Locating Waraqas

 Because waraqas were a common artifact of economic life in Oman and East Africa, it is unsurprising that we find them in a number of different places, and in different forms. Below is a rough (and not exhaustive) guide to locating waraqas in both Zanzibar and Oman.


 The Sayyid Mohammed bin Ahmed Al-Busa‘idi Library: Located in a small compound in Seeb, the Al-Busa‘idi Library houses a magnificent collection of manuscripts, letters, accounts, and other historical documents. The library was established in the early 1970s, and owes its existence to its namesake Sayyid Mohammed bin Ahmed Al-Busa‘idi, Sultan Qaboos’s adviser on historical and religious affairs and former head of several ministries. The library’s collection was his own, and is now open to researchers from all over the world. Although waraqas only form a small component of the Al-Busa‘idi Library collection, there are enough of them there to give researchers a good sense of the types of financial transactions Omanis entered into during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

 The Ratansi Purshottam Collection: This collection is comprised of roughly 500 waraqas, in addition to other commercial documents pertaining to the business of Ratansi Purshottam, one of Muscat’s principal merchants and moneylenders during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The collection is housed in the living quarters of the Purecha family, descendants of Ratansi Purshottam, whose office remains on the waterfront in Mattrah. Unlike the Al-Busa‘idi Library, this is a private collection; access is granted only with the express permission of the Purecha family. The Purecha collection of waraqas overwhelmingly involves transactions that took place in Mattrah, between Ratansi Purshottam, his descendants, and a variety of borrowers from the coast and interior of Oman.

 The National Archives and Records Authority (NARA): Though recently established, NARA has done a good job of collecting, digitizing, and preserving a variety of records pertaining to the history of the Sultanate of Oman. The bulk of the records are from the early-twentieth century, though there are some materials from the nineteenth century. The majority of the transactions involve Omanis, but there is a substantial amount of material from the East Coast of Africa.


 In Zanzibar, the overwhelming majority of the relevant historical records are housed at the Zanzibar National Archives (ZNA). Waraqas might be found in the following series:

 AM Series: The AM Series constitutes the principal repository for registered waraqas in the Zanzibar National Archives. As part of the moneylending process, the parties to the transaction often (though not always) registered their waraqas at the British Consulate (and later, the courts), where they would be copied into a register. The AM Series includes registers from the 1860s onwards, and thus contains tens of thousands of waraqas. These overwhelmingly involve transactions that took place in Zanzibar itself, but which frequently involved properties located elsewhere (see Places).

All of the records found in the Ocean of Paper database are from the AM and Megji Anandjii collection of the Zanzibar National Archives. All of the records from the Megji Anandjii collection specifically involve Anandjii as the creditor. If a record does not include his name it is from the AM series.

 HC Series: The HC Series comprises several thousand cases that went before the Zanzibar High Court. Because many of these would have involved debts and property, one often finds waraqa specimens within individual case files.