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Volume :1 Issue : 4 1975      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

THE DEVELOPMENT OF SEA ROUTES AND TRADE BETWEEN THE RED SEA, THE ARAB GULF

Auther : Dr. Nichola Ziade

 
         The old world witnessed three major civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Sind.  The Sind civilization flourished between 2600 and 1500 B.C., and had strong commercial ties with Mesopotamia through the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.  These ties could be summarized as follows:

 1.  The Megan (or Makan) country – Oman and its supplements – used to export copper to Mesopotamia, and it could be that some of this copper went East to India.

2.  Delmon Kingdom, may be present Bahrain, covered a vast area.  This area included the main centers for Eastern and Northern trade.

3.  The ships used to bring from the Sind wood, cotton, ivory, red emerald, and other precious stones.  It seems that cotton was first known in the Sind area.

         The collapse of the Sind civilization (in 1500 B.C.) sustained these commercial ties.  In the red Sea, the Egyptians had commercial ties with the Bunt (or Bun) country which lasted until the year 2000 B.C.  Most historians believe that the Bunt Country covers the Arab and African areas around Bab El-Mandeb straits on the side overlooking the Indian Ocean.  The most important commercial Egyptian missions was that of queen Hatshbsout which reached Soqtari Island, Somalia, and even Hadramout.

         After the decline of the Egyptian Empires’ role in the Red Sea, the Phoenicians appeared (in the tenth century B.C.) there as big merchants, Ahiram, King of Tyre, had a commercial fleet working in the Red Sea.  Phoenician ships used to sail to Ofeer country (could be India itself) and return loaded with gold, silver, precious stones, sandalwood, peacocks and chimpanzees.

         Despite all these activities by the various parties, Arabs of southern Arabia ultimately gained control of the trade East and West and monopolized knowledge of the roads for a long time which enables them to monopolize trade to and from India, and to distribute these goods to the countries on the western coast of the Red Sea.

         Alexander’s wars have changed the course of history in the area, which extends from Greece to India through Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and Iran.  Alexander was greatly interested in rediscovering the sea route from the Sind river to the mouth of the two ‘Rivers of Iraq.  In November 326 B.C., Alexander’s mission took off from a port near present Karachi and sailed along the coast and reached Al-Ahwaz in February 325 B.C.  The journey was very useful in locating the places suitable for resting, getting supplies, building harbors and town along the coast of the two Gulfs, Oman and the Arab Gulf.

        The Egyptians kept up their interest in trade with India until the first century B.C.,  However they were never able to trade directly with India since the Arab remained in control of trade routes.

         With the rise of Roman Empire and the prevalence of Roman peace, people attained economic surplus and thus cared for luxuries like jewels, ivory, spices, etc…., which were found in India, Somalia and Arabia.  Merchants, especially from Egypt, had to secure these goods.

         Sea transport between southern Arabia and Africa on the one hand and India on the other, greatly developed by the discovery of the course of the monsoon winds at the end of the first century A.D.  A Greek sailor left Aden and when he was facing Ras Fertek, he decided to stop sailing along the coast, and to make use of the summer monsoon across the Arab Sea.  His theory was right and he directly reached the mouth of the Sind river.  A second route was followed: from Aden to Moziris (Karngamoor) on western coast of India.  The voyage from the southern part of the Red Sea to Malabar coast required 40 days.

         The best source about the trade itself and its ports is a pamphlet by an unknown writer, most probably a Greek merchant who lived in Egypt in the First Century A.D., entitled: THE PERIPLUS OF THE ERYTHRAEN SEA.  The author states that there are 28 important ports distributed as follows: Red Sea (Egypt) 2; South Africa, Bab El-Mandeb and East Africa 9; Arab Lands 5; Arab Gulf 2; Makran Coast 1; India 7; China 1.

         The unknown author has also mentioned the goods exchanged among the different countries of the area under discussion.  These could be summed up as follows:

1)  The Eastern Mediterranean (except Egypt): wine, olives, glass, white marbles, and colored cloth.

2)  Egypt and the Red Sea (African Coast): cloth, pearls, precious stones, grape juice, and Kohol.

3)  Southern Arabia – from Yemen and Hadramout: turtles’ shields, incense, grain, wine made of dates and grapes, kohol, emerald, gold and spears.

4)  East Africa: spices, sesame, ivory, turtles’ shields, and slaves.

5)  The Arab Gulf, The Gulf of Oman, and Karmania: pearls, wine, dates and sewn boats.

6)  India and its surroundings: gold, Indian steel, copper, wood, especially Teak, Abnus, Batal (a digestive plant), rice, wheat, Indian oil, sugar, diamond, ruby, garnet, Kohol, cotton, cloth of all kinds, turtle shields, spices, perfumes, and pots.

7)  Malayo and China: silk, iron, pots and China.

 

 

 

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