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Warships and transport vessels

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Chapter Summary

This chapter looks historically at various river and sea war craft and transport vessels in the Western Indian Ocean, their construction features, wherever that is possible, and traces the origin of their nomenclature. In terms of images of Muslim war vessels some pictorial evidence can be found in the Ioannes Skylitzes’ Chronicle which contains illuminations depicting naval activities of Byzantine war vessels as well as Muslim shalandīs, ḥarrāqas and others. For the Western Indian Ocean we have images from the Lopo Homem-Reinéis’ Atlas de 1519 and other Portuguese material which offer some examples of fighting ships of which some seem to be ghurābs. The seizure of war vessels on either side by the Muslims and non-Muslims brought about a cross-fertilization in naval architecture, which meant that at times they were on a par in technology.

Keywords: Muslim war vessels; river war craft; sea war craft; transport vessels; Western Indian Ocean



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