People & Places of Hormozgan. Page 2
New Hormuz City & Island
|The port of Hormuz City on Hormuz Island.|
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Hormuz* Island is also called Jerun**. We have yet to hear a reasonable explanation for the name Jerun though it appears to be the prior name of island.
[*Also spelt Harmuz, Hurmuz, Ormuz, and Ormus. ** Also spelt Gerun, and Jerunand]
Hormuz Island lies in the Straits of Hormuz, just southeast of Bandar Abbas and about 5 km. off the mainland. With a diameter of between 7 and 8 km, the island is relatively small in size. Its present population of about 2,500 people live mainly on the north end of the island on what is sometimes called the Plain of Hormuz. Aubin, in Le royaume d'Ormuz, p. 150, states that Hormuz at the height of its commercial power supported a population of 50,000. The rest of the island is hilly. The highest elevation is 186 m above the sea level. The island has little arable land and must import its vegetables from the mainland.
After repeated raids by Turkic-Mongol hordes, the merchants and business people of Old Hormuz City migrated to the Island of Hormuz in the early fourteenth century, where they established New Hormuz City. Of this 'new' city there is barely a trace. We read that after Shah Abbas reclaimed Hormuz Island from Portuguese occupation in 1614 CE, the port and city of New Hormuz were neglected in favour of the mainland port of Gamrun that came to be called Bandar Abbas, and that stones from the structures and ruins on Hormuz Island were removed and used for constructing buildings in Bandar Abbas.
|1747 stylized map of Hormuz Island and New Hormuz City in Johann Caspar Arkstee and Henricus Merkus'|
Allgemeine Historie der Reisen zu Wasser und Lande, oder Sammlung aller Reisebeschreibungen, Leipzig. Image credit: Historic Cities
Click to view a larger image
From the early 1300s until it devastation by the Portuguese in early 1501, New Hormoz City was a thriving and prosperous trade centre. As we noted above, Aubin, in Le royaume d'Ormuz, p. 150, informs us that Hormuz at the height of its commercial power supported a population of 50,000.
The Italian Franciscan traveller Odoric mentions "Ormes, a city strongly fortified and abounding in costly wares, (was) situated on an island 5 miles distant from the main... visited more than once by Ibn Battuta. ...(The city) was a great and fine city rising out of the sea, and serving as a mart for all the products of India, which were distributed hence over all Persia. The hills on the island were of rock-salt, from which vases and pedestals for lamps were carved. ...Abdurazzak, the envoy of Shah Rukh on his way to the Hindu court of Vijayanagar, was in Hormuz in 1442, and speaks of it as a mart which had no equal, frequented by the merchants of all the countries of Asia, among which he enumerates China, Java, Bengal, Tenasserim, Shahr-i-nao (i.e. Siam) and the Maldives. Nikitin, the Russian (c. 1470), gives a similar account; he calls it 'a vast emporium of all the world.'"
Friar Odoric further notes that New Hormuz was "well fortified, and having great store of merchandize and treasure therein."
Ibn Battuta who visited New Hormuz twice, once in 1331-32 and again in 1347 says of Hormuz Island's city: "We came to New Hormuz, which is an island whose city is called Jarawn. It is a fine large city, with magnificent bazaars, as it is the port of India and Sind, from which the wares of India are exported to the two Iraqs (that is Eraq-e Arab or present day Iraq, and Eraq-e Ajam or Iraq controlled by Persia. Ajam meaning mute is a derogatory term used by Arabs for Iranians), Fars and Khorasan. It is in this city that the sultan resides, and the island in which it is situated is a day's march in size. Most of it is salt marshes and hills of salt, namely the darabi salt; from this they manufacture ornamental vessels and pedestals on which they place lamps. Their food is fish and dried dates exported to them from al-Basra and Oman. They say in their tongue 'khurma va mahi luti padishdni', which means 'dates and fish are a royal dish'. On this island water is an article of price; it has water-springs and artificial cisterns in which rain-water is collected, at some distance from the city. The inhabitants go there with water-skins, which they fill and carry on their backs to the sea (shore), load them on boats, and bring them to the city."
'Abd-al-Razzāq Samarqandi, who was in Hormuz in 1442, found it a major emporium, frequented by the merchants from Egypt, Syria, Anatolia, all Persian provinces, Turkestan, southern Russia, China, Java, Bengal, Tenasserim, Shahr-e nao (i.e., Thailand), Socotra, Bijapur, the Maldives, Malabar, Abyssinia, Zanzibar, Vijayanagar, Golbarga, Gujarat, Cambay, Arabia, Aden, Jedda, and Yemen. (R. H. Major, ed., India in the Fifteenth Century, London, 1857, Part 1, pp. 5-7)
Afanasy Nikitine, the Russian traveler, in c. 1472 states that despite high custom's duties, Hormuz was "a vast emporium where there were peoples and goods of every description from all parts of the world," although with high customs duties (Major; Nikitine, p. 21, apud Lockhart, p. 585).
The splendours of Hormuz City are described by Abbe Guillaume Thomas François Raynal (1713-1796) quoted by A. W. Stiffe, The Island of Hormuz (Ormuz), pp. 12-17 Geographical Magazine, London, 1874 (Apr.), vol. 1 on page 14, gives the following account of Hormuz in his history: "Hormuz became the capital of an empire which comprehended a considerable part of Arabia on one side, and Persia on the other. At the time of the arrival of the foreign merchants, it (Hormuz) afforded a more splendid and agreeable scene than any city in the East. Persons from all parts of the globe exchanged their commodities and transacted their business with an air of politeness and attention, which are seldom seen in other places of trade. The streets were covered with mats and in some places with carpet, and the linen awnings which were suspended from the tops of the houses, prevented any inconvenience from the heat of the sun. India cabinets ornamented with gilded vases, or china filled with flowering shrubs or aromatic plants adorned their apartments. Camels laden with water were stationed in the public squares. Persian wines, perfumes, and all the delicacies of the table were furnished in great abundance, and they had the music of the East in its highest perfection … In short, universal opulence, an extensive commerce, politeness in the men and gallantry in the women, united all their attractions to make this city the seat of pleasure."
|A map of Hormuz Island showing the location of the old city & Turan Bagh|
After a devastating initial attack in 1507, Portuguese Admiral Alphonso d'Albuquerque first brought the island during Portuguese control in September 1515 and a few years later built a fort on the isthmus at the northern tip of the city. They separated the fort from the city by a moat.
After the Portuguese occupied Hormuz Island, its function as an international trade centre diminished. In 1540, Michele Membré described Hormuz as "small; it seemed to me to have 2,000 hearths in number, and the fort is very small. It is adjacent to the city, with one part next to the city and one part in the sea, and it has much artillery and the houses are around it. Inside it has a large water citadel."
Portuguese control lasted for about a century until the Iranian king Shah Abbas reclaimed control aided by the British in 1614 CE. Shah Abbas and his successors did not want Hormuz to continue as a powerful trading and commercial port and therefore neglected the island once control had been wrested from the Portuguese. New Hormuz City's buildings were demolished to provide construction materials for the expansion of Bandar Abbas and the community dwindled to those of a few fisher folk.
The 1911 Encyclopaedia states, that the City of New Hormuz occupied a triangular plain forming the northern part of the island, the southern wall, as its remains still show, being about 2 miles (3 km) in extent from east to west. A suburb with a wharf or pier, called Turan Bagh (garden of Turan), a name corrupted to Trumpak, stood about 3 miles (5 km) from the town to the south-east. At Turan Bagh "are some considerable ruins, irrigation canals, an extensive burial ground and some huts occupied by a few families who cultivate a small garden on a terrace supported by old retaining walls."
There is little evidence of these ruins and infra-structure remaining tday. What remains is the amazing natural features and geology of the island.
Nature's Colour Palette - the Soils of Hormuz
The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia by Edward Balfour, Madras, 1873, Vol. 4, p. 268 notes: "In the ancient history of Persia it is recorded that Ormuz was once on fire; and indeed this island as well as that of Angar, has every appearance indicative of a former volcanic eruption, and it is thought to be an extinct volcano." The red soil of some of the hills may give the appearance of an island on fire.
Medeival Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta who visited New Hormuz between 1331 and 1347 notes, "Most of it (Hormuz Island) is salt marshes and hills of salt, namely the darabi salt; from this they manufacture ornamental vessels and pedestals on which they place lamps."
|Close-up of a peak with salt glaciers near the centre of Hormuz Island|
|A map from 1602 showing 'Ormvs' i.e. 'Ormus' extending to both sides of the straits|
at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, including lands today part of the UAE and Oman.
Iran & Hormuz's connections with the Arabian Peninsula
Iran & Yemen
Iranian-Aryan contact with kingdoms in the Arabian peninsula are ancient. Ferdowsi records that Legendary King Feridoon, founder of the first Iranian empire, had his three sons married to the three daughters of the king of Yemen. The marriages were intended to form a cohesive family between the Yemeni and Iranian royal families and thereby between the peoples of the two lands.
While the very thought of a less than purely Iranian royal blood line may be anathema to Iranians, nevertheless, if we are to believe the legends the ancient Iranian royal lines are not purely Iranian-Aryan. Indeed there are similar legends of royal marriages between the Iranian royal families and those of neighbouring kingdoms, leaving us with an international royal Iranian-Aryan blood-line. However, legends that feature princes and princesses are not necessarily about the royalty they speak about. Instead, the legends are quite possibly but about peoples epitomized by royalty, and if this is correct, what is being recorded is the mixing between the Iranian and neighbouring peoples.
The legend of Feridoon may very well encapsulate the relationship between the Iranian peoples of Central Asia and the neighbours to the south. The point here is the close connection and familiarity the Iranians had with the eastern inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula. Yemen could very well at some point have included Oman, and if not, the journey to Yemen and all the eastern reaches of the Arabian peninsula would have passed through or by Oman.
Hormuz & Oman
About the connection between Hormuz and Oman, the accounts of Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta and Abbe Raynal are explicit and are quoted elsewhere in these pages. Ibn Battita states: "The towns on the coast (of Oman) are for the most part under the government of Hormuz."
|Map of Lower Persian Gulf & Hormozgan Province with Hormuz Island circled in red.|
Base map courtesy Microsoft Encarta. All modifications © K. E. Eduljee 2010
Marco Polo noted: "Calatu (Qalhat, Oman) is... subject to Hormos (Hormuz)." Jolfar (now Ras al-Khaimah/Khaymah in UAE) on the western Musandam coast across the Straits of Hormuz (Tanga-e Hormuz) was also similarly developed as a trading colony and controlled by the Hormozi. According to Durante Barbosa (Vol I, p. 73) Jolfar's trade brought "in a great revenue to the king of Ormuz."
Abbe Raynal (noted above) has noted that "Hormuz became the capital of an 'empire' which comprehended a considerable part of Arabia on one side, and Persia on the other."
Other accounts and a map dating to 1602 CE (see image above-right) also confirm Hormuz's (Ormoz's) control of lands that are now part of the UAE and northern Oman.
And as Polo notes, Hormuz was often itself subject to the ruler of Kerman (or Pars), who in turn was subject to the prevailing Iranian or Persian King of Kings. This form of hierarchy among the kingdoms can be thought of as being parallel to a governance structure that consists of local or municipal, provincial or state, and federal governments.
The heirarchy between Iranian kingdoms was not fixed. Throughout the Iranian or Persian empire's history, subject or vassal states constantly tried to assert their independence or even their supremacy over other Iranian kingdoms. The situation often depended on the leadership abilities of the senior king. If the vassal king sensed weakness in the overlord's ability to assert dominance, they would attempt stricking their independence. In the case of Hormuz, Macro Polo tells us (see below) that when the ruler of Hormuz had a dispute with his Kermani overlord, the ruler of Hormuz who seek refuge in the Hormozi colony of Qalhat on the Omani coast.
Patricia Risso in Oman And Muscat: an Early Modern History, London (1986) notes on page 10 that, "Later, in 1300, the Hormozi merchants cast off Persian over-lordship and reorganized their entrepôt on the island also called Hormuz and there (once again) amassed legendary wealth." That situation to Hormuz's independence would have been short lived.
Through the connection between the different levels of Iranian kingdoms that we have outlined above, Oman as a part of Hormuz, was at times in history, part of the greater Iranian (Persian) empire.
Patricia Risso in Oman And Muscat: an Early Modern History, London (1986) notes on page 10 that the rulers of Hormuz developed Qalhât (or Galhat) on the Omani coast in order to control trade on both sides of the entrance to the Gulf.
As the crow flies, Qalhat is some 26 km northwest of Sur of the north-eastern portion of the Omani coast (see map above). Alternatively, it is some 127 km southeast of the Omani capital, Masqat, and some 580 km southeast of Hormuz Island.
Qalhat covered more that 60 acres (240,000 sq.m) of land, and its houses and shops were protected by surrounding fortifications. Artefacts from Persia and China have been discovered at the site which is today a UNESCO World heritage site.
Marco Polo's account of Qalhat which he calls Calatu is as follows (Chapter 39):
"Calatu is a great city, within a gulf which bears the name of the Gulf of Calatu. It is a noble city, and lies 600 miles from Dufar (Ibn Battuta's Dhofar in the south of Oman near its border with Yemen, but no longer existing) towards the north-west, upon the sea-shore. The people are Saracens (Arabs), and are subject to Hormos (Hormuz). And whenever the Melic* (local ruler) of Hormos is at war with some prince more potent than himself, he betakes himself to this city of Calatu, because it is very strong, both from its position and its fortifications. [*In the next chapter, Polo adds '...a Melic, which is as much as to say a King, and he is under the Soldan (Sultan) of Kerman.']
"They grow no corn here, but get it from abroad; for every merchant-vessel that comes brings some. The haven is very large and good, and is frequented by numerous ships with goods from India, and from this city the spices and other merchandize are distributed among the cities and towns of the interior. They also export many good Arab horses from this to India. For, as I have told you before, the number of horses exported from this and the other cities to India yearly is something astonishing. One reason is that no horses are bred in India, and another that through ignorant handling, the horses die as soon as they get there; for the people there do not know how to take care of them, and they feed their horses with cooked victuals and all sorts of trash, as I have told you fully heretofore; and besides all that they have no farriers.
"This City of Calatu stands at the mouth of the Gulf, so that no ship can enter or go forth without the will of the chief. And when the Melic of Hormos, who is Melic of Calatu also, and is vassal to the Soldan of Kerman, fears anything at the hand of the latter, he gets on board his ships and comes from Hormos to Calatu. And then he prevents any ship from entering the Gulf. This causes great injury to the Soldan of Kerman; for he thus loses all the duties that he is wont to receive from merchants frequenting his territories from India or elsewhere; for ships with cargoes of merchandize come in great numbers, and a very large revenue is derived from them. In this way he is constrained to give way to the demands of the Melic of Hormos.
"This Melic has also a castle which is still stronger than the city, and has a better command of the entry to the Gulf.
"The people of this country live on dates and salt fish, which they have in great abundance; the nobles, however, have better fare.
"There is no more to say on this subject. So now let us go on and speak of the city of Hormos, of which we told you before. When you leave the City of Calatu, and go for 300 miles between north-west and north, you come to the city of Hormos; a great and noble city on the sea. It has a Melic, which is as much as to say a King, and he is under the Soldan of Kerman."
Qalhat is now a UNESCO World heritage Site. The UNESCO webpage states:
"The ancient city of Qalhat is now ruined, except for a small mausoleum locally known as Bibi Mariam (which however has lost its dome). Qalhat has been for centuries the second city of the kingdom of Hormuz and a very important point in the Indian Ocean trade. It was visited in the 13th century by Marco Polo (who refers to it as Calatu) and in the 14th century by Ibn Battuta... who wrote: "The city of Qalhat is on the coast. It has good markets, and one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. (Battuta mistook the structure for a mosque, but we accept his description of its beauty.) The walls of the mosque are covered with blue ceramic tiles. It stands on a hill beside the harbour. This mosque was built by an important woman named Bibi Mariam. The people here are merchants, and they bring many goods from India. When a ship arrives the people are very happy." Both Polo and Battuta praise its prosperity and the quality of its constructions. The decline of the city in favour of Muscat had already started in 1507 when it was seized by Albuquerque and the Portuguese fleet.
"The wadi Hilmi provided a good supply of water (traces of ancient falaj system can still be seen) but there was almost no agricultural land nearby and all the food supply had to come from the interior (according to Albuquerque) or through trade by sea (according to Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta). [Note: This is a situation similar to Hormuz Island's city. Could it be that the traders were intentionally choosing land that was otherwise unattractive to others?]
"Trade was clearly the unique raison d'être of Qalhat. Today, the ruins occupy a very large area on the east bank of a wadi (stream) which opens into the khor of Qalhat, after crossing the mountains through narrow gorges. The ruins still cover more than sixty acres. The city was triangular in plan and its fortification walls can still be seen along the bank of the wadi to the northwest, and towards the mountain to the southwest, where it is preserved on one to two meters high. The (site's) western corner where the mausoleum stands was separated from the rest of the town by a dividing wall. To the south, a second wall from the seashore to the summit of the heights protected the access along the coast. It seems that the area between this wall and the city itself was only loosely settled. Qalhat had always been considered as an excellent stronghold in ancient times. Extensive ruins of what were houses and warehouses can still be seen within the walled area close to the coast. The ruins have been reduced to heaps of stones with no standing walls. The ground at the site is littered with a multitude of sherds, including imported Persian and Chinese wares."
The only standing structure is built in a style reminiscent of a Sassanian era chahr-taqi fire temples. The name ascribed to it, Bibi Maryam, is similar to the name given the the only standing structure in Minab: Bibi Minoo. It is quite possible that the original structures of Qalhat harken back to the Zoroastrian era, and that after the advent of the Islamic era, were then adapted, remodelled and given new names as is the case with several old Zoroastrian structures in Iran.
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