Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chapter 9 of Pheonicia: the Docks

The Docks

In the Hellenic and Desert Quarters of Phoenicia is the docks of Phoenicia.  Five miles down river is the Sea, and the river here is wide enough and deep enough beyond the cateract to service seagoing ships.  A dozen ships moor here in the deep waters of the Sardis river at any given time.  Sometimes many more than a dozen. This is a particularly rough area of Phoenicia and includes the city's famous "red light" district.

Part of the Sardis Estuary, the docks are full of warehousing, shipyards, hostels, and taverns.  These establishments service the merchants and sailors who use them extensively.  Connected to the Old City on one side of the Sardis River and the Poor city on the other, the Docks district seems like its own separate community.  Of course, many residents of Phoenicia live out their lives without going there.

By Ángel Serrano Sánchez de León (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-es (], via Wikimedia Commons
The Flavor of the Docks
The smell of fish and the river pretty much dominates here.  The sound of the falls can also be heard all the time, but the further one is away from it, the softer the sound is.  Also, depending one which side of the river you are on, the larger than life statues of Zeus (on the Hellenic side of the cateract) and Buddha (on the Vedic side of the cateract) carved into the escarpment dominate the skyline.  There are dozens of seagulls in the air, each of them trying to find food.  The wooden buildings of the docks is stained with grime, but not necessarily salt.   The district boasts few new buildings; with several old buildings that should be condemned and torn down.

The streets bustle from daybreak to midnight with sailors and all manner of folk that support the shipping industry.  Basically, dockworkers and shipwrights, carpenters and warehouse laborers, harlots and strumpets and innkeepers, and so on.  These are hardworking folks with rough demeanors living roughened lives. Most are looking for strong drink and entertainment when not working, especially sailors who are off the ships getting their land legs back.  The two sides are not a place for those who love to be offended or people who worry about little details.  It's really no coincidence that the Hellenic and Vedic Nobles live on top of the escarpment that is responsible for the cataract falls in the first place.  They are as far from the docks as anyone can get, both vertically and literally.

Many types of ships come into the harbor.  Zebecs, dhows, biremes, triremes, reed barges from fabled Khemet, galleys, galley barges, baghlahs, and other ships.  These ships carry passengers and cargo.  Cargo to trade, passengers to buy or sell or to settle and make a living.  Large ships often drop anchor in the river and rely on smaller ships to transfer their cargo.  However, this is rare and it is to avoid the daily user fees for docking.

The Docks were constructed on either side during the Vedic occupation of the site.  Which is why they are connected to the Old City in the Hellenic Quarter.   Since the conquest of the Hellenes, the docks on the Hellenic Quarter was razed as a matter of course, and was built according to the manner of the Hellenes.  The Vedic docks still retain their distinctive flavor.

by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906)
One the Hellene side, a temple to the god Poseidon dominates the merchant roads of this district.  While on the Desert side a temple to Varuna was constructed.  That temple had fallen into disrepair.  The temple to Varuna was eventually demolished and a temple was built to the Desert Elves' One God, forcing Hinduism to retreat from the Docks.  Despite this, though, Middle Kingdom immigrants built a small Taoist shrine in the Docks to take advantage of the Feng Shui of the region.

(end of Part 1)

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