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Muscat and the Portuguese: economic and political dynamics in the early 16th century (1507-1529)

Muscat et les Portugais : dynamiques économiques et politiques dans le premier XVIe siècle (1507-1529)
Dejanirah Couto

Résumés

Redevable de fonds documentaires récemment publiés, le présent article examine les relations entre les villes côtières de l’Oman et les Portugais dans les premières décennies du XVIe siècle. Il prend comme exemple le port de Muscat, dont les remarquables conditions naturelles avaient favorisé, dès l’époque médiévale, sa suprématie en tant que tête-de-pont des régions de l’arrière-pays et animateur des réseaux commerciaux de l’océan Indien occidental, au détriment des autres ports omanais. Cette supériorité, qui reposa également sur sa capacité à orienter son économie sur plusieurs fronts, fut renforcée par la présence des Portugais, qui, à la suite de leur attaque en 1507, mirent Muscat dans l’escale obligatoire de leurs flottes et y l’établirent une factorerie. Par ailleurs, la progressive implication des Portugais dans la vie économique de Muscat s’accompagna d’une ingérence politique croissante dans les affaires internes de la cité, symbolisée par une implication dans les conflits qui opposaient les élites citadines de Muscat à celles des autres villes de l’Oman et également à Hormuz, qui, tout en exerçant son autorité sur les villes de la côté omanaise, était devenu, après la double conquête d’Afonso de Albuquerque (1507 et 1515), protectorat des Portugais.

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Introduction

  • 1 BEAUJARD, 2009, p.85.

1As highlighted by P. Beaujard, at the turn of the 16th century, “due to the monsoons and their strategic position, the areas at the intersection of two seas enjoyed a privileged position, such as Southeast Asia, South India and Ceylon, Yemen, Hormuz and Oman”1. This exceptional situation has greatly contributed to the development of economic exchanges, namely in coastal areas which, however, did not develop or decline in the same way or at the same pace. The quality of their harbors and their geographical position, as well as the way they intersected maritime or land trade routes, explain the growth or the dwindling of certain ports; on the other hand, the maritime routes largely depended on the relations established between the ports and their hinterlands.

  • 2 Biedermann, 2006, p.65-80. Hindered by rough seas, a scarce and poor population, the island of Soqo (...)
  • 3 Aubin,1971, p.112-113, according to the testimonies of Brás de Albuquerque and Gaspar Correia. Earl (...)

2If the Oman seafront towns generally fit in this scenario, Muscat exemplifies it even more strongly: its remarkable rise among the other shoreline urban centers in the early 16th century deserves undeniably to be highlighted. Its situation explains the choice of the tight periodisation of the present article, circumscribed to the first decades of the 16th century; it was indeed important to analyze the pivotal period of the very first exchanges with the Portuguese, a moment which decided the direction of bilateral relations. In fact, what remains to be clarified - and this since the beginning of contacts - is to what extent Muscat economic and political dynamics have been interconnected with the Portuguese, who set foot on Oman in 1507, while they sailed to Hormuz. In fact, although they aimed at conquering the Gulf emporium in order to control its cosmopolitan trade networks2, they initially looted the Omani port-cities. But what must be taken into consideration is that they immediately realized the advantages of Oman’s geopolitical position – commanding the entrance of the Gulf – and saw the benefits they could draw from seizing the interregional sea trade and the maritime links of its ports with South Asia and, beyond them, with Southeast and East Asia3.

Muscat in the early 16th century: topography and natural resources of a raising urban settlement

  • 4 An overview of its maritime past in the contributions directed by Al-Salimi, 2016 and 2017.
  • 5 Quoted by Staples, 2017, p. 106.
  • 6 Kirchner, 1946, p. 46-54.

3Among all the port-cities of early 16th century Oman, Muscat appears consistently as one of the most significant in terms of geographical landscape, a defining characteristic which greatly contributed to the breadth of its economic life 4. According to the Julfari navigator Ahmad Ibn Mâjid (c.1432-c.1500), in the 15th century Muscat was a “port of Oman that year by year the ships load with men, fruit and horses and they sell in it cloth, vegetable oil and new slaves and grain and all ships head for it5.” In May 1442, ‘Abd-al Razzâq Samarqandî, ambassador of the Timurid ruler Shâh Rukh to the court of Calicut, waited in Muscat, with a group of merchants, for a favourable monsoon to reach the Malabar Coast. On his return trip two years later, he also made a stopover in Muscat. In 1466-1472, the Russian Athanasius Nikitin (1468-1472) did the same on his travel to India6.

  • 7 The factor oversaw transactions in the factory (feitoria), the official Portuguese trading station (...)
  • 8 See Duarte Barbosa in Sousa, 1996, p.127, and additionally, Aubin, 1973, p.114-116. However, Tomé P (...)
  • 9 See Castanheda, 1979, I, Liv. II, chap. LV, p.330. It is worth noting that Barbosa developed his co (...)
  • 10 The horseshoe configuration is patent in the 16th and 17th centuries Portuguese iconography. The is (...)
  • 11 See Bocarro, 1992, p.44. The notation of these values ​​in fathoms is depicted in the Livro das Pla (...)

4Following in the footsteps of Ibn Mâjid, the 16th century Portuguese economic treatises also acknowledged Muscat’s peculiar location and economic significance as a major hub of the Indian Ocean’s trade: the factor (feitor)7 Duarte Barbosa already acknowledged Muscat as one of the most important possessions of the Kingdom of Hormuz looking out onto the Arabian Sea8. In the 16th century, Fernão Lopes de Castanheda, one of the most reliable 16th century Portuguese chroniclers, praises Muscat, bigger than Quriyât, having a better natural harbour, more population, and a more intense trade activity (grande trato)9. However, the real accurate Portuguese descriptions of Muscat date from the early 17th century, at the time when the Iberian monarchy (Portugal having been united with Spain from 1581 until 1640) asked for reports on the situation of imperial factories, strongholds and towns in the Indian Ocean. Therefore, two distinctive sources, António Bocarro, appointed chronicler of Estado da Índia (i.e. the Portuguese empire in Asia) in 1631, and the Augustinian Fr. António Gouveia, ambassador to Safavid Persia in 1602 and 1620, provided accurate information about the economic life of Muscat, but also on the natural conditions of the harbour, highlighting how a range of sharp peaks isolated it from the hinterland desert, and how its natural harbour was protected by a narrow entrance - the distance from one side to another could be covered by an arquebus shot. Always on the lookout for good ports, the Portuguese also praised the depth of the bay, allowing the mooring of ships of large tonnage10. Its depth, that probably won’t have changed much between the 16th and the 17th centuries was, in the early 17th century, of twenty-five fathoms at the entrance, twelve to thirteen inside the port and six fathoms on the beach shore11.

  • 12 Estimation by Aubin, 1973, p.115; Wink, 2004, p.194.
  • 13 Aubin, 1973, p.115, quoting Brás de Albuquerque, Afonso de Albuquerque’s son, author of a chronicle (...)
  • 14 See Castanheda, 1979, I, Liv. II, chap. LV, p. 330: “casas altas de pedra e cal”.
  • 15 Ibid., I, Liv.II, chap.LV, p. 334. Aubin, 1973, p.115, n. 236 and p. 90, n. 57. However, the most l (...)
  • 16 Castanheda, 1979, I, Liv. II, chap. LV, p. 334.
  • 17 Morgan Library & Museum, New York, Ms. M 525, edited in facsimile by Soeiro, 1992.
  • 18 The white mosque was drawn without minaret (in Ibâdî style?). See the location of present mosque of (...)

5In the 14th century, the estimated population of the city was of 7,000 inhabitants12. An interesting characteristic of its urbanism, shared with other ports of trade of the Omani facade, was its ability to develop in a small space, wedged between the sea and the mountain range; therefore, the account of Afonso de Albuquerque’s attack in 1507 describes streets so narrow that his soldiers’ spears could not be properly wielded13. Although mud brick and palm-frond houses dominated in the town, 16th century Portuguese chroniclers also penned about its more impressive urban architecture, pointing out the beautiful stone and lime houses, embellished by several floors and terraces14. The city held various mosques. One of them, probably the biggest, is relatively well described by Fernão Lopes de Castanheda. It was a big building, with a vault supported by stone pillars, with a flat roof as a terrace function15. Afonso de Albuquerque pulled it down in 150716, but its location will not have been forgotten. The mosque sketched in the Livro de Lisuarte de Abreu (1558-1564)17 seems to have been built on the same area18. Despite the lack of perspective of the Livro de Lisuarte de Abreu’s drawings, it looks like that this new mosque, like the previous structure, was located at walking distance from the beach.

  • 19 Muscat Gate Museum, 2001, p.17. Michele Membré noticed a small creek in Muscat as well as plantatio (...)

6The city was surrounded by extended palm groves. Consequently, the Livro das plantas portrayed three of these gardens (palmares), enclosed by walls of mud brick. They were called “Gourd garden” (Orta do cabaço) and they extended behind the walls, in an area that may be identified with the current area of al-Tawiyan (junction of three wâdîs, wâdî al-Kabir, wâdî al-Wusta and wâdî al-Saghîr). Equipped or not with norias, the masonry wells of Orta do cabaço/al-Tawiyan (including the wells of Tawi al-Zubayr, al-Tawiyan al ‘Alawiyat, Tawi al-Za’franiyah), were not the only ones, as the Livro das Plantas also shows some other wells spread across the countryside, close to the foothills. This irrigation network system, implying the existence of significant groundwater tables, deserves to be highlighted. Muscat was known in the Arabian Sea as endowed with groundwater, supplying ships of various provenance and tonnage mooring in its harbour19.

  • 20 This watchtower/bulwark may correspond to the small Portuguese-built fort of Qal‘at al Rawiya. See (...)
  • 21 Castanheda, 1979, I, Liv.II, chap.LV, p.330. Castanheda’s description of this wooden fence is uncle (...)
  • 22 See Mathee, 1996, p.396-405.
  • 23 Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 140, specifies that Albuquerque found there “a set of turrets and wood dust (c (...)
  • 24 See Castanheda, 1979, I, Liv.II, chap.LV, p.330; Quriyât also had a wooden fence to protect its mai (...)

7Despite its natural defences, the mountain range was crowned by a small round bulwark, as well as by various watchtowers spread over the peaks of the mountains20. According to Castanheda, a strong double faced wooden fence (tranqueira) had been built on the land side21. It was surmounted with artillery pieces, a defence technique used both in the shoreline towns of the Arabian Peninsula and in Persia (for instance in Hormuz)22. A much stronger rampart, built in the 16th century following the ancient line of this wooden fence, is represented in the 17th century Livro das Plantas23. Castanheda’s description of two very narrow passages giving access to the sea, both closed by a door, defended by one artillery piece (bombardas) also suggests that there may have existed by the beachfront some kind of defensive wall that backed the shape of the bay, such as it is illustrated in the Livro das Plantas24.

A prominent role in the Arabian Sea trade networks

  • 25 Several examples of these dynamics between the 13th and the 16th centuries in Staples, 2017, p. 100 (...)
  • 26 Aubin, 1973, p.112.
  • 27 Ibid. p.113 and n. 215: Qalhât yielded 11,000 ashrafî and Muscat 4,000, although Muscat generated 5 (...)
  • 28 See illustration in Shomali, 2014, vol. II, annex VIII and XII (detail of the Music Room in the Ali (...)
  • 29 Albuquerque, 1989, p. 160.
  • 30 Wink, 2004, p. 194; Aubin, 1973, p. 117.

8Interdependency, but also rivalry, dominated the relations between early modern Omani port-cities. One of these situations could become dominant depending on fading or rising of local and regional powers. Moreover, uprisings, raids, or invasions could precipitate the realignment of political and economic alliances. Natural disasters would also hasty the decline of some towns and the rise of others. It seems safe to assert that in the last quarter of the 15th century, the earthquake that struck Qalhât (and caused some damage in Hormuz) favoured Muscat indirectly. Similarly, new directions of land and maritime routes of trade, new floods of goods25 and technological improvements in shipbuilding would contribute to the shifting in the Omani port-cities fortunes. For example, the generalisation of ships with greater tonnage disadvantaged the port of Qalhât, which could only receive small ships during the monsoon; conversely, Muscat, whose harbour had deeper waters, could shelter vessels with larger tonnage during the monsoon season26. By 1515, the trade activity in Qalhât was still significant (apparently twice as much as the one from Muscat)27; such health may explain its magnificent mosque, with seven naves lined with tiles, porcelain stamped in the walls in the Persian manner28, doors and ceiling in carved wood29. However, Muscat was on the rise. Its economy was already engaged in several directions, combining irrigated crops, fishing, pastoral nomadism, animal husbandry and an embryo of naval industry30.

  • 31 On coffee, “a seed used once cooked” (hua semente de que se usa ha pouco em cozimentos) see Bocarro(...)
  • 32 Oman produced about forty types of dates. The quality ferd endured long trips: Wink, 2004, p.194. S (...)
  • 33 An area of salt extraction was compared by Brás de Albuquerque to Lisbon’s Rossio, i.e. its central (...)
  • 34 Membre, 1993, p. 52-53. Membré was travelling in a ship transporting 90 horses.
  • 35 Aubin, 1973, p. 119.
  • 36 See the testimony of Bocarro, 1992, p.51-52. The camel hay (cambolyns) was praised both by Muslim a (...)
  • 37 Couto, 1990, p. 148, n. 13.
  • 38 Bouchon,1987, p. 43; Gommans, 2018, passim; Couto, 2011, p. 135.
  • 39 See the list of goods sold in Cambay mentioning some products of Muscat and Quriyât, AN/TT, Colecçã (...)
  • 40 The famous Venetian gold coin which remained in production from its introduction in CE 1248. It wei (...)
  • 41 Aubin, 1973, p. 169; Loureiro, 2009, p. 137-146; Bouchon, 1973, p. 43; Aubin, 1973, p. 117-118 and (...)
  • 42 Nau were large, typically three masted ships, square rigged (except on the mizzen) (….) with keels (...)
  • 43 AN/TT, Nucleo Antigo n°609 and AN/TT, CCII, 87,31, edited by Farinha, 1991, p. 46-55, and p. 54 in (...)

9Authors, such as Ibn Mâjid or the Portuguese Gaspar Correia and Brás de Albuquerque, underlined its cereals (gallât) production (barley and wheat), fresh fruits and oil (salit). Coffee (caoa), incense and aloe gum (azebre) (i.e., Aloe arborescens and Aloe ferox) are quoted in the 17th century Portuguese repository of Muscat indigenous productions31. Dates32, raisins of different types, salt and dried salted fish were basic exports in the 16th century33. In 1540, the Venetian Michele Membré reports that animals (including horses) ate dried salted fish, and walls and houses were built with this material34. Pastoral nomadism was another significant Muscat asset. The Bedouins moved flocks of goats and sheep from remote areas of the Bâtinah to the littoral35. Heading to Hormuz, camels formed the caravans (cáfilas) mingling seasonally between the Arabian Peninsula and the Iranian plateau. Horses were considered among the best in the whole Indian Ocean36. They were not all bred in the Shamâl ash-Sharqîyah (Northern Bâtinah): some came from afar, from Qatîf and al-Hasâ, the oasis of the Arabian shore of the Gulf37. However, they were mainly conveyed to Hormuz, the regional sorting centre for horses, from where they were shipped to western Indian ports (Goa, Chaul, Cannanore, Honnavar, Bhatkal) to supply the cavalry detachments of the Deccan’s sultans as well as the armies of the southern Vijayanâgar Empire38. The logistics of horse transportation required specific resources and Muscat specialized in some of them. For example, known as “herb of Muscat” or “Mecca straw” (palha de Meca), and sold in India, the Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (L.) Spreng., was considered the best horse bedding to ensure the animals a safe journey39. The horse commerce was an extremely lucrative one, its benefits were estimated between 300% to 500%. A horse could be sold by 1,000 to 2,000 ducats40, and the Indian rulers would pay the merchants for the animals punctured during the crossing, on condition that the tails were produced41. The 1520-1521 inventory of the cargo of the nau 42S.Maria do Monte offers a good example of this trade which represented a significant source of revenue for the Portuguese Crown43.

  • 44 Aubin, 1973, p. 118; see also Couto (POTACHE) 1990, p. 148, n. 13.

10Among Omani coastal towns, only Muscat, Qalhât and Khorfakkân offered good natural conditions to embark horses. Conversely, Quriyât, like Suhar, was surrounded by coral reefs. Barns and stables to house the animals before the perilous crossing to India were available in Khorfakkân44.

  • 45 Leitão and Lopes, 1990, p. 124. Although less resistant than linen, the ropes made of cairo were li (...)
  • 46 Piacentini, 2008, p. 10. The same rule was applied to Bahrain in the 16th century: Couto, 2018b, p.
  • 47 It seems they were granted permission by the governor of Lâr in the mid-16th century. See Floor, 20 (...)
  • 48 Aubin, 1973, p.143.
  • 49 Ibid., p.115, n. 231, quoting the account of Brás de Albuquerque.

11Also significant was the cairo production. Extracted from coconut husk (Cocos nucifera), this natural fibre, essential to rigging, entered in the composition of various sorts of ship cordage45. There is some indirect evidence of a small-scale naval industry in Muscat, as Hormuz tried to strictly enforce the embargo of strategic materials related to shipbuilding (wooden paddles, cairo, iron, steel, sail clothes). In fact, Hormuz sought to prevent the construction of Safavid fleets, which could pose a threat to its maritime power outside the Gulf. Consequently, the maritime activities were diverted to the Omani seaports46. On the other hand, until the arrival of the Portuguese, no true offensives had taken place coming from the sea, but piracy roamed the area. Although their flotillas displayed small tonnage ships (compared with a galleon), the Balouchi of the Nodhaki tribe from Makrân (quoted in Portuguese sources under the name nautaques) and, later, the niquelus (a group originally from Oman but installed in the region of Nakhilu in the northern part of the Persian shore of the Gulf)47, raided port-cities regularly. Therefore, the king of Hormuz kept in Muscat a flotilla for its defence48. The production of the manufactured shipbuilding materials was coupled with the commerce of wooden barrels of fresh water to supply ships. As it has been pointed out by various contemporary sources, drinkable water was one of the finest resources of Muscat, providing substantial revenues to its Sheikh49.

  • 50 Ibid., p.114-115.
  • 51 It is not clear if Bocarro, in his description of large amounts of “asucres cane” (very white sugar (...)
  • 52 Indian rice imports were already reported by Marco Polo: see Aubin, 1973, p. 119.

12Such local and regional (but diversified) economy must also be conceived within the broad framework of the Indian Ocean trade, deep-rooted in the redistribution of bulk goods imported from the principal partner of the Omani port-cities – i.e. the Indian subcontinent – mainly rice (carefully stored in warehouses)50, sugar51, and spices – to hinterland Omani towns situated between the Jebel Akhdar and Wâdî Samail, such as Mana, Nizwa, Bahlâ and Izki. Stopping over in Muscat in 1617, D. Garcia de Silva y Figueroa, the Castilian ambassador to Shâh ‘Abbâs, corroborates the impact of this double-folded economic distribution between the Omani port-cities and their hinterland, thus highlighting the complementarity between internal agricultural and external maritime dynamics52.

  • 53 See Staples, 2017, p.102; on the medieval political transitions see Vosoughi, 2009, p. 92-93.
  • 54 On the civil war of 1436 and the struggles of 1471-1475, see Aubin, 1973, p. 129-138.
  • 55 Couto, 2010, p. 46-47. There were some exceptions: in Muscat, white Indian fabrics, caps and belts (...)

13In the early 16th century, economic rivalry did not touch only Omani ports among themselves. Muscat also started to cast some shadow on Hormuz, which, since the 14th century, asserted its control over a large part of the Gulf shores and extended a protectorate over the seaports of the Omani facade53. However, despite its supremacy in the 15th century, Hormuz control on its “external territories” was already fading due to its internal socio-political divisions and succession crises that led to a civil war54. Situations of denial of payment of fees and taxes by Omani sheikhs evidence Hormuz’s authority progressive decline: Muscat disliked the forwarding of its duties benefits to Hormuz. This draining was considerable as the seaport, an essential stopover for Muslim merchant ships connecting the Red Sea to India (some of them transporting Hajj pilgrims), practiced in general lower duties than Hormuz. Several regional goods profited between 3.5% and 7.5% in Muscat and between 11% and 15% and even more in Hormuz55.

  • 56 See Staples, 2017, p. 86.
  • 57 On Bandar-e Kong see Floor, 2006, p. 429-476. On its highest level, the factory was administrated b (...)
  • 58 Bocarro, 1994, p.62.
  • 59 On aljofar/aljofre see Powers, 2012, p. 81. The Portuguese word aljofar could be a phonetic transcr (...)
  • 60 Bocarro, 1994, p. 62.

14At any rate, trade relations between Muscat and Basra, Iraq's southern port-city in the Shatt al-‘Arab relieved some of the economic pressure exerted by Hormuz. Commercial links were traditionally strong between the two cities56, and they were still consistent in the 17th century. At that time, Muscat was importing fabrics from Dâbûl (and generally from Cambay), drugs, hides, indigo, sugar from Sind and Bengal and coffee to Bandar-e Kong, the Portuguese factory in the Gulf 57. As it has been done centuries before, a portion of these goods was then routed to Basra, especially “the finest and richest clothes because they are all very costly58.” Basra, the terminus of the Aleppo caravans, supplied the Mediterranean with raw materials: dates, small pearls (aljofar)59, madder (ruiva) and prestige fabrics from Persia, mostly silks, velvets, and brocades60.

A political chess game: Omanis versus Portuguese in Muscat

  • 61 On these officials see Piacentini, 2008, p. 6-7.
  • 62 Castanheda,1979, Liv. II, cap. LV, p. 330. Regarding the plunder of Muscat see also Al-Busaidi, 200 (...)
  • 63 Piacentini, 2008, p. 10.
  • 64 On the political process leading to the conquest of Oman by Hormuz, see Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 19-20; (...)

15Muscat (like Qalhât and Quriyât) was ruled by a governor or vizier, usually chosen in the socio-political elite of Hormuz61. In 1507, the wazîr was a former slave of the king of Hormuz, who died fleeing during Albuquerque’s raid62. In practice, this authority cohabited with the one of the prominent local families, but it is difficult to ascertain the balance of power among Omani emirs and sheikhs, Hormuz viziers and the latter Persian or Central Asian eunuchs, who switched loyalties between them. What seems clear is that, as pointed out by V. Piacentini, at the dawn of the 16th century, despite an institutional restructuration, the mâlik of Hormuz “could not prevail over the fundamental conflict between Arab and the Persian elements”63. Moreover, the main function of the Persian officers appointed by Hormuz to the Omani coastline towns was to levy taxes and to govern the customs64.

  • 65 According to Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 20-21, the Banû Jabr belonged to the Banû ‘Aqil clan, descendants (...)
  • 66 On the fort of “Etem” (Yiti? between Quriyât and Muscat, and those of “Roçaque” (Râs al-Hadd ?) and (...)

16Subsequently to the 1507’s looting of Muscat by Afonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese came to terms with a prominent local figure, sheikh Râshid b. Ahmad Muscatî. In those years, the military situation of Muscat’s was not to its advantage. Although Hormuz ruled the Oman port-cities, a part of their extended hinterland (encompassing the Arabian oasis of Qatîf and Al-Hâsa, located up to the Northeast, on the Gulf shoreline) was somehow submitted, in the second half of the 15th century, and more precisely after 1487, to the Bedouin Banû Jabr emirs, who collected taxes from a sparse population of villages and oasis, and could possibly raid littoral towns65. The fortifications built along the Omani coast would be to sustain these impending incursions, and not only unexpected pirates’ raids from the sea66.

  • 67 Piacentini, 2008, p. 6; Power, 2017, p. 220.
  • 68 See the useful table of the Hormuz royal dynasties (14th to 16th centuries) in Aubin, 1973, p. 130; (...)
  • 69 On Suleymân b. Suleymân see Aubin, 1973, p. 124-125; Al-Salimi, 2000, p. 21; Piacentini, 2008, p. 6 (...)
  • 70 See Barbosa in Sousa, 1996, p.131.

17If the Portuguese anticipated the advantages of setting foot in Oman, the sheikh also saw the benefits from a tactical cohabitation with the Portuguese. Indeed, if the support of the Portuguese isolated him politically from other Omani coastal cities, generally hostile to the Portuguese, on the other hand, the Portuguese backed him to prevent the Banû Jabr raids, and to keep the Hormuz fiscal and monetary exigencies at a reasonable level. The situation was all the more complex because, despite the asymmetric political relations between the Omani ports and Hormuz67, the layered Persian aristocracy was intertwined with Omani ruling families, making an Omani non-alignment difficult to withstand. For example, Abū ‘Fath Muzaffaruddîn Salghur Shâh I (1470-1505), mâlik of Hormuz68, married the daughter of the Nabhânî Sultan Suleymân b. Suleymân69. Such tight links are also evidenced through religious legacies and sociability practices. For example, the healthy Hormuzi merchants and administration officers would spend the mild season in their Omani groves and residences to escape the unbearable summer climate of Hormuz. Trade networking provides far more evidence of this very strong social, political, and economic imbrication70.

  • 71 As recorded by Staples, 2017, p.104, the Hormuz dynasty was “reportedly originally from Qalhât”, he (...)
  • 72 Couto, 2011, p. 139-140; Al-Busaidi, 2000, p.58,

18Portuguese support would also keep away sheikh Râshid’s closest meilleur ennemi, the wâzir of Qalhât, Ra’îs Shebabdîn, who did rebel against Hormuz (and thus against the Portuguese), despite the privileged ancestral ties between the two cities71. In 1519, Shebabdîn was in open conflict with the king of Hormuz, Tûrân Shâh IV, who, failing to attract him to his capital in Jarûn island, urged the Portuguese Duarte Mendes de Vasconcelos to arrest the Ra’îs in his own residence72. The triangular scenery of reciprocal services between Hormuzi, Portuguese, and Omani was obviously subtle to balance. As a result, and in the years to follow, the hazardous political entente was bound to be disrupted at any moment.

  • 73 Veiga was factor in Qalhât, where most Portuguese were killed in the 1521 upsurge. He managed to fl (...)
  • 74 João de Meira was reportedly the first Portuguese to travel to Basra. Regarding his journeys, see S (...)
  • 75 In February 1516, the fleet of D.Aleixo de Meneses, captain-major of the sea (Capitão-mor do Mar), (...)
  • 76 The foists were small single-masted ships provided both with sails and oars.
  • 77 See the minute of D.João III’ s letter to the governor of India (D.Henrique de Meneses) “to lie in (...)
  • 78 Initiated in 2006, this editorial project of the Sultanate of Oman is coordinated by Michael Jansen (...)

19However, as a whole, the agreement with the Portuguese led sheikh Râshid to approve the establishment of a bunch of Portuguese (including a factor) in Muscat. This small group included a clerk and the “sea captain” (capitão do mar) Manuel de Sousa Tavares. Fernão Alvares Cernache (who owed its prosperity to the horse trade73) and João de Meira (who made two commercial journeys to Basra in 1517 and 1521) were also part of the factory74. Meanwhile, Muscat turned out to be increasingly indispensable for the logistics of the official Portuguese armadas and fleets, and this role only intended to increase in the following decades75. It became a rule that Portuguese foists (fustas)76, and larger ocean-going ships rutting the western Indian Ocean came to winter in Muscat, but there was obviously another interest beyond the logistic background: in terms of navigation, the use of the harbour made it much easier for the Portuguese to intercept convoys of commercial Muslim ships connecting the Red Sea with Gujarat and Malabar77. The recent publication of the impressing body of documentation on early modern Portuguese-Omani relations already allows us to better understand the extent of this economic intertwining, which appears to be much more substantial than what we thought78.

  • 79 On the conquest see Farinha, 1989, p. 445-472. A key document remains the letter of Pero de Alpoim, (...)
  • 80 Staples, 2017, p. 102. For an extensive study of the urban population and ruling class see Aubin, 1 (...)

20The year 1521 may be considered as a turning point in the Portuguese-Omani relations. It makes sense that it was so. Albuquerque had returned to Hormuz in 1515 and conquered the island of Jarûn79, establishing a politico-military protectorate there – a challenging situation for Hormuz, which was already ruling a twofold protectorate, as its Persian elite governed over a pluralistic population, including its Arabian subjects, Armenians, Jews, Gujarati and Hindu communities80. Therefore, the Portuguese also found themselves sustaining an indirect rule over the Omani ports of trade, as part of the Hormuz realms.

  • 81 On tax extortion practiced in 1521 by the Portuguese in Hormuz and the control of customs, Couto, 2 (...)
  • 82 On the political and economic situation in Hormuz leading to the uprising see Couto, 2005, p. 132-1 (...)
  • 83 Aubin, 1987, p.85.
  • 84 On this merchant categories in the Indian Ocean see Couto, 2018a, p. 49-62; Couto, 2015, p. 22-25; (...)

21In August 1521, the armada of the new Governor of Estado da Índia, D. Duarte de Meneses (gov.1522-1524), reached Goa, and his brother D. Luís de Meneses was appointed captain-major of the Hormuz Sea fleet. In November 1521, however, the Omani port-cities stood up in opposition to Hormuz to protest against taxes, but an anti-Portuguese uprising took place on the island of Jarûn about the same time81. The Portuguese were also attacked in Oman port-cities, namely in Qalhât and Suhar as well as in some Kerala ports (Cochin and Cannanore), where they had been authorized to build fortresses and factories82. The reasons of this “transnational” uprising (1521-1522) and its eventual orchestration by Indian Ocean Muslim merchant networks still remain obscure, but it was argued that the “throttling of Bhatkal, decided by king D. Manuel in order to develop Goa83” could have especially affected a number of merchant communities, deeply involved in the juicy horse trade. Bhatkal owed its prosperity to this flow, and its deviation to Goa would force the foreign Muslim merchants (Pardeśi), from North Africa, Syria, Egypt, Arabia, and Persia, as well as the Mâppilla of Malabar and the Rûmî/Gujarati from Gujarat and Bîjâpûr to pay duties to the Portuguese for the horse transportation84.

  • 85 Cunha, 2013, p. 241.

22It would be tempting to see in the reaction of the Omani ports in favour of or against the Portuguese a greater or lesser influence from the Persian ruling elite in these towns (greater in Qalhât, lesser in Muscat)85. However, the question is not easy to clarify. As seen by the matrimonial example and widespread social behaviours, Omani upper-class relations with Hormuz were equally strong in both cities.

  • 86 See the document AN/TT, CCII,141,103, [11 June 1527] where it is suggested to write to sheikh Râshi (...)
  • 87 Couto, 2005, p. 146 and n. 111 with quittances and orders referring presents. See AN/TT CCII, 102, (...)
  • 88 Couto, 2005, p. 146 and n. 108 and 109. Around 13th of May, while the Portuguese fleet moored in Tî (...)

23Sheikh Râshid was ordered by the Hormuzis to kill all Portuguese who resided in the Muscat factory, but he refused to do so. His reaction in the aftermath of the rebellion, and the fact that he also handed over to the Portuguese the remaining cargo of the S.Jorge shipwreck, sunk off Muscat in 152286, awarded him the status of Portuguese ally in the region. Therefore, he was subsequently and liberally gratified by them87. By mid-April 1522, when Ra’îs Daylamî Shâh, nephew of Ra’îs Sharafuddîn (Sharaf al-Dîn) Fâlî, the powerful wâzir of Hormuz, attacked the Muscati close to the Tîwî oasis, located “three leagues North of Muscat”, the Portuguese provided some help88.

  • 89 AN/TT, Nucleo Antigo, n°592, edited by Farinha, 1991, p. 55-65.
  • 90 Couto, 2005, p. 139, n. 72, and p. 146-147. Suhar was raided early May (11 May) or June.
  • 91 See AN/TT CCII, 102, 19 (135) [Hormuz, 5 July 1522], in Farinha, 1991, p. 67-78 and CCII, 100,122 [ (...)
  • 92 See quittance related to fish export from Muscat, AN/TT, CCII, 102, 112 (PSO, 2015, II, p. 13).
  • 93 AN/TT, CCII, 103, 44 [15 August 1522] in PSO, 2015, II, p.25 (not published by Farinha). Some slave (...)
  • 94 AN/TT, CCII, 103, 74 [Muscat, 23 August 1522], in PSO, 2015, II, p. 43: ten Arab slaves handed to t (...)
  • 95 See the quittance of Sebastião Rodrigues, master of the galleon S.Dinis, seventeen pieces of fabric (...)

24By the end of April 1522, D. Luís, who had left in February of the same year the Indian port of Chaul with a flotilla of eight ships, anchored in Muscat, and would remain there until May 1522. His “Book of Preys” (Livro das Presas)89, remains essential to assess his raiding practices along the Omani coast. In fact, instead of proceeding directly from India to Hormuz – as ordered by his brother – he preferred to make a detour and went to loot the Omani seafront towns, starting with Suhar90, where he reduced many inhabitants to slavery. His raids also touched the Râs al-Hadd area and Masîra island91. The “Book of Preys” casts new light on the Portuguese engagement in a peculiar economy of predation and slavery, merging raiding (on land and sea) and almost consecutive sale of the booty (including slaves), entangled with regular mercantile operations92. Like a bulk of other related documents, the “Book of Preys” also highlights the triangular configuration of such exchanges, bringing together D. Luís de Meneses, his captains and fleet factors (feitores), as well as other Portuguese agents on the seashore. An order (mandado) from D. Luís de Meneses to Jorge Ferreira, factor of his fleet, to enter into the account of António Fernandes, clerk of Qalhât, of 8,700 reais for the shipping of captives from Qalhât to Muscat, and then to Hormuz, provides a good example of such practices93. The Portuguese factors were in charge of supplying the crews with slaves of all origins to man the vessels94, and to purchase raw materials for the ship maintenance as well as local foodstuffs for the whole fleet95.

  • 96 Memória sobre a governança da Índia e rendas de Ormuz, AN/TT, CCII, 141, 103, fol.2, published by F (...)
  • 97 Couto, 2005, p. 146 and n. 110. See the Relação dos Escravos tomados em Muscate por Roque de Sousa, (...)
  • 98 Couto, 2011, p. 139.
  • 99 AN/TT, CC II, 106, 68, in PSO, 2015, II, p. 63 (order from D.Luís de Meneses to the accountants of (...)

25Such cordial entente Muscat being praised because “during the uprising it never wanted to be against the Christians and did not accept monetary compensations96” – did not prevent ruthless behaviours from the Portuguese. However, they could be (at least in the early 1520s), promptly repaired. For example, in 1522, if D. Luís captured some Muscat inhabitants, he also ordered that the slaves taken by Manuel de Sousa near the Râs al-Hadd would be given to the sheikh97. More importantly, until 1590, Râshid and his family were bestowed with some hereditary rights: he, as his offspring, were granted the monopoly of cairo trade and the control of Muscat customs, encompassing two essential offices, the one of Kapan (weight) and the judge of customs98. The sheikh was also frequently endowed with presents, including crops99.

  • 100 Couto, 2005, p. 149-150, n. 129; Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 39, n. 1 and 2 (relying on Portuguese sources (...)
  • 101 Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 39.
  • 102 Memória da governança da Índia e rendas de Ormuz, already mentioned, published by Farinha, 1991, p. (...)
  • 103 Couto, 2005, p. 150. See the transcription of Diogo de Melo’s statement against Ra’îs Sharafuddîn F (...)
  • 104 Couto, 2005, p. 151, and n. 135.
  • 105 Document published in Couto, 2005, p. 157-158 (AN/TT, CCI, 41, 3) [Lisbon, 18 August 1528]. On the (...)
  • 106 Cunha, 2013, p. 247.
  • 107 See both letters of Pero Fernandes to king D. João III in AN/TT, CCI, 63, 22 and CCI, 66,14 [Goa, 2 (...)
  • 108 See Couto, 2005, p. 151-157. Seized by the Portuguese, the correspondence of the viziers and of the (...)

26A second anti-Portuguese upheaval took place in Hormuz in 1526 due, in large part, to the exactions and greed of the Portuguese captain of the fortress of Hormuz, Diogo de Melo, who extorted 2,750 pardaus and subsequently arrested Ra’îs Sharafuddîn Fâlî. Once more, the upheaval spread onto the Omani seafront towns, principally to Qalhât but also to Muscat, showing the limits of the social and political statuo quo100. The instability required Lopo Vaz de Sampaio, the interim Governor of Estado da Índia (1526-1529), to intervene to appease the turmoil101. In 1527, as it is recorded on the Memória da governança da Índia e rendas de Ormuz, the Portuguese factor (with jurisdiction over Muscat, Qalhât and Quriyât), was placed under the protection of sheikh Râshid102. Ra’îs Sharafuddîn Fâlî, who had been accused in September 1525 by Diogo de Melo103, was arrested in 1526104, and banished to Goa in 1528 to be judged on charges of treason105. Sheikh Râshid Muscatî was appointed vizier of Hormuz, thus confirming the political return of the Muscatis in the framework of the new Hormuzi high administration106. Be as it may, sheikh Râshid (who died in 1534) increased his revenues during his tenure as vizier of Hormuz, and so did his son and successor, Ahmad107. Such ostensible health was intended to poison the relationship between the Muscatis and the rulers of Hormuz in subsequent years and decades108.

  • 109 Cunha, 2013, p. 241.
  • 110 For a detailed approach of the palace intrigues see Couto, 2005, p. 132-157. The Portuguese were ve (...)
  • 111 Regarding the help provided in the conquest of Suhar, see AN/TT, CCII, 117, 23 [Cochin, 16 July 152 (...)
  • 112 Afonso de Albuquerque set a factory in Diu in 1513, and the Portuguese attempted four expeditions t (...)
  • 113 See the geopolitical analysis addressed by sheikh Râshid Muscatî to D.João III, in Aubin, 1973, p. (...)

27Hence, one agrees that “this alignment of Muscat’s sheikh with the Portuguese guided his family during most of the 16th century and enhanced their role regionally to a surprising height in 1529”109, but the 1529 prestigious appointment should not be seen as a simple rewarding. In fact, in order to secure their indirect rule over Hormuz and, by extension, over the Omani port-cities, the Portuguese applied the old-age policy of “divide and rule”, thus exploiting the political spectrum, i.e. the antagonisms between the Arab and Persian ruling classes, pitting them against one another, and taking advantage of the personal conflicts and rivalries within the Hormuzi aristocracy110. This strategy – which included the involvement of the Banû Jabr, misusing the particular interests of their confederation – has borne fruit. As it turned out, the Portuguese were able to control in 1522 the Omani shoreline fortifications still in the hands of the Hormuzi, finding allies in both the Omanis and the Banû Jabr to defeat the Persians. The Bedouins were judiciously gratified111. However, it would be incorrect to consider the Portuguese only as manipulators: as they were often providing services to each opponent, they frequently get tangled up, with prejudice, in the Omani – Hormuzi rivalries and conflicts. Even more than in the 1520s, the sources related to their political relations with the regional actors in the 1530s and 1540s, when they set foot in Diu112, at the time Muscat consolidated its position as a key port of Oman113, provide a number of examples of the increasing complexity of this political and military interactions.

28Therefore, regarding the early 16th century Omani-Portuguese relations, the recent publication of the extensive body of primary sources, quoted in the present article, enables us to draw some brief conclusions, at least regarding the first decades of the 16th century. Established in 1507-1515, the Portuguese protectorate on Hormuz allowed them to settle factories and fortifications in some port-cities of Oman. They took advantage of the natural conditions of some Omani port-cities - as Muscat – and of their leading role into the traditional Indian Ocean trade, to strengthen their own encroaching in the indigenous networks. Their intrusion also impacted the economic soaring of ports like Muscat, which became a major regional hub in the first half of the 16th century. Furthermore, the Portuguese economic interference paved the way for their participation in the network of local and regional alliances, increasing their social and political interconnectivity with the Omani upper classes, to which they incidentally provide military service, thus broadening the spectrum of actors playing intricate local and regional strategic games, a political configuration that has been maintained in the second half of the 16th century.

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Notes

1 BEAUJARD, 2009, p.85.

2 Biedermann, 2006, p.65-80. Hindered by rough seas, a scarce and poor population, the island of Soqotra, conquered by Albuquerque in 1507, was abandoned in 1511; it could not play any outpost role for the Portuguese in the Western Indian Ocean.

3 Aubin,1971, p.112-113, according to the testimonies of Brás de Albuquerque and Gaspar Correia. Early trade connections with India and China (8th century) have been highlighted by several authors. Regarding Chinese ceramics, see Rougeulle, 1991, p.5-46; Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, 2004, p. 26-38; Zhao, 2015, p. 159-172; Staples, 2017, p. 87-88.

4 An overview of its maritime past in the contributions directed by Al-Salimi, 2016 and 2017.

5 Quoted by Staples, 2017, p. 106.

6 Kirchner, 1946, p. 46-54.

7 The factor oversaw transactions in the factory (feitoria), the official Portuguese trading station established overseas.

8 See Duarte Barbosa in Sousa, 1996, p.127, and additionally, Aubin, 1973, p.114-116. However, Tomé Pires, in his Suma Oriental (1515) the most important early modern European account on Asian trade, does not mention Muscat, an intriguing omission since he used Duarte Barbosa’s account.

9 See Castanheda, 1979, I, Liv. II, chap. LV, p.330. It is worth noting that Barbosa developed his commentaries on Quriyât and Qalhât more than on Muscat: see Sousa, 1996, p. 128-130.

10 The horseshoe configuration is patent in the 16th and 17th centuries Portuguese iconography. The islet is visible as being separated from the cliffs that surrounded the harbour in António Bocarro’s Livro das Plantas de todas as Fortalezas Cidades, e Povoações do Estado da Índia Oriental, portrayed by Pedro Barreto de Resende (1635) (Biblioteca Pública de Évora, Portugal, Ms. CXV/2-1, and National Library of France. The French ms. is a 1636 copy). See also Carneiro, 1990, n°5. For more details on the islet representation in Portuguese cartography, see Couto, 2011, p. 129-130, n. 2.

11 See Bocarro, 1992, p.44. The notation of these values ​​in fathoms is depicted in the Livro das Plantas das Cidades e Povoações do Estado da India Oriental (…), manuscript of the Library of Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa, Portugal (Cod.1471) edited by Luís Silveira. The Portuguese maritime fathom corresponded to eight feet (1,76 m). The current one corresponds to two yards (i.e. 1,83 m). 

12 Estimation by Aubin, 1973, p.115; Wink, 2004, p.194.

13 Aubin, 1973, p.115, quoting Brás de Albuquerque, Afonso de Albuquerque’s son, author of a chronicle on his father’s exploits.

14 See Castanheda, 1979, I, Liv. II, chap. LV, p. 330: “casas altas de pedra e cal”.

15 Ibid., I, Liv.II, chap.LV, p. 334. Aubin, 1973, p.115, n. 236 and p. 90, n. 57. However, the most likely is that the vault was supported by carven wooden pillars (see Muscat Gate Museum, 2001, p. 36).

16 Castanheda, 1979, I, Liv. II, chap. LV, p. 334.

17 Morgan Library & Museum, New York, Ms. M 525, edited in facsimile by Soeiro, 1992.

18 The white mosque was drawn without minaret (in Ibâdî style?). See the location of present mosque of Al-Khor, behind Al-Mirani fort.

19 Muscat Gate Museum, 2001, p.17. Michele Membré noticed a small creek in Muscat as well as plantations of sugarcane on its riverside banks: Membre, 1993, p.52, n. 3. See also Couto, 2011, p. 134, n.27. The traditional qanât (Falaj, pl. Aflâj) were part of the irrigation system: Muscat Gate Museum, p. 20-23; Wilkinson, 1983, p. 177-194.

20 This watchtower/bulwark may correspond to the small Portuguese-built fort of Qal‘at al Rawiya. See Muscat Gate Museum, 2001, p. 16. This type of defence was also used in Bahrain, see Couto, 2018b, p. 34. On Aden fortifications see also Margariti, 2007, passim and Norris and Penhey, 1955, p. 11-20.

21 Castanheda, 1979, I, Liv.II, chap.LV, p.330. Castanheda’s description of this wooden fence is unclear. Apparently, the fence was made of wood pieces and stranded boats filled with earth: Couto, 2011, p. 132, n. 12; Aubin, 1973, p.119. However, a more recent reading of the text would indicate that the ships (naos) were more likely to be dismantled to build the fence without being filled with earth.

22 See Mathee, 1996, p.396-405.

23 Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 140, specifies that Albuquerque found there “a set of turrets and wood dust (clay?) that extended from one dune to another on the coast in front of the city”.

24 See Castanheda, 1979, I, Liv.II, chap.LV, p.330; Quriyât also had a wooden fence to protect its main mosque ibid., Liv.II, chap. LIIII, p.328); Couto, 2011, p. 132. D. Manuel mentions the “strong walls” of Muscat in his letter of 30 January 1509 (see Arquivo da Câmara Municipal de Elvas, Livro 2 das Proprias, fol.38-41, edited by Aubin, 1971, p.146). There would also be some watchtowers, as reported by Castanheda and Brás de Albuquerque (Aubin, 1973, p.121, n. 278). The wood fence was also burnt by Albuquerque in 1507.

25 Several examples of these dynamics between the 13th and the 16th centuries in Staples, 2017, p. 100-108.

26 Aubin, 1973, p.112.

27 Ibid. p.113 and n. 215: Qalhât yielded 11,000 ashrafî and Muscat 4,000, although Muscat generated 5,000 ashrafî according to the chronicler Gaspar Correia. Also consider the expenditure of Hormuz (Revenus du Royaume d’Ormuz et dépenses du roi en 1515 [?]) published by Aubin, 1973, p.233. Suhar would bring 1,500 ashrafî, Khorfakkân the same amount, and Daba 500.

28 See illustration in Shomali, 2014, vol. II, annex VIII and XII (detail of the Music Room in the Ali Qapu palace, Ispahan, and in the Chini Khaneh, Ardabil). Portuguese testimony in Loureiro, 2015, p. 10, quoting the Augustinian friar Agostinho de Azevedo, who lived in Hormuz between 1580 and 1600: Muslims in Hormuz had “niches on the walls of their residences, similar to windows”, where they displayed their most valuable porcelains. They also stamped them into the walls.

29 Albuquerque, 1989, p. 160.

30 Wink, 2004, p. 194; Aubin, 1973, p. 117.

31 On coffee, “a seed used once cooked” (hua semente de que se usa ha pouco em cozimentos) see Bocarro,1992, p. 52.

32 Oman produced about forty types of dates. The quality ferd endured long trips: Wink, 2004, p.194. See also export of Muscat dates in AN/TT, Colecção S.Vicente, Liv.11, fol.28v°, published in PSO, 2015, II, p.89.

33 An area of salt extraction was compared by Brás de Albuquerque to Lisbon’s Rossio, i.e. its central square. Regarding fishing and salt fish, see also Duarte Barbosa in Sousa, 1996, p.130: “E lugar de trato de mercadorias e de muito grande pescaria: aqui se pescam muito grandes pescados que salgam para se levar por mercadoria a outras partes”. It seems the Râs al-Hadd waters were especially rich in tuna fish.

34 Membre, 1993, p. 52-53. Membré was travelling in a ship transporting 90 horses.

35 Aubin, 1973, p. 119.

36 See the testimony of Bocarro, 1992, p.51-52. The camel hay (cambolyns) was praised both by Muslim and Portuguese. Mention of exports from Muscat to Cambay in AN/TT, Colecção S.Vicente, Liv.11, fol.28v°, published in PSO, 2015, II, p. 89.

37 Couto, 1990, p. 148, n. 13.

38 Bouchon,1987, p. 43; Gommans, 2018, passim; Couto, 2011, p. 135.

39 See the list of goods sold in Cambay mentioning some products of Muscat and Quriyât, AN/TT, Colecção S.Vicente, Liv.11, fol.28v°, published in PSO, 2015, II, p.89 ; Couto, 2011, p. 135, n. 31. The cymbopogon is also known as camel grass, camel’s hay or West Indian lemon grass. See a short description in PIRES, 1978, p.452.

40 The famous Venetian gold coin which remained in production from its introduction in CE 1248. It weighted 3,550 g. and was 997/1000 fine, virtually pure gold. See Membre, 1993, p. 88.

41 Aubin, 1973, p. 169; Loureiro, 2009, p. 137-146; Bouchon, 1973, p. 43; Aubin, 1973, p. 117-118 and 169; the Memória sobre a governança da Índia e rendas de Ormuz (before 11 June 1527), Arquivos Nacionais da Torre do Tombo (henceforth AN/TT), Corpo Cronologico (henceforth CC) (part) II, (bundle) 141, (document) 103, edited by Farinha, 1991, p. 93-96, indicates a yield from trade of horses in Hormuz of 80,000 golden pardaus (p. 95).

42 Nau were large, typically three masted ships, square rigged (except on the mizzen) (….) with keels only twice as long as the ship’s beam (…). The lower hull was road and round with high fore and stern castles. Their primary function was the carriage of large volumes of cargo”: see Hazlett, 2008, p. 67. As these ships should not be confused with galleons or carracks, the spelling nau is used throughout this article.

43 AN/TT, Nucleo Antigo n°609 and AN/TT, CCII, 87,31, edited by Farinha, 1991, p. 46-55, and p. 54 in particular (shipping of seventy-one horses). Also refer to Vosoughi, 2009, p. 97, quoting Tomé Pires.

44 Aubin, 1973, p. 118; see also Couto (POTACHE) 1990, p. 148, n. 13.

45 Leitão and Lopes, 1990, p. 124. Although less resistant than linen, the ropes made of cairo were lighter. The Maldives archipelago supplied the Indian ports of trade of Malabar and Gujarat: Bouchon, 1973, p. 45.

46 Piacentini, 2008, p. 10. The same rule was applied to Bahrain in the 16th century: Couto, 2018b, p.

33; Risso, 2016, p. 4-5.

47 It seems they were granted permission by the governor of Lâr in the mid-16th century. See Floor, 2008, p. 89-105 (Nikhelus) and p. 91, n. 5 (nautaques). Floor, 2006, p. 241. Striking descriptions of the nautaques attacks off the Omani coast are provided by 16th century Jesuit correspondences. See the letter of Fr. Aleixo Madeira to Fr. Luís Gonçalves [Hormuz, 24 September 1553], edited by Rego, 1993, V, p. 323 (letter n°63), and the Letter of the Jesuit Goa College to the priests and brothers in Portugal (Carta Geral do Colégio de Goa aos Padres e Irmãos de Portugal [Goa, 1 December 1552]), ibid., p. 237-238 (letter n°49).

48 Aubin, 1973, p.143.

49 Ibid., p.115, n. 231, quoting the account of Brás de Albuquerque.

50 Ibid., p.114-115.

51 It is not clear if Bocarro, in his description of large amounts of “asucres cane” (very white sugar-cane), either in powder or in “very good stone” (pedra de estremada bondade) refers to imported Indian sugar or to the Omani production: Bocarro,1992, p.52.

52 Indian rice imports were already reported by Marco Polo: see Aubin, 1973, p. 119.

53 See Staples, 2017, p.102; on the medieval political transitions see Vosoughi, 2009, p. 92-93.

54 On the civil war of 1436 and the struggles of 1471-1475, see Aubin, 1973, p. 129-138.

55 Couto, 2010, p. 46-47. There were some exceptions: in Muscat, white Indian fabrics, caps and belts described as “Kamarband (camarabandos), paid 11%, as well as Cambay indigo, the spices (pepper and nutmeg), tin and Indian sugar. The other goods paid 7.5 %. In Hormuz, Malacca clothing paid 16.5 % and the Indian fabrics 10% while the Persian silk paid 5%. Only Indian raw cotton, necessary to the activity of weaving ateliers of Hormuz paid 5%. See also Aubin, 1973, p.172, and Couto, 2010, p. 46-47. Staples, 2017, p. 104, gives 10% and 5% for goods from hinterland areas.

56 See Staples, 2017, p. 86.

57 On Bandar-e Kong see Floor, 2006, p. 429-476. On its highest level, the factory was administrated by the Portuguese superintendent of the exchequer (vedor da fazenda) of the Portuguese colony.

58 Bocarro, 1994, p.62.

59 On aljofar/aljofre see Powers, 2012, p. 81. The Portuguese word aljofar could be a phonetic transcription of the term al-Julfari current in Hormuz to describe seeds of very small pearls.

60 Bocarro, 1994, p. 62.

61 On these officials see Piacentini, 2008, p. 6-7.

62 Castanheda,1979, Liv. II, cap. LV, p. 330. Regarding the plunder of Muscat see also Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 30-32; Figueroa, 1999, p. 84 and n. 139 and 140.

63 Piacentini, 2008, p. 10.

64 On the political process leading to the conquest of Oman by Hormuz, see Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 19-20; Vosoughi, 2009, p. 92-93 [referring to the Omani conquests of the Hormuzi ruler Rukn ad-Dîn Mahmud Qalhatî (1249-1286) in 1261].

65 According to Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 20-21, the Banû Jabr belonged to the Banû ‘Aqil clan, descendants from Amir bin Sassaa, one of the fractions of the Quraîsh tribes (ibid., p. 20, n. 4); see also Aba-Husain, 1983, p. 78-100. On the political situation and the conflict between the Nahbanites of Bahlâ and the Ibadi Imams, see also Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 20-22; Aubin, 1973, p.122-123; Wilkinson, 2010, passim.

66 On the fort of “Etem” (Yiti? between Quriyât and Muscat, and those of “Roçaque” (Râs al-Hadd ?) and “Nael” see Barbosa, 1996, p. 129.

67 Piacentini, 2008, p. 6; Power, 2017, p. 220.

68 See the useful table of the Hormuz royal dynasties (14th to 16th centuries) in Aubin, 1973, p. 130; on his reforms see Piacentini, 2008, p. 8-10; Vosoughi, 2009, passim.

69 On Suleymân b. Suleymân see Aubin, 1973, p. 124-125; Al-Salimi, 2000, p. 21; Piacentini, 2008, p. 6; on the Nabhanids see also Staples, 2017, p. 97.

70 See Barbosa in Sousa, 1996, p.131.

71 As recorded by Staples, 2017, p.104, the Hormuz dynasty was “reportedly originally from Qalhât”, hence the privileged relation between the two cities. On these ties see also Aubin, 1953, p. 103-104.

72 Couto, 2011, p. 139-140; Al-Busaidi, 2000, p.58,

73 Veiga was factor in Qalhât, where most Portuguese were killed in the 1521 upsurge. He managed to flee to Muscat with thirty men: Couto, 2011, p. 138; Couto, 2005, p. 145; Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 37. Castanheda, 1979, II, Liv. V, cap. LXXXIIII, p. 141.

74 João de Meira was reportedly the first Portuguese to travel to Basra. Regarding his journeys, see Smith, 1971 and AN/TT, CCI, 27,97, [25 January 1522], also published by Smith, 1971, p. 26-27; Couto, 2005, p. 138, n. 50.

75 In February 1516, the fleet of D.Aleixo de Meneses, captain-major of the sea (Capitão-mor do Mar), nephew of the governor of Estado da Índia Lopo Soares de Albergaria, made already a stopover in Muscat (Aubin, 2000, II, p. 406).

76 The foists were small single-masted ships provided both with sails and oars.

77 See the minute of D.João III’ s letter to the governor of India (D.Henrique de Meneses) “to lie in wait for them [the Muslim ships] and to capture them and do as much damage as it can because this is in the best interest [of my service]”, AN/TT, Nucleo Antigo, n°875, fol.121v°, published in PSO, 2015, II, p. 87.

78 Initiated in 2006, this editorial project of the Sultanate of Oman is coordinated by Michael Jansen and Abdulrahman al-Salimi. It brings together the Center for Historical Studies of the New University in Lisbon and the Research Center of Indian Ocean, in Muscat. The collection encompasses two distinct series: the first one contains the facsimiles of the originals of the selected sources, and the second a trilingual transcription of these documents (in Portuguese, English and Arabic). Published in 2015, the first 10 volumes contain 1015 documents (ranging from 1504 to1697). Six additional volumes were published in 2018, including sources dating from 1507 until 1783. The collection of documents continues in several archives, libraries, and public and private collections both in Portugal and abroad. Covering the period 1508-1912,1850 documents already flagged are awaiting publication in 2021. The published documents are quoted in this article under the abbreviation PSO.

79 On the conquest see Farinha, 1989, p. 445-472. A key document remains the letter of Pero de Alpoim, also edited in Farinha, 1991, p. 35-38 (AN/TT, Fragmentos, cx.4, 1,87 (118). The peculiar situation of Hormuz kingship at that moment has been strikingly summarized by Piacentini, 2008, p. 12: on Albuquerque’s arrival, the “royal family consisted of no more than infants and a number of blind members.”

80 Staples, 2017, p. 102. For an extensive study of the urban population and ruling class see Aubin, 1973, p. 138-145. On the Gujarati community, ibid., p. 151.

81 On tax extortion practiced in 1521 by the Portuguese in Hormuz and the control of customs, Couto, 2010, p. 52-53; Couto, 2005, p. 133-134.

82 On the political and economic situation in Hormuz leading to the uprising see Couto, 2005, p. 132-140.

83 Aubin, 1987, p.85.

84 On this merchant categories in the Indian Ocean see Couto, 2018a, p. 49-62; Couto, 2015, p. 22-25; Lambourn, 2011, p. 131-158; Lambourn, 2008, p. 55-97; Bouchon, 1987, p. 18-19, 46, 50-51; on the Rûmî/ Gujarati networks, see also Couto, 2015, p. 22-27.

85 Cunha, 2013, p. 241.

86 See the document AN/TT, CCII,141,103, [11 June 1527] where it is suggested to write to sheikh Râshid at Muscat, thanking him for the help provided to the nau S.Jorge (edited in PSO, 2015,II, p.135).

87 Couto, 2005, p. 146 and n. 111 with quittances and orders referring presents. See AN/TT CCII, 102, 43, CCII, 102, 47; CCII, 102, 48; CCII 102, 54; CC II, 102, 61, documents published in PSO, 2105, II, p.1-5, 9, 11. Doc. AN/TT, CCII 104, 128, with mention of a spear offered by Tristão Vaz da Veiga to sheikh Râshid is not edited in PSO. The Livro das Presas da Armada de D.Luís de Meneses, in Farinha, 1991, p. 60-61, also reports light indigenous boats (tarârîd) offered to sheikh Râshid. Dated from Goa, on 22 October 1523, the royal order to reward him (AN/TT, CCI, 30, 41) [Goa, 23 October 1523] has been published in PSO, 2015, II, p. 67.

88 Couto, 2005, p. 146 and n. 108 and 109. Around 13th of May, while the Portuguese fleet moored in Tîwî, Sheikh Râshid had already requested D. Luís military support, but the later did not let his men to disembark immediately. See Al-Busaidi, 2000, p.37-38, relying on Barros, 1945, Déc. III, Liv. VII, chap. V, p. 372-373.

89 AN/TT, Nucleo Antigo, n°592, edited by Farinha, 1991, p. 55-65.

90 Couto, 2005, p. 139, n. 72, and p. 146-147. Suhar was raided early May (11 May) or June.

91 See AN/TT CCII, 102, 19 (135) [Hormuz, 5 July 1522], in Farinha, 1991, p. 67-78 and CCII, 100,122 [Tîwî, 13 April 1522] (unpublished in PSO); AN/TT, CCII, 102, 49 (slaves captured off Masîra island) [14 July 1522], published in PSO, 2015, II, p. 7.

92 See quittance related to fish export from Muscat, AN/TT, CCII, 102, 112 (PSO, 2015, II, p. 13).

93 AN/TT, CCII, 103, 44 [15 August 1522] in PSO, 2015, II, p.25 (not published by Farinha). Some slaves also fled from the ships and escaped to Suhar (AN/TT, CCII, 106, 39) [Goa, 14 January 1523].

94 AN/TT, CCII, 103, 74 [Muscat, 23 August 1522], in PSO, 2015, II, p. 43: ten Arab slaves handed to the bailiff of the galleon S. Lourenço.

95 See the quittance of Sebastião Rodrigues, master of the galleon S.Dinis, seventeen pieces of fabric from Muscat, AN/TT, CCII, 104, 107 [Muscat, 21 October 1522] (PSO, 2015, II, p. 59) and order of D.Luís de Meneses to the king’s accountants to enter into the account of Jorge Pereira, factor of the fleet, sixty-one goats and eight cows delivered to João Teixeira, chief steward of the galleon S.Dinis at Muscat : AN/TT, CCII, 119, 108 [Cochin, 16 September 1524] (PSO, 2015, II, p. 77).

96 Memória sobre a governança da Índia e rendas de Ormuz, AN/TT, CCII, 141, 103, fol.2, published by Farinha, 1991, p. 94.

97 Couto, 2005, p. 146 and n. 110. See the Relação dos Escravos tomados em Muscate por Roque de Sousa, capitão da fusta Conceição e entregues a Brás Barroso, meirinho da Nau S.Jorge AN/TT, CCII, 101,144, [17 June 1522], published by Farinha, 1991, p. 66-67, and the “Ordem de D.Luís de Meneses a Jorge Pereira, Feitor da Armada, para serem entregues ao Xeque de Mascate os sete mouros que tinham sido tomados por Manuel de Sousa junto ao Cabo Roçalgate”, AN/TT, CCII, 100, 138 [Muscat, 22 April 1522], ibid., p. 66.

98 Couto, 2011, p. 139.

99 AN/TT, CC II, 106, 68, in PSO, 2015, II, p. 63 (order from D.Luís de Meneses to the accountants of the King of Portugal to enter into the account of Jorge Pereira, factor of the fleet, forty-eight pardaus, a sum to be paid for twelve cubits of grain, bought to be given to the sheikh of Muscat for his services to the Crown during the uprising in Hormuz) [Goa, 21 January 1523].

100 Couto, 2005, p. 149-150, n. 129; Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 39, n. 1 and 2 (relying on Portuguese sources (Castanheda, 1979, II, Liv. VII, chap. IV, p. 379). Qalhât seems to have been the first focus, followed by Muscat.

101 Al-Busaidi, 2000, p. 39.

102 Memória da governança da Índia e rendas de Ormuz, already mentioned, published by Farinha, 1991, p. 93-94.

103 Couto, 2005, p. 150. See the transcription of Diogo de Melo’s statement against Ra’îs Sharafuddîn Fâlî AN/TT, CCI, 32, 28 (98), [Hormuz, 12 September 1525] in Couto, 2005, p. 159-160.

104 Couto, 2005, p. 151, and n. 135.

105 Document published in Couto, 2005, p. 157-158 (AN/TT, CCI, 41, 3) [Lisbon, 18 August 1528]. On the events see ibid., p. 151-152. He was subsequently deported to Portugal where he lived 15 years.

106 Cunha, 2013, p. 247.

107 See both letters of Pero Fernandes to king D. João III in AN/TT, CCI, 63, 22 and CCI, 66,14 [Goa, 20 October 1538 and 31 October 1539 respectively].

108 See Couto, 2005, p. 151-157. Seized by the Portuguese, the correspondence of the viziers and of the king of Hormuz regarding the local affairs (decades of 1530s and 1540s) will be published shortly by us.

109 Cunha, 2013, p. 241.

110 For a detailed approach of the palace intrigues see Couto, 2005, p. 132-157. The Portuguese were very aware of family and clans’ ties: see the letter of the Governor dealing with Râs Musandam and Qalhât affairs (AN/TT, Gavetas, XX, 13, 97), [Hormuz, 27 July 1525] in PSO, 2015, II, p. 91.

111 Regarding the help provided in the conquest of Suhar, see AN/TT, CCII, 117, 23 [Cochin, 16 July 1524]: “Order from D.Luís de Meneses to the accountants of the king of Portugal to enter into the account of Jorge Pereira, factor of his fleet, a certain amount of Hormuz silk, bought from the sheikh of Muscat for seventy-one pardaus, and gifted some rulers of the hinterland of Muscat for services to the Portuguese”, in PSO, 2015, II, p. 75.

112 Afonso de Albuquerque set a factory in Diu in 1513, and the Portuguese attempted four expeditions to build a fortress in 1519. The treaty of 23 December 1534 led to the concession of the fortress in 1534 (Couto, 1995, p. 120-122); Teixeira, 2010, passim. On the importance of Diu, see Alpers, 2019 (introduction).

113 See the geopolitical analysis addressed by sheikh Râshid Muscatî to D.João III, in Aubin, 1973, p. 171 (AN/TT, Cartas Orientais, n°82). In 1553, the Jesuit Aleixo Madeira, (travelling from Goa to Hormuz) reports that in Muscat moored “thirty or forty sails of merchants (chatins) of India”: Fr. Aleixo Madeira to Fr. Luís Gonçalves [Ormuz, 24 October 1553], in REGO, 1993, V, p. 324.

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Dejanirah Couto, « Muscat and the Portuguese: economic and political dynamics in the early 16th century (1507-1529) », Arabian Humanities [En ligne], 15 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2022, consulté le 20 mai 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cy/6966 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cy.6966

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Dejanirah Couto

École Pratique des Hautes Études, Section des Sciences Historiques et Philologiques

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