The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter xxxix.

Concerning the Gulf of Calatu and the City So Called.

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 towards the north-west, upon the sea-shore. The people are Saracens, and are subject to Hormos. And whenever the Melic 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. 1

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. 2 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 there, and another that they die as soon as they get there, through ignorant handling; 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.3

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.

NOTE 1. — Kalhát, the Calaiate of the old Portuguese writers, is about 500 m by shortest sea-line north-east of Dhafár. “The city of Kalhát,” says Ibn Batuta, “stands on the shore; it has fine bazaars, and one of the most beautiful mosques that you could see anywhere, the walls of which are covered with enamelled tiles of Káshán. . . . The city is inhabited by merchants, who draw their support from Indian import trade. . . . Although they are Arabs, they don’t speak correctly. After every phrase they have a habit of adding the particle no. Thus they will say ‘You are eating — no?’ ‘You are walking — no?’ ‘You are doing this or that — no?’ Most of them are schismatics, but they cannot openly practise their tenets, for they are under the rule of Sultan Kutbuddin Tehemten Malik, of Hormuz, who is orthodox” (II. 226).

Calaiate, when visited by d’Alboquerque, showed by its buildings and ruins that it had been a noble city. Its destruction was ascribed to an earthquake. (De Barros, II. ii. 1.) It seems to exist no longer. Wellsted says its remains cover a wide space; but only one building, an old mosque, has escaped destruction. Near the ruins is a small fishing village, the people of which also dig for gold coins. (J.R.G.S. VII. 104.)

What is said about the Prince of Hormuz betaking himself to Kalhát in times of trouble is quite in accordance with what we read in Teixeira’s abstract of the Hormuz history. When expelled by revolution at Hormuz or the like, we find the princes taking refuge at Kalhát.

NOTE 2. —“Of the interior.” Here the phrase of the G.T. is again “en fra tere a mainte cité et castiaus.” (See supra, Bk. I. ch. i. note 2.)

There was still a large horse-trade from Kalhát in 1517, but the Portuguese compelled all to enter the port of Goa, where according to Andrea Corsali they had to pay a duty of 40 saraffi per head. If these ashrafis were pagodas, this would be about 15l. a head; if they were dinárs, it would be more than 20l. The term is now commonly applied in Hindustan to the gold mohr.

NOTE 3. — This no doubt is Maskat.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24