The Voyage and Acts of Dom
Francisco, Viceroy of India, written in the ship Sam Rafael of Oporto, captained by Feman Suarez.
In the year 1505, on 25 March, Tuesday, the feast of the Annunciation
of Our Lady, Dom Francisco d'Almeida sailed with a fleet of twenty vessels. There were
fourteen large men-of-war and six caravels.
They rounded the Cape of Good Hope on 20 June and were driven away from
it seventy leagues. On 2 July there were great storms with thunder, and two men from the
flagship and one from the Lyomarda fell overboard. On 18 July they sighted land for the first
time, 369 leagues beyond the Cape of Good Hope, near the Ylhas Darradeiras, which are
thirty leagues from the island of Mozambique. On 19 July they were in sight of Mozambique,
and on 21 July they were crossing the shallow waters of Sam Rafael, which are thirty
leagues from Kilwa.
On Tuesday, 22 July, they entered the harbour of 'Kilwa at noon, with
a total of eight ships. Immediately on their arrival the Grand-Captain, Dom Francisco d'Almeida,
sent Bona Ajuta Veneziano to summon the king. He excused himself from coming, but sent the
Grand-Captain gifts instead; They were five goats, a small cow and a large number of
coconuts and other fruit.
Next flay the Grand-Captain ordered the ships to have their artillery
in readiness. Then the captains, each in his best clothes, and full armour, went in his
own boat to lie off the town in the hope that the king would decide to come out. The
sheikh, however, sent a message to say that he could not come since he had guests, but, if
required, he would send the tribute due to the King of Portugal. This message was brought
by a party of five Moors, who were immediately seized.
At dawn on Thursday, 24 July, the vigil of the feast of St. James the
Apostle, all went in their boats to the shore. The first to land was the Grand-Captain,
and he was followed by the others. They went straight to the royal palace, and on the way
only those Moors who did not fight were granted their lives. At the palace there was a
Moor leaning out of the window with a Portuguese flag in his hand, shouting: 'Portugal!
Portugal!'This flag had been left behind by the admiral [Vasco da Gamal when he had
arranged for Kilwa to pay a tribute of 1,500 ounces of gold a year. The Moor was asked to
open the door, and, when he did not do so, the door was broken down with axes. They found
neither the Moor nor anyone else in the Palace, which was deserted.
In Kilwa there are many strong houses several storeys high. They are
built of stone and mortar and plastered with various designs. As soon as the town had been
taken without opposition, the Vicar-General and some of the Franciscan fathers came ashore
carrying two crosses in procession and singing the Te Deum. They went to the palace, and
there the cross was put down and the Grand-Captain prayed. Then everyone started to
plunder the town of all its merchandise and provisions.
The town of Kilwa lies on an island around which ships of 500 tons can
sail. The island and town have a population of 4,000 people. It is very fertile and
produces maize similar to that of Guinea, butter, honey, and wax. On the trees hang
beehives like jars of three almudes capacity, each closed with woven palm leaves. There are
holes through which the bees go in and come out.
There are many trees and palms here and on the mainland, some of them
different from those of Portugal. From the island to the mainland the distance is in some
places two leagues and in others one.
There are sweet oranges, lemons, vegetables, small onions, and aromatic
herbs. They are grown in gardens and watered with water from the wells. Here also grows
betel which has leaves like ivy and is grown like peas with sticks at the root for
support. The leaf is used by the wealthy Arabs for chewing together with specially
prepared limes which look like an ointment. They keep the leaves as if they were to be put
on wounds. These leaves make the mouth and teeth very red, but are said to be most
There are more black slaves than white Moors here: they are engaged on
farms growing maize and other things. There are various types of peas which are produced
by plants as high as large pepper trees; when they are ripe, they are gathered and stored.
The soil is red, the top layer being sandy; the grass is always green. There are many fat
beasts, oxen, cows, sheep, and goats and also plenty of fish; there are also whales which
swim round the ships. There is no running drinking water on the island. Near the island
there are other small islands which are inhabited. There are many boats as large as a
caravel of fifty tons and other smaller ones. The large ones lie aground on the shore and
are dragged down to the sea when the people wish to sail them. They are built without
nails: the planks are sewn together with rope made from knotted coir from the coconut
palm. The same kind of rope is used for the rudder. The boats are caulked with black pitch
made from crude incense and resin. They sail from here to Sofala, 255 leagues away.
The palms here do not produce dates but from some of them wine and
vinegar are obtained. These come from the palm trees which do not produce coconuts. The
coconuts are the size of large melons, and from the fibres inside the shell all kinds of rope are made. Inside the shell is a fruit the size of a large pineapple. It contains half a pint of milk which is very pleasant to drink. When the milk has been drunk the nut is broken and eaten; the kernel tastes like a walnut which is not fully ripe. They dry it and it yields a large quantity of oil.
People here sleep raised above the ground
in hammocks made of palm leaves in which only one person can lie.
The Portuguese found here a large quantity of pure drinking water.
Flasks of very good perfume are exported from here and a large quantity of glass of all
types and all kinds of cotton piece-goods, incense, resin, gold, silver, and pearls. The
Grand-Captain ordered the loot to be deposited under seal in a house.
The fortress of Kilwa was built out of the best house there was there.
All the other houses round it were pulled down. It was fortified and guns were set in
place with everything else a fort needs. Pero Ferreira was left in command of it with
The country is not very hot. The men are armed with bows and large
arrows, strong shields of palm leaves bound with cotton, and pikes better than those of
Guinea. Few swords were seen. They have four catapults for hurling stones but do not yet
know the use of gunpowder.
The sea laps the entrance of the fortress at high water near where the
When the king fled from Kilwa, the GrandCaptain appointed another, a
local Moor beloved by all, whom they took in procession on horseback through the town.
Lime is prepared here in this manner: large logs of wood are piled in a
circle and inside them coral limestone is placed; then the wood is burnt. The process
after that is the same as in Portugal.
Cotton is found in abundance. It is of good quality and is planted and
grows well in the island. The sheep have wool no better than goats. The slaves wear a
cotton cloth round the waist and down to the knees; the rest of the body is naked. The
white Arabs and slave owners wear two pieces of cotton cloth, one round the waist down to
the feet and the other thrown over the shoulders and reaching down as far as where the
first cloth is tied.
They have copper coins like our ceptis, four being equal to one real;
Portuguese coins have the same value there as at home. There are no gold coins but the
weight of their mitical is equal to 460 reis in Portugal.
The winter season in Kilwa is from April to September. It is not cold
and for this reason the people wear scanty clothes.
The Grand-Captain twice went from one side of the town to the other.
Once he saw twenty-five gazelle which had been let loose on the island. There are also
many wild cats in the bush.
There are many vaulted mosques, one of which is like that of Cordova.
All the upper-class Moors carry a rosary.
On 9 August the ships left Kilwa for Mombasa, sixty leagues up the
coast. The ship Sam Rafael reached there on 14 August, but the Grand-Captain arrived with
the other ten ships a day earlier.
The Moors of Mombasa had built a strongpoint with many guns at the
entrance of the harbour, which is very narrow. When we entered, the first ship, which was
under the command of Gonzalo de Paiva, who was going in front to explore the channel, was
fired on by the Moors from both sides. We promptly replied to the fire, and with such
intensity that the gunpowder in their strongpoint caught fire. It started burning and the
Moors fled, thus allowing the whole fleet to enter and lie at anchor in front of the town.
And on that day, the vigil of the feast of the Assumption, the town was bombarded with all
the guns on the ships, while the guns of the town replied to our fire.
When the Grand-Captain went ashore he seized a Moor who happened to be
a member of the roya4 household. The Portuguese obtained good information from him.
The first night the fleet arrived in Mombasa there came out on the
shore a Spanish Christian who wav, living there, a gunner by profession and a conv,-,,rt
to Islam. He told the Christians to go away an d that Mombasa was not like Kilwa: they
would not find people with hearts that could be eaten like chickens as they had done in
Kilwa, but that if they were keen to come ashore the people were ready to set about them
for their supper. The Grand-Captain, however, offered him his protection and pardon, but
Mombasa is a very large town and lies on an island from one and a half
to two leagues round. The town is built on rocks on the higher part of the island and has
no walls on the side of the sea; but on the land side it is protected by a wall as high as
the fortress. The houses are of the same type as those of Kilwa: some of them are three
storeyed and all are plastered with lime. The streets are very narrow, so that two people
cannot walk abreast in them: all the houses have stone seats in front of them, which makes
the streets yet narrower.
The Grand-Captain met with the other captains and decided to bum the
town that evening and to enter it the following morning. But when they went to bum the
town they were received by the Moors with a shower of arrows and stones. The town has more
than 600 houses which are thatched with palm leaves: these are collected green for this
purpose. In between the stone dwelling-houses there are wooden houses with porches and
stables for cattle. There are very few dwelling houses which have not these wooden houses
Once the fire was started it raged all night long, and many houses
collapsed and a large quantity of goods was destroyed. For from this town trade is carried
on with Sofala and with Cambay by sea. There were three ships from Cambay and even these
did not escape the fury of the attack. It was a moonless night.
On Friday 25 August, the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, the
Grand-Captain drew up eight ships on one side of Mombasa. On the other side was his son,
Dom Lourenqo d'Almeida, with three ships. Early in the morning they all prepared their
arms and had breakfast. The Grand-Captain had ordered that all should land as soon as a
shot from a big gun was fired. Thus all the boats were waiting ready on the water: when
the shot was fired all got quickly on to the shore in very good order. The archers and
gunners went ahead of everyone else, all going up the steep ascent into the town. When
they entered, they found that some of the houses had been deserted as a result of the fire
of the previous night. Further on they found three storeyed houses from which stones were
thrown at them. But the stones which were thrown fell against the walls of the very narrow
streets, so that much of the force of their fall was lost. There were also many balconies
projecting over the streets under which one could shelter.
The Grand-Captain went straight to the royal palace: he was led by the
Moor who had been captured on the previous day. He had ordered that no one should enter
any of the houses, and that anyone who did so should die. When the Grand-Captain arrived
at the palace, Captain Verraudez immediately climbed up the wall and hoisted our flag,
shouting: Portugal, Portugal. And there were many Moors killed on the way there.
They saw from there some sixty Moors leaving the town, all dressed in
gowns and turbans; they were going towards a palm grove and did not seem in any huffy.
Some said that the king was among them. The Christians, however, did not follow them. All
the people of the town were taken to this palm grove, and the entrance to it was guarded
by more than 500 archers. These archers were all negro slaves of the white Moors, and
obedient to their masters in their captivity like those of Kilwa.
The Grand-Captain ordered that the town should be sacked and that each
man should carry off to his ship whatever he found: so that at the end there would be a
division of the spoil, each man to receive a twentieth of what he found. The same rule was
made for gold, silver, and pearls. Then everyone started to plunder the town and to search
the houses, forcing open the doors with axes and iron bars. There was a large quantity of
cotton cloth for Sofala in the town, for the whole coast gets its cotton cloth from here.
So the Grand-Captain got a good share of the trade of Sofala for himself. A large quantity
of rich silk and gold embroidered clothes was seized, and carpets also; one of these,
which was without equal for beauty, was sent to the King of Portugal together with many
When night came the Grand-Captain ordered all the men to a field which
lay between the town and the sea. A section of it was allotted to each captain and a watch
was set for the night. They were at a distance of a gun shot from the palm grove where the
Moors were with their king. On the morning of the 16th they again plundered the town, but
because the men were tired from fighting and from lack of sleep, much wealth was left
behind apart from what each man took for himself They also carried away provisions, rice,
honey, butter, maize, countless camels and a large number of cattle, and even two
elephants. They paraded these elephants in front of the people of the town before they
took it, in order to frighten them. There were many prisoners, and white women among them
and children, and also some merchants from Cambay.
On Saturday evening the Grand-Captain ordered that all should return to
the ships in a disciplined manner, keeping a watch for the Moors as they went on their
way. And as the Christians left by one way, so the Moors entered by the other to see what
destruction had been done. For the streets and houses were full of dead, who were
estimated to be about 1,500.
Dom Fernando de Sà was wounded with an arrow which did not have an
iron point. Some of their arrows are made of wood with iron points, others of burnt wood
soaked in an unknown poison. Some say the wood itself is poisonous. The arrows with iron
points have herbs at the tip, but these are not dangerous, as was evident from those
wounded by them.
According to the Moors this town is the most famous of all the coast of
Abyssinia. The island is very fertile, and produces a large quantity of sweet oranges,
pomegranates, lemons, and sugar cane; all these things are more abundant here than at
All the guns e onging to t e town were taken to the ships. They found
one old cannon lying in the street which five men could not lift. It was said to have
belonged to a ship called Rey which had been lost nearby. They also found an anchor which
had been stolen from the Admiral Vasco da Gama. Because the Portuguese could not take it
the Arabs pointed it out to each other. There were only five Portuguese dead in the battle
and many wounded-more by the grace of God than by any act of man.
After returning to the ships they weighed anchor and moved inshore so
that the anchors were exposed on dry land at low water. They remained there for ten days.
It was very difficult to go out through the narrow entrance and also because there were
strong contrary winds blowing. The ship Lyomarda lost its rudder and they could not find
it again. So they were obliged to make a new one, for which each ship had to give up one
of its hooks.
The ship San Gabriel arrived on 20 August with its mainmast broken, but
the whereabouts of the supply ships was still not known.
Now the King of Mombasa and the King of Malindi were at war, and many
of their people had been killed on both sides, the cause of the war being the friendship
of the King of Malindi with the King of Portugal. Eventually the King of Mombasa had been
defeated by the King of Malindi, and for the present they were friends. So the King of
Mombasa wrote the following letter to the King of Malindi:
May God's blessing be upon you, Sayyid Ali! This is to inform you that
a great lord has passed through the town, burning it and laying it waste. He came to the
town in such strength and was of such cruelty, that he spared neither man nor woman, old
nor young, nay, not even the smallest child. Not even those who fled escaped from his
fury. He not only killed and burnt men but even the birds of the heavens were shot down.
The stench of the corpses is so great in the town that I dare not go there; nor can I
ascertain nor estimate what wealth they have taken from the town. I give you these sad
news for your own safety.
There were more than 10,000 people in Mombasa, of whom 3,700 were men
of military age.
Thence they sailed to Malindi, twenty-five leagues further north. Five
leagues outside Malindi they were halted by strong currents and there they met the caravel
of Johan Homere, which had captured two islands for Portugal. One of them was 450 leagues
beyond the Cape of Good Hope and was uninhabited. They took in firewood and water there.
The other island lies between Kilwa and Mombasa and is known as
Zanzibar. As the Moors of this island already knew of the destruction of Kilwa, they
presented the captain with provisions and said they were at the service of the King of
Portugal. The ship had arrived there on 24 August, and they had taken in water, firewood
Mogadishu lies on this coast and is 100 leagues from Malindi. It is a
large town with plenty of horses....