The Ottoman Trader is named for the remains of an ancient wooden vessel which has been dated to the 17th century lying at the base of a reef near Safaga Island in 40 meters of water.
The Ottoman Empire lasted for just over 600 years, and at its height of power in the 1600’s, it spanned three continents and was made up of 29 provinces. Part of this empire included all of Egypt (conquered in 1517 by Sultan Selim), the Sinai Penninsula, part of the Sudan and the western shores of Saudi Arabia…basically all of the coasts of the Red Sea. The rulers of the empire were able to maintain their wealth and control over the empire by maintaining control of the east-west overland trade routes which are well known and understood. The maritime trade routes, particularly in the Red Sea however, are not. Discoveries and excavations of the few Ottoman period maritime archaeological sites are beginning to shed light on the trade routes, cargoes, and types ships which were used during this period, as well as the daily lives of the men that sailed on them.
The Ottoman Trader provides an opportunity for increasing our knowledge of trade during this period. The ship is believed to have been on a southbound voyage, possibly as far as Jeddah, when it stopped near modern day Safaga for supplies. It is suspected that Jeddah was the southernmost limit of established maritime trade during this period. The reason for the ship’s sinking is still not known.