The Historic Lime Kilns of Aden in the 1800s

In the late 19th century, the bustling port city of Aden was not only a pivotal trading hub but also home to a flourishing lime-burning industry. Lime production, or 'Chunam' as it was known locally, became a significant economic activity, engaging several Arab entrepreneurs who operated about 15 kilns in the region. By 1877, this industry had become so integral to the local economy that each kiln owner contributed a quarterly fee of 3 rupees to the Municipal Fund, highlighting the industry's importance in Aden's urban development.

The lime produced in these kilns was primarily utilised in the booming construction industry, reflecting the rapid urban expansion of Aden during this period. Additionally, it played a crucial role in dhow building, an essential aspect of the maritime culture that was integral to the city's trade and commerce.

The Process of Lime Burning

The process of creating lime in Aden was both ingenious and resourceful, utilizing locally available materials. The primary raw material was coral, sourced from the northern side of the harbour. This coral, known for its rich calcium carbonate content, was ideal for producing high-quality lime.

The collected lumps of coral were carefully placed into red-hot kilns. These kilns, designed to withstand extreme temperatures, were then introduced to saltwater. This ingenious method caused the coral to react and crumble into a fine powdery form, creating the desired lime.

Fuel Sources and Production Challenges

The kilns were fueled by two primary sources. One was wood, which was transported in vast quantities by camels from the states within the Protectorate. This reliance on wood highlighted the interdependent relationship between Aden and its neighbouring regions. The second fuel source was cinders, a byproduct obtained from the furnaces of local distilled water condensers. The use of cinders not only provided an efficient fuel source but also exemplified the resourceful recycling practices of the time.

Sale and Measurement of Lime

In the bustling markets of Aden, lime was a valuable commodity, sold by cubic volume. The standard measure of sale was known as a 'farah', which was approximately 1¾ x 1¾ x 1 feet in dimension. This traditional unit of measurement reflects the cultural and economic practices of the period, where trade and commerce were conducted based on locally established norms and standards.


The lime kilns of Aden, operational in the 1800s, represent a fascinating aspect of the city's industrial heritage. This industry not only contributed significantly to the local economy but also played a vital role in the construction and maritime sectors of the time. Today, the history of these lime kilns offers a glimpse into the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Aden's people, their trade practices, and their ability to harness natural resources in an era of burgeoning urban development.

Lime Crushing

Wood-Carrying Camels