From vaccinating to exploring the world – since 2500 years at least

Phoenicia at sail
PBCExpedition, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Lebanese entrepreneurs and medicine researchers developed the vaccine Moderna Covid-19 filled the media lately.

Proud? Of course, Specially when the world is only reading about the economical crisis in Lebanon. Most of the media financed by powerful factors and crumbled to seek a scoop and play on the feelings, I was not amazed that the Lebanese are achieving successes in every branch, in economy, medicine, architecture, fashion and many other areas.

This voyage in developing and exploring the world has been going on more than 2500 years ago. Only occupations by other lands and wars stopped us. Jorge Álvarez from wrote an article how the Phoenicians (The Lebanese ancestors) ships surrounded Africa in three years, describing how the sun shined from the wrong side during the voyage.

Here some excerpts from Jorge’s article …

on desisting from the canal which he had begun between the Nile and the Arabian gulf, sent to sea a number of ships manned by Phoenicians, with orders to make for the Pillars of Hercules, and return to Egypt through them, and by the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians took their departure from Egypt by way of the Erythraean sea, and so sailed into the southern ocean. When autumn came, they went ashore, wherever they might happen to be, and having sown a tract of land with corn, waited until the grain was fit to cut. Having reaped it, they again set sail; and thus it came to pass that two whole years went by, and it was not till the third year that they doubled the Pillars of Hercules, and made good their voyage home


As it can be appreciated, that voyage followed the opposite direction to those that the Portuguese would do centuries later: instead of sail south the Atlantic Ocean and round the Cape of Good Hope to the east, they had to sail from Egypt in summer, cross the Red Sea (the Arabian Gulf which Herodotus says) taking advantage of the north wind and leaving behind the Horn of Africa. The whole area was not unknown to Egyptians (who would lead the campaign even when the crew was Phoenician) because they traded with the country of Punt (probably located in today’s Ethiopia) and Saba (what is now Yemen).

They would sail south parallel to the east African coast, benefiting from the northeast monsoon (which started blowing in autumn), and as they passed the equator they would enter the Indian Ocean taking advantage of the Needle Current (a warm and strong sea flow that bathes the southeastern African strip). This current made it easier for them to quickly cross the Mozambique Channel and turn westward. This way they would round the cape, heading for the Atlantic and catching the tradewinds from southeast.

Authored by Jorge Álvarez on
Featured image by Common Wikimedia
More Phoenician ships on Google.
Academic articles on Phoenicians.