Socialist Worker

Portuguese account of the sacking of Mombasa

From the eyewitness accounts of the 1505 campaign by Joao de Barros and Hans Mayr

Issue No. 1947

‘From our ships the fine houses, terraces, and minarets, with the palms and trees in the orchards, made the city of Kilwa look so beautiful that our men were eager to land and overcome the pride of the barbarians.

After some hand to hand fighting the following day the sultan fled and the Portuguese took the town. Then 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 d’Almeida prayed. Then everyone started to plunder the town of all its merchandise and provisions.

After two weeks spent securing the town, building a fortress and appointing a new sultan, the Portuguese fleet sailed up the coast to Mombasa. The Grand Captain met with other captains and decided to burn the town that evening and to enter it the following morning.

Once the fire started it raged all night long, and many houses collapsed and a large quantity of goods were destroyed.

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. 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.’


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Features
Sat 16 Apr 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1947
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