Crew watching the arrival of an Indian naval vessel
Pepper and spice
12th March 2010
The Indian Navy pays a welcome visit to the Jewel as she heads toward Cochin – a city with a long history of trading spices with the Arab and Roman world
The morning began with a surprise visit by an Indian naval ship. Two officers from the vessel came aboard the Jewel of Muscat to greet Captain Saleh and the crew, and to kindly deliver gifts of cake, Indian snacks, and cold sodas. In return, Captain Saleh gave them gifts of Omani halwa, dates, and frankincense. Both crews offered rousing cheers of thanks and farewell to each other as the Indian officers returned to their ship.
Friday is a holiday aboard the Jewel of Muscat, so the crew engaged only in the essential work of sailing the ship. After the doldrums of the past two days we were delighted to notice the breeze picking up, and for much of the day we sailed at a respectable 2 knots. Towards late afternoon, however, the winds increased in speed, but blew in the wrong direction–forcing us onto a more southerly course than we need to reach Cochin. Since our arrival date and time is now fixed–0800 March 15–we will need favourable winds for the next two days if we are to get to the port on time. Although we are still struggling to avoid moving further south, we know from experience that the winds can change dramatically in only a few hours, so we are still optimistic that we shall enter Cochin harbour bright and early on Monday.
Cochin is a major port city in the state of Kerala, and has served a vital commercial and strategic role since the building of the port in 1341 CE. The importance of Kerala, however, extends much further back in history and is well-documented in ancient sources. Among the region’s notable exports were hardwoods such as teak (which was used extensively in Omani ship-building), fine cotton cloth, and spices–especially pepper. The variety of pepper grown in Kerala is Piper Nigrum (black pepper), and the ancient Romans developed a strong appetite for this exotic product as early as the 1st century BCE. An early Tamil Sangam poem states, “. . . the flourishing town of Muzuris