History of Seyd Said, Sultan of Muscat
History of Seyd Said, Sultan of Muscat is the account by Italian traveler Vincenzo Maurizi of his residence in the Sultanate of Oman in the early 19th century. Maurizi’s entertaining and informative narrative is recognized as the first European book devoted entirely to Oman. Using the writings of Carsten Niebuhr (1733‒1815) for historical background, the author bases his account on observations made in Oman in 1809‒14. Maurizi claims that he served as physician to ruler Saʻid bin Sultan (reigned 1807‒56), who seized power in a domestic coup. Saʻid’s reign was one of internal dynastic stability, but marked by external threats from the Najd, the Arabian region from which the Wahhabis, followers of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (died 1826 or 1827), arose to spread their strict interpretation of Islam. Maurizi had access to many court dignitaries, including the ambassador of the Wahhabi sect, whom he interviewed in Muscat about his beliefs. He describes the politics of the country as well as the armed clashes with Wahhabi forces in which, as an officer in Sayyid Saʻid’s forces, he took part. Maurizi was well acquainted with the country outside the capital, Muscat, and made ethnographic notes, “derived from my own personal survey, or in default of that, from the best living authorities which it was in my power to procure.” Oman also confronted raids from neighboring shaykhdoms. Maurizi’s nickname at court was “Shaik Mansur,” or “victorious,” a direct translation of his Italian first name. He also acquired the sardonic sobriquet Abu Midfaʻ (father of canons), after a ship under his command accidently opened fire on allied forces, killing several men. In his account of Maurizi’s life, British scholar Robin Bidwell speculates that he may have been a spy for the French, reporting on Oman’s alliance with the British East India Company and on the complex rivalries on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Persian Gulf region. Maurizi writes of himself that he was an “artificial diplomat.” It is not known who translated the work from the Italian for publication in 1819 by John Booth in London.
J. Booth, London
Type of Item
174 pages : tables, maps ; 25 centimeters
- Robin Bidwell, “Bibliographical Notes on European Accounts of Muscat 1500‒1900,” Arabian Studies IV, 1978.
- Vincenzo Maurizi, History of Seyd Said, Sultan of Muscat, with a new introduction by Robin Bidwell (Cambridge, U.K. and New York: Oleander Press, 1984).
Last updated: March 17, 2016