Sign In

- Or use -
Forgot Password Create Account

Pieter Mortier's finely detailed sea chart of the Red Sea and insets showing Mombosa published in Amsterdam, circa 1700, oriented with west at the top.

The map outlines the roads, waterways, and pathways the armees used to navigate throughout the Red Sea, Egypt, Abyssinia, Mombasa and the Isle of Socotra.

The map includes three insets. The first inset (at top center) details the Fortification of Monbasa and Monbaca (Mombasa, Kenya). 

The second inset on the map includes an illustration of Mombasa highlighting the main fort (Fort Jesus), churches and main dwellings as well as detailing the agricultural landscape and topographical features along the coastal region.

Also featured is a third inset of the Island of Socotra, which is located between the Guardafui Channel and the Arabian Sea.  

A scale of distance and navigational compasses are also noted on the map.

The Fortification of Monbasa and Monbaca (Mombasa, Kenya)

 During the pre-modern period, Mombasa was an important center for the trade in spices, gold, and ivory.  Its trade links reached as far as the Indian subcontinent and modern-day China.

Most of the early information on Mombasa comes from Portuguese chroniclers writing in the 16th century. Vasco da Gama was the first known European (Portuguese) to visit Mombasa, receiving a chilly reception in 1498. Two years later, the town was sacked by the Portuguese. In 1502, the sultanate became independent from Kilwa Kisiwani and was renamed as Mvita (in Swahili) or Manbasa (Arabic). Portugal attacked the city again in 1528. In 1585 a joint military expedition between the Somalis and the Turks of Ottoman Empire successfully liberated Mombasa and other coastal cities in Southeast Africa from the Portuguese colonizers. Of the Portuguese landlords; only Malindi remained loyal to Portugal. The Zimba overcame the towns of Sena and Tete on the Zambezi, and in 1587 they took Kilwa, killing 3,000 people. At Mombasa, the Zimba slaughtered the Muslim inhabitants, but they were halted at Malindi by the Bantu-speaking Segeju and went home. This stimulated the Portuguese to take over Mombasa a third time in 1589, and four years later they built Fort Jesus to administer the region. 

After the building of Fort Jesus, Mombasa was put by the Portuguese under the rule of members of the ruling family of Malindi. In 1631 Dom Jeronimo, the ruler of Mombasa, slaughtered the Portuguese garrison in the city and defeated the relief force sent by the Portuguese. In 1632 Dom Jeronimo left Mombasa and became a pirate. That year the Portuguese returned and established direct rule over Mombasa.

With the capture of Fort Jesus in 1698, the town came under the influence of the Inamate of Oman, subordinate to the Omani rulers on the island of Unguja, prompting regular local rebellions.  Mombasa returned to Portuguese rule by captain-major Álvaro Caetano de Melo Castro (12 March 1728 – 21 September 1729), then four new Omani Liwali until 1746, when the last of them made it independent again (disputed by Oman).

Zocatora (Socatra) Island

In 1507, a Portuguese fleet commanded by Tristão da Cunha with Afonso de Albuquerque landed at the then capital of Suq and captured the port after a stiff battle. Their objective was to set a base in a strategic place on the route to India, and to liberate the presumed friendly Christians from Islamic rule. Tomás Fernandes started to build a fortress at Suq, the Forte de São Miguel de Socotorá. The infertility of the land led to famine and sickness in the garrison, however. Moreover, the lack of a proper harbor for wintering led to the loss of many moored Portuguese ships, the most important of which was the Santo António galleon under the command of captain Manuel Pais da Veiga. Thus the Portuguese abandoned the island four years later, as it was not advantageous as a base.

The islands passed under the control of the Mahra sultans in 1511, and its inhabitants were Islamized during their rule. In 1737, however, Captain de la Garde-Jazier, commander of a French naval expedition heading for Mocha, was surprised to find Christian tribes living in the interior of Socotra during a five-week stopover on the island. He reported in a letter home that the tribesmen, "due to lack of missionaries, had only retained a faint knowledge of Christianity."

Pierre Mortier Biography

Pierre, or Pieter, Mortier (1661-1711) was a Dutch engraver, son of a French refugee. He was born in Leiden. In 1690 he was granted a privilege to publish French maps in Dutch lands. In 1693 he released the first and accompanying volume of the Neptune Francois. The third followed in 1700. His son, Cornelis (1699-1783), would partner with Johannes Covens I, creating one of the most important map publishing companies of the eighteenth century.