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The Maltese Vincenzo Belluti served British adventure travelers as a tour guide in Egypt and Palestine around 1850
Dragoman Joseph Shaar at the Temple of Baalbek (1891)

A dragoman ( Arabic ترجمان tarǧumān , turdschuman ) is a translator , interpreter or linguistic guide in the Middle East , especially for the languages ​​Arabic, Turkish and Persian .


The word goes back to the Semitic root trgm , which already appears in Akkadian (as targumannu ) and in Aramaic (as targemana ). All of these words mean translator , the Hebrew Targum means translation . As early as the 6th century BC, a special professional group was established in Egypt , which consisted in particular of Greeks living in the country who had to take care of Greek travelers in the country.

During the Middle Ages, these interpreters mainly looked after Christian pilgrims . These brought the word to Europe, where it appears in Middle English (as dragman ), in Old French (as drugeman ), in Middle Latin (as dragumannus ) and in Middle Greek (as dragoumanos ).

Under the Mamluken government between 1270 and 1510, the dragomane had to be accredited by the respective sultan and were responsible for the accommodation and behavior of Christian foreigners.

In 15th century French travelogues he appears as a “truceman”, in German as a “trutzelmann” or “drugman”. Towards the end of the 15th century he took over the care and accommodation of all Christian "tourists" in Egypt from his residence in Cairo .

After Europe this word came originally from Egypt. In Egyptian Arabic , the Arabic letter Ǧ (Dschim, Ǧīm; Anglicized j ) and g spoken and not, as in the other Arab countries as dsh .

In the 16th century the term was extended to the entire Ottoman Empire . Furthermore, it was mainly Greeks who took over this work and interpreted between the European languages ​​on the one hand and the Arabic, Turkish and Persian languages ​​on the other.

After the diplomatic recognition of the Ottoman Empire, they ceded the diplomatic and consular work they had previously done to the ambassadors residing in Istanbul and the consuls residing in Alexandria and Cairo .

In the 19th century this term was used to designate an interpreter specifically for communication between the state authorities and the embassies and consulates in the Orient .


  • Frank Castiglione: "Levantine" Dragomans in Nineteenth Century Istanbul: The Pisanis, the British, and Issues of Subjecthood. In: Osmanlı Araştırmaları - The Journal of Ottoman Studies , Volume 44 (2014), pp. 169–195 ( online ).
  • Istanbul et les langues orientales , édité par Frédéric Hitzel, Editions l'Harmattan, 1997. ISBN 2-7384-5335-X
  • Marie de Testa & Antoine Gautier: Drogmans et diplomates européens auprès de la Porte ottomane , éditions ISIS, Istanbul 2003. ISBN 975-428-258-7
  • Ella-Natalie Rothman: Between Venice and Istanbul: Trans-imperial subjects and cultural mediation in the early modern Mediterranean , Diss., University of Michigan, 2006 (v. A. Pp. 210–275, recruitment, training, employment in Venetian services)