ARAB was built in 1879 by J & G Thompson & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 3170grt, a length of 350ft, a beam of 40ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots.
She was delivered for the mail run in 1879. After a spell of only three years in the mail service Arab was requisitioned in 1882 to convey troops to Egypt in connection with the campaign against Arabi Pasha. In 1885, after Gordon’s death, she was sent out with the expedition to Suakin and became the Head-Quarters ship for the Naval Transport Staff. The Sudanese War over, Arab conveyed Australian troops of the volunteer expeditionary force back to Sydney. Her owners were probably glad to have her profitably employed, for the Cape trade was in depression and a number of ships were laid up.
As was the case with most of the mail steamers during the later ‘eighties Arab was fitted with triple expansion engines (1889) while her appearance was altered by the lengthening of her funnel and the removal of her yards.
In December 1891 she inaugurated the Union Company’s service from the Cape to Mauritius, having, by this time, been relegated to the intermediate fleet.
She continued to run as an intermediate steamer until the end of the century and in early 1900 she was sold to German shipbreakers.
A series of etchings from The Graphic dated November 26 1881