or not?


Da Beirut con amore                                                                                             From Beirut with love

Bernardo Longo





Lebanon – The post offices of the Bekaa Valley October 1918/September 1920

This article appeared in a slightly different form in “The Levant” Journal of the Ottoman and the Near East Philatelic Society issued in 3 September 2019.

The Bekaa valley, currently Lebanese territory, is located between the Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon mountain chains, the latter became the current eastern frontier with Syria. Regarding longitude it is included between the areas of Hermel in the north and Hasbaya in the south. Due to its climatic characteristics and the particular fertility of the soil, it is a place of great and heterogeneous agricultural production. It was ancient territory of the Ottoman Empire until the end of September 1918. In those days when Turkish troops retreated towards Aleppo, the Bekaa Valley was occupied by Arab troops under British control advancing from the south. This act differs from the French-British agreement, so-called Sykes-Picot, which assigned to French military administration the entire area of ​​the Bekaa constituted by the “Caza” of Baalbek, Hasbaya and Rachaya together with the coastal area from Tyre in the south to Alexandretta in the north (fig 1).

Fig 1. The area that concerns the current Le­banon in a Map of the first half of 1920 reproducing the density of post offices in the two areas. You can see the density difference of post office/area between the coastal area in yellow and the interior in dark green.

Therefore except the town of Zahle, all the territory of the Bekaa valley was incorporated into the nascent Syrian Territory administered by a military government appointed by the British commander Edmund Allenby and led by the emir Faisal, the third son of Hussein bin Ali, the Mecca’s Sheriff. From the postal point of view, from 22 October 1918 corresponding the day of the designation of the Syrian military government, until November 1919, i.e. when was made the withdrawal of the British troops who supervised occupied territories, there are no substantial differences on the postal documents sent from the two areas. The EEF stamps, made available by the British administration from November 1918, were used in the civil post offices of the two areas. In these offices the postal cancellations used were those of the old Turkish postal administration. The only difference, but not a minor one, was characterized by the presence of different censorship marks, a direct emanation of the two administrations (fig 2 and 3).

Fig 2. Cover sent on 10/10/1919 to Belgian Congo from Djubeil in the costal area, passed through the French cen­sorship that apposed oval censor seal “PASSE A LA CENSURE – O.E.T.A. OUEST” translatable like “Passed by Censor – Oc­cupied Enemy Territories Area West”.

Fig 3. Cover sent on 23/3/1919 to USA from Kefir near Hasbaya in the Bekaa area, passed through Dama­scus where was affixed the round negative seal “edarat el matbouaat – al hokuma al arabia – 1337” translatable like “Directorate of printed matter – Arabic Government – 1919”.

But do not be misled by these seal. We can observe on the mail sent from territories of the Bekaa addressed to Europa or Overseas, certain traces of the passage through the coastal zone, evidenced by French censorship marks affixed in Beirut (fig 4), but also vice versa, when shipping by sea from the French area was not available the mail was directed towards Egypt via Syria this was sometimes checked by Damascus censure.

Fig 4. Back side of coming figure 8 cover. The permeability of the line between the two areas can be deduced from this envelope sent by Mr “Sarkis Koury Sarkis of Zahle” who also added “written in Arabic” to show that even the inhabitants of this large agricultural center under French administration did not disdain to ship from near Malakat post office located in “Syrian” territory.

Therefore we can assert that from the area of the Bekaa under Syrian government, was used for mail transport not only the Malakat-Rayak-Damascus-Haifa-Port Said railway line, but also the sporadic trains of the Rayak-Malakat-Beirut line. It must immediately be said that unlike the areas administered by the French, where the civil post offices reopened from the middle of December 1918 (fig. 5), in the areas under Syrian administration, the post offices were opened shortly before in second half of November of same year (fig 6).

Fig 5. The first date recorded for the reopening of Beirut’s civil Post office on 13 December 1918 (Fire­brace reports an earlier date but I’ve never see) and the only recorded example of the Ot­toman octagonal cancel “BEYROUTH 1” used on cover after the war.

Fig 6. The re-opening of the civil offices in the Syrian area took place in mid-November 1918, about a month before those under French control zone. This envelope sent from Rachaya on 7 December 1918 for the USA was routed via Damascus where transit the day after. Resulting one of very few recorded envelopes departing from Rachaya in the first weeks after the post office reopened.

The number recorded of the latter so far amounts to 11, they were: Baalbeck, Bekaa (Malakat), Hasbaya, Jdita*, Karaoun, Kfeir, Rachaya, Rachaya El Foukhar, Rayak, Saidnail and Talia. The operation of Hermel’s post office remains unclear and the total amounting to 12 offices if included it. Regarding the use of EEF stamps they are known used in Baalbeck (fig 7), Bekaa (fig 8 and 9), Hasbaya (fig 10), Jdita (fig 11), Karaoun (fig 12), Kfeir and Rachaya, but surely the other cancels will emerge.

 Fig. 7

Fig. 8

Fig. 9

Fig. 10 from David Feldman auction

Fig. 11

Fig. 13 From David Feldman auction

 Rachaya El Fakhar




It must be said about E.E.F. stamps validity that they were withdrawn in the French area from 5 January 1920**, while in the Kingdom of Syria, including the Bekaa valley, they maintained their validity until the end of September 1920. From this we can deduce that Stanley Gibson catalog when indicates the last date of use for E.E.F. stamps in Lebanon in September 1920, because he saw its used in some place of the Bekaa Valley that only from September 1920 became officially Lebanese. As regards both the provisional with “al hokuma al arabia” handstamp and the definitive stamps of the Kingdom of Syria, issued respectively on 8 January and from 8 March both in 1920, they are until now to be recorded used in the following localities of Bekaa Valley: Baalbeck (fig 13), Bekaa (Malakat) (fig 14), Hasbaya (fig 15), Jdita (fig 16), Kfeir (fig 17), Rachaya (fig 18), Rachaya El Foukhar (fig 19), Rayak (fig 20), Saidnail (fig 21) and Talia (fig 22) but, as already said, surely other cancels will surface.

Fig. 13

Fig. 14

Fig. 15 From David Feldman auction

Fig. 16

Fig. 17

Fig. 18

Rachaya El Fakhar

Saidnail from Houssam Mhaissen collection

Of the six envelopes shown above, the first two can be appreciated respectively for the departure date of September 1920 (fig 13) and for the use of a block of four stamps (fig 14), the others are instead the only ones known with their respective cancellations affixed to stamps of the Kingdom of Syria.

The territory of the Bekaa suffered the events that characterized both the internal politics of the Syrian government and the stormy one towards the French that led to the military clash of Maysalun on 24 July 1920. Since the defeat of the Syrian troops, the area of Bekaa was subjected to military occupation regime. This until 1 September 1920, date of the founding “Grand Liban” (Greater Lebanon), the fruit of the union of Mount Lebanon, the regions of Akkar and Tripoli in the north, Saida and Tyr in the south, and the Bekaa area. In this region, as already mentioned the Syrian and the E.E.F. stamps in use were tolerated until the end of September (fig 13). From this date the “O.M.F. Syrie” overprint on French stamps becomes the only valid in the Bekaa, like already in the other regions of the coast and in those that will be form the Great Lebanon.

Rereading what has been written so far I have noticed that the mention of the Bekaa cancels could lead to various errors, therefore I precise: the cancellation Bekaa refers to the post office located in the Malakat station, near Zahle, it had two cancellations, the first was an Ottoman bilingual circular in use until February 1919 when mysteriously disappear replaced by the second, an Ottoman octagonal postmark originally with the name of a smaller town that was promptly partially chiseled so that only words Bekaa were left, in Latin and Arabic. To date we ignore which area’s postmark was sacrificed. It is found used up until 1926.

*see the article in this website “Reflections of Postal History – The Jdita cover”.

**see the article in this website “Beirut, mixed use of various issues stamps from the end of 1918 to the half of 1920“.

Bernardo Longo


Post Card sent by Overland mail

Some time ago I asked to our friend Rainer Fuchs about how many postcards he knew used by Overland mail during the period 1923 to 1929 when the mandatory surcharge was required. I admit it: I already had something in my hands which I considered very rare and I wanted to get a confirmation from him. And who better than Rainer he could subscribe to the rarity? So what follows, rather than a normal article on a theme of postal history, I would like to become a due act that symbolizes the gratitude to those who give us philatelic information in a disinterested way.

Something that I thought was very rare is the only recorded postcard sent from Lebanon via Overland mail in the period 1923/1929, but let’s go by order.

In September 1923, the Haifa-Beirut-Baghdad trans-desert service began to operate. It became known after numerous studies based on an intuition born in the mind of the Nairn brothers to combine transport and speed through modern vehicles of the period. So far the envelopes sent through this service are very well known, but little was known about the postcards. Here then a sample of the very few recorded, almost all of them supplied by Rainer Fuchs.

Post Card sent from Baghdad on 6 October 1924 to Berlin, Germany. Postage of 3 Anna was considered underpaid because the required rate was 1½ Anna for the post card sent to foreign countries and 3 Anna at the time for all items sent by Overland service without distinction, for a total of 4½. The taxed applied was excessive: 60 cents of gold-franc, wrongly considered like a letter’s taxation double deficiency.


Post Card sent from Baghdad on 24 February 1926 again to Germany. This time the postage of 3 Anna applied was considered quite right. It is very likely that a modification of the rates took place in order to adopt a decrease to 1½ Anna for the Overland surcharge applied to postcards. The cancel of Port Said, applied only five days after, confirm the transport by Overland.

Fascinating but late use for this British stationery card of 1 penny mixed franked with 2 Anna Iraqi stamp. This type of postage was consider regular using the possibility to pay the supplement fee for a service (air mail, express, registration or overland fees) on a postcard with reply paid. Unfortunately, the postcard was sent only on 6 March 1929, after six days that the additional fee for the overland mail was abolished, furthermore the surcharge rate of 2 Anna was wrongly in excess of ½ Anna. 

Another underpaid post card, this time the nice real photo was sent from Abadan, Persia, on 18 December 1924 to Germany. Underpaid with 6ch, the taxation applied was 25 cents of gold-franc.

This time the rate was rightly applied for this exceptional and virtuous Italian post card sent from Baghdad on 6 March 1928 to Rome. The 25ct was the sum required in Italy for printed matter sent to foreign, considered them ⅓ of post card rate (75ct) with a lake of  ⅔ of rate. In this case the lake of 50ct of Lira was redeem by 1 Anna, equivalent to ⅔ of Iraqi post card rate. The other 1½ Anna applied was the fees for Overland rate.

Here we come to the star of the article, a postcard written in Persian where something is understood about a trip made by Baghdad. The postcard was sent from Beirut on 13 June 1925 to Teheran, transiting from Baghdad on 17 June, just before the Great Syrian Revolt began in the following July. At the time the rate for a postcard written with more than five words for abroad was 2½ Piastres. The postage applied on the postcard amounting to 5 Piastre makes us immediately assume that the concept of “doubling”, manifested by the decree of the French administration concerning the rate applicable to the overland surcharge for letters, had also been applied to postcards.

Since this is the only known postcard sent via overland, we can not determine how the surcharge was dealt with afterwards, especially when this was reduced by about 3/5 compared to the Lebanese letter rate. But that of the rates is another story that we will discuss in the future.

Bernardo Longo

Minimum rates in the Levant’s Countries under French Mandate. Part 2.

About rates, so here is the situation regarding our small postal rate shown in ”ALMANACH FRANCAISE 1938″ published in Beirut by the “Imprimerie Catholique” (fig 9 and 10).

9fig 9

10fig 10

As you can observe, are mentioned additional prices depending on the weight for the amounts of 20, 25, 50 and 75 cents of Piastre. This explains why this stamps values were issued since 1930. To confirm the fact that the rate was not increased, also under the economic pressure made by the war, we can use as witnesses the two wrappers below (fig. 11 and 12).

11fig 11

12fig 12 (from Albert Massaad collection)

The first was sent from Damascus on 6 June 1940 to the Hexagone immediately before the armistice between France and the two Axis powers, occurred on June 25. The second was sent on 29 December 1941 from the small post office of Darahoun-Harissa, in Lebanon, in the period that the Levant territories was administrated by the Free French Forces of De Gaulle. It was addressed to Lyon, in the Free French territory of Vichy. At that time the mail transport from the Levant to Europe essentially occurred through the Simplon-Orient Express railway via Beirut-Aleppo-Istanbul-Constanta-Vienna. In those months this transport route resulted blocked then the wrapper returned to Beirut where was applied the justificatory seal “RETOURN A L’ENVOYEUR FAUTE D’ACHEMINEMENT” (Return to Sender Lack of Routing).

Unfortunately I do not have examples of the minimum rate used in the last years of war and in the first ten years of Lebanon and Syria independence. But I can show an envelope containing Periodicals-Writings, sent from Tripoli city on 14 March 1957, to the famous lawyer J. Rahme, established near the port of Tripoli (fig 13).

13fig 13

The envelope was franked for 50 cents by a value of ½ Piastre blue representing a cedar, issued in September 1955. This is the new minimum rate for Newspapers and Periodicals-Writings up to 60 gram. Is interesting to observe through any catalog of Lebanese stamps, that since 1947 for many of the new stamp issues, the lower value issued was the 50 cents (½ Piastre). This type of value was printed without interruption until 1974, in fact the last was to be issued on 18 October 1974. This means that the rate of 50 cents was used continuously until the outbreak of the civil war. To confirm, here follows four examples of minimal rate applied (fig 14, 15, 16, 16a and 17).

14fig 14

Newspapers sent from Tripoli on 11 May 1960 to Becharre, franked with ½ Piastre stamp “Cedar”, issued on December 1958.

15fig 15

Envelop for Periodicals-Writings sent from Djounieh on 6 December 1962, with ½ Piastre stamp “Cedar forest”, issued on October 1961.

16fig 16

16afig 16a



Envelope for advertising, equated to Periodicals-Writings, sent from Beirut on 3 November 1965 to the P.O. Box 359 located in Beirut Post Office. Franked with ½ Piastre stamp “Pets”, issued on 10 September 1965. Unfortunately, only the smokers could appreciate the power of “Ex’Oil”.

17fig 17

Envelop for Periodicals-Writings sent from Darahoun-Harissa on 22 December 1965, with ½ Piastra stamp “Flowers”, issued on 1964.

Finally two examples franked for 1 Piastre. The first was sent from Mar Maroun Monastery in Annaya on 2 January 1974 and was franked by International Tourism Year 1 Piastre stamp. The second, sent from Tripoli to Beirut on 29 September 1975, was franked by pair of 50 cents ceder stamp, the last with this small value issued on 18 October 1974 (fig 18 and 19).

18fig 18

19fig 19 (from Abdallah Absi collection)

From the shape of the two objects you can be deduced that they weighed between 61 and 75 grams, and therefore required the second weight echelon, corresponding to doubling the minimal postal fee.

Bernardo Longo lente

Clear and legible address is important….

They say that luck favors the open minded. For that, we need to stay open and curious because modern postal history can still surprise us. I bought this cover (Fig. 1 -2) recently.

1fig 1

2fig 2

At first, it looked like a banal Beirut airmail cover heading to France in 1959 with a transit journey in Holy-Land. But then I realized quickly that this cover was misguided : Bethune (a town north of France) was misread as Bethlehem.

The error has been facilitated by the absence of transcript of the country of destination (France). This was rectified only later with a blue pen on the front cover: “Pas de calais, France

The result, many Palestinian and Jordanian postmarks affixed in the back of the cover!

In a chronological order, we find:

  • Jerusalem 6: 26 Feb 59
  • Amman 2: 28 Feb 59
  • Jerusalem 5: 2 Mar 59
  • Bethlehem 2: 2 Mar 59
  • Jerusalem 6: 3 Mar 59
  • Ramallah 3: 3 Mar 59

Reminder of polical/military background :

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip became distinct geographical units as a result of the 1949 armistice that divided the new Jewish state of Israel from other parts of Mandate Palestine.

3fig 3

From 1948 to 1967, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was ruled by Jordan (Fig.3). During this period, the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian military administration.

In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Israel took control of the western part of Jerusalem, while Jordan took the eastern part, including the old walled city containing important Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious sites (Fig. 4 and 5)

4fig 4

5fig 5

Covers from Bethlehem with Advertisment to visit the Holy Land part of Jordan Kingdom.

Beirut 25 Fev.1959 – Jerusalem 26 Feb.1959

It is obvious that the cover from Beirut (Fig.1) could not have reached Jerusalem by land, or at least not in one day. It had to be flown over. Jerusalem had it’s own airport. After the creation of the state of Israel and the loss of Lydda airport as the main international gateway of Palestine coupled with the division of the country, Transjordan found itself without any major civil international airport (and without any civil aviation facilities as a matter of fact).

6fig 6

To this effect, a former RAF base at Kolundia was chosen to house the new Jerusalem airport. Hence, the Kingdom by the end of decade had 2 international airports Amman and Jerusalem. The latter, however, took precedence over Amman at attracting major international airlines (MEA, Misr Air, Air Liban, Kuwait Airways) as most of the religious sites were located In the West Bank rather than in Amman (Fig.6).

7fig 7

Fig.7: An advertising in an Arabic magazine for MEA, informing about a 3 daily flight from Beirut to Jerusalem. These flights went on till 1967 when Jerusalem fell in Zionist hands.

8fig 8

8afig 8a

Another possible competitor to have carried the mail from Beirut to Jerusalem is the Arab Airways (Fig.8 and 8a) or to be more specific its successor Air Jordan of the Holy Land (Arab Airways and Air Jordan merged on 1 December 1958).

10fig 10

9fig 9

Fig 10 Arab Airways timetable effective from 23 August 1953. Fig 9 Arab Airways Air-routes plan.                                               Chronologically after arrival in Jerusalem, the cover is directed to Amman. Why? For administrative or other reasons? I don’t have the answer. Yet. Nevertheless the cover continues all the way to Bethlehem, before probably noticing the error and correcting its path. Strange how nobody intervened earlier! Bethlehem is probably where the correct destination was marked. The cover returns to Jerusalem and continues to Ramallah (probably because Jerusalem International Airport was closer to Ramallah around 15 Km than the center of Jerusalem) before its final destination? We’ll never know.

What a digression I made from a common courier who has gone astray. On the other hand it is still difficult for  me to believe that 60 years ago, Jerusalem was only an hour by plane from Beirut and that daily flights were scheduled. So close but so far…




Minimum rates in the Levant’s Countries under French Mandate. Part 1.

As promised here comes the article of the minimum domestic rates, fixed by the Postal Administration of Levant’s Countries that were under French Mandate, extended also after their Independence.

Ever since I approached the postal history of Lebanon, I was intrigued about the issuance of really small face value stamps, such as E.E.F. stamp of 1 mills Egyptian Pound or those of 10 cents of Syrian Piastra. I thought that these were issued as complementary values to complete certain tariffs. By the time I noted with joy that instead they were used alone to paid certain postal items, subject to preferential rates. They were Newspapers and Periodicals-Writings (circulars, bulletins etc. sent on a regular basis).

I have not recorded documents franked by 1 mills E.E.F. stamp value in Egyptian currency, as well as I have not recorded the stamps overprinted T.E.O., both on French stamps than on those of the Levant, followed by the first O.M.F. value issue also they in Egyptian currency. I recorded, and I keep them tight in my hands, different 10 cents value stamps. One of the most interesting that I have is applied on an envelope addressed to the supermarket Orosdi Back in Beirut. This is the French 5 cents yellow-orange “seeder”, overprinted on four lines “O.M.F. Syrie 10 Centiemes” killed by “BEYROUTH #15” cancel on 24 July 1923 (fig 1).


(fig 1)

The envelope probably contained a prices bulletin, periodically sent from some manufacturer to the well-known large shop.


(fig 2)

The second, sent from Beirut on 1 July 1924 to Becharre via Tripoli, was franked with French stamp of 2 cents brown-lilac overprinted “GRAND LIBAN 10 CENTIEMES” (fig 2). It contained advertising messages sent periodically (tempore transit, not vitia).


(fig 3)

The third, was franked with the 10 cent stamp of the first issue printing “Grand Liban”. It was sent locally from Beirut to the well-known travel company Cook & Sons on 9 June 1925 (fig 3).

So far, the pieces shown are envelopes containing bulletins or advertising sent periodically, now we will see the other type of object to which this post preferential rate of 10 cents of Piastre could be applied. These were the periodicals newspapers with weight below 60 grams, shipped with wrapper.


(fig 4)

The first example in my collection, was a wrapper for the newspaper of Catholic Circle printed in Beirut and sent to the prominent lawyer Gabriel Rahme, President of the Catholic Circle in Tripoli. It was sent on 2 January 1926 (fig 4).


(fig 5)

Another interesting use is that one with 10 cents stamp overprinted bilingual “Republique Libanaise” in one-step. The newspaper’s wrapper was sent from Beirut on 17 April 1930 to Paris (fig 5). It should be remember that since 1927 rates for postal items sent from Syria and Lebanon to France and its colonies or possessions, were equivalent to those sent domestically.

As mentioned in the article about 5 cent overprinted “Alaouites”, I suppose that in 1928 the rate for these items was halved, what would explain the overprint of a 5 cent value made in the territories under mandate. Unfortunately I do not have and I never saw wrappers or covers with this rate. Among other things, this rate was again brought back to 10 cents probably in 1930. This is clearly shown by the figure 5 and the two examples below (fig 6 and 7) that were sent respectively on 15 January and 2 June 1933.


(fig 6)


(fig 7)

Although from 1 September 1938 all rates were raised, probably to issues related to social service carried out by the press, it was considered not necessary to increase also our small rates, and this is demonstrated by the wrapper sent locally from Tripoli on 27 November 1940 (in war time), franked with the “Cedar” stamp issued in 1937 (fig 8).


(fig 8)

will continue…..

1950/1972 A brief history of the GULF AVIATION Company and its involvement in the air mail transportation.

This article issued in 2012 was the basis of my research on airmail in the Gulf countries. Following the collection that it was the direct expression won two Vermeil in Sharjah exhibitions in 2013 and 2015.

This brief work on post-war Gulf air mail is supposed to be a stimulating starting point for a more detailed study on this fascinating topic.

A great technical progress in the aircraft took place during the Second World War, both numerically as aircraft and also as pilots. Which meant that a large number of former military pilots was auto-converted to civilian pilots, sometimes with entrepreneurial ambitions. There was a large amount of low cost aircraft; for these dynamic pilots-entrepreneurs the problem was to enter with few financial resources in the lucrative air routes. The profitable air routes unfortunately remained in the hands of the big airlines who possessed at the time of the war outbreak. As in the case of BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation). Freddie Bosworth, a former British military pilot, immediately after the war he decided to use the available aircraft for to implant an aero-taxi transport service between Bahrain and Dhahran. It was a new unofficial line, connected Dhahran airport used by TWA with Bahrain international airport used by BOAC. The new airline was used almost exclusively by engineers and workers of the oil companies, because in this time begin the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon fields in Saudi Arabia but also in the north Qatar. The activity of Freddie Bosworth began by use of a twin-engine Avro Anson demilitarized (fig. 1) with the logistical support of the BOAC. Probably, it is not the only line of the air-taxis existing.

1fig.1 – Postcard of the GF G-VROE, an Avro Anson XIX, on 1954. Can be seen the logo of the Royal Mail on the tail of the aircraft. 

On 24 March 1950, with the financial support of the Bahrain’s trader Mr. Hussain Yateem, Freddie Bosworth founded the “Gulf Aviation” airline. The fleet consisting of six Avro Anson, was enriched by three De Havilland DH.86 Bs (Figure 2).

2fig.2 – The De Havilland DH.86 Bs.

Unfortunately, on 9 June 1951, the visionary and courageous Freddie Bosworth he lost his life in an aerial show in Croydon, south of London. In October 1951 a change occurs in ownership level, BOAC became the company’s largest shareholder with 22% and simultaneously making complete technical support. This was guaranteed until the end of 1973, in fact, from 1 January 1974, the kingdoms of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and UAE bought the shares held by BOAC.

From the postal history point of view is worth remembering that the west coast of the Persian Gulf had already been served, from the first half of the thirties, by the Imperial Airways line London-Sydney with stops in Kuwait (discontinuous), Bahrain and Sharjah (fig. 3). The latter, a short distance from Dubai, Ajman, Umm Al Qiwain and Ras Al Khaima, served also these localities. Relatively common the covers sent from Dubai, while those originated from the others sheikdoms are progressively much more elusive to see.

3fig.3 – The friction occurred in 1932 between Iran and Britain caused many consequences, one of which was the change of the air route on the London-Delhi Imperial Airways line. The Iranians airports of Bushire, Linghe and Jask were replaced with those of Bahrain and Sharjah. By now begins the history of aviation in the Gulf countries.

Let us return to the aero-taxi period, which was the private service that Freddie Bosworth made between the airports of El Muharrak in Bahrain and Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, for the transport of people and materials for hydrocarbon fields research. At the time the two locations were important air-stop, respectively for BOAC and TWA, the latter based a short distance of the oil wells of ARAMCO (formerly CASOC). The mail carried by this private airplane service between Dhahran and El Muharrak in the period 1945-1950 are rare because not always show the Bahrain transit cancel applied by the Island’s postal service. Only a few routing mark signs are seen, even in the early fifties (fig. 4 and 5).



fig.4 – This cover is the first that I know certainly carried by the Aero-taxi service run by Freddie Bosworth. In fact, it departs from Khobar near Dhahran on 9 April 1947 and transit in Bahrain on the same day (back applied Donaldson #5C cancel). This was only possible with air transport. The activity of Freddie Bosworth Aero-taxi starts on the route Dhahran-Bahrain and Bahrain-Doha, and only at the beginning of 1950 is made official with founding Gulf Aviation Company.

5fig.5 – As already said, the Saudi locality of Daharan since the beginning of Gulf Aviation activities, was one of his terminal. The frequency of flights from the hub airport of Bahrain was preferable for the European destinations. Served by B.O.A.C. the airport of Bahrain was very active. The cover above was sent from Daharan on 1/12/1950 (date handwritten in the postmarks) and addressed to Switzerland. The prefered B.O.A.C. routing was indicated by the rare linear black seal “VIA BAHRAIN” applied on the envelope, implying so Gulf Aviation in the transport from Daharan to Bahrain (I recorded only three covers with this seal).

The period that interests most, namely fifties, sixties until the early seventies, result to be when the Gulf Aviation company was registered in all respects. Supported by BOAC was allowed to transportation of air mail, upon agreement with the various postal administrations, first with the Royal Mail and then with the postal administrations that replaced it. Gulf Aviation, until the first half of the sixties, was the only airline able to connect the various parts of west coastal of Persian Gulf between them. As said, the company began operating in March 1950 on the routes Bahrain-Dhahran, followed by the Bahrain-Doha on 16 May and then increase after a few weeks by Sharjah air-stop. Only in 1954 was formalized the connection with Abu Dhabi, which before was discontinuous on the air route to Sharjah (Fig. 6, 7 and 8).



figures 6 and 7 – Gulf Aviation timetable, issued in March 1955. Inside, in addition to the departure times of flights, stands out the advertising of the camera “Bolex” of which the Yateem brothers were dealers. Mr Hussain Yateem was the co-founder along with Freddie Bosworth of Gulf Aviation in 1950.

8fig. 8 – Map of Gulf Aviation air-routes in 1954.

The paper’s witnesses of this period are not common, there are few covers come down to us (Fig. 9). Already by 1957 the company extended its line up to Muscat in Oman (Fig. 10).

9fig. 9 – Before the opening of the air service of Gulf Aviation in 1950, the few known covers departing from Qatar, were carried by hand until Bahrain. This habit continues for some time even after the opening of the post office in Doha, as in the case of the envelope above sent from the Qatari capital to Dubai on 22/6/1955. There were very few individuals who took care of by a cheap fee. One of these was Mr. “Mohamed Bin Khalife Artisanat n. 5 Al Nidal”. (It is not known as what is “Artisanat n. 5 Al Nidal”). I would add that the covers direct or departing from Dubai until October 1960 were systematically transported via Sharjah.

10fig. 10 – Map of Gulf Aviation air-routes in 1957.

The increase of trade relations between the states of the Persian Gulf, push the company to reach the Kuwait in 1958 with an agreement that also included the Kuwait Airways (Fig. 11 and 12).

11fig. 11 – Gulf Aviation air-routes in 1958 reached Kuwait.

12fig. 12 – In 1958, Gulf Aviation fixed another milestone by creating the new twice per week air connection Bahrain-Kuwait. Almost certainly, this was done by an agreement which also allowed the Kuwait Airways (KU) to make a similar connection.

By now the localities served are almost all Sheikdoms and the mail travels regularly and smoothly (Fig. 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17).



figures 13 and 14 – Even in the Gulf’s countries, now a correspondence between the different states become customary and at the same time decrease the shipping timing: this cover sent from Dubai via Sharjah, arrived the same day in Manama, Bahrain, attested by cancel recorded by Donaldson #29. The right cover posted in Muscat on Sunday 25/1/1959, according to the timetables of the time although without date of arrival, touched his Qatari destination on the same day at 15:20 and was delivered the next day, Monday 26/1/1959.

16fig.15 – Already in 1969 the postal administration of Dubai felt the need to commemorate the means of mail transportation that had been used to develop its economy in the last 60 years.



figures 16 and 17 – Posted in Muscat on 6/12/1959, this Registered cover left the next day on Monday 7/12/1959 at 10:15 with the flight GF10 made by a De Havilland Heron aircraft on the route Muscat-Sharjah-Doha-Bahrain. On 11/12/1959 by BOAC arrived in Rome at 07:00 and the same day was delivered to the post office of Foligno (back cancel).

The second is a nice cover carried by the Gulf Aviation flight on the route Muscat-Sharjah-Doha-(Bahrain). Consigned to the post of Muscat on 12/08/1969 was embarked the next day on the GF402 flight, departing at 13:45 and arrived in Doha at 15:45 of the same day to be promptly delivered to the post office.

The Dubai airport was inaugurated on 30 September 1960, it born with the will to be the hub of the south area coast and this leads to establish a direct air link between Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah in 1962 (Fig. 18).

18fig. 18 – Map of Gulf Aviation air-routes in 1962.

The experiment resulting a negative profit and was stopped shortly after (I am almost certain that the initiative was born when even the Ras Al Khaimah’s Sheik became owner of Gulf Aviation shares). In late 1964 another negative profit air-route was created: the direct connection Sharjah-Kor Fakhan (Fig. 19) which was shut down on September 1965.

19fig. 19 – Map of Gulf Aviation air-routes in 1965.

Is important to consider and remember that the air hub of the company is based in Bahrain, and consequential the postal concentration base for mail remains on that island until the end of sixties (Fig. 20).

20fig.20 – Since 1971 began the flights of Gulf Aviation from Dubai to Karachi. The envelope above was addressed to Dukhan, Qatar and was carried by this flight, the mail-bag was opened in Dubai which was also the postal sorting hub of Trucial States.

Only since 1965 began to take shape the centrality of Dubai, which will become slowly airport of regional significance, while that of Sharjah loses importance (Fig. 21, 22 and 23). For example the MEA (Lebanese airline company), since 1966 beginning a flight Beirut-Dubai. On 1967 finally is made the Dubai-Al Ain air-route that was performed by a Gulf Aviation flight to complete the connections between the localities truly active (Figures 24, 25 and 26).



fig.21 – Many times the “Philatelic” shipments are much more interesting than commercial, as in the case of this registered air cover, sent from Beirut and addressed to Fujeira. The letter arrived in Dubai was taken over by the postal agent of Fujeira that carried him by car to the destination.

22fig.22 – Registered air mail cover sent on 24/9/1972 and transported by car from Ras Al Khaima to the postal hub of Dubai. This time appears the transit cancel affixed on 26 September 1972. Were used also Shaikh Saqr stamps to pay this commercial shipment, direct to the headquarters of “The British Bank of the Middle East” in London.



fig.23 – This is an uncommon air cover sent from Beirut on 28/11/1972 to Sharjah where arrived on 4/12/1972.

19fig. 24 – Map of Gulf Aviation air-routes in 1965.

24fig. 25 – Map of Gulf Aviation air-routes in 1967.

25fig.26 – By the end of 1967, when the post office was opened, Al Ain (territory of Abu Dhabi) was connected with Dubai by a DC3 aircraft. The fact that the connection was done to Dubai and not to Abu Dhabi, is explained that Dubai had become the hub of postal reference for the Trucial States.

I add that the dates of departure, transfer and arrival of the covers are taken from the timetable outlined of Gulf Aviation company and the others air company involved for the years between 1950 and 1973. I conclude by stating that without the web page of  timetableimages this article could not have been written.

Reflections of Postal History – The Jdita cover

With this short article begins a series of reflections “of” and “on” Postal History.

The “so-called lucky”, who own my last book that cataloged the postmarks used or appeared in the 1918-1945 period in the Lebanese territory (fig. 1), they know certainly that I have included in the chapter of “resumption of postal service” at pages 13 and 15, two maps with the location of post offices operating in the period 1919 and 1920 (fig. 2 and 3).




Figures 1, 2 and 3 respectively: the book catalog, the map of the first 1919 and the map of the half 1920.

Their inserting was used as analytical support to assess the quality and quantity of the postal service in the two areas: one administered by the French and the other by the Syrian Government. Their belonging to one or another administration, was made by identifying the stamps used in the locations, admitting logically that stamps were the direct emanation of the respective authorities emitting. I split the territory in half lengthwise, considering and using the morphological limits as a border line. Bounded by the mountains of Lebanon, from Hermel in the north to up Hasbani River in the south, the right area was under Syrian Government administration with the exception of Zahle and apparently of Merdjayoun but with the attribution error of Jdita village in the “French” yellow area (fig. 4).


Fig. 4: the attribution error of Jdita village in the “French” yellow area.

The fact is that: a) I had only seen a Jdita envelope with ottoman negative cancel on 1 Piastre E.E.F. stamp (figures 5 and 6), b) looking at the maps you can see that the village is located to the left of the Litani River, c) according to a logic of simplifying, the physical positioning tends to be interpreted as a reason of belonging. There’s nothing more wrong in the Middle East, and especially at that time in the analyzed area.



Figures 5 and 6: cover from Jdita to Egypt sent on 1919 and the ottoman negative cancel of Jdita.

What has happened it is easy to imagine: wonderfully appears on the market an envelope with the Jdita negative cancel on 1 Piastre of the Kingdom of Syria stamp. The envelope was addressed to a New York company of clear Lebanese origin, and precisely the Sahadi brothers originating of the Jdita village (fig. 7). By gradation of the stamp’s color, one can determine on the period August/October 1920 the date of envelope shipping.


Fig. 7: the Jdita cover.

I do not know whether it is historically important to establish that Jdita was part of the territory administered by the Syrian government or the French one, but I think is important that the discovery of a simple paper’s witness can become a real “historical witness” through which we can assert that the village of Jdita, current in the Lebanese territory, by end of 1918 to first half of 1920, was part of the great area administered by the Syrian Government.

« Smoking or health, the choice is yours »


I quit smoking by 30 June 2015, so promptly and with great conviction I posted Fadi’s article.

B. L.


Next May 31, 2016 will be a no tobacco day, a campaign led by the

World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO always had close links with philately. WHO has always used postage stamps as a means of information, of raising awareness, of prevention and of commemoration. We take this opportunity to review anti-tobacco items in Lebanese philately.

Smoking is a major health problem in Lebanon. A recent epidemiological study showed that 57 % of respondents were smokers: 19% smoke cigarettes, narguileh 17% and 20% are mixed smokers. As regards the average age of smoking hookah, is around 35 years, knowing that most of them smoked their first narguileh at the age of 16.


Fig.1 Only Lebanese stamp where a narguileh is illustrated

Until recently, smoking nargileh was a pastime typically enjoyed by old people across the Arab world. Over the past 10 years, however, it has become a global phenomenon among young people with so-called hookah lounges popping up from San Francisco to Tokyo offering a variety of sweet and fruity flavors. Studies seems to confirm that women are more addicted to hookah than men. Surprisingly, when we study propaganda /advertising slogan from Lebanon on covers, we found that in 1972 the Lebanese post office issued a slogan in French and Arabic to aware citizens from the dangers of smoking. This slogan was a receival cancel in Beirut. One can conclude that this message was meant to the Lebanese.




Fig.2: Internal hotel cover from Broumana to Ajeltoun with Beirut anti-tobacco propaganda transit cancel on July 1972.



Fig.3: Incoming mail from Oman to Beirut, with anti-tobacco propaganda arrival cancel on October 1972

This slogan existed at least 4 months in 1972. A very limited duration. It was probably a national campaign because to the best of my knowledge there was no international campaign going on. Besides, other local Medias (press, TV) didn’t participate to this awareness program. No wonder then that positive results on prevalence of smoking behavior didn’t follow.  But it had the virtue to exist! Lebanon was a precursor, not only in the Middle East but in the world. Very few countries initiated such a program at that time. Koweït has a similor initiative but in 1976. However, it should also be pointed out the Ras Al Khaima’s seal affixed by hand used in 1972, show in fig 5.


Fig.4: Outgoing cover from Kuwait to west-Germany with Arabic/English anti-tobacco propaganda.


Fig.5: Cover sent from Ras al Khaima to Cyprus with Arabic/English anti-tobacco propaganda seal.

The largest single issue of antismoking stamps appeared only in April 1980 when the World Health Day theme was “Smoking or health, the choice is yours”. Cardiovascular and respiratory disease (particularly lung cancer) were some of the most prominent topics in these issues all over the world.Lebanon was absent from this campaign probably due to the civil war that was going on.  By publishing Law N°174 on March 7, 2006, Lebanon became a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco. On 2 August  2010 Libanpost issued two stamps promoting anti drug/cigarette addiction campaign (Fig. 6).



The stamps illustrate the principle and value of a visual message rather than text in a specific language in order to reach a great wilder public.

But will the message be understood???