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The poetry of medieval maritime travel

I have been reading Arab navigation manuals and travelogues, and there is such poetry in the navigation manuals in particular. It is the liminality of the navigation texts in particular – between art and science, familiar and wholly other.  I just love the enumeration of the principles of navigation for example, by Ahmad Ibn Majid […]

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Medieval Arab Naviation

“More interesting is the testimony of Ibn al-Mujawir who reports that in 626 A.H./1228-9 A.D. a ship arrived in Aden from Qumr (Comoros or Madagascar); the art of navigation of the people of Qumr impressed him as superior to that of the Arabs. In fact, the route between Aden, Mogadisho, Kilwa and Qumr, which traditionally […]

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Malta-Dubai; 13 August 2016 – Day 4, steaming towards Beirut

13 August 06.00 ship time (GMT+2); 07.00 GPS time (my phone) Steaming towards Beirut The ship left Damietta sometime after midnight, having spent only twelve hours there. The officers must be absolutely shattered, since we will be arriving in Beirut this evening sometime. The area between here and Beirut is apparently full of warships without […]

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Malta-Dubai; 12 August 2016 – Day 3, Damietta

Friday 12 August 12.15 (GMT +2) Arriving in Damietta You can tell you are approaching port by a number of signs. First is the arrival of the land creatures: swifts, green flies, storks (or something else long-necked and ungainly). Next, you see the number of fishing boats –without an AIS and cutting through the wake […]

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Malta-Dubai; 11 August 2016 – Day 2, at sea in the Mediterranean

11 August 2016 10.35 (Ship time. My phone’s GPS says it is actually 11.35) The Mediterranean; steaming towards Damietta The Mediterranean is such a lonely sea. Its vastness is such that one doesn’t really see ships passing except in the far distance and the AIS screen shows ships so far that they do not appear […]

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Malta-Dubai again; 10 August 2016 – Day 1, Setting Off from Malta

In August 2016, I once again boarded a ship in Malta to travel to Jabal Ali.  I had recorded the previous occasion with giddy excitement, all things seeming new and unfamiliar.  Perhaps the familiarity of the trip, or the fact that I was writing my book proposals (rather than focusing on my diary entries and […]

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Comparing Experiences

Charmaine Chua and I both took containerships roughly at the same time.  She was much more involved: her trip took longer, on a different route, and she worked onboard.  We talk about our experiences over at the Disorder of Things blog.

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Arrival

15 February 2015 16.00 We have arrived too soon, because of steaming at high speed through the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, in order for the ship to make it to Ningbo for an earlier slot that has come free, but now the slot has been given up for Chinese […]

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Pirate Jenny: Labour and capital in Khor Fakkan

14 February 2015 in Khor Fakkan port After several hours of watching the unloading of the ship, and after walking on the port to go to the duty-free shop (to buy a new memory card for my camera), it is rather interesting to see that my “fresh” ethnographic eyes have become more accustomed to the […]

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Anyone’s Ghost: Fishing grounds of the Arabian Sea

12 February 2015 Morning We passed Salalah in the night, and the sea is not as lonely as it was yesterday, with the AIS showing at least 5 or 6 ships at a time (when it was sometimes entirely bereft of ships yesterday). Now, as we pass Khuriya Muriya islands, the captain says that when […]

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