Appendix 6 Vasco da Gama’s First Visit

In: An Azanian Trio
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The dating of Vasco da Gama’s presence in East Africa during his first voyage from Lisbon to India.1

The author of Kitāb al-Zunūj K sets the year of Vasco da Gama’s arrival on the East African coast as A.H. 906, which commenced on 28 July A.D. 1500.

The Padrone on the beach at Malindi gives the date of his first arrival at Malindi as A.D. 1498 and this is quite accepted and definite. Cerulli gives the dates in Vasco da Gama’s Roteiro da Viagem que em Descobrimento da India pelo Cabo da Boa Esperanca fez Dom Vasco da Gama (Cerulli 1957 p. 269). He thinks it highly improbable that Vasco da Gama called at Zanzibar on his outward journey. After stopping at Kilwa, he called at Mombasa where he was opposed, and then called at Malindi. On his way back from India, he arrived at Malindi on 7 January 1499 and stayed only five days. He passed Mombasa and stopped at Mtangata (Tongoni) to dismantle and burn one of his boats. He then called at Zanzibar about the end of February and was back in Lisbon in September 1499. Cerulli’s opinion is followed by Axelson (1940, p. 38) and Sir John Gray (1962).

Mombasa was not attacked and destroyed by Vasco da Gama but by Francisco Almeida, and that not until A.D. 1505. Freeman-Grenville (1988 IV p. 134) judges that the author is “telescoping” events in a manner very common to writers of local histories, and in this way he confuses chronology.

He has done the same thing with the dating of the Mazrūʿī liwalis, omitting one of them altogether, and ignoring some of the events in the early eighteenth century such as Sese Rumbe’s rebellion.


Strandes, The Portuguese Period, ch. 2, “The voyage of discovery”, pp. 13–37.