Farhi Family

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Dynasty of Jewish financiers in Ottoman-controlled Damascus during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The Farhis were granted the status of sarrafs (bankers) by the authorities in the Ottoman provinces of Damascus and Sidon; they subsequently emerged as the chief financial administrators of these provinces' treasuries.

The most illustrious member of this family was Hayyim Farhi, who in the 1790s entered the service of Ahmad al-Jazzar Pasha, the governor of Sidon. There he became responsible for al-Jazzar's financial affairs until the latter's death in 1804. The following year Farhi was involved in the political succession struggle that led to Sulayman Pasha's ascendance to the governorship of Sidon. Given Farhi's assistance to this development, Suleiman allowed him to manage Sidon's financial administration as al-Jazzar had done previously. It was only during the second decade of the nineteenth century under Abdullah Pasha, Suleiman's successor, that Farhi's position declined, eventually resulting in his execution.

Their financial power in Sidon eliminated, the Farhis nonetheless continued to exercise considerable financial influence in Damascus until the early 1830s. In the wake of the Egyptian occupation of Syria and Palestine (18311840), the family's status declined temporarily in Damascus. Yet once the Ottomans regained authority in the province, the Farhis once again were partially responsible for running its financial affairs.

See also Ahmad al-Jazzar.


Holt, P. M. Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, 15161922: A Political History. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966.

michael m. laskier