Barbosa on Jeddah and Mecca

 Portuguese attack in 1517. By Gaspar Correia. (Source.)

Duarte Barbosa (Ramusio), 1515.


Leaving the port of Eliobon to go out of the Red Sea, there is a town of the Moors, called Guida, and it is the port of Mecca, whither the ships used to come every year from India with spices and drugs, and they returned thence to Calicut with much copper, quicksilver, vermillion, saffron, rose-water, scarlet silks, camelots, tafetans and other goods, of stuffs used in India, and also with much gold and silver; and the trade was very great and profitable. 

And from this port of Guida these spices and drugs were transported in small vessels to Suez, as has been already said.


At one day's journey up the country from the port of Guida is the great city of Meca, in which there is a very large mosque, to which all the Moors from all parts go in pilgrimage, and they hold for certain that they are saved by washing with the water of a well which is in this mosque: and they carry it away from there in bottles to their countries as a great relic. 

In the aforesaid Guida port of Mecca a fortress has been lately built by Emir Hussein, the Moorish captain of the ships of the Sultan, which the Portuguese destroyed in India: this captain when he saw himself defeated, did not dare return to his country without performing some service to his king, and he decided on begging of the[24] King of Cambay (who is called Sultan Mahamud) assistance in money, and so also from the nobles and merchants of his kingdom and from other Moorish kings, in order to construct this fortress, saying: that since the Portuguese, (whom they call Franks) were so powerful, it would not be wonderful if they were to come into this port and were to go and destroy the house of Mahomet. 

And these Moorish kings and people hearing his petition, and seeing the power of the King of Portugal, it seemed to them that this might come to pass, and thus all gave him great gifts, by means of which he loaded three ships with spices and other merchandise, and went with them to the Red Sea, and arrived at Guida, where he sold them, and with the money he made the said fortress, and during the time that he was building it, the Portuguese were making another inside the town of Calicut, and the King of Calicut begged the Captain Major of the King of Portugal to give him permission to send then a ship laden with spices to Mecca. 

And this permission was given him, and the ship was sent. And there went in it as captain an honourable person of the Moors named Califa, and he arrived at Guida the port of Mecca, where he came on shore very well dressed out, along with his people, and he found Emir Hussein building his fortress, and was asked by him news of the Portuguese.

And this Califa answered him, telling him how they were in great peace at Calicut, and making a handsome fortress. And Emir Hussein asked him, how dare you come to Mecca being a friend of the Portuguese? 

Califa[25] answered him, I am a merchant and am unable to do anything, but you who are a captain of the great Sultan if you go to India to turn them out of it, how came you to leave them there, and to make a fortress here? 

At which Emir Hussein was much put out, and ordered Califa immediately, and well dressed as he was, to take stones and mortar, he and his people, and help to build the fortress: and he made him work for the space of an hour. And Califa related this in Calicut later when he returned there.

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