The Legacy of Crater Pass: A Gateway Steeped in History

Crater Pass, also known as Aden Gate, Main Gate, Main Pass, Northern Gate, and historically contemplated as ‘Haines Pass’, stands as a significant landmark in Aden, embodying the city’s rich history and strategic importance. This pass, which has evolved from a simple road into Crater to a vital artery connecting Crater and Maalla, has been a witness to pivotal moments and transformations.

The importance of Crater Pass dates back to 1838 when Commander Haines arrived in Aden. At that time, it served as the sole road into Crater. This strategic location was the site of a notable firefight on November 21, 1838, involving a party from the Coote positioned on Jezret Feringee, an adjacent small island. They successfully prevented access to Crater via the Pass, blocking Arabs and laden camels, showcasing the pass's early military significance.

The Firefight of November 21, 1838

A defining moment in the history of Crater Pass came on November 21, 1838, just months after Commander Haines' arrival. This day witnessed a tense and significant military engagement involving a party from the British ship, the Coote, which had anchored near Aden. The Coote's crew, understanding the strategic importance of the pass, positioned themselves on Jezret Feringee, a small island adjacent to the pass.

From this vantage point, they had a clear view of the pass and the surrounding area. The British forces were determined to secure their control over the pass and, by extension, over access to Crater. This strategic location became the site of a fierce firefight against local Arab forces, who were equally keen on maintaining their access and control over the area.

Blocking Access and Establishing Control

The party from the Coote, utilizing their advantageous position and superior firepower, succeeded in preventing access to Crater via the pass. Their actions effectively blocked Arabs and their laden camels, a common sight in this trading city, from entering or leaving Crater. This move was not just about controlling a physical route; it symbolized the assertion of British military and political dominance in Aden.

The success of the British forces in this engagement underscored the early military significance of Crater Pass. It demonstrated how control over this narrow passage could influence the broader dynamics of power and access within Aden. This event was a precursor to the subsequent British annexation and transformation of Aden into a Crown Colony.

A Symbol of Colonial Power and Local Resistance

In the years that followed, Crater Pass continued to play a crucial role in the colonial narrative of Aden. It stood as a symbol of British power, a gate they had secured, but also as a point of contention and a reminder of local resistance against foreign dominance.

The story of Crater Pass, particularly highlighted by the events of November 21, 1838, reflects the complex interplay of military strategy, colonial ambitions, and local resistance. It remains a poignant chapter in Aden's rich and turbulent history.

Coat of arms at Crater Pass, Aden, South Arabia
Coat of arms at Crater Pass, Aden, South Arabia

The Centenary Celebration and Naming

In 1939, during Aden's Centenary Celebrations, there was a proposal by the Chamber of Commerce to rename Crater Pass as ‘Haines Pass’ in honour of Commander Haines. However, due to Haines' controversial career, the authorities did not approve this change. Thus, the pass retained its functional nomenclature, reflecting its role as a gateway rather than bearing the name of an individual.

A Cave of Legends

High in the rocks above the pass, a cave steeped in tradition can be found. This cave, believed by both Arab and Jewish traditions to be the tomb of Abel, adds a layer of historical and cultural significance to the area, blending myths with the landscape.

The Regimental Crest

The Regimental Crest of the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers, located on the Crater side of the Pass, commemorates the battalion's visits to Aden in 1892-1893, and 1927-1929. This crest was originally painted by Pioneer Sgt. Edward Kelly under the direction of Captain John Mellsop before the battalion's departure in January 1929. The mystical sphinx within the crest is said to hold mystical powers, linking this symbol to the battalion's proud history, including connections to the 1879 Zulu War and the memorial at Rorke's Drift, Natal, fashioned by Captain Mellsop's father. Today, this crest stands as the only British crest remaining in Aden, a testament to the enduring legacy of the British military presence in the region.

The 1960s Expansion and Today

Recalling the 1960s, during the expansion of Crater Pass to a two-lane road, the underestimated debris radius during the blasting led to an unexpected shower of rocks on too-close spectators, a stark reminder of the challenges in taming this rugged terrain.

Today, Crater Pass, in all its historical and cultural glory, continues to serve as a vital link between Crater and Maalla. It’s not just a passage but a symbol of Aden’s journey through time – from ancient legends to military significance, colonial interventions, and infrastructural evolution.

Read also Crater South Gate

Cater Pass, Aden, Aouth Arabia
Cater Pass, Aden, Aouth Arabia
Crater Pass, Aden, South Arabia
Crater Pass, Aden, South Arabia
View from Crater Pass over Somalipura and Maalla in Aden, South Arabia
View from Crater Pass over Somalipura and Maalla in Aden, South Arabia

View from the battlements of Crater Pass to Jezret Feringee