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The Mirror of Countries


Sidi Ali Reis


The Beginning of the Story


When the illustrious Padishah was holding his court at Aleppo, in Ramazan of the year 960 (1552), I was commanded to join the army.

I celebrated Ramzam-Bairam in attendance on his Majesty, later on, however, I went to Sidi-Ghazi, made a pilgrimage in Konia to the tomb of Molla-i-Rumi, and visited the shrines of the Sultan ul-Ulema, and Shemsi Tebrizi, and of the Sheik Sadr-ed-din-Koniavi; at Kassarie I made a pilgrimage to the graves of the Sheiks Awhad-ed-din Kirmani, Burham-ed-din, Baha-ed-din Zade, Ibrahim Akserayi, and Davud Kaissari. Returned to Haleb (Aleppo), I visited the graves of Daud, Zakeriah, and Balkiah, as also those of Saad and Said, companions of the Prophet. The Kurban-Bairam I spent again in attendance on the Sultan.

I must here mention that Piri Bey, the late Admiral of the Egyptian fleet, had, some time previous to this, been dispatched with about 30 ships (galleys and galleons) from Suez, through the Red Sea, touching Jedda and Yemen, and through the straits of Bab-i-Mandeb, past Aden and along the coast of Shahar.¹ Through fogs and foul weather his fleet became dispersed, some ships were lost, and with the remainder he proceeded from Oman to Muscat, took the fortress and made all the inhabitants prisoners; he also made an incursion into the islands of Ormuz and Barkhat, after which he returned to Muscat. There he learned from the captive infidel captain that the Christian (Portuguese) fleet was on its way, that therefore any further delay was inadvisable, as in case it arrived he would not be able to leave the harbor at all. As a matter of fact it was already too late to save all the ships; he therefore took only three, and with these just managed to make his escape before the arrival of the Portuguese. One of his galleys was wrecked near Bahrein, so he brought only two vessels back to Egypt. As for the remainder of the fleet at Basrah, Kubad Pasha had offered the command of it to the Chief Officer, but he had declined, and returned to Egypt by land.

When this became known in Constantinople the command of the fleet had been given to Murad Bey, formerly Sanjakbey of Catif, then residing in Basrah. He was ordered to leave two ships, five galleys, and one galleon at Basrah, and with the rest, i.e., 15 galleys (one galley had been burned in Basrah) and two boats, he was to return to Egypt. Murad Bey did start as arranged, but opposite Ormuz he came upon the infidel (Portuguese) fleet, a terrible battle followed in which Suleiman Reis, Rejeb Reis, and several of the men, died a martyr’s death. Many more were wounded and the ships terribly battered by the cannon-balls. At last, night put a stop to the fight. One boat was wrecked off the Persian coast, part of the crew escaped, the rest were taken prisoners by the infidels, and the boat itself captured.

When all this sad news reached the capital, toward the end of Zilhija of the said year 960 (1552), the author of these pages was appointed Admiral of the Egyptian fleet.

I, humble Sidi Ali bin Husein, also known as Kiatibi-Rumi (the writer of the West, i.e., of Turkey), most gladly accepted the post. I had always been very fond of the sea, had taken part in the expedition against Rhodes under the Sultan (Suleiman), and had since had a share in almost all engagements, both by land and by sea. I had fought under Khaireddin Pasha, Sinan Pasha, and other captains, and had cruised about on the Western (Mediterranean) sea, so that I knew every nook and corner of it. I had written several books on astronomy, nautical science, and other matters bearing upon navigation. My father and grandfather, since the conquest of Constantinople, had had charge of the arsenal2 at Galata; they had both been eminent in their profession, and their skill had come down to me as an heirloom.

The post now entrusted to me was much to my taste, and I started from Aleppo for Basrah, on the first of Moharram of the year 961 (7 Dec. 1553). I crossed the Euphrates at Biredjik and when in Reka (i.e., Orfah), I undertook a pilgrimage to the tomb of Abraham, having visited on the way between Nisebin and Mossul the holy graves of the prophets Yunis and Djerdjis and of the sheiks Mohammed Garabili, Feth Mosuli, and Kazib-elban-Mosuli. On the way to Baghdad I made a little detour from Tekrit to Samira, and visited the graves of Iman Ali-el-Hadi and Iman Haman Askeri, after which I came past the towns of Ashik3 and Maashuk, and through Harbi, past the castle of Semke, on to Bagdad. We crossed the Tigris near Djisr and, after visiting the graves of the saints there, I continued my journey past the fortress of Teir, to Bire, and crossing the Euphrates near the little town of Masib, I reached Kerbela (Azwie), where I made a pilgrimage to the graves of the martyrs Hasan and Husein.

Turning into the steppe near Shefata, I reached Nedjef (Haira) on the second day, and visited the graves of Adam, Noah, Shimun, and Ali, and from there proceeded to Kufa, where I saw the mosque with the pulpit under which the prophets of the house of Ali are buried, and the tombs of Kamber and Duldul. Arrived at the fortress of Hasinia, I visited the grave of the prophet Zilkefl, the son of Aaron, and in Hilla I made pilgrimages to the graves of Iman Mohammed Mehdi and Iman Akil, brother of Ali, and also visited there the mosque of Shem. Again crossing the Euphrates (this time by a bridge), I resumed my journey to Bagdad and went from there by ship to Basrah. On the way we touched Medain, saw the grave of Selmas Faris, admired Tak Kesri and the castle of Shah Zenan, and went past Imare Bugazi, on the road of Vasit to Zekya, past the strongholds of Adjul and Misra to Sadi-es Sueiba and on to Basrah, where I arrived toward the end of Safar of the said year (beginning of February, 1554).


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