word 'dragoman' comes from turjeman in Arabic, turgemana in Aramaic.
This is an Arabic, Turkish or Persian translator who is employed as
an official interpreter by embassies and consulates, or as a tourist
This term was widely used up until World War I but is now heard only
locally by Arabs who use the Arabic form, turjeman. Until fifty years
ago you could find a listing of all local Dragomans, how to contact
them and the precautions to take when dealing with them in all travel
guides to the Middle East, from the famous Baedeker's to the Guide Bleu.
In the "Guide Indicating Sanctuaries and Historical Sites in the Holy
Land" by Fra Lavinio from Hamme, published in 1870, you will find this
"Dragomans are widely informed about the
country: they know all the roads and can speak different languages.
They work as interpreters, guides and intermediators. Before hiring
a dragoman, one should ask information about his honesty and capability
from trusted sources. Not all Dragomans can give the right explanations
about remarkable sites one meets along the way."
A dragoman was in charge of finding transport (mules, horses
and carriages), shelter for the night (tents or inns) and food. He was
supposed to keep away highwaymen and beggars, to obtain special permits
and to bargain at the bazaar. He also served as the "cicerone" (guide)
at different sites of interest, although he was not always qualified
for this role. Dragomans were often westerners who had moved to the
East, learned the local language and customs and then acted as escorts
for European travellers.
most famous dragoman in the Holy Land was an American named Carola Floyd;
he was a member of the American colony that had settled in Jaffa in the
middle of the nineteenth century. He arrived with carriages that he eventually
used to escort tourists around the country.
In 1898, he guided the Prussian Emperor Wilhelm I on his visit to Jerusalem.
He dressed extravagantlly, and with all his sabres and daggers he looked
like an authentic desert Bedouin.