Two Men of Boats: ʿAlī b. Manṣūr al-Fawfalī and PDYR—Gleanings from the Cairo Geniza
Abstract Primarily oriented to an analysis of the Cairo Geniza documents of the Jewish ‘India traders’ (1000–1300 CE), this essay takes a close look at two ship-owning merchants, namely Ali b. Mansur Fawfali and PDYR (pronounced as Fidyar), who in the 1130s and 1140s participated in the flourishing maritime network in the western Indian Ocean. Both these ship-owning merchants operated from the western sea-board of India, especially the Malabar coast, and maintained regular linkages with the Red Sea ports, particularly Aden. The relevant Geniza letters mentioning these two shipowners, have been compared with nearly contemporary Indic sources. This essay argues that it was possible for traders who primarily dealt in agrarian/plant
products to own ships or make investments in shipping; it also underlines the close ties between maritime networks and administrators in the coastal society of India at that time.