The tales of the Merchant of Mogadishu: Part 1

Merchant of Mogadishu

From Pella to Pattala, then back to Babylon
I was born in the great trading city of Mogadishu, the white pearl of the Indian Ocean. I come from a long line of merchants and traders stretching back thousands of years. My forefathers saw empires rise and empires fall. My first taste of the sea was when I was barely a few months old. A baby was always going to be sent out to the sea to see if it would be able to handle the rough waves. I was still and silent whilst the boat was rocking up and down, left and right, the seas soothed me, even more than my mothers milk. That is how you determine a merchant from any other person.


I was born in the year 1490. The world was changing and we Somali merchants had to adapt. For thousands of years our clients, the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Indians and Arabs would come to us for frankincense, but then, new traders and explorers arrived, people that we have never laid eyes upon and people that asked for various other commodities.


Since Vasco da Gama's journey to find India, going around the Cape of Good Hope in the years 1497-1499, there has been a wave of Portuguese merchants, conquistadors, ambassadors along with their huge armadas going to trade or crave out territory in India, Africa and Arabia. They established posts in Goa (1510) Malacca (1511) Bahrain (1521) Aden (1516) Malindi (1500) Mozambique (1498) Zanzibar (1503) Maldives (1518) Diu (1535) Daman (1559) Mumbai (1534) and many other lands.


In the year 1498, the first voyage of Vasco Da Gama, his armada, led by the flagship, Esmeralda travelled close to the Mogadishu coast. One of Vasco's officers João de Sá spotted the great city and commented:


"A big town surrounded by four towers, it had houses several storeys high and large palaces in its center."


As per tradition, any foreign ship that comes close our shores must be welcomed as they are likely to trade. We sent out two small beden ships to check who they were and what was their reason for coming to our city. However, once they got close, the two small beden ships were smashed to pieces by cannon fire, sinking immediately. The flagship Esmeralda then proceeded to bombard the city itself. Many people lost their lives, as it was a Friday and everybody was out and about in the markets and whatnot. It was a horrible surprise to everyone. Everybody took shelter in their homes or in the mosques. Unfortunately the cannonballs hit a few houses so anyone that was in them was immediately crushed. After a few hours of constant bombardment form their ships, they suddenly and thankfully left. Everybody lost someone that day. I lost a good friend of mine, a true merchant brother. As we were praying Janazah for the citizens of Mogadishu who lost their lives, I could not hold back a few tears, tears of sorrow and loss, that felt like holding a mountain on top of your back. At times the pain was too much for me but I held on. I was only 8 at the time, however that pain will never leave me. Many years later, July in the year 1511 I was sent to the palace of the Mogadishu Sultan at the time, Sultan Zubayr ibn Umar.


As I walked into his beautiful garden with adorning patterns sculpted by Moors who build the Alhambra palace for the once Sultan of Granada, I realised there was a few surprising eyes from the servants as if they were expecting someone else. One of them ran to me and asked whether I would like to eat some fresh Mangos just brought back from the farmlands of Afgooye. I happily obliged and ate a few pieces of it, even though I had a full belly after eating rice with camel meat and a banana. I did not want to face the ire of the Sultan, in case these servants tell him that I refused his food. They then escorted me to his chambers, where I found him frantically scribbling an unknown letter. He was tall, with a dark skin tone and had a beard. He wore a blue robe, symbolising that he and he alone was the Sultan of Mogadishu. He was from the Fakr ad-Din dynasty which has ruled Somalia since the 13th century. At this point in time however, the overlords were the greater Ajuraan Sultans who have made Mogadishu a vassal and a way to fill its coffers. Unfortunately I was born after Mogadishu's zenith of power and prestige.


"Asalaamu alaikum Sultan, may I ask, what are you writing".


He then dropped his pen and he then spoke, albeit with a cautious voice.

"Wa alaikum asalaam young man, are you the person that I sent my messenger to call?"

"Yes, I am, Sultan." I hastily muttered.

"Good, then lets begin." The Sultan said.

"Begin what, Sultan". I seemed very confused and wondered what his plans were.

"You realise what the Portuguese have done these past few years?"

And before I could tell him anything, he explained,

"These disbelievers have ruined our trading network completely! We can't sail even one ship, without it being attacked by an armada. Our clients are too scared to even leave their ports in case they lose their ships to the Portuguese. They have taken most of the trade posts in Arabia, India and Eastern African coast, bar the lands of the Somalis. It will only be a matter of time, before they attack us again. The Ajuraan Sultan is becoming weary about our lack of trade and he may try to insert direct rule over us. We must find a solution!"


"Anything I can be of service, Sultan!" I quickly exclaimed. Deep down though I was worried he might make me join the army or something, I was never cut out to fight. I'm a merchant, not a warrior.


However, the Sultan finally revealed the content of the letter whilst also giving me my task.

"You young man of Mogadishu, have a lot of potential to be a great merchant, however, the journey to greatness starts with one step. You're first task will be to send this message to the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, Al-Ashraf Qansuh Al-Ghuri, to help us in our struggle against the infidels. This letter has the details of what we need, send it to him and bring back good news and only good news. "You don't have long, young man, we don't have long, everybody is counting on you."


I was very much relieved that I wouldn't be forced into the army of the Sultan, and quite excited that I will be partaking in this long journey as a diplomat. However, I was hoping he would be sending me on a trading mission. But then I quickly realised that's not feasible at this point in time, with all the war going on with the Portuguese.


That night all I could think about was my plan for this journey. What's the shortest and safest route to take? What shall I take with me? What shouldn't I take with me? Shall I go by land or by sea? Or both? How about the Portuguese? I could hardly sleep that night.


The next few days, I gathered my essentials, basically spent a lot of my savings on supplies and a horse. I said goodbye to my family, I knew I would not be seeing them for a long time now, I tried my utmost not to weep, but I couldn't help it. And so on the morning of the 7th July 1511, I rode out of the gates of the city. I had no idea whether I would see my home ever again.
 

HuunoHunter

Revived Hunter.
I was born in the great trading city of Mogadishu, the white pearl of the Indian Ocean. I come from a long line of merchants and traders stretching back thousands of years. My forefathers saw empires rise and empires fall. My first taste of the sea was when I was barely a few months old. A baby was always going to be sent out to the sea to see if it would be able to handle the rough waves. I was still and silent whilst the boat was rocking up and down, left and right, the seas soothed me, even more than my mothers milk. That is how you determine a merchant from any other person.


I was born in the year 1490. The world was changing and we Somali merchants had to adapt. For thousands of years our clients, the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Indians and Arabs would come to us for frankincense, but then, new traders and explorers arrived, people that we have never laid eyes upon and people that asked for various other commodities.


Since Vasco da Gama's journey to find India, going around the Cape of Good Hope in the years 1497-1499, there has been a wave of Portuguese merchants, conquistadors, ambassadors along with their huge armadas going to trade or crave out territory in India, Africa and Arabia. They established posts in Goa (1510) Malacca (1511) Bahrain (1521) Aden (1516) Malindi (1500) Mozambique (1498) Zanzibar (1503) Maldives (1518) Diu (1535) Daman (1559) Mumbai (1534) and many other lands.


In the year 1498, the first voyage of Vasco Da Gama, his armada, led by the flagship, Esmeralda travelled close to the Mogadishu coast. One of Vasco's officers João de Sá spotted the great city and commented:


"A big town surrounded by four towers, it had houses several storeys high and large palaces in its center."


As per tradition, any foreign ship that comes close our shores must be welcomed as they are likely to trade. We sent out two small beden ships to check who they were and what was their reason for coming to our city. However, once they got close, the two small beden ships were smashed to pieces by cannon fire, sinking immediately. The flagship Esmeralda then proceeded to bombard the city itself. Many people lost their lives, as it was a Friday and everybody was out and about in the markets and whatnot. It was a horrible surprise to everyone. Everybody took shelter in their homes or in the mosques. Unfortunately the cannonballs hit a few houses so anyone that was in them was immediately crushed. After a few hours of constant bombardment form their ships, they suddenly and thankfully left. Everybody lost someone that day. I lost a good friend of mine, a true merchant brother. As we were praying Janazah for the citizens of Mogadishu who lost their lives, I could not hold back a few tears, tears of sorrow and loss, that felt like holding a mountain on top of your back. At times the pain was too much for me but I held on. I was only 8 at the time, however that pain will never leave me. Many years later, July in the year 1511 I was sent to the palace of the Mogadishu Sultan at the time, Sultan Zubayr ibn Umar.


As I walked into his beautiful garden with adorning patterns sculpted by Moors who build the Alhambra palace for the once Sultan of Granada, I realised there was a few surprising eyes from the servants as if they were expecting someone else. One of them ran to me and asked whether I would like to eat some fresh Mangos just brought back from the farmlands of Afgooye. I happily obliged and ate a few pieces of it, even though I had a full belly after eating rice with camel meat and a banana. I did not want to face the ire of the Sultan, in case these servants tell him that I refused his food. They then escorted me to his chambers, where I found him frantically scribbling an unknown letter. He was tall, with a dark skin tone and had a beard. He wore a blue robe, symbolising that he and he alone was the Sultan of Mogadishu. He was from the Fakr ad-Din dynasty which has ruled Somalia since the 13th century. At this point in time however, the overlords were the greater Ajuraan Sultans who have made Mogadishu a vassal and a way to fill its coffers. Unfortunately I was born after Mogadishu's zenith of power and prestige.


"Asalaamu alaikum Sultan, may I ask, what are you writing".


He then dropped his pen and he then spoke, albeit with a cautious voice.

"Wa alaikum asalaam young man, are you the person that I sent my messenger to call?"

"Yes, I am, Sultan." I hastily muttered.

"Good, then lets begin." The Sultan said.

"Begin what, Sultan". I seemed very confused and wondered what his plans were.

"You realise what the Portuguese have done these past few years?"

And before I could tell him anything, he explained,

"These disbelievers have ruined our trading network completely! We can't sail even one ship, without it being attacked by an armada. Our clients are too scared to even leave their ports in case they lose their ships to the Portuguese. They have taken most of the trade posts in Arabia, India and Eastern African coast, bar the lands of the Somalis. It will only be a matter of time, before they attack us again. The Ajuraan Sultan is becoming weary about our lack of trade and he may try to insert direct rule over us. We must find a solution!"


"Anything I can be of service, Sultan!" I quickly exclaimed. Deep down though I was worried he might make me join the army or something, I was never cut out to fight. I'm a merchant, not a warrior.


However, the Sultan finally revealed the content of the letter whilst also giving me my task.

"You young man of Mogadishu, have a lot of potential to be a great merchant, however, the journey to greatness starts with one step. You're first task will be to send this message to the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, Al-Ashraf Qansuh Al-Ghuri, to help us in our struggle against the infidels. This letter has the details of what we need, send it to him and bring back good news and only good news. "You don't have long, young man, we don't have long, everybody is counting on you."


I was very much relieved that I wouldn't be forced into the army of the Sultan, and quite excited that I will be partaking in this long journey as a diplomat. However, I was hoping he would be sending me on a trading mission. But then I quickly realised that's not feasible at this point in time, with all the war going on with the Portuguese.


That night all I could think about was my plan for this journey. What's the shortest and safest route to take? What shall I take with me? What shouldn't I take with me? Shall I go by land or by sea? Or both? How about the Portuguese? I could hardly sleep that night.


The next few days, I gathered my essentials, basically spent a lot of my savings on supplies and a horse. I said goodbye to my family, I knew I would not be seeing them for a long time now, I tried my utmost not to weep, but I couldn't help it. And so on the morning of the 7th July 1511, I rode out of the gates of the city. I had no idea whether I would see my home ever again.
You should make a trip down to Jakarta and eat some of that Nasi Goreng, walal.
:trumpsmirk:
 
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