account of his voyage aboard the Bursa corvette from
Istanbul to Basra over the course of 13 months.
TNT will continue the story with his Bursa crewmate
İmam Abdurrahman's account of the Istanbul-Brazil
portion of the voyage next week.//
The Muscat Imamate is one of the small governments on the southern Arabian
Peninsula. Its total population is only about 240,000 people. The government center
is Muscat, on the sea coast, situated at 23 degrees 37 minutes north latitude and 58
degrees 41 minutes east longitude. There are ramshackle homes, shops and a
magistrate office at the mouth of the port and above the city there are four disorderly,
The current Imam killed his father and seized power by fighting against his uncle, who
was the rightful heir to the imamate. Consequently, no foreign state has officially
recognized the son as the İmam. Recently, one night the İmam’s uncle seized a fortress
overlooking the city with 50 men, killed five guards and rained cannonballs down on
the city for five days. However, because of a lack of supplies and being surrounded by
the Imam, the uncle abandoned the fortress and tried to flee. He was captured and put
into prison for a few days. Out of respect for his uncle, the Imam freed him but on the
condition that he leave the country. The uncle was given some money, put on a ship
and sent into exile somewhere in the Red Sea region.
According to what is said here, an English frigate came from Bombay to prevent the
civil war from continuing. The frigate’s captain told the Imam that if he pressed on
with the war the frigate would bombard Muscat. There are close commercial relations
with Bombay and the Red Sea ports because of the dates, cotton and silk produced in
the Muscat area. In particular, Muscat’s ‘helva’ (sweet prepared in many varieties
with sesame oil, various cereals, and syrup or honey.) is quite famous.
Although the Muscat government has 20 warships , from corvettes to cutters, there
are no regular sailors. Ships are in port have just two or three watchstanders. When
it comes time to sail a broker puts out a call and day-wage seamen are hired on.
There is no one in the fortresses. When a cannon is to be fired, again a town-crier
puts out a call for shopkeepers and workers to go to the fortress and assume this duty.
Upon our arrival in Muscat we received a 21-gun salute as a welcoming gesture.
Then our Captain went ashore to meet with the İmam of Muscat. That same day,
after taking on the requisite coal and other materials, we left the port of Muscat
in the evening. Since the winds were calm, we fired up the machines. The next
evening we entered the Strait of Hormuz and sailed near the Iranian shore for two
days. On the 12th of November, we reached Iran’s port of Buşehr.
Buşehr, on Iran’s Persian Gulf coast, is situated at 29 degrees north latitude and
50 degrees 1 minute east longitude. The buildings in Buşehr are quite dilapidated
and the streets are narrow. About 10,000 people live here. Since it is Iran’s
port city it serves as an important commercial center. Commercial ships coming
from Bombay and from Cidde toward Basra conduct trade here.
Upon entering the port, we fired a 21-gun salute but, in response, they could only
fire nine cannon shots from the fortress. Our Captain immediately wrote an official
letter insisting that the governor explain this lapse. The governor sent a
representative, who explained that “Please accept our apology. We only had
that much gunpowder at the fortress so we couldn’t fire 21 shots.” Since nothing
else of note happened at Buşehr, what I’ve written will have to suffice.
We departed Buşehr after four hours and next reached the island of Ferata, which
is under Iranian administration. We fired a cannon shot to indicate that we
wanted a guide and one came in a rowboat from the shore. Right away, we
weighed anchor, fired up the machines and pressed on. We sailed all night and
at seven o’clock the following morning we saw a signal on a high point. At 10
o’clock we reached Fav and entered the Şattülarap waterway.
An Ottoman corvette captain named Hoca Bey from the Basra fleet, who lived there,
came aboard. This took about 15 minutes, after which we were on our way again.
We sailed until sunset and then anchored. That night we washed and cleaned the
ship, bringing all the cannon balls in the hold up on deck. At 10 o’clock in the
morning we sailed on.
It was Monday, the 14th of November, when we hung our regimental standard and
our sailors, clinging to the rigging, prayed “Long Live Our Sultan!” At around
6 o’clock, by the grace of God, we came to Basra and anchored, expressing our
gratitude with a 21-gun salute. All of our sailors, each one of them a heroic work
of art made by our Sultan, together with the populace and Bedouins gathered on
the shore, shouted “Long Live the Sultan!” till the sound reached the sky.
May Dear God bless every hour of our Sultan’s reign with new abundance.
May He not withhold his help and support and may He continually increase
His internal brightness and love. Amen!
Basra city is situated two miles from the shore of the Şattülarap waterway, at
30 degrees 29 minutes north latitude and 47 degrees 40 minutes east longitude.
There are date trees everywhere in Basra and its perimeter is surrounded by date trees,
as well. In past times there were 60,000 people living here but now there are only
about 15,000. This is the result of the walls surrounding the city having crumbled
because of the river overflowing, which, in turn, caused the creation of a number of
swamps near the city. The swamps changed the weather and led to deaths among
the area’s populace.
Recently, though, the wise and esteemed Namık Paşa has come to Baghdad and,
through his extraordinary efforts and encouragements, the engineers he brought
have repaired and, in some cases, rebuilt the aforementioned walls to regain the
peoples’ trust and ensure their well-being. Additionally, certain positive measures
have been taken inside the city for cleanliness and the owls and crows that used to
occupy the place are gone. Thanks to Namık Paşa’s fine efforts, Basra has
regained its prosperity.
And the fine efforts of the chief of Basra, the esteemed Süleyman Bey, cannot in
any way be overstated. In short, because Basra is located between India and Baghdad,
it is an important trade center. An English postal ship comes from Bombay once a
week and many ships come from Cidde, Muskat and Buşehr for trade. Basra’s main
products are dates, rice and cotton. In some years when grain is abundant in the
area around Baghdad, it is brought to Basra for export.
There are two Ottoman ferries and two English ones that travel between Basra and
Baghdad each week. Well-bred Arab horses from the Basra region, and especially
from the Kuwait Sheikhdom, are brought to Basra for sale abroad and significant
income is derived from this.
The Basra Shipyard
The Basra shipyard is situated on a site called Işar on the canal that extends
from the Şattülarap waterway and passes in front of the city of Basra. Its length
is about 600 feet. There are no drydocks or other structures that should be found
at a shipyard. Besides an office for the shipyard secretary, there are only ramshackle
warehouses where some materials are stored and a military fortification.
One of the first ships acquired for the Basra fleet, the Lûtfiye corvette, is in need of
repair so excavation for a drydock has begun at the shipyard. God willing, it will
be completed soon. In addition to this shipyard, there is a place called Münavî
three miles further on, where there is a barracks for Ottoman sailors to stay and a
small school for training advanced sailors.
Since the Basra shipyard’s improvement, drydock, shipbuilding yard, factory and
other buildings are priorities for the aforementioned Governor, Namık Paşa,
particular officials have been appointed, the requisite site surveys have been
conducted and the necessary work has begun. Another three ships have been
ordered from Europe for the shipyard and, once completed, these ships will come
In short, thanks to the successes of the Sultan, the aforementioned Governor’s fine
efforts will result in the shipyard being constructed in the near future, the number
of Ottoman Navy ships here will increase and a more orderly state of affairs will
prevail. Consquently, this is all I have to say on this subject.
The aim of your humble servant in writing this book was to summarize the events
that occurred since the Sultan’s ships left Istanbul until they reached their duty
station at Basra, and to give some information about the status of the foreign ports
and cities that God allowed us to visit. For those who desire additional information
about the referenced cities, they should refer to geography books.
I implore experienced individuals who notice the mistakes and slips of the tongue
made during the writing of this short book to greet these errors with forgiveness