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The ship at sea: Trade and Ḥajj

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Chapter Summary

Transportation by sea had the advantage that it was faster, even though the distance covered from one port to another varied greatly, depending on the monsoon winds and stops for repair, the resulting trade generated a high percentage of profit. When speaking of trading vessels, size is never specifically quantified; it is generally expressed in terms of how “big” or “small” Islamic ships are. Ocean-going vessels transporting pilgrims to Jeddah during the ḥajj season may also have had a capacity of circa 200 tons. When a ship arrived at a major harbour the port officials would board the vessel and make preliminary enquires about the origin of the ship, its merchandise and the passengers. The terrors of the sea were many: what passengers feared most was the loss of their lives through gales and storms or that their ships were wrecked on rocks.

Keywords: ḥajj; Islamic ships; sea transportation; trading vessels

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