When Sultan Suleiman had taken up his winter residence in Aleppo, I, the author of these pages, was appointed to the Admiralship of the Egyptian fleet, and received instructions to fetch back to Egypt the ships (15 galleys) which some time ago had been sent to Basrah on the Persian Gulf. But "man proposes, God disposes": I was unable to carry out my mission, and as I realized the impossibility of returning by water, I resolved to go back to Turkey by the overland route, accompanied by a few tried and faithful Egyptian soldiers. I traveled through Gujarat, Hind, Sind, Balkh, Zabulistan, Badakhshan, Khotlan, Turan, and Iran, i.e., through Transoxania, Khorassan, Kharezm, and Deshti-Kiptchak; and as I could not proceed any farther in that direction, I went by Meshed and the two Iraks, Kazwin and Hamadan, on to Baghdad.
Our travels ended, my companions and fellow-adventurers persuaded me to write down our experiences, and the dangers through which we had passed, an accurate account of which it is almost impossible to give; also to tell of the cities and the many wonderful sights we had seen, and of the holy shrines we had visited. And so this little book sees the light; in it I have tried to relate in simple and plain language, the troubles and difficulties, the suffering and the distress which beset our path, up to the time that we reached Constantinople. Considering the matter it contains, this book ought to have been entitled, "A tale of woe," but with a view to the scene of action I have called it "Mirror of Countries," and as such I commend it to the reader's kind attention.
II. The beginning of the story.
When the illustrious Padishah was holding his court at Aleppo, in Ramazan of the year 960 (1552), I was commanded to join the army.
I celebrated Ramzam-Bairam in attendance on his Majesty; later on, however, I went to Sidi-Ghazi, made a pilgrimage in Konia to the tomb of Molla-i-Rumi, and visited the shrines of the Sultan ul-Ulema, and Shemsi Tebrizi, and of the Sheik Sadr-ed-din-Koniavi; at Kassarie I made a pilgrimage to the graves of the Sheikhs Awhad-ed-din Kirmani, Burhan-ed-din, Baha-ed-din Zade, Ibrahim Akserayi, and Davud Kaissari. Returned to Haleb (Aleppo), I visited the graves of Daud, Zakeriah, and Balkiah, as also those of Saad and Said, companions of the Prophet. The Kurban-Bairam I spent again in attendance on the Sultan.
I must here mention that Piri Bey, the late Admiral of the Egyptian fleet, had, some time previous to this, been dispatched with about 30 ships (galleys and galleons) from Suez, through the Red Sea, touching Jedda and Yemen, and through the straits of Bab-i-Mandeb, past Aden and along the coast of Shahar. Through fogs and foul weather his fleet became dispersed, some ships were lost, and with the remainder he proceeded from Oman to Muscat, took the fortress, and made all the inhabitants prisoners; he also made an incursion into the islands of Ormuz and Barkhat, after which he returned to Muscat. There he learned from the captive Infidel captain that the Christian (Portuguese) fleet was on its way, that therefore any further delay was inadvisable, as in case it arrived he would not be able to leave the harbor at all. As a matter of fact it was already too late to save all the ships; he therefore took only three, and with these just managed to make his escape before the arrival of the Portuguese. One of his galleys was wrecked near Bahrein, so he brought only two vessels back to Egypt. As for the remainder of the fleet at Basrah, Kubad Pasha had offered the command of it to the Chief Officer, but he had declined, and returned to Egypt by land.
When this became known in Constantinople, the command of the fleet had been given to Murad Bey, formerly Sanjakbey of Catif, then residing in Basrah. He was ordered to leave two ships, five galleys, and one galleon at Basrah, and with the rest, i.e., 15 galleys (one galley had been burned in Basrah) and two boats, he was to return to Egypt. Murad Bey did start as arranged, but opposite Ormuz he came upon the Infidel (Portuguese) fleet; a terrible battle followed in which Suleiman Reis, Rejeb Reis, and several of the men, died a martyr's death. Many more were wounded, and the ships terribly battered by the cannon-balls. At last night put a stop to the fight. One boat was wrecked off the Persian coast; part of the crew escaped, the rest were taken prisoners by the Infidels, and the boat itself captured.
When all this sad news reached the capital, toward the end of Zilhija of the said year 960 (1552), the author of these pages was appointed Admiral of the Egyptian fleet.
I, humble Sidi Ali bin Husein, also known as Katib-i-Rumi (the writer of the West, i.e., of Turkey), most gladly accepted the post. I had always been very fond of the sea, had taken part in the expedition against Rhodes under the Sultan (Suleiman), and had since had a share in almost all engagements, both by land and by sea. I had fought under Khaireddin Pasha, Sinan Pasha, and other captains, and had cruised about on the Western (Mediterranean) sea, so that I knew every nook and corner of it. I had written several books on astronomy, nautical science, and other matters bearing upon navigation. My father and grandfather, since the conquest of Constantinople, had had charge of the arsenal at Galata; they had both been eminent in their profession, and their skill had come down to me as an heirloom.
The post now entrusted to me was much to my taste, and I started from Aleppo for Basrah, on the first of Moharram of the year 961 (7 Dec. 1553). I crossed the Euphrates at Biredjik and when in Reka (i.e., Orfah), I undertook a pilgrimage to the tomb of Abraham, having visited on the way between Nisebin and Mossul the holy graves of the prophets Yunis and Djerdjis and of the sheikhs Mohammed Garabili, Feth Mosuli, and Kazib-elban-Mosuli. On the way to Baghdad I made a little detour from Tekrit to Samira, and visited the graves of Imam Ali-el-Hadi and Imam Hasan Askeri, after which I came past the towns of Ashik and Maashuk, and through Harbi, past the castle of Semke, on to Baghdad. We crossed the Tigris near Djisr and, after visiting the graves of the saints there, I continued my journey past the fortress of Teir, to Bire, and crossing the Euphrates near the little town of Masib, I reached Kerbela (Azwie), where I made a pilgrimage to the graves of the martyrs Hasan and Husein.
Turning into the steppe near Shefata, I reached Nedjef (Haira) on the second day, and visited the graves of Adam, Noah, Shimun, and Ali, and from there proceeded to Kufa, where I saw the mosque with the pulpit under which the prophets of the house of Ali are buried, and the tombs of Kamber and Duldul. Arrived at the fortress of Hasinia, I visited the grave of the prophet Zilkefl, the son of Aaron, and in Hilla I made pilgrimages to the graves of Imam Mohammed Mehdi and Imam Akil, brother of Ali, and also visited there the mosque of Shem. Again crossing the Euphrates (this time by a bridge), I resumed my journey to Bagdad, and went from there by ship to Basrah. On the way we touched Medain, saw the grave of Selmas Faris, admired Tak Kesri and the castle of Shah Zeman, and went past Imare Bugazi, on the road of Vasit to Zekya, past the strongholds of Adjul and Misra to Sadi es-Sueiba and on to Basrah, where I arrived toward the end of Safar of the said year (beginning of February, 1554).
III. About what happened in Basra.
On the day after my arrival I had an interview with Mustafa Pasha, who, after seeing my credentials, made over to me the 15 galleys, which were needing a great deal of repair. As far as could be, they were put in order, calked, and provided with guns-- which, however, were not to be had in sufficient quantity either from the stores there or from Ormuz. A water-supply had also to be arranged for, and as it was yet five months before the time of the monsoon/1/, I had plenty of leisure to visit the mosque of Ali and the graves of Hasan Basri, Talha, Zobeir, Uns bin-Malik, Abdurrahman bin-Auf, and several martyrs and companions of the Prophet. One night I dreamed that I lost my sword, and as I remembered that a similar thing had happened to Sheikh Muhieddin and had resulted in a defeat, I became greatly alarmed; and just as I was about to pray to the Almighty for the victory of the Islam arms, I awoke. I kept this dream a secret, but it troubled me for a long time, and when later on Mustafa Pasha sent a detachment of soldiers to take the island of Huweiza (in which expedition I took part with five of my galleys), and the undertaking resulted in our losing about a hundred men, all through the fickleness of the Egyptian troops, I fully believed this to be the fulfilment of my dream. But alas! there was more to follow-- for
"What is decreed must come to pass,When at last the time of the monsoon came, the Pasha sent a trusty sailor with a frigate to Ormuz, to explore the neighborhood. After cruising about for a month, he returned with the news that except for four boats, there was no sign of any ships of the Infidels in those waters. The troops therefore embarked, and we started for Egypt.
No matter whether you are joyful or anxious."
/1/ Mowsim Zemani, literally: "the time of the season." From the Arab. word 'Mowsim' the English'Monsoon' has originated.
IV. What took place in the Sea of Ormuz.
On the first of Shavval we left the harbor of Basrah, accompanied as far as Ormuz by the frigate of Sherifi Pasha. We visited on the way from Mehzari the grave of Khidr, and proceeding along the coast of Duspul (Dizful), and Shushter in Charik, I made pilgrimages to the graves of Imam Mohammed Hanifi and other saints.
From the harbor in the province of Shiraz we visited Rishehr (Bushir?) and after reconnoitering the coasts, and unable to get any clue as to the whereabouts of the enemy by means of the Tshekleva/2/ I proceeded to Katif situated near Lahsa/3/, and Hadjar on the Arabian coast. Unable to learn anything there, I went on to Bahrein, where I interviewed the commander of the place, Reis Murad. But neither could he give me any information about the fleet of the Infidels. There is a curious custom at Bahrein. The sailors, provided with a leather sack, dive down into the sea and bring the fresh water from the bottom for Reis Murad's use. This water is particularly pleasant and cold in the spring time, and Reis Murad gave me some. God's power is boundless! This custom is the origin of the proverb "Maradj ul-bahreia jaltakian," and hence also the name "Bahrein."
Next we came to Kis (i.e., old Ormuz), and Barhata, and several other small islands in the Green Sea (i.e., the waters of Ormuz), but nowhere could we get any news of the fleet. So we dismissed the vessel which Mustafa Pasha had sent as an escort, with the message that Ormuz was safely passed. We proceeded by the coasts of Djilgar and Djadi, past the towns of Keimzar or Leime, and forty days after our departure, i.e., on the tenth of Ramazan, in the forenoon, we suddenly saw coming toward us the Christian fleet, consisting of four large ships, three galleons, six Portuguese guard ships, and twelve galleys, 25 vessels in all, commanded by Captain Kuvva the son of the Governor. I immediately ordered the canopy to be taken down, the anchor weighed, the guns in readiness; and then, trusting to the help of the Almighty, we fastened the filandra (ensign) to the mainmast. The flags were unfurled and, full of courage and calling upon Allah, we commenced to fight. The volley from the guns and cannon was tremendous, and with God's help we sank and utterly destroyed one of the enemy's galleons.
Never before within the annals of history has such a battle been fought, and words fail me to describe it.
The battle continued till sunset, and only then the Admiral of the Infidel fleet began to show some signs of fear. He ordered the signal-gun to fire a retreat, and the fleet turned in the direction of Ormuz.
With the help of Allah, and under the lucky star of the Padishah, the enemies of Islam had been defeated. Night came at last; we were becalmed for awhile, then the wind rose, the sails were set and as the shore was near, .... until daybreak. The next day we continued our previous course. On the day after we passed Khorfakan, where we took in water, and soon after reached Oman, or rather Sohar. Thus we cruised about for nearly 17 days. When on the sixth of Ramazan, i.e., the day of Kadr-Ghedjesi, a night in the month of Ramazan, we arrived in the vicinity of Maskat and Kalhat, we saw in the morning, issuing from the harbor of Maskat, 12 large boats and 22 gurabs, 32 vessels in all, comrnanded by Captain Kuvva/4/, the son of the Governor. They carried a large number of troops.
The boats and galleons obscured the horizon with their mizzen sails and small sails all set; the guard-ships spread their round sails and, gay with bunting, they advanced toward us. Full of confidence in God's protection, we awaited them. Their boats attacked our galleys; the battle raged, cannon and guns, arrows and swords made terrible slaughter on both sides. The Badjoalushka(?) penetrated the boats and the Shaikas [[a kind of boat]], and tore large holes in their hulls, while our galleys were riddled through by the javelins thrown down upon us from the enemy's turrets, which gave them the appearance of bristling porcupines; and they showered down upon us .... The stones which they threw at us created quite a whirlpool as they fell into the sea.
One of our galleys was set on fire by a bomb, but strange to say, the boat from which it issued shared the like fate. God is merciful! Five of our galleys and as many of the enemy's boats were sunk and utterly wrecked; one of theirs went to the bottom with all sails set. In a word, there was great loss on both sides; our rowers were now insufficient in number to manage the oars, while running against the current, and to fire the cannon. We were compelled to drop anchor (at the stern) and to continue to fight as best we might. The boats had also to be abandoned.
Alemshah Reis, Kara Mustafa, and Kalfat Memi, Captains of some of the foundered ships, and Derzi Mustafa Bey, the Serdar of the volunteers, with the remainder of the Egyptian soldiers and 200 carpenters(?), had landed on the Arabian shore, and as the rowers were Arabs they had been hospitably treated by the Arabs of Nedjd.
The ships (gurabs) of the infidel fleet had likewise taken on board the crews of their sunken vessels, and as there were Arabs amongst them, they also had found shelter on the Arabian coast. God is our witness. Even in the war between Khaireddin Pasha and Andreas Doria no such naval action as this has ever taken place.
When night came, and we were approaching the bay of Ormuz, the wind began to rise. The boats had already cast two Lenguvurta (i.e., large anchors), the Lushtas(?) were tightly secured, and, towing the conquered gurabs along, we neared the shore, while the galleys, dragging their anchors, followed. However, we were not allowed to touch the shore, and had to set sail again. During that night we drifted away from the Arabian coast into the open sea, and finally reached the coasts of Djash, in the province of Kerman. This is a long coast, but we could find no harbor, and we roamed about for two days before we came to Kichi Mekran.
As the evening was far advanced, we could not land immediately, but had to spend another night at sea. In the morning a dry wind carried off many of the crew, and at last, after unheard-of troubles and difficulties, we approached the harbor of Sheba (Shabar).
Here we came upon a Notak, i.e a Brigantine (Pirate-ship), laden with spoils, and when the watchman sighted us they hailed us. We told them that we were musulmans, whereupon their captain came on board our vessel; he kindly supplied us with water, for we had not a drop left; and thus our exhausted soldiers were invigorated. This was on Bairam day, and for us, as we had now got water, a double feast-day.
Escorted by the said captain we entered the harbor of Guador. The people there were Beluchistanis and their chief was Malik Djelaleddin, the son of Malik Dinar. The Governor of Guador came on board our ship and assured us of his unalterable devotion to our glorious Padishah. He promised that henceforth, if at any time our fleet should come to Ormuz, he would undertake to send 50 or 60 boats to supply us with provisions, and in every possible way to be of service to us. We wrote a letter to the native Prince Djelaleddin to ask for a pilot, upon which a first-class pilot was sent us, with the assurance that he was thoroughly trustworthy and entirely devoted to the interests of our Padishah.
/2/ A small vessel, worked by sails and oars, for the carrying of freights, also called Sacoléve.
/3/ Lahsa and Katif, islands in the Persian Gulf, which, together with Ormuz, Bahrein, and Kalhata, were famous in the Middle Ages as staple-towns for the commerce between Persia and India.
/4/ "Kuvva" appears to me to be really the name of the town Goa, the headquarters of the Portuguese in India.
V. What we suffered in the Indian Ocean.
God is merciful! With a favorable wind we left the port of Guador and again steered for Yemen. We had been at sea for several days, and had arrived nearly opposite to Zofar and Shar, when suddenly from the west arose a great storm known as an "elephant's flood" (fil Tofani). We were driven back, but were unable to set the sails, not even the trinquetla (stormsail). The tempest raged with increasing fury. As compared to these awful tempests the foul weather in the western seas is mere child's play, and their towering billows are as drops of water compared to those of the Indian sea. Night and day were both alike, and because of the frailty of our craft all ballast had to be thrown overboard. In this frightful predicament our only consolation was our unwavering trust in the power of the Almighty. For ten days the storm raged continuously and the rain came down in torrents. We never once saw the blue sky.
I did all I could to encourage and cheer my companions, and advised them above all things to be brave, and never to doubt but that all would end well. A welcome diversion occurred in the appearance of a fish about the size of two galley lengths, or more perhaps, which the pilot declared to be a good omen.
The tide being very strong here and the ebb slow, we had an opportunity of seeing many sea-monsters in the neighbor-hood of the bay of Djugd, sea-horses, large sea-serpents, turtles in great quantities, and eels.
The color of the water suddenly changed to pure white, and at sight of it the pilot broke forth into loud lamentations; he declared we were approaching whirlpools and eddies. These are no myth here; it is generally believed that they are only found on the coasts of Abyssinia and in the neighborhood of Sind in the bay of Djugd, and hardly ever a ship has been known to escape their fury. So, at least, we are told in nautical books. We took frequent soundings, and when we struck a depth of five Kuladj (arm-lengths) the mizzen-sails were set, the bowsprit .... and .... heeling over to the left side, and flying the commander's flag, we drifted about all night and all day until at last, in God's mercy, the water rose, the storm somewhat abated, and the ship veered right round.
The next morning we slackened speed and drew in the sails. A stalwart cabin boy (or sailor) was tied to the Djondu(?), whereby the post at the foot of the mizzenmast was weighted down, and the sailrope slightly raised. Taking a survey of our surroundings we caught sight of an Idol-Temple on the coast of Djamher. The sails were drawn in a little more; we passed Formyan and Menglir/5/, and directing our course toward Somenat/6/, we passed by that place also. Finally we came to Div/7/, but for fear of the unbelievers which dwell there we further drew in our sails and continued on our course with serderma (?).
Meanwhile, the wind had risen again, and as the men had no control over the rudder, large handles had to be affixed with long double ropes fastened to them. Each rope was taken hold of by four men, and so with great exertion they managed to control the rudder.
No one could keep on his feet on deck, so of course it was impossible to walk across. The noise of the .... and the .... was deafening; we could not hear our own voices. The only means of communication with the sailors was by inarticulate words, and neither Captain nor Boatswain could for a single instant leave his post. The ammunition was secured in the storeroom, and after cutting the .... from the .... we continued our way.
It was truly a terrible day, but at last we reached Gujarat in India; which part of it, however, we knew not, when the pilot suddenly exclaimed: "On your guard! a whirlpool in front!" Quickly the anchors were lowered, but the ship was dragged down with great force and nearly submerged. The rowers had left their seats, the panic-stricken crew threw off their clothes and, clinging some to casks and some to jacks, had taken leave of one another. I also stripped entirely, gave my slaves their liberty, and vowed to give 100 florins to the poor of Mecca. Presently one of the anchors broke from its crook and another at the podjuz(?); two more were lost, the ship gave a terrible jerk-- and in another instant we were clear of the breakers. The pilot declared that had we been wrecked off Fisht-Kidsur, a place between Diu and Daman/8/; nothing could have saved us. Once more the sails were set, and we decided to make for the infidel coast; but after duly taking note of tide and current, and having made a careful study of the chart, I came to the conclusion that we could not be very far off the mainland. I consulted the Horoscope [[that is, practiced divination by opening to a random page and passage]] in the Koran, and this also counseled patience. So we commenced to examine the hold of the ship and found that the storeroom was submerged, in some places up to the walls, in some places higher still. We had shipped much water, and all hands set to work at once to bale it out. In one or two places the bottom had to be ripped up to find the outlet, so as to reduce the water.
Toward afternoon the weather had cleared a little, and we found ourselves about two miles off the port of Daman, in Gujarat in India. The other ships had already arrived, but some of the galleys were waterlogged not far from the shore, and they had thrown overboard oars, boats, and casks, all of which wreckage eventually was borne ashore by the rapidly rising tide. We were obliged to lie to for another five days and five nights exposed to a strong spring-tide accompanied by floods of rain; for we were now in the Badzad or rainy season of India, and there was nothing for it but to submit to our fate. During all this time we never once saw the sun by day, nor the stars by night; we could neither use our clock nor our compass, and all on board anticipated the worst. It seems a miracle that of the three ships lying there, thrown on their sides, the whole crew eventually got safely to land.
/5/ Perhaps meant for Manglaus, Menglaur, in the District of Sahranpur.
/6/ Somenat, Somnath, a town in the south of the peninsula of Kathiawar, also the name of the District.
/7/ More correctly Diu, an island belonging to the Portuguese in West India, separated from Kathiawar by a narrow stroke of land, with about 13,000 Inhabitants, and politically under Goa.
/8/ Daman, a Portuguese possession in the bay of Cambay, with about 50,000 Inhabitants; was pillaged first in the year 1531, and retaken in 1553.
-- Sidi Ali Reïs index page -- Glossary -- FWP's main page --