Business Field & History

Timber Trading



Mr. Nouri Obayda
was studying law at the University of Beirut when his uncle (Yousif Obayda), who was a timber merchant in Basra, passed away and duty called on him to abandon a degree and go to Basra to continue the family timber trade.


He managed the Baghdad and Basra offices. Basra, being the only seaport of Iraq was the main trading town and first entry point for all imported materials. However Baghdad, being a larger town and the capital grew to become a much larger trading city.


The Obayda Timber Trading started in the 18th century, originally in Mosul, where timber was imported from Rumania. The only means of transport in those days was on the back of donkey !  Later on, timber was transported to the port of Basra, buy small vessels. One of the sons of the family would go to Rumania, buy the timber, charter a vessel and sail, while still on board until the vessel reached its destination.


During the 2nd world war, shipping was interrupted and the operation in Basra had to add another trade; date growing and packing. This was abandoned soon after the end of the war.


After the war timber imports resumed but now Rumania became less accessible, so they started to import good quality furniture timber from Sweden and construction timber from Austria.



  With progress, they became the main timber importers of specialised products such as:
  • Greenheart Ocotea Rodiaei – (Family: Lauraceae), imported from Guyana) used as piles for marine construction and water structures at the Basra Port.
  • Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata), imported from Australia, used as decking and fenders at the Basra Port. Jarrah was also used as railway sleepers for the Iraqi Railways.



The finished port of Basra with a ship already docked.
Left to right of the picture:
Nouri Obayda, Jamil Beshoori, other Port Authority officials.


Jarrah Timber being laid as decking for the Port of Basra. The piles are from Greenheart.


Work in progress at the Port of Basra.


Work in progress at the Port of Basra.



  • Date Box Timber: Iraq’s 2nd largest exports were dates. Basra used to be the largest exporter in the world and Obayda supplies the date industry with the special timbers, imported from Portugal, for boxing it.
  • Teak, Mahogany and other hardwoods were imported from the Far East through British companies like Millar’s Timber Trading (Mr. Robert Howe) and Canusa (Mr. Bob Whichelow) .
  • Plywood, Hardboard, Soft Board and other boards were imported through such Scandinavian companies as Elof Hansson, Jan Liebig and others.


The Timber Trading business also suffered from the 1964 nationalisation move. Initially the government started to import the white wood (soft wood) exclusively, serving a big blow to all timber merchants since this item was the bulk of the business. They allowed the private sector to import (on restricted quota, by way of import licences) other timber products such as hardwoods, plywood, chipboard, soft board etc.  Later on they withdrew all imports from the private sector and they became the only importers.



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