The Commerce and Trade of the Rasulids in the Yemen, 630-858/1231-1454

by Dr. Nayef Abdullah al-Shamrookh
Ph.D. Thesis, Faculty of Arts, University of Manchester, 1993

[Published by the State of Kuwait in 1996.]

[The following excerpts of chapters 1 and 8 are reprinted here with the permission of the author. Note that the original footnotes have been transformed into endnotes. Also, it has not been possible to provide proper transliteration of Arabic terms for this html page.]





1: Introduction

The Scope of the Present Work
The Principle Sources

2: The Ayyubid Conquest of the Yemen
1. Political
2. Personal
3. Religious
4. Commerical

3: The Foundation of the Rasulid State in the Yemen

1. The Ayyubids' Occupation of the Yemen
2. The Origins of the Banû Rasûl
3. The Banû Rasûl and the Ayyubids of the Yemen
4. The New Master of the Yemen

4: Some Political Aspects of the Rasulid Administration

1. The Sultan
2. The Deputy
3. The Vizier

5: Agricultural Products

a) the Palm
b) Cereals
c) Grapes
d) Bananas
e) Other Agricultural Products
Natural Catastrophes which affected Agriculture during the Rasulid Era
The Rasulids' Efforts to promote Agriculture

6: Industry

1. The Textiles Industry
2. The Carnelian Industry
3. Leather Tanning
4. Timber Industries
5. The Construction Industry
6. The Metals Industries
7. Other Industries

7: The Rasulids' Efforts in Promoting Trade

1. The Rasulid Rulers as Merchants
2. Expansion toward Hadramawt and Zafâr
3. The Echqnge of Gifts and Embassies
4. Frequent Visists made by the Rasulid Sultans to the Port of Aden
5. Gifts and Grants to Indian Personalities

8: The Principal Items of Tade

I. Spices
II. Perfumes
III Textiles
IV. Precious Stones and Metals
V. The Horse Trade
VI. Slaves

9: Trade Routes

I. The Land Routes
II. The Sea Routes

10: Domestic and Foerign Trade

I. Domestic Trade
II. Main Exports and Imports
II. Foreign Trade

11: Taxation of Trade

1. Tithe ('ushr)
2. 'Galleys' (shawânî)
3. Brokerage (dilâlah)
4. Other Taxes
Aden Trade Revenues

12: Coins, Weights, and Measures

I. The Coinage
II. Weights and Measures



I: Taxes on Commodities int he Port of Aden in the 690s/1290s

II: The Rasulid Rulers of the Yemen and their Viziers

III: Maps

The Rasulid State at its Zenith
Internal Trade Routes in Western Arabia
Trade Routes of the Indian Ocean

IV: Examples of Yemeni Coins

Coins in the British Museum
Coins in San'â' Museum




The purpose of this study is to shed light on commercial activities in the Tihâmah and South Yemen during the Rasulid period, which commenced in 630/1231 with the accession to power of al-Malik al-Mansûr Nûr al-Dîn 'Umar b. Rasûl. This is considered to be an important era in the medieval history of the region and one during which the Yemen experienced marked economic growth and prosperity.

Despite the marked economic growth and prosperity of the Yemen during this period, sadly most previous studies have not given sufficient attention to the economic situation of the country. Among the pioneering works, however, we may notice the following.

1. Al-Hayât al-Siyâsiyyah wa-Mazâhir al-Hadârah fî 'Ahd Dawlat Banî Rasûl fî al-Yaman by 'Abd al-Fattâh 'Ulayyân.(1) The author of this work considers some of the internal and external affairs of the Yemen during the Rasulid period. He also touches on social, educational, and economic matters, but he gives only scant attention to commerce and trade.
2. Banû Rasûl wa-Banû Tâhir wa-'Alâqâtuhumâ by Muhammad 'Abd al-'Âl. The author of this work concentrates on describing the political history of the Rasulid and Tahirid states. The book was of great assistance in setting the political back-cloth to the present work, for it sets out the political situation of the Yemen and describes the foreign relations between the Rasulid state and neighboring countries.
3. 'Alâqât Salâtîn Banî Rasûl bi-'l-Hijâz by Amînah Jalâl.(2) This useful text examines relations between the Hejaz and the Rasulid state and it also focuses on the Rasulid-Mamluk struggle over the Hejaz motivated by commercial and religious interests.

The Scope of the Present Work

This study is divided into twelve chapters which it will be convenient to outline here. The introduction to the study contains a review of the principal sources used in research, both manuscripts and published items.

Following this, we discuss the Ayyubid conquest of the Yemen which preceded the rise of the Rasulid state. We also describe the various motives inducing the Ayyubid expansion into the Yemen, including political, personal, religious, and economic factors.

The chapter following is concerned with the rise of the Rasulid state and includes a discussion of the origin of the dynasty and the various theories on the subject. Then we move on to a discussion of relations between the Ayyubids and Rasulids and how the latter succeeded in gaining control of the Tihâmah region and South Yemen.

Next we examine some aspects of the Rasulid administration, including the offices of sultan, his deputy, and the vizier.

There follows a discussion of the major agricultural products of Rasulid Yemen, such as dates, grains, grapes, and other types of fruits. We also consider the natural disasters that affected agriculture, including famines, floods, droughts, and locust plagues, as well as the various efforts made by the Rasulid sultans in their attempts to promote and support agriculture.

In the following chapter we consider the circumstances that helped to develop the various crafts in the Yemen, after which information is given on the domestic industries such as textiles, carnelian production, and tanning.

Next we examine the various efforts made by the Rasulid governors to promote commerce, such as the establishment of special relationships between the Yemen and the neighboring and more distant countries, including the Hejaz, Egypt, India, and China, and the exchange of gifts between the Rasulid sultans and the rulers of these other lands. The Rasulid rulers, it is observed, also made frequent visits to the port of Aden and urged the officials and workers to deal with the foreign merchants in an amicable manner.

We move on from here to a discussion of the principal products which formed the major part of the commercial activities in the Yemen. Among these goods we consider spices, perfumes, textiles, in addition to horses, slaves and other commodities.

Next we describe the trade routes, including both land and sea routes, which connected the Yemen with neighboring and distant countries. The chapter also includes consideration of the efforts made by the Rasulid governors to ensure the safety of these routes.

This leads us to a discussion of the domestic trade of the Rasulid state and describes the trading activities of the Yemeni cities as well as the commercial relations that prevailed between them. The chapter also contains discussion of the foreign trade between the Rasulid state and other countries such as Egypt, the Hejaz, East Africa, India, and China.

The chapter following is concerned with the different taxes imposed on trade, like the 'ushr, the shawânî, and the brokerage commission known as dilâlah. We also consider the nature of the revenues collected in Aden in the way of taxes on trade and their contribution to the city's treasury. It is noted how Aden was the major source of revenue to the state.

Finally, we deal with the Rasulid coinage. It contains a historical survey of the coinage and also considers the main weights and measures that were officially employed.

The Principal Sources

In order to seek out information relevant to the present study, I went to the Yemen on the 18th July 1990, but unfortunately I had to leave the country earlier than anticipated, on the 3rd August, on account of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait on the day preceding. The visit therefore proved abortive and yielded nothing of relevance for the present work. I was consequently compelled to seek in other directions, including, for instance, visits to the libraries of Cambridge University, London University School of Oriental and African Studies, the British Library Reference Division, the University of King Sa'ûd in Riyadh, as well as the Manuscripts Department of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester. Through these and other enquiries I was able to obtain copies of a number of manuscripts relevant to Rasulid history, including manuscripts in Leiden, Dublin, and Milan. Moreover, I benefited from studying the relevant manuscripts kept on microfilm in the Institute of Arabic Manuscripts of the League of Arab States in Kuwait.

The following is a description of the major sources used in preparing the present source in preparing a present study.

a. Manuscripts

1. Al-Daftar al-Muzaffarî. The author of this text is unknown. It was written possibly sometime before the seventh/thirteenth century.(3) This is the unique text which was discovered recently by Muhammad 'Abd al-Rahîm Jâzim in a private library in Zabîd in the Yemen.(4) The Daftar provides a wealth of information about the administration of trade, particularly in the port of Aden. In particular, it documents data on taxable items exported and imported via the main Rasulid ports. Furthermore, the text describes the trade in commodities coming from such places as Venice, Iraq, Zafar, India, and China.

2. Mulakhkhas al-Fitan wa-'l-Albâb wa-Misbâh al-Hudâ li-'l-Kitâb, written by al-Husan b. 'Alî al-Sharîf al-Husaynî, who was active until 815/1412.(5) We have very little information about the author, but it seems highly likely that he worked in the Rasulid administration or close to it, because al-Husaynî mentions that he wrote a similar treatise, al-Dîwân al-Jâmi' li-'l-Taysîr fî Ma'rifat al-Tajlîl wa-'l-Tas'îr, about the Rasulid administration in the time of al-Ashraf II (d. 803/1400) which unfortunately has not yet

been found. (6) The significance of the Mulakhkhas for this study is that it lists the various taxes levied in the Rasulid ports on goods that came from or went to India, Kish, the Hejaz, Egypt, and elsewhere.

3. Bughyat al-Fallâhîn fî al-Ashjâr al-Muthmirah wa-'l-Rayâhîn, written by al-Afdal al-'Abbâs, the sixth Rasulid sultan (d.778/1377). (7) The importance of the Bughyah stems from the fact that its author lived within the period under the study and copied a great deal of his information from another book, entitled al-Ishârat fî al-'Imârah, written by Sultan al-Mujâhid (d.764/1363) which is unfortunately no longer extant.(8) From the Bughyah we obtain information about the state of agriculture in the Yemen during the Rasulid period. The author lists the various agricultural products during the period and relates the efforts made by the Rasulid sultans to improve and promote agriculture, such as their introduction of new plants into the Yemen. The writer also mentions the experimental gardens established by the Rasulids which newly introduced plants were tested.

4. Al-'Iqd al-Fâkhir al-Hasan fî Tabaqât A'yân (or Akâbir) al-Yaman (also known as Tirâz A'lâm al-Zaman fî Tabaqât A'yân al-Yaman) by 'Ali b. al-Hasan al-Khazrajî (d. 812/1409).(9) For the purposes of the present research, I have depended on two copies of this text, one in the British Library (MS.Or. 2425) and the other in the Library of King's College, Cambridge (Arabic MS. no. 72). The importance of the work stems from the fact that it begins where al-Janadî (d. 732/1331) concluded his Kitâb al-Sulûk fî Tabaqât al-Mulûk. The 'Iqd contains a ling list of important personalities in the Rasulid period, including sultans, deputies, and viziers, in addition to other important persons in the administrative, religious, social, and cultural fields.

5. Fâkihat al-Zaman wa-Mufâkahat al-Adab wa-'l-Fitan fî Akhbâr man malaka al-Yaman by Sultan Ismâ'îl al-Ashraf II (d.803/1400) who began writing his book in 786/1384.2 Al-Ashraf wrote about Yemeni history up to 802/1399. Although most of his material can be found in al-Khazrajî's 'Uqûd, the Fâkihah contains some interesting information not found elsewhere. He tells us, for example, that in 771/1369 the cost of building walls around Zabîd came to more than 109,000 dinars.

b. Published materials

1. Kitâb al-Simt al-Ghâlî al-Thaman fî Akhbâr al-Mulûk min al-Ghuzz bi-'l-Yaman by Badr al-Dîn Muhammad b. Hâtim. This work begins with the Ayyubids' conquest of the Yemen and ends with the death of al-Muzaffar in 694/1295. We know very little about the author apart from the fact that al-Khazrajî informs us that in 702/1302 al-Mu'ayyad sent him as his representative to sign a treaty with the Zaydis.(11) Ibn Hâtim also wrote another history, entitled al-'Iqd al-Thamîn fî Akbâr Mulûk al-Yaman al-Muta'akhkhirîn, which unfortunately is no longer extant.(12) The Simt is an extremely important work for understanding the early Rasulid period (i.e. the epoch of the first and second Rasulid sultans, al-Mansûr and al-Muzaffar, 626-694/1229-1295), and Ibn Hâtim's work as historiographer was so vital that many subsequent Yemeni historians, like 'Abd al-Majîd and al-Khazrajî, depended on his books al-Simt and al-'Iqd al-Thamîn for their own accounts.

2. Kitâb al-Sulûk fî Tabaqât al-Mulûk by Abû 'Abd Allâh Muhammad al-Janadî (d. 732/1331). Al-Janadî served in certain public offices of the Rasulid state, including that of muhtasib in Aden and Zabîd, as well as judicial and teaching posts in Aden, Zabîd, and al-Janad. (13) This work contains biographies of scholars arranged by generations and for the later period, within each generation by place of residence. The text finishes with a brief history of the Yemen until 730/1329. It contains biographical briefings about personalities of the Rasulid period who played important roles in commerce and trade, such as Ibn al-Ghazzâl who was in charge of the mint of Zabîd. What distinguishes this author is that he expressed his own views about certain events and that he did not fall under the censorious influence of the Rasulid sultan. So, for example, he tells us that there were some forgeries in the coinage circulating during the reigns of al-Mansûr and al-Muzaffar.

3. Bahjat al-Yaman fî Târîkh al-Yaman by Tâj al-Dîn Abû al-Muhâsin 'Abd al-Bâqî b. 'Abd al-Majîd al-Makhzûmî (d. 732/1333). This book has been preserved as volume XXXI of al-Nuwayrî's Nihâyat al-Arab and has been edited and published in Cairo in 1985 by M. Hijâzî. Ibn 'Abd al-Majîd was active during the reign of al-Mu'ayyad (d. 721/1322) and part of the reign of al-Mujâhid (d. 764/1363). Al-Janadî informs us that Ibn 'Abd al-Majîd arrived in the Yemen from Mecca in 717/1317 and worked in the Dîwân al-Inshâ' during the reign of al-Mu'ayyad until 721/1320.(14) The book is a historical study of the Yemen from the beginning of the Islamic period to 725/1324.

4. Kitâb al-'Uqûd al-Lu'lu'iyyah fî Târîkh al-Dawlah al-Rasûliyyah by 'Alî b. al-Hasan al-Khazrajî (d. 812/1409) who is considered to be the official historian of the Rasulid court. The importance of the book stems from the fact that it is unique amongst other relevant historical books as it gives a detailed and comprehensive history of the Rasulid state not found elsewhere, beginning with the foundation of the state in 630/1232 and ending with the death of al-Ashraf II in 803/1400. Al-Khazrajî gives an eye-witness account of the events that took place during this period and, indeed in some events, his account is the only one available to researchers. Furthermore, he had close contacts with the contemporary Rasulid sultans which enabled him to obtain accurate information about the events of the period. However, al-Khazrajî was negatively influenced by the Rasulid sultans and had to toe the party line which, in some cases, forced him to be economical with the truth, as for example when he talks about the origin of the Rasulids, claiming descent for them form the Ghassanids, and when he relates the revolutions involved in their coming to power in the Yemen.

The 'Uqûd contains many references to economic activites in the Yemen during the Rasulid period. For example, in the field of agriculture, the author refers to the interest taken by the Rasulid sultans in this activity and relates how they endeavored to promote agriculture and assist farmers by relieving them of tax burdens. He also mentions the attempts of the Rasulid sultans to encourage farmers to plant rice and increase the number of date-palm trees planted in the Yemen. On the commerce of the Yemen, al-Khazrajî records the interest of the Rasulid sultans in the Eastern trade which passed through the port of aden on its way to Egypt and other Mediterranean countries and he relates how these sultans frequently visited Aden to see for themselves the situation of the port and to entertain the prominent Indian merchants who visited the port. Moreover, the author describes how the Rasulid sultan decided to mint silver dirhams and indeed, he defends the authenticity and purity of these dirhams in an attempt to refute what al-Janadî had said about the forgeries that had been put abroad.

5. The Rasulid Chronicle. The anonymous author of this work was probably an employee of the court of al-Zâhir (d. 842/1439).(15) The period covered by the Chronicle is from 439/1047 to 840/1436 and the text is arranged in a strictly annalistic form. It is one of the most important historical sources in that it covers a considerable period of the Rasulid state, filling a gap left by other sources, it describes the special relationships existing between the Yemen and these countries. The Chronicle contains a great deal of information about those merchants who avoided the post of Aden and who later became known as the Mujawwirûn. It also states the income of Aden in various years and thereby sheds some light on the trading activities of the port.

6. Masâlik al Absâr fi Mamâlik al-Amsâr by Ibn Fadl Allâh al'Umarî. The book consists of twenty-four volumes and, since the information it contains is contemporary with our period of study, it is useful for supplying details relating to the economic state of the Yemen during this time.(16) The author states that the major source of revenue to the Rasulid state came from taxes collected on Indian trading vessels and that the wealth of the people of Aden was constantly increasing on account of the commerce of the port.

7. Târîkh al-Mustabsir by Yûsuf b. Ya 'qûb al-Shaybânî, known as Ibn al-Mujâwar (fl.630/1232).(17) This work contains some vital information about the economic history of the Hejaz, Mecca, and the Yemen during the latter part of Ayyubid control over the Yemen. It contains some information on the way that trading vessels were received in the port of Aden and the varieties of goods that came into or left the port, as well as the amounts of tax that were levied on these goods and the goods that were exempted from taxation.

8. Qurrat al-'Uyûn bi-Akhbâr al-Yaman al-Maymûn by Abû 'Abd Allâh 'Abd al-Rahmân b. al-Dayba' (866-944/1461-1537). The book is important in terms of the historical information it contains on the latter stages of the Rasulid state. The work proved useful for the present research n that it describes the internal political situation of the Rasulid state during the transfer of power from the Rasulid to the Tahirids.

9. Al-Rihlah by Abu 'Abd Allah b. Battûtah (703-779/1303-1377). On his travels, Ibn Battûtah visited many countries including the Yemen. The account of his travels was written by Muhammad b. al-Jawzî (d. 757/1356). The account is important for the present study as it reflects the observations of an eye-witness who visited the Yemen during al-Mujâhid's reign. Ibn Battûtah records how the commercial activities in the Yemen were in a flourishing state and how the Yemeni merchants, especially those of Aden, owned considerable wealth, many of them also owning large ships of which they were very proud. Ibn Battûtah refers in particular to the commercial relations of the Yemen with India and describes them as being very strong for many Indian ships visited Yemeni ports and vice versa.

10. The Book of Ser Marco Polo. Marco Polo (643-725/1254-1324) records that the port of Aden was an important commercial link through which the Indian trade passed to Egypt. He also informs us that the governor of Aden collected huge amounts of tax revenues from the merchants.

11. Ahsân al-Taqâsim fî Ma'rifat al-Aqâlîm by Shams al-Dîn Abû 'Abd Allâh al-Maqdisî (d. 387/997). This is considered to be the most comprehensive geographical work about the Yemen written by any of the classical Arabic writers. Al-Maqdisi visited the Yemen and lived there for a period of time, and he wrote about the places he visited in the country. He also worked in various capacities during his sojourn in the Yemen, including commerce, teaching, and bookbinding. Through his personal contacts with the various sectors and classes in Yemeni society, he was enabled to pen some interesting observations on the economic interactions in society. His observations were later supplemented by the more comprehensive account written by Ibn al-Mujâwir in his Târîkh al-Mustabsir (see above).

The present study has also benefited from a number of books dealing with spices and perfumes which were traded widely in the markets during the period under discussion. Among these books are al-Jâmi' li-Mufradât al-Adwiyah wa-'l-Aghdiyah by Ibn al-Baytâr (d.646/1284) and al-Mu'tamad min al-Adwiyyah al-Mufradah by Yûsuf b. 'Umar al-Muzaffar (d. 696/1296). These books are important for the present study because they cast light on the many types of spice and perfume, stating their origins, descriptions, and uses.

Sifat Jazîrat al-'Arab by Abû Muhammad al-Hamdânî (d. after 360/970) is useful in that it contains valuable data about the geography of the Yemen. The author of this book considers various aspects of the economic activities of the Yemen including agriculture, industry, and commerce and, despite the fact that al-Hamdan lived in the fourth/ninth century, most of the information contained in his work remains applicable to the Yemen of the Rasulid period.

The importance of Muhammad al-Hajrî's Majmû' Buldân al Yaman wa-Qabâ'iluhâ lies in its accurate locations given for many towns and village the Yemen, in addition to its listing of the various Yemeni tribes in alphabetical order.

The present study has also benefited from the following works. First, there is Milh al-Milâhah fî Ma'rifat al-Filâhah written by Sultan al-Ashraf I (d. 696/1296) which gives a detailed account of all the agricultural products of the Yemen, together with a time-table for the planting of seeds and harvesting of crops. The book is particularly important for this study because it was written by a contemporary author, indeed a Rasulid sultan, so that through it we are able to gather a great deal of information about the agricultural products of the Yemen during this time. Secondly, al-Mukhtara' fî Funûn min al-Suna' by Sultan Yûsuf b. 'Umar al-Muzaffar (d. 694/1294) sheds considerable light on the various crafts and industries of the Yemen such dying, silk production, and the textiles industry. Such an extensive and organized description of these pursuits is unparalleled in any other source.

The secondary studies of Western scholars have also proved to great benefit in the preparation of the present study. At the top of the list in this respect are the numerous articles published by Professor R.B. Serjeant dealing with the trade and commerce of the Yemen in the Rasulid period, in particular his work on the ports of Aden and al-Shihr which demonstrates the vital role played by these ports in the commerce and trade of the Rasulid period.

Of vital importance also is the two-volume edition of Ibn Hâtim's Kitâb al-Simt al-Ghâlî al-Thaman fî Akhbâr al-Mulûk min al-Ghuzz bi-'l-Yaman prepared by Professor G. Rex Smith. The first of these volumes contains an edition of the Arabic text of al-Simt, while the second contains a useful study of the origins of the Rasulid dynasty. Of particular value is the glossary contained in the work which includes many technical terms that were in common usage during the lifetime of Ibn Hatim. Professor Smith supplements the book with geographical and tribal indexes which have proved extremely useful in the preparation of the present study.

D.M. Varisco's works analyzing the state of agriculture in the Yemen during the Rasulid period are of especial importance and Goitein's work on the Genizah documents has cast a beam of light on the Mediterranean trade of the period between East and West. In addition to the above works which we have noted specifically, the full range of literature used in preparation of the present work will be found listed in the Bibliography at the end.


1 Submitted as a Ph.D. thesis in Cairo University, 1973.
2. This work was submitted as an M.A, thesis in Umm al-Qurâ University, 1399-1400/1979-80.
3. See e.g. the following pages in Daftar: 131b, 132a.
4. While I have not been able to see the original copy of the Daftar, which is in the possession of Mr. Jâzim in the Yemen, he kindly supplied me with a photocopy of the text of folios 99-130. Dr. Dan Varisco kindly sent me a description of the whole of the Daftar and informed me that it consists of 223 folios containing valuable information about Rasulid administration during the reign of al-Muzaffar. The Daftar contains detailed information about various crafts and industries, such as the textile and tanning industries, in the Yemen during Rasulid times. Varisco indicates that there is a plan to edit and publish the Daftar in the very near future with the co-operation of Mr. Jâzim.
5. The text is described by Cahen and Serjeant in "Fiscal Survey", Arabica, 22-33. An edition of the text of the Mulakhkhas is currently under preparation by Serjeant.
6. Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 6a.
7. Serjeant has edited and translated the chapter on cereals: "Cultivation of cereals", AS, 25-74.
8. See e.g. Bughyah, 121a, 127b, 129b, 130b.
9. On al-Khazrajî's contribution to Rasulid historiography, see 'Asîrî, Abû al-Hasan al-Khazrajî wa-Mu'allafâtuh al-Târîkhiyyah, Ph.D. thesis, Imam Muhammad b. Sa'ûd University, 1406/1985.
10. Ashraf, Fâkihah, 224b.
11. 'Uqûd, I, 338.
12. Smith, 64.
13. Janadî, Sulûk, II, 149,390,424,572.
14. Sulûk, II, 576-8.
15. Chronicle, 17.
16. A. F. Sayyid has edited and published the part of vol. II dealing with the Rasulid state and other issues.
17. But cf. Smith, "Eastern connection", especially 84 ff. where it is sugggested that the author is Abû Bakr b. Muhammad b. Mas'ûd b. Alî b. Ahmad Ibn al-Mujâwir al-Baghdâdî al-Nîsâbûrî.



The Yemen played an important role in international commerce during the Rasulid period. In this chapter we will discuss the main products which formed the bulk of trading commodities during this time.

I. Spices

a. Pepper

Pepper (i.e. black pepper, Piper nigrum) is the fruit of a shrub indigenous to the Malabar coast of South-West India. It was the most famous and most widely used spice throughout the Middle Ages. Its varied use included cooking, the making of drinks, as a preservative for meats and other foods, and as an ingredient in the pharmaceutical industry.(1)

Pepper enjoyed a very strong purchasing power and was often used as a substitute for money on account of its high value, as for instance when the Ming dynasty of China paid the soldiers' salaries in pepper in the years 794/1391 and 795/1392.(2) So it is no wonder that pepper entered the proverbial language of that time as, for instance, when people would say, 'As expensive as pepper.' (3)

According to Goitein, the standard weight for pepper was the bahâr, and the haml (camel load) used to fetch between 50 and 125 dinars.(4) The demand for pepper was higher than for any other spice despite its high price. Traders would transport it to Mecca via the Red Sea and from there it was taken to Egypt. In Alexandria, for example, it could be remarked that 'the quickest sales are those of pepper'.(5) From Egypt it was shipped by the Venetians to its final destinations in Europe.(6)

The main areas for pepper production were the Malibar coast of South-West India, which Hamawî referred to as 'the land of pepper',(7) and Calicut. Ibn Battûtah remarked that when he was in Calicut he saw people pouring pepper seeds to be weighed as they did sorghum in his own country.(8) Other places where pepper crop was cultivated were Manjaror, Gujarat, and East Africa.(9)

The Rasulid government exacted a tax on imported pepper at a rate which in 693/1293 stood at '7 dinars, a third of a dinar, and a quarter of a dinar' per bahâr, and the rate of tax on exported pepper in the same year was 1 dinar and 2 fils per bahâr. (10)


The clove is the small, unopened flower bud of the large tropical Eugenia caryophyllata tree that grows in a pyramidal shape. It has an olive-coloured bark and its flower buds are white in colour. When, however they are left to dry and ripen under the sun, they become black. The tree produces two yields per year and the buds have a strong and sweet aroma. (11)

During the period under study, the clove was one of the most expensive spices, its price being double that of pepper. It was used in cooking to give meat a special taste and aroma. It was also used in the preservation of various types of food, especially fish, and it was further used in the pharmaceutical industry. According to Chau Ju-Kau, cloves had the ability to cure bad breath, so that in China the high officials of court put cloves in their mouths when they had to lay matters before the emperor. (12)

Cloves were brought from Indonesia as well as from India. The Rasulid government's import duty in Aden imposed on 10 manns of cloves was at the rate of 11 dinars per bahâr. (13)

c. Cinnamon

The spice cinnamon consists of bark of Cinnamonmum zeylanicum, a tree of the laurel family. The types that were accounted best were those with a reddish colour and a strong, burning taste, while the cheaper types were usually blackish in colour and had a milder taste. (14)

Cinnamon was an important product used widely by pharmacists in the preparation of various medicinal remedies, especially for stomach and intestinal ailments. Pharmacists either prepared a refreshing drink to warm the stomach during winter or prescribed the extracted oil from the leaves of the tree for intestinal problems. (15) This oil, which has a strong smell, was used an ointment for the treatment of buns and wounds. Cinnamon was also used in preservation of foods.(16)

South China, Malibur, Calicut, and Ceylon were the main cinnamon producing areas.(17) According to the Daftar, the tax exacted on exacted on 1 bahâr of cinnamon was 1 dinar.(18)

d. Camphor

Camphor was a product derived from the camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora). Al-Dimashqî described how the producers of camphor would

"approach the tree at a certain time of the year, dig a ditch around it, and place a a collecting container in the ditch. Then a man with an axe and a protecting scarf around his face would approach the tree and, as soon as he had made a cut in its bark, would drop and axe and run away as the sap would spurt out and, if it touched his face, could prove fatal." (19)

From the oldest and richest trees they rarely collect more than 2 ounces of camphor.(20) As soon as the extracted fluid cools downs, the tree is felled and left to dry. Later, people of all ages come and cut tree into small pieces and take from it anything that is useful in the pharmaceutical industry.(21)

Ibn Jubayr noted that Mecca had a thriving market for this product.(22) Camphor arrived from many places, including China, India, Ceylon, and Indonesia.(23) According to the Genizah documents and later European sources, fansûrî (24) camphor was regarded as the best.(25) The customs duty exacted on the import of 1 bahâr of camphor in Aden was '7 dinars, 2 qîrâts, and 7 fils.(26)

e. Myrobalan

Myrobalan, or emblic (Ar. halîlaj), the astringent plum-like fruit of Terminalia, the best types being those with skins that are yellowish with a touch of green, was used for medicinal purposes in the treatment of stomach and eye ailments. (27)

Ibn al-Mujâwir mentions that halîlaj grew in Wadi Zabîd in al-Muzayhifah,7(28) while al-Afdal states that halîlaj was cultivated in Dhamâr. (29) It would appear, however, that local production was insufficient to satisfy public demand, so that additional halîlaj was brought from India and Kabul. The kâbulî type was indeed particularly well known in Aden for it is frequently mentioned in the Daftar (30) and by al-Husaynî.(31) During the Ayyubid occupation of the Yemen, halîlaj was exempt from taxation.(32)

f. Ginger

Ginger was used in the preservation of food and in the preparation of medicinal remedies for the treatment of colds, stomach ailments, and respiratory problems.(33) It was widely cultivated in the Yemen, especially in Zabîd,(34) but because of the high demand for the product, additional quantities were imported from China and Malibar.(35)

g. Galingale

Galingale (Ar. Khulunjân, Polypodium calaguala Kz.) produces a spice which was useful in the preparation of medicinal remedies for stomach and kidney ailments, as well as for the treatment of respiratory problems. It was also used for the spicing of various types of food, including meat.(36) India and China were the main sources of this spice.(37) The customs duty exacted on 10 bahârs of galingale was 2 and a quarter dinars.(38)

II. Perfumes

Perfumes were obtained from two sources: plants and animals.

a. Plant-based perfumes

The Yemen had from ancient times been known as the land of frankincense; indeed, the economic wealth and consequent civilization of ancient Yemen was based on the import and export of frankincense and myrrh. (39) Van Beek went so far as to draw a comparison between the international demand for frankincense and myrrh and the Yemen's ability to supply it, and the export of oil from the present-day Middle East.(40)

i. Frankincense

Frankincense was a valued commodity, being sought not only by the local people but also by many communities in the ancient world. Generally speaking, there were three main purposes to which frankincense was put: social, religious, and medicinal. Herodotus states that in Babylon it was customary for a man to burn incense prior to approaching his wife for sexual intercourse and he added that the custom was still practiced during his own time.(41) Shihab asserts that the custom is still followed in modern Yemen.(42)

Frankincense held a distinguished place in religious ceremonies and its use has been continuous throughout the entire history of human civilization, and so it was the most important product of Southern Arabia. The ancient Egyptians used frankincense extensively, both for mummification purposes and in religious ceremonies. Pharaoh Rameses II (1290-1224, or 1279-1213 B.C.) constructed storage chambers for the frankincense used in worship of the god Amon. It was also burnt in worship by the inhabitants of the Greek island of Delos. It was used by the Hebrews during their Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) celebrations. Hindu priests burnt in their temples, as did Buddhist monks in their monasteries. Christians also burnt it in their churches during Sunday masses or in other religious ceremonies.(43)

There are indications that the ancient dwellers of Mesopotamia used frankincense for medicinal purposes in the treatment of head injuries. It was used, for example, for the treatment of skin diseases and in obstetric medicine.(44)

In 799/1396, the Rasulid Sultan al-Ashraf II sent to the Egyptian sultan gifts which included 42 ratls (45) of lubân, a certain variety of frankincense.(46) This amount of lubân being sent as part of a royal gift may indicate both the high quality and the availability of lubân in the Yemen. According to al-Husaynî, 1 dinar was to be paid in duty on each haml (camel load) of lubân.(47)

ii. Myrrh

Myrrh is extracted from gum producing tree which can grow to the average height of a human being. Certain areas of the Yemen were well known for its production, such as al-Shihr, Zafâr al-Hubûdî, and Mirbât.(48) In 693/1293, half a dinar was exacted in import duty on each bahâr or myrrh arriving in the port of Aden.(49)

iii. Aloes

Aloes is a genus of plants, like the lily of the valley (Ar. sawsân) but taller and with erect peripheral spikes, which exude bitter juices that are an important component in the production of many medicinal remedies.(50) Aloes was cultivated in the Yemen, particularly in area of Hadramawt, al-Ahqâf (north-east of Hadramawt), and on the island of Socotra.(51) The Socotran variety held an excellent reputation and was consequently referred to by many of the medieval geographers.(52)

The majority of aloes was exported to Egypt and from there to Europe.(53) The tax imposed on aloes in the port of Aden in 639/1293 was 7 and a half dinars per bahâr, but on the Hadramî variety it was 2 dinars and 1 dirham per bahâr.(54)

iv. Sandalwood

Sandalwood was widely used during the Middle Ages on account of its strong natural perfume. It was mentioned in the register of the port of Aden that it was imported form Java, Sumatra, and the Moluccas, the west coast of the Malay peninsula, and from South-East Asia.(55) Al-Maqrîzî reports that in 799/1396 a gift was sent from the Rasulid sultan to Egypt which included a quantity of sandalwood.(56)

v. Saffron

It has been noted in a previous chapter that saffron was used in the dyeing of textiles produced in the Yemen, but here we concerned with its use as a perfume. Yemeni saffron was available in the markets of the Hejaz, but its most important source for it was Persia where it was cultivated in the regions of Qum, Hamadân, and Shirâz, (57) while the type which came from Isfahân was especially highly regarded, as Ibn Rustah explains: 'Although saffron is cultivated in other regions, the Isfahânî type is much superior, for it has a sweeter fragrance, a richer color, and is generally more useful'.(58) The customs duty imposed on each mann of saffron in the port of Aden was 8 dinars and 2 fils.(59)

vi. Giant fennel

The spadix of giant fennel (Ferula communis, Ar. kaththî), a plant which grows to a height of 8 to 12 ft., produces an aromatic juice.(60) According to al-Muzaffar, it was available in the Yemen in large quantities and was used as a perfume.(61)

vii. Aloeswood

Aloeswood ('ûd) was one of the best and most aromatic types of natural perfume, having a pleasant effect on people. The tree from which it was derived was cultivated in Hadramawt, India, and China.(62)

The Rasulid sultans often included large quantities of 'ûd in their presents sent to the Egyptian sultans. Thus, for example, in 684/1285 al-Muzaffar included in his present 'three large pieces of 'ûd, each one borne by two people,' and the total weight amounting to 216 ratls.(63)

viii. Laudanum

Laudanum (Ar. lâdhin, Cistus landaniferus), i.e. opium, is the product of a variety of poppy widely cultivated in southern Europe, the coastal area of Asia Minor, and Crete.(64) The plant produces a dark brown juice that was used in the embalmment of corpses. The main places from which laudanum was re-exported to the Yemen were Kish and Egypt and on each bahar taxed in Aden a charge of '14 and one seventh dinars' was made.(65)

ix. Mastic

Mastic (Ar. mastakâ'), the resin of the mastic tree (Pistacia lenticus), came from the island of Chios in the Aegean Sea and the main markets for the product were in Cairo, Alexandria, and Damascus. When it arrived in the port of Aden, a customs duty of '8 and one seventh dinars' was charged on each bahâr.(66)

a. Animal-based perfumes

i. Musk

Musk is one of the best-known natural perfumes. It is a reddish-brown substance secreted in a gland in the abdomen of the musk-deer, which is found in Central Asia, China, and Tibet.(67) The Tibetan variety was preferred over the Chinese for two reasons. First, in Tibet the musk-deer grazed on Nardostachys jatamansi (sunbul al-tîb), the variety of valerian from which spikenard is derived, while the Chinese gazelles grazed in pastures of inferior quality. Second, when the gland was taken from the deer, the Tibetans left the musk inside it, whereas the Chinese emptied the contents of the gland and sometimes mixed them with blood and other substances. Other factors, such as the vast distances to be covered in transporting the product, the type of air, and humidity, also rendered the Chinese musk inferior to that of Tibet.(68) Al-Dimashqî stated that there was a widespread deception practiced in the musk trade. If the musk was kept in jars, the buyer must examine the seal and the name of the man who was entrusted with its trade and, after opening the jar, he must examine its color (which should be brownish), its fragrance (which should be strong), and the taste (which should be bitter but not strongly so). He added that one of the worst things that could spoil the quality of musk was water.(69)

Musk was widely traded in the international market because of the high demand for it. Zakî stated that Aden was the market-place for musk.(70) In 711/1311 the Rasulid sultan sent presents to the Egyptian sultan which included musk.(71) Also, the Chinese emperor in 826/1423 sent a gift of musk deer to the Rasulid Sultan al-Nâsir.(72) The tax duty imposed on 10 mithqals of musk imported at Aden was '1 and one third dinars'.(73)

ii. Ambergris

This is a solid aromatic substance of various colors of which the grey, white, green, red, and blue varieties are considered to be inferior.(74) Ambergris has a distinct sweet and earthy fragrance which is not found in any other perfume. It is valued like gold in the sense that time does not alter its quality.(75) The region of Suhâr, situated on the coast of the Gulf of Oman, was well known as source of ambergris. People would go out to the beach there at night with camels specially trained to kneel down wherever they sensed the presence of ambergris. One of its most favored varieties was found on the shores of al-Shihr where it was usually cast up by the waves of the Arabian Sea.(76) In 711/1311 al-Mu'ayyad sent presents to this Egyptian Sultan al-Nâsir Muhmûd (709-741/1309-1340) which included a large quantity of ambergris from al-Shihr.(77)

III. Textiles

During the Rasulid period, there exisited an extensive commerce in fine fabrics brought from different parts of the world. Al-Khazrajî states that the treasury of al-Muzaffar included, amongst other things, pieces of muslin, filigreed fabrics of gold and silver, Venetian, and sawâsî (78) textiles.(79) Al-Maqrîzî reports that al-Muzaffar sent to the sultan of Egypt a gift in which was included a hundred items of clothing,(80) while in 783/1381 al-Ashraf II received from Bengal 'a fine piece of fabric', (81) and al-Nâsir also received from China fabrics and a bed cover.(82)

There were various types of textiles which were imported from both the East and West, each country or region specializing in one or more types of fabric. The following were some of the items of clothing and textiles that had a part in the Rasulid's international trade.

1. Burd (pl. abrâd or burûd)

At this time abrad usually consisted of striped cloaks enveloping the whole body worn during the day and used as a cover during the night.(83) Even though abrâd were manufactured locally in the Yemen, they were also imported in large quantities from various countries such as Broach, Kanbayah, Iraq, and Persia.(84)

2. Khâm

Khâm (unbleached linen or calico)(85) was imported from Qûs, Broach, Kanbuyah, al-Daybûl, Iraq, and Persia.(86) It was probably used locally in the textile industry.

3. Waist-wrapper (fuwat, sing, fûtah)

Waist-wrappers,(87) although manufactured locally in the Yemen, for example in Hajjah, as noted in a previous chapter, were also imported from Kîsh, Qûs, Alexandria, and Broach.

4. Thawb (pl. thiyâb)

Thiyâb (garments in a general sense)(88) were imported into the Yemen from various places such as Kîsh, Persia, Antioch, Thânah, Khwârizm, Daybaq, China, and Malta.(89)

5. Maqta' (pl. maqâti')

Maqta' (linen)(90) was imported to the Yemen from Qûs, Dimyât, and Damascus.(91)

6. Milhaf (pl. malâhif)

Malâhif (covers, blankets, wraps)(92) were made locally in al-Shihr and were also imported from Egypt.(93)

7. Makhahaddah (pl. makhâdd)

Makhâdd (cushions)(94) were imported to the Yemen from India and Tabaristan.(95)

8. Kisâ' (pl. aksiyyah)

Aksiyyah (robes)(96) were imported to the Yemen from Malta.(97)

9. 'Immah (pl. 'amâ'im)

'Amâ'im (turbans)(98) were imported to the Yemen from Qûs, Ethiopia, and India.(99)

From the above we may draw the following conclusions:

1. The list of textiles is an almost endless one. This would indicate that the people of the Yemen were generally very prosperous and able to pay for the particular textile products that were imported from different regions.

2. The materials that are recorded as being involved in trade, as they appear in the Daftar register of the seventh/thirteenth century and al-Husaynî's al-Mulakhkhas from the beginning of the ninth/fifteenth century, demonstrate the major importance of textiles in the commercial activities of the Rasulid state.

IV. Precious Stones and Metals

a. Gold

Gold was vitally important in the commercial exchange of the Yemeni markets during the Rasulid period. The main areas where gold was mined were in Egypt, West Africa, and East Africa,(100) and al-Bayhaqî states that the best type of gold was which was found to be malleable and had a reddish color like fire.(101)

There is an interesting record in the Daftar describing how the Rasulid sultans would purchase their gold form the merchants in Aden. It states that when gold was bought, the wâlî of Aden would summon all the money-changers (sayârifah) in the town and inform them about the gold he required. First, he would purchase what he wanted, little by little, and pay them for all the items they brought from their treasuries. Often he would buy thousands of items at a time from different dealers lest the price should go up.(102)

In 823/1420 a Chinese gift was sent to Sultan al-Zâhir which included 20 lakk of gold.(103)

b. Coral

Corals were to be found in the Mediterranean basin, especially along the Andalusian and Moroccan coasts, as well as in some regions of the Red Sea.(104) They therefore became an article of export from the Mediterranean lands to the countries of Indian Ocean, and Egypt became the principal center for their re-exportation.(105) The most valued types of coral were the dark red, the black, and the white varieties.(106)

In 781/1385 an Egyptian gift came to the Yemen which included a coral tree decorated with pearls and gold, (107) while in 822/1419 Sultan al-Nâsir sent to the Chinese emperor the gift of a coral tree coated with Frankish enamel.(108)

In auctions, the minimum weight that was allowed from which bidding was started was a bay'ah (i.e. 10 and a half ratls), while if this quantity was decorated, it would be worth 1,020 dirhams.(109) The customs duty exacted on a bay'ah of coral was 2 and three quarter dinars, and for 20 ratls it was '3 and a sixth dinars.(110)

c. Emeralds

Emeralds were one variety of precious stones which were in high demand, especially those which were of the colour of henna striated in black or white.(111) Emerald deposits were found in mountainous regions and were mined in the Yemen, Egypt, and India.(112)

d. Silver

Silver was a valuable metal used for making finery or in minting dirhams during the Rasulid period. The main sources of silver were the mines of the eastern islands of the Indian Ocean. There were some small amounts of silver in Aden, but the supply increased when the ships of the Sûliyân (113) arrived because they came from China and they usually brought more silver to the ports of Dhofar and al-Shihr, and then to Aden.(114)

e. Rubies

Rubies were to the fore in the world jewel market that they became known as 'the master of all stones'.(115) The colour of the rubies varied, red, crimson, and yellow, and underlying each colour there were shades of other intermixed colours. The main sources of rubies were India and mountains of Ceylon, in which places all the different varieties- including the best types- were to be found.(116) Some rubies were also found in Madagascar and in East Africa.(117)

The price of an attractive crimson-coloured ruby without flaws or veining and weighing one mithqâl might rise as high as 400 dinars, but if it weighed half a mithqâl the price would be 50 dinars. If it weighed a third of a mithqâl, its price would be 15 dinars, and if it weighed a quarter of a mithqâl the price fell as low as 6 dinars.(118)

f. Diamonds

One of the notable features of diamonds is that because of their hardness they can cut other stones. The best diamonds were brought from Kashmir and were also mined in the island of Ceylon.(119)

The prices paid for diamonds were similar to those paid for excellent rubies (120) and it was customary for princes to exchange gifts of diamonds. For example, the principal administrator of Jeddah, al-Sâhib Karîm al-Dîn Barakât, received a diamond weighing 20 carats.(121)

IV. Food Products

As we noticed earlier in our discussion of agriculture of Yemen, a variety of crops were produced and exported. On the other hand, there were a number of imported food products which were either unavailable within the Yemen or which local production could not supply in sufficient quantities, perhaps because of an increasing population.

Grains such as wheat, sorghum, and millet were the major crops exported from the Yemen. Ibn Jubayr (d. 614/1217) informs us that the tribesman of the Sarât mountains used to trade in grains and brought with them to Mecca honey and almond oil during the pilgrimage season. He indicates that their caravans consisted of thousands of people and camels, and that the people of Mecca would have perished without the supplies brought by these caravans.(122) Although the Yemen exported grain to the Hejaz, it also imported grain from India,(123) possibly for the supply for the supply of Aden. Al-Maqdisî informs us that corn was exported from the port of al-Hirdah to the Hejaz,(124) and Ibn al-Mujâwir mentions that dates, millet, and corn were exported to the Hejaz.(125)

As mentioned in the previous chapter, the government agricultural authorities experimented with the cultivation of rice, but without any success, so that they had to import it from elsewhere such as Malibar and Mangalore.(126) Rice became the staple diet in al-Shihr and, as Marco Polo mentioned in the course of his travels, 'rice had a bustling market in this region.' (127)

The Yemen also exported good quality dates, especially those from Harad and Zabîd which found a favourable market in Mecca, while the dates of al-Shihr were exported to India.(128) The Yemenis also imported dates from Iraq and Persia.(129)

In addition to the above, sesame was exported from India. Each bahâr of sesame exported from the port of Aden was subject to a tax of one and a half dinars.(130) However, a quarter of the amount of sesame imported from India was taken by the port authorities as tax,(131) perhaps in an attempt to encourage local production.

Further, the Yemen exported vast quantities of honey to Mecca, to the extent that al-Mâwardî spoke in hyperbole saying, 'All the land of the Yemen is honey.'(132)

V. The Horse Trade

The horse trade was a flourishing business in the Yemen, where horses were brought from San'â', Tihâmah, and Dhamâr to Aden whence they were shipped to Indian ports in large numbers for use of the Bahmanid sultans who ruled over the Deccan plateau of India from 748-933/1347-1526 and had a steady requirement for horses for their cavalry forces.(133) Even later, at the beginning of the tenth/sixteenth century, Yemeni horses were in greater demand in India than those brought from Hurmuz.(134) However, unfortunately most of the thoroughbred horses perished quickly, either as a result of bad treatment or due to their inability to adapt to the Indian climate. Al-'Umarî states that the longer the horses stayed in India, the more readily they became subject to fatigue and, no matter how strong a horse might be, its offspring tended to be weak and often deformed.(135) Marco Polo observed that the reason for ill health among horses in India was that the people there used to feed Arabian horses on boiled meat, as well as on other kinds of cooked food.(136)

According to al-Khazrajî, horse-trading activities took place on a specific date in the year, and the author of al-Kawâkib stated that the horse fair in Aden took place on the 19th Safar when horses were brought from San'â' and Dhamâr for sale.(137) The Daftar gives a unique account of the horse fair and the rules and regulations that governed it. It states that ships' captains were not allowed to purchase horses from Tihâmah, nor from San'â' nor from Ta'izz, nor from anywhere else in the Yemen, and in Aden they were not allowed to purchase horses from anywhere except the halaqah.(138) If any man acted contrary to this rule, any horses obtained by him would be forfeited to the Dîwân as punishment for disobedience to the law. However, if he were granted clemency, then his horses would be permitted to be sold in the halaqah nor would he be allowed to export them. Only after the regular tax had been paid, were purchasers of horses allowed to export them to India. The normal tax was 70 dinars on exported horses and 50 dinars on imported horses.(139) The large majority of horses were bought by Indian traders and the Rasulid governors allowed them to buy their horses and pay the tax at a later date. If a trustworthy ship's captain requested the deferment of the tax bought by his agent, a month's deferment was granted. This was with a view to the coming of Egyptian merchants after the departure of the Indians, for the Egyptians would purchase whatever Indian merchandise they could find. These receipts then coming to hand, the Indians' agents were able to pay the taxes due on their exported horses. It was customary also that when a horse was sold, the price should be divided into two halves. After the first 100 dinars, the usual tax was paid by the ships' captains to the Dîwân. The other half of the price was paid in silk. The price of the silk was fixed in the market by agreement between the vendor and purchaser who would examine it for its quality before leaving the halaqah. The agreed price must then be written on a legal deed by the individuals concerned, after which the agreed type of silk must be deposited in the government warehouse (al-makhzan al-sultân) until the sale was finalized. In addition to this, the Daftar explains the sequence according to which the horses were sold in Aden. The sultan had the first pick of the horses, followed by the fief-holders (muqti'ûn) of San'â', then the merchants of Dhamâr, then the merchants of another place the name of which is unclear in the manuscript, then the royal family, then other dignitaries, and finally the common people. It was customary for the horses to be brought down to the sultan's palace (al-Bâb al-Sharîf) where they would be presented to the sultan and he would make his choice. Each horse was marked with its owner's name, but they were paraded in the absence of their owners. The sultan would issue a memorandum to the wâlî authorizing him to purchase those which he selected. If the sultan was engaged in other business, he would write to the wali of Aden instructing him to purchase whichever he deemed suitable. The wâlî would then take the horses to Huqqat (140) where he would inspect them and select the suitable horses to be paraded before him. When the halaqah continued, the wâlî's eyes would be on the horses that he liked and, as they came up for auction, he would stop the bidding on those horses and would purchase them for the Dîwân.(141)

From the above we many observe the following points regarding the procedure for the selling of horses:

1. control: the Rasulid sultan had the upper hand since he had prior right to sell and buy horses in the Yemen. He was thus able to obtain the best horses and at sutiable prices;

2. selection: the state had the right to select the best horses for the government army before the remainder were presented to traders in Aden;

3. monopoly; no one could sell or buy horses out of the halaqah except the sultan. The reason for this was to restrict merchants to selling their horse in one specific place where the government officials could collect the taxes die on the trade. The traders had no right whatsoever to sell their horses outside Aden;

4. the horses must be sold in the halaqah and offered in a specific sequence to potential buyers, the first of whom was the sultan.

The Egyptian and Yemeni rulers often exchanged gifts which included thoroughbred horses, such as the gift of al-Muzaffar in 684/1285 and the gift of al-Mu'ayyad in 711/1311.(142) The Egyptian sultans for their part sent thoroughbred horse to their Yemeni counterparts in the years 800/1397 and 818/1415.(143) A large number of the horse that fetched very high prices in India were dispatched from Aden.(144)

VI. Slaves

The Daftar explains the method by which slaves were bought and sold in Aden and how the Rasulid governors were eager to select the best slaves, probably as palace guards and royal servants. It states that as the ships arrived with their cargoes, the slaves were taken to be inspected and, out of them, a group of servants was chosen. Whoever appeared would be useful to the Dîwân, was bought.(145) Ibn al-Mujâwir states that when slave girls were presented in the market, they would be sprinkled with frankincense and perfumes and girded with linen. Then the dealer of each would come and lead her around the market by the hand, presenting her to the prospective buyers.(146)

Slaves were usually brought from Mogadishu which was the centre from which slaves were supplied to Aden.(147) On Ethiopian slaves a tax was imposed in Aden of 4 dinars, while on woman slaves the tax was 2 and a quarter dinars.(148)

* * * * *

In summary it may be said that the exports and imports of the Yemen varied tremendously and included goods that were needed to cover all aspects of daily life. There were various types of spices which originated from different sources, as we have explained, such as pepper form the Malibar coast, cinnamon from Ceylon, and cloves from Indonesia.

Perfumes such as frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, aloes, and musk played an important role in the commercial activities both in the local and in the international markets. These were taken via the Red Sea to Egypt or Syria, and from there they found their way to the West in cargoes of European traders.

Precious stones and metals also played their part in the economic activities of the Yemen, since there was always an international demand for these products, and we have explained how gold was traded in the port of Aden.

Food-stuffs like sorghum, wheat, and rice figured prominently among the agricultural products on the quays of Aden.

The Yemen was well known for its horses which were exported to neighboring countries and regions and we have presented above for the first time the rules and regulations that governed the manner in which horses were bought and sold in the port of Aden.

We have further demonstrated the importance of the textiles market and how it accommodated local requirements in the international market. Fabrics and made-up garments were imported from many cities and countries including Venice, Syrian Antioch, Dimyât in Egypt, Baghdad in Iraq, Isfahân in Persia, and Broach in India. There were also the local textile products manufactured in the Yemen itself in the towns of Zabîd and Hajjah.

Such a wide variety of commodities circulating in the markets of the Yemen during the Rasulid period clearly indicates the country's active involvement in international trade in general and the vital position of the port of Aden in particular.


[Note: In the original book the endnotes were listed as footnotes at the bottom of each page.]

1 Ibn al-Baytâr, Nabât, III, 166; Muzaffar, Mu'tamad, 367-9.
2 'Uthmân, Tijârah, 216
3 'Uthmân, Tijârah, 215; Zakî, Turûq, 199.
4 Goitein, Mediterranean Society, I 200. A haml of pepper approximately equivalent to 500 lbs.
5 Goitein, Letters, 58.
6 Goitein, Mediterranean Society, I, 154, 221 f.; Letters, 26; Yule, Marco Polo, II, 373; Qazwînî, Âthâr, 123; Salmân, Nash'at, 237.
7 Mu'jam, V, 196.
8 Rihlah, 559.
9 Dimashqî, Nukhbah, 173; Ibn Battûtah, Rihlah, 549-551; Chau Ju-Kua, Chu-fan-chi, 22 f.; Ibn Khurradâdhbih, Masâlik, 64; Yule, Marco Polo, II, 325, 328, 390,393; Duarte Barbosa, II, 97.
10 Salman, Nash'at, 238.
11 Chua Ju-Jua, Chu-fan-chi, 209.
12 Chu-fan-chi, 209.
13 Daftar, 107b; cf. Ibn al-Mujâwir, Mustabsir, I, 140; Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 21a.
14 Ibn al-Baytâr, Nabât, I, 104; 'Umarî, Musâlik, II, 216 f.
15 Ibn al-Baytâr, Nabât, I, 104; Dimashiqî, Ishârah, 23; Muzaffar, Mu'tamad, 386 f.
16 Muzaffar, Mu'tamad, 146.
17 Ibn Battûtah, Rihlah, 57; Dimashqî, Nukhbah, 153 f.; Ibn Khurrradâdhbih, Masâlik, 70; Ibn al-Baytâr, Nabât, I, 83 f.; Yule, Marco Polo, II, 325. Al-Husaynî refers to the cinnamon of Malibar (Mulakhkhas, 22b).
18 Daftar, 117b; cf. Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 22b, 25b.
19 Nukhbah, 104.
20 Encyclopedia of India, I, 580.
21 Muzaffar, Mu'tamad, 404-6; 'Umarî, Masâlik, II, 25.
22 Rihlah, 97.
23 Yule, Marco Polo, II, 241, 244-6, 325; Dimashqî, Nukhbah, 103 f.; Ibn Khurradâdhbih, Masâlik, 65; Chau Ju-Kua, Chu-fan-chi, 193 f.; Duarte Barbosa, II, 188.
24 The term is derived from Fansûr in North-west Sumatra. See Tibbetts, Arabic texts, 23; Goitein, Letters, 228.
25 Goitein, Letters, 228; cf. Yule, Marco Polo, II, 242.
26 Daftar, 108;cf. Ibn al-Mujâwir, Mustabsir, I 140; Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 21a.
27 Muzaffar, Mu'tamad, 538 f.
28 Mustabsir, I, 91; cf. Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 22b.
29 Bughyah, 219a.
30 See e.g. Daftar, 108b.
31 E.g. Mulakhkhas, 22a.
32 Ibn al-Mujâwir, Mustabsir.
33 Dimashqî, Ishârah, 23; Ibn al-Baytâr, Nabât, 167; Muzaffar, Mu'tamad, 206 f.
34 Daftar, 113a.
35 Ibn Battûtah, Rihlah, 392; Dînawarî, Nabât, 214; Ibn al-Baytâr, Nabât, 167; Duarte Barbosa, II 83, 228; Yule, Marco Polo, II, 312, 325, 328; Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 21a-22b.
36 Muzaffar, Mu'tamad, 140 f.
37 Dimashqî, Ishârah, 23; Ibn Khurradâdhbih, Masâlik, 70.
38 Daftar, 102a.
39 Burbury, Ancient geography, II, 59.
40 "Frankincense", 92.
41 Geographia, I, 83, p.227.
42 Adwâ', 135.
43 Sultân, Tijârah, 213-6, 221, 228.
44 Sultân, Tijârah, 334.
45 The ratl was equivalent to 406.25 grams. See Hinz, Makâyil, 31.
46 Maqrîzî, Sulûk, II, ii, 874.
47 Mulakhkhas, 18a
48 Nuwayrî, Nihâyah, II 299; Qalqashandî, Subh, V, 15; Yule, Marco Polo, II, 377, 380; Ibn Khurradâdhbih, Masâlik, 147; Maqdisî, Ahsan, 87; Dimashqî, Ishârah, 22
49 Daftar, 108a.
50 Dimashqî, Ishârah, 20; Muzaffar, Mu'tamad, 281 f.
51 Idrîsî, Nuzhah, I, 56.
52 Daftar, 104b; Ibn Buttutah, Rihlah, 155; Dimashiqî, Nukhbah, 217; Abu al-Fidâ', Taqwîm, 371; Qazwînî, Akhbar, 82.
53 Zakî, Turûq, 217.
54 Daftar, 104; cf. Husayni, Mulakhkhas, 18a, 23a.
55 Dimashqî, Ishârah, 23; Qawînî, Akhbâr, 83; Ibn Khurradâdhbih, Masâlik, 18a, 23a.
56 Sulûk, III, ii, 874.
57 Maqdisî, Ahsan, 326, 366, 442.
58 A'laq, 157.
59 Daftar, 118a; cf. Ibn al-Mujâwir, Mustabsir, I, 140; Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 21a, 25a-25b.
60 Ibn al-Mujâwir, Mustabsir, 81.
61 Mu'tamad, 407.
62 Muzaffar, Mu'tamad, 345 f.
63 Maqrîzî, Sulûk, I, iii, 874.
64 Zakî, Turûq, 232.
65 Daftar, 108.
66 Daftar, 109b; Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 25a
67 Yule, Marco Polo, II, 35.
68 Mas'ûdî, Murûj, I 158; Istakhrî, Masâlik, 280, 288; Ibn Hawqal, Surah, 327, 337; Qazwînî, Akhbâr, 79; Nuwayrî, Nihâyah, XII, 6.
69 Ishârah, 37
70 Turûq, 228
71 Mansûrî, Tuhfah, 238.
72 Chronicle, 114.
73 Daftar, 109b; cf. Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 20b.
74 Ibn al-Baytâr, Nabât, II, 134.
75 Muzaffar, Mu'tamad, 339.
76 Ibn al-Baytâr, Nabât, III 134.
77 Mansûrî, Tuhfah, 238.
78 From Sûsah in Northern Tunisia. See Goitein, Mediterranean society, I, 212.
79 'Uqûd, I 211.
80 Sulûk, I, iii, 729.
81 Kawâkib, 28; cf. Chronicle, 56.
82 Chronicle, 114.
83 Dozy, Vêtements, 59-64; Serjeant, Islamic Textiles, 213.
84 Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 19a; Daftar, 98b-99a.
85 See Serjeant, Islamic Textiles, 249.
86 Daftar, 102a; Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 22a; Ibn al-Mujâwir, Mustabir, I 140.
87 See Dozy, Vêtements, 339-343; Serjeant, Islamic Textiles, 246.
88 See Dozy, Vêtements, 105-7
89 Daftar. 116b-117a, 120a-b; Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 18b, 24a.
90 See Dozy, Vêtements, 180, n.2; Serjeant, Islamic Textiles, 252.
91 Daftar, 122b; Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 25b.
92 See Dozy, Vêtements, 401-3; Serjeant, Islamic Textiles, 253.
93 Daftar, 120a.
94 See Serjeant, Islamic Textiles, 253.
95 Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 19b.
96 See Serjeant, Islamic Textiles, 250.
97 Daftar, 120a.
98 See Serjeant, Islamic Textiles, 248.
99 Daftar, 122a-b; Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 19b, 23b.
100 Bîrûnî, Jamâhir, 239; Abu al-Fidâ', Taqwîm, 156.
101 Ma'din, 45.
102 Daftar, 124b.
103 Ibn al-Dayba', Bughyah, II,104; Ghâyah, II, 565.
104 Dimashqî, Nukhbah, 71 f.
105 Goitein, Mediterranean society, I 47.
106 Bayhaqî, Ma'din, 111.
107 Ismâ'îl, Fâkihah, 224; Chronicle, 43.
108 Chronicle, 106.
109 Daftar, 109a.
110 Daftar, 109a; cf. Husaynî, Mulakhkhas, 25a.
111 Dimashqî, Nukhbah, 67.
112 'Uthmân, Tijârah, 67, 78.
113 Ibn Battûtah stated that the merchants of Kûlam in Eastern India were known as the Sûliyân and he particularly remarked on their wealth (Rihlah, 568).
114 Daftar, 124b
115 Dimashqî, Nukhbah, 61.
116 Yule, Marco Polo, II, 254; Bayhaqî, Ma'din, 52 f.
117 Bayhaqî, Ma'din, 52 f; Bîrûnî, Jamâhir, 43; Ibn Khurradâdhbih, Masâlik, 64; Hamawî, Mu'jam, III, 216; Ibn Battuûah, Rihlah, 596.
118 Dimashqî, Ishârah, 33.
119 Ibn Khurradâdhbih, Masâlik, 70; Yule, Marco Polo, II, 296; Duarte Barbosa, 221 f.
120 Dimashqî, Ishârah, 34.
121 Ibn Iyâs, Badâ'î', II 212.
122 Rihlah, 110.
123 Daftar, 102a.
124 Ahsân, 85
125 Mustabsir, I, 89.
126 Daftar, 102a.
127 Yule, Marco Polo, II, 377.
128 Daftar, 109a; Ibn al-Mujâwir, Mustabsir, I 143.
129 Bughyah, 173a.
130 Daftar, 103b.
131 Daftar, 103b.
132 Nabât, 262.
133 Yule, Marco Polo, II, 373; Duarte Barbosa, I, 70, 178.
134 Duarte Barbosa, I 66.
135 Masâlik, III, 16.
136 Yule, Marco Polo, II, 281.
137 Khazrajî, 'Uqûd, II, 104, 186, 243, 258, 278; Kawâkib, 115; cf. Varisco, al-Tawqi'ât al-zir'âiyyah, 206; Ismâ'îl, Fâkihah, 231b.
138 The term was applied to the gathering for public auction. See Goitein, Meditteranean society, I, 192 f.
139 Cf. Ibn al-Mujâwir, Mustabsir, II, 141.
140 Huqqat: the name of the bay south of Sîrah island off the east side of the Aden Peninsula. See Smith, Ayyubid, II, 163.
141 Daftar, 127a-128a.
142 Khazrajî, 'Iqd (BL), 135a.
143 Chronicle, 95.
144 Yule, Marco Polo, II, 373.
145 Daftar, 124a. Al-Husaynî gives almost the same information, stating that when the slaves arrived, either by sea or through the gate, they would be taken first to the wâli and then to the superintendent (nâzir) of Aden who would select the most suitable of them for the Dîwân (Mulakhkhas, 27a-b).
146 Mustabsir, I, 145.
147 Beachey, Slave trade, 6.
148 Daftar, 103a; Ibn al-Mujâwir, Mustabsir, II, 121.

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