The Wealth of Cambay and Beyond

Cambay (Khambhat) in the 15th century
Illustration of the city of Cambay (Khambhat) in the 15th century. (Source.)

Duarte Barbosa (Ramusio). 1515.


Entering this river of Guendari, to the north-east is the great city of Cambay, inhabited by Moors and Gentiles. 

It is a very large city of handsome houses of stone and whitewash, very lofty, with windows, and covered with roofs in the Spanish fashion; it has very good streets and squares, and is situated in a rich, fertile, and pretty country, full of abundant provisions. 

There are in it rich merchants and[65] men of great property, both Moors and Gentiles; and there are many workmen and mechanicians of subtle workmanship of all sorts, after the fashion of Flanders, and all very cheap. They make there many cloths of white cotton, fine and coarse, and other woven and coloured fabrics of all kinds; also many silk fabrics, of all kinds and colours; and camlets of silk and velvets of all colours, both smooth and fluffy, coloured tafetans, and thick alcatifas. 

The inhabitants of this city are all white, both men and women, and there are many people from outside living in it who are very white and very well dressed, and of luxurious lives, much given to pleasure and amusement. They are very much accustomed to wash themselves; they eat very well, and always go perfumed and anointed with sweet smelling things. They wear in their hair, both men and women, many jessamine and other flowers that grow amongst them. 

They have many musicians, and various kinds of instruments and songs. There are always carts with oxen and horses going about the city, of which they make use for everything; and they go in these with rich mattrasses, shut up and well fitted up with their windows, after the manner of cabins; furnished and ornamented with silk stuffs, and the seats within with cushions and pillows of silk and stamped kid skins: and with their waggoners. 

Men and women go in these to see amusements and diversions, or to visit their friends, or wherever they wish, without being known, and they see all that they wish. And they go singing and playing on instruments in these same waggons for their amusement.

And these people possess many orchards and gardens, where they go to take their ease, and where they grow much fruit and vegetables for the sustenance of the gentiles, who do not eat meat nor flesh. In this city a very large quantity of ivory is employed in very delicate works, well known in commerce, like inlaid works of gold, and things made by turning, and handles of knives and daggers, bracelets, games of chess and chess-boards. 

There are also great artists with the turning lathe, who make large bedsteads, and they make beads of great size, brown, yellow, blue and coloured, which they export to all parts. 

There are also great lapidaries, and imitators of precious stones of all kinds, and makers of false pearls which seem real. So also there are very good silversmiths of very skilful workmanship. In this city they make very delicate cushions, and pretty ceilings (or canopies) of bedsteads, of delicate workmanship and paintings, and quilted clothes for wearing. There are many Moorish women who produce very delicate needlework. They work there too in coral alaquequas and other stones.


Leaving this city of Cambay there is a town inland called Limadura, where there is a stone with which they make aquequas, for making beads for Berberia. It is a stone white as milk, and has some red in it, and with fire they heighten the colour, and they extract it in large blocks. In these places there are great artists who manufacture and pierce these beads in various fashions, oval, octagonal, round, and of other shapes; and with this stone they make rings, buttons, and knife handles. 

And the Cambay merchants go there to buy them, and they harden them to take them away to sell in the Red Sea, from whence they are in the habit of arriving in our parts by way of Cairo or Alexandria: and they also carry them throughout all Arabia, Persia, and Nubia, and now they take them to India, because our people buy them. 

They also find in this town much chalcedony,[67] which they call babagore. They make beads with it, and other things which they wear about them, so that they touch the skin, as they say that it is good for chastity. These stones are of little value there, for there are many of them.


Returning to the towns on the sea, and passing Gandar, to the east there is a good river twenty leagues further along the coast, and on this side of it there is a good town of the Moors, called Ravel, built of very pretty houses and squares. 

It is a rich and agreeable place, because the Moors of this town trade with their ships at Malacca, Bengal, Tarvasery, Pegu, Martaban, and Samatara, in all sorts of spices, drugs, silks, musk, benzoin, porcelain, and all other valuable merchandise. They possess very large and fine ships, so that those who would wish to get Chinese articles, will find them there more completely than in any other part, and at very fair prices.

The Moors of this place are white and well dressed, and very rich. They have very pretty wives, and in the furniture of their houses they have many china vases of different shapes, and they keep them in glass cupboards very well arranged. These women are not secluded like those of other Moors and other places, but go about the city in the daytime attending to their business, with the face uncovered as in our parts.


Having passed this river of Ravel, at twenty leagues to the south is a city called Surat, at the mouth of a river. This also is a city of very great trade, in all classes of merchandise. 

Many ships of Malabar and all other parts sail thither continually, and discharge and take in goods, because this is a[68] very important seaport, and there are in it very vast quantities of merchandise. Moors, Gentiles, and all sorts of people live in this city. Its custom-house, which they call the Divana, produces a very large revenue for the King of Guzarat: and until now Malaguioy, a Gentile, commands in, and governs it, as lord of it. And he is the greatest nobleman in all India, and he gave orders to kill the King of Guzerat for some gossip which they reported respecting him.


After leaving the town of Surat, at ten leagues along the coast to the south, there is place called Denvy, of Moors and Gentiles, also of great trade, where many merchant ships from Malabar and many other parts always take in cargo.


Having passed this town of Dendi, twenty leagues further on to the south is another town of Moors and Gentiles, a good seaport, which also belongs to the King of Guzarat, in which much goods are exchanged; and there is a great movement of the shipping which comes there from all parts, and many Zambucs from the Malabar country laden with areca, cocoas, and spices, which they delight in, and they take thence others which are used in Malabar.


Twenty-five leagues further on the coast is a fortress of the before named king, called Tanamayambu, and near it is a Moorish town, very pleasant, with many gardens, and very fertile—a town of very great Moorish mosques, and temples of worship of the Gentiles. It is nearly at the extremity[69] of the kingdom of Cambay or Guzarat, and it is likewise a seaport, but of little trade. And there are in this port small vessels of rovers like watch boats, which go out to sea, and if they meet with any small ship less strong than themselves, they capture and plunder it, and sometimes kill their crews.

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