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Wednesday 01 August ,2018

A most recent National Archives' publication is the book entitled " A Trip in the Indian Ocean", an interesting sea journey made around the Arabian Peninsula

A most recent National Archives' publication is the book entitled " A Trip in the Indian Ocean", an interesting sea journey made around the Arabian Peninsula  


The Book A Trip in the Indian Ocean, issued by the UAE’s National Archives, documents the journey of a Portuguese state official from Europe to India via the Cape of Good Hope at the turn of the sixteenth century. During this trip, he toured the east coast of the African continent as well as the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula, from Suez and the west coast through the Strait of Bab el Mandab to southern Yemen, Hadramout, Dhofar and Oman. He then crossed the Arabian Gulf and mentioned the lands of the current United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the Island of Hormuz before continuing on his way towards India. 

The book thus provides a documented historical record depicting some of the UAE sites as they were during the Portuguese fleet invasion of the region led by Afonso de Albuquerque in 1507, leaving a clear eyewitness impression about this part of the Arabian Peninsula.

The traveler stated that after he had left the Omani territories, he continued on his way until he reached a wide region, called Khor Fakkan with a large number of inhabitants. This region and the adjacent areas were surrounded by a large number of elegant houses of Hormuz Muslim dignitaries who were coming to Khor Fakkan during specific months of the year for rest and recreation and to bring essential needs and foodstuffs and enjoy the fruits. Located fifteen leagues from there, is another coastal region called Dhadna, and at the same distance towards the southwest is another region called Dibba.

The traveler continues his description stating that: after moving along the coast towards the southwest and turning 85 leagues to the west there is another very big city, called Julfar where a large group of very respectful and distinguished noble people lived along with many merchants and seamen. There they dive for pearls and small pearls (shathar) and merchants of Hormuz came to this place to purchase pearls to sell them later in India and other regions. Furthermore, many commercial activities were made there yielding great financial returns to the king of Hormuz. The journey continues ahead along the Arabian Gulf shore where three other regions belonging to the king of Hormuz are located. These regions are: Ras Al Khaimah, which is a distinctive city 24 leagues far, after which comes Um Al Quwain then six leagues further comes Kalba Fort, which is maintained by the king to protect his country against those waging war against cities governed by the king of Hormuz. The book presents interesting and significant uncommon incidents that took place at the backstage of the Kingdom of Hormuz's court, and shows how the Portuguese commander stood firm in support of king of Hormuz until he regained his full control of the country away from the governors and their likes’ hold. In appreciation of this favor and support, the king of Hormuz who resided in the Portuguese fort, never took any action without consulting the fort commander so he and his kingdom and subjects remained in tutelage of the King of Portugal. It is worth noting that the manuscript of this book dates back to the beginning of 1500 and includes many significant historical details such as information relating to the conquest and seizure of Hormuz, the establishment of the Portuguese fort in Kalikot, the Portuguese mugging of Indian vessels and trade with Suez and Shah Ismail's revolution as well as others events which took place in 1514 approximately.

In the Portuguese edition, the author states that he has spent much of his time during his youth touring the islands of India. He points out his efforts to describe the cities and kingdoms, which he reached or obtained reliable information on. These were countries of Muslims or pagans about whose customs and traditions he wrote without neglecting their activities, movements, goods and their production places and areas to which these goods are transferred.

In introducing the author Duarte Barbosa, the book points out that he served sixteen years from 1500 to 1516 as a state official in India, then, he returned to Portugal and finalized the manuscript of his well-known book entitled the Book of Duarte Barbosa or A Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar. In this book, Barbosa gives a description of the foreign countries’ topography, civil and commercial status and the customs of their peoples.

Hormuz as a model

The book reviews the island and city of Hormuz. After leaving the sea behind, he sailed through the Arabian Gulf Strait to reach a small island where the small and very astonishing and beautiful city of Hormuz lies. There were elegant white-painted houses made of stones and clay and had many balconies. Hormuz was a well-planned and organized city with streets and squares, and from one of its mountain large salt chunks are extracted. The salt is bright white and good; it is called Indian salt. Vessels come from all over the world to carry this salt because it costs a lot of money in other regions and except for the salt, there is nothing else on the island that can be utilized or benefited from. 

The book mentions that the inhabitants of Hormuz island were Arabs and Persians. It also lists the goods that were exported to Hormuz and upon which commercial activity depended including water. It even states that merchants were importing big and small pearls from Julfar and horses from the Arabian Peninsula to Hormuz.

The book reports that Muslims in Hormuz wore very elegant and beautiful costumes that were mostly in bright white color. It also sheds light on the most prominent customs and traditions of the island. Furthermore, it is mentioned that the king’s house was within the fort where he kept his treasures and where he had his royal court and private Majlis. The king’s advisors were responsible for carrying out all duties since he did not interfere in any affairs and even if he was willing to get involved and take decisions, it was beyond his real domain and control. Matters continued on this pattern till they were changed by the Portuguese who gave the king back his immunity and ability to govern his people.

China, the final destination

After his long journey during which he had visited a large number of islands, Barbosa had arrived in China. It is said to be very huge extending along the seashore and having many islands. The king of China maintained his governors and a number of leaders whom he appointed. He also lived there always.

The book describes the appearance and features of the Chinese people then as well as their food, costumes and trade. It stops at Licious islands opposite to China.

At the end of the book, there are old maps, inscriptions and drawings of some cities and countries such as Mombasa inscription in East Africa, etc. Moreover, the beginning of the book contains drawings such as those of Vasco Da Gama, the captain, Viceroy of Portuguese India in 1524, Francisco de Almeida (governor of Portuguese India (1505-1509), the Portuguese commander Tristao da Cunha and Afonso de Albuquerque (governor of Portuguese India), among others.

Book: A Trip in the Indian Ocean

Publisher: National Archives, 2017, 289 pages.

Author: Duarte Barbosa.

Translation: Dr. Ahmed Ibish