Suez and Land Routes to Cairo, Alexandria


Suez, 1541 drawing
Suez, 1541 drawing. (Source.)

Duarte Barbosa (Ramusio), 1515.


Leaving this country of Prester John and the coast of the sea of Arabia Felix, and turning to the other part of the Red Sea, which is also called Arabia, and the Moors call it Barra Arab, there is a village, a sea-port called Suez, and thither the Moors of Guida, the port of Mecca, bring all the spices, drugs, precious stones, seed pearl, amber, musk, and other merchandise of great value from the parts about India; and from there they load them on camels to carry them by land to Cairo, and from Cairo other merchants carry them to Alexandria; and from there the Venetians and other Christians usually export them.

And this trade now, in a great measure, ceases on account of the Portuguese, whose fleets prohibit the navigation of the Moors from India to the Red Sea.

And the Great Sultan, lord of Cairo, who loses[22] most by this, ordered a fleet to be built in the port of Suez, for which he had the wood and artillery, and other equipments transported by land, in which much money was expended; and this fleet was of ships and galleys, in order to pass with it to India and there forbid the Portuguese from cruising. 

And when this fleet was built many people of different nations went with it to the first India, which is the Kingdom of Cambay; and the Captain of it was Amir Uçen, and with this fleet they met that of Portugal in front of a city named Dyu, and there they fought vigorously, and many people were killed, and at last the Moors, Turks, and Mamelukes were conquered and all their fleet was taken and part of it burned, and on this account and several other victories which the Portuguese gained over the before-mentioned Moors, they lost their navigation in the Red Sea, and the said port of Suez remains without the trade in spices.


Near the said city of Suez there is in the country of Arabia on the Red Sea, the mountain of Sinai, where lies the blessed Saint Catharine in a church, in which there are Christian friars, under the lordship of the Sultan, to which building the devout of all Christian countries come in pilgrimage, and the chief part of those that throng thither are from the country of Prester John and Armenia, Babilonia, Constantinople, and Jerusalem.



Having passed Mount Sinai, which the Moors call Tur, along the coast of the Red Sea going out of it, there is a village of the Moors, a sea-port called Eliobon, and it is a port where they disembark for Medina, which is another town of the Moors, up the country at three days' journey from the port, and the body of Mahomed is buried in it.

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