Finally we leave Salalah! Long haul ahead of us so time to grab a book and get reading.
My brother, Tim, bought me ‘Unknown Seas, How Vasco Da Gama Opened The East’, by Ronald Watkins. I couldn’t think of a more suitable book to be reading on this journey, since we were taking part in the Vasco Da Gama Rally. Right now we are in the middle of the Arabian Sea, very much aware of the recent pirate activity.
It seems, however, that we were not alone in keeping a keen eye open for the odd marauder in these waters. According to the book, which opens with the early spice trade scenario, Watkins notes thus:
“Great profits could be made on the high seas since there was little distinction between commerce and piracy. In 1290, nine hundred Genoese seamen were brought to the Tigris by the Il-Khan Arghun to construct and man galleys for the purpose of raiding the spice sea routes…In 1324 Jordon of Severac wrote to the Pope from India that just two galleys could severely interrupt trade in the Arabian Sea. A Dominican named William Adam proposed that three or four galleys manned by 1,200 Genoese should be stationed in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to profit from blockading Egyptian commerce. Adam spent twenty months in the Arabian Sea region, nine of them on the Christian island of Socotra.”
Eight hundred years ago, then, seamen were having to contend with pirates. Even the island of Socotra, a current no-go area for sailors just off the coast of Somalia, featured back then in the war against piracy!
It’s all just a little bit of history repeating itself.
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