A fresco of the Temple of Seti I depicting a sacred boat of Amon Ra. It does no directly regard the first documented trip in world history, but it is for boat like that that Wenamon began his journey
The sacred boats of Amun-Ra as depicted in the Temple of Seti I at Abydos. Picture courtesy of kairoinfo text

The first documented trip in world history

A reticent Phoenician King. A bag of silver stolen from the ship’s Captain. A strange little god hidden by a merchant. A last moment evasion to fall in the power of a Cyprian Princess. All because of the precious Lebanon trees. The scenery is the bright, blue, legendary water of the Mediterranean Sea, and, unexpectedly, the story is true

A reticent Phoenician King. A bag of silver stolen from the ship’s Captain. A strange little god hidden by a merchant. A last moment evasion to fall in the power of a Cyprian Princess. All because of the precious Lebanon trees. The scenery is the bright, blue, legendary water of the Mediterranean Sea, and, unexpectedly, the story is true1: The report of Wenamon, written in Ancient Egypt around Around 3.100 years ago, it is considered the first documented trip in world history.

Year 5, fourth month of summer, day 16, the day of departure of Wenamun, the Elder of the Portal of the Temple of Amun, Lord of Thrones-of-the-Two-Lands, to fetch timber for the great noble bark of Amen-Re, King of Gods, which is upon the river and [is called] Amen-user-he.
(Incipit of the Report of Wenamon)

Around 3.100 years ago, at the time of Pharaoh Ramesses XI, the tenth and last ruler of the Twentieth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, Hrihor, the High Priest of the god Amon and ruler of Thebes, dispatches Wenamon, one of his functionary, to the city of Byblos (present-day Lebanon) to procure cedar in order to construct a sacred vessel for the god Amon. At the time of his departure from Thebes, Wenamon did not know that a regular trade mission was about to become an incredible series of adventure that destiny will consign to the eternity as the first documented trip in world history.

The report of Wenamon is an official document (the original papyrus is now in the collection of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow) our protagonist wrote to explain to his chief the long series of incidents and difficulties he met on the way. Lively and essential, fast and unpredictable, The Report of Wenamon is not a literature masterpiece yet is a curious entertaining reading for all travellers.

Egypt, travel, travelling, Wenamon, Mediterranean, public domain picture
The first documented trip in world history route

The story has a quiet beginning. Hrihor gives to Wenamon money to buy cedars, gifts for the king of Byblos, credentials, and a small statue of the god “Amon-of-the-way”. Therefore, Wenamon left Thebes to Tanis. Once arrived he shows his credential to the rulers of Tanis. The ruler sent Wenamon off with the ship’s captain Mengebet, entering the great sea of Syria.

Wenamon reach safely the city of Dor, a petty kingdom of Thakkara, and here troubles began. One of the sailor steals all Wenamon’s money and fled away. Wenamon goes to the Thakkara chief of Dor to ask for a compensation due to the fact that the theft was committed in the Dor‘s harbour. The king gives him a very, but very little compensation and Wenamon, after waiting 9 days, sails North to Tyre.

During the Journey somehow (the papyrus is incomplete) he met some Thakkara people and he sized their money. Finally, he arrives in Byblos four month after his departure. Here things does not turn good. Zakaar-Baal, king of Byblos, refuses to receive our unlucky hero. Wenamon waits. Every day he receives injunction to leave the harbour and he is threatened by the men of Zakaar-Baal. Wenamon hold up 19 days of waiting, and, in the exact moment he determines to leave, Zakar-Baal accepts to receive him. In fact, that very same day, one of the Zakar-Baal priest had fallen into a prophetic frenzy and told to the king to receive Wenamon.

Wenamon shows up to Zakaar-Baal without gifts, without the credential he forgot in Tyris, and without money for the timber. The king refuses to make any deal with him. Well, our smart hero, after a bad beginning, surprisingly convinces Zaaka-Baal to sell him the cedar but he has to dispatches one of his man back to Egypt to get some money. 48 days after Wenamon’s man comes back. The timber is loaded. Wenamon is ready to sail back when Thakkara’s ships enters the harbour to ask to Zakar-Baal the permission to arrest Wenamon for his seizure of the silver. Wenamon let himself go to discouragment but Zakar-baal, touched by his misfortune, send him reassuring messages, food, wine, and a female singer to wipe out his sadness.

The morning after Zaakar-Baal does not do much for Wenamon. The king simply tells to the Thakkara’s people he cannot arrest a man of the Pharaoh in his land, but he can force Wenamon to take the sea. Once Wenamon will be out of Byblos’ harbour Thakkara’ people are free to arrest him. Somehow (this part of the papyrus is missed) Wenamon evades the pursuers, but contrary winds lead him to Cyprus. Here Wenamon is about to be slaughtered but at the very last moment he manages to gain the favour of Hatiba, Princess of Cyprus. Unfortunately the report is broken: the end of the first documented trip in world history will be a mistery for ever.

She said: “What is it you have said?” I said to her: “If the sea rages and the wind drives me to the land where you are, will you let me be received so as to kill me, though I am the envoy of Amun? Look, as for me, they would search for me till the end of time. As for this crew of the prince of Byblos, whom they seek to kill, will not their lord find ten crews of yours and kill them also?” She had the people summoned and they were reprimanded. She said to me: “Spend the night…
(Meeting the Princess of Cyprus, theese are the last lines of the Report of Wenamon)

The reading is fascinating and not only because its historic value as the first documented trip in world history. Through the words and the adventures of Wenamon the Ancient Mediterranean sea comes to life. The report was’t written to entertatin, but to clearly report facts. This gives to it an unusual power, able to break time and reality and immerse the reader straight on the deck of a ship sailing the sea 3100 years ago.

We can clearly listen to the voices of the sailors, the sounds of the veils tensed by the wind, the roars of the waves of a sea that nourished never-ending legends: during the same time of Wenamon travels, the stories that will give birth to Ulysses began timidly to rise from the mist of the sea, a sea of merchant and sailors, adventures and wonders, cheaters and dreamers, travels and travellers. It is not surprising that the first documented trip in world history comes from the water of the Mediterranean Sea.

1) The veracity of the report is still debating. This article is not minted to go into detailes. At any rate who writes firmly  believe that the report of Wenamon has been at least inspired by true fact (Erman 2005, pp. 174–175.)



Leandro Perez Zambullo

A bird took my father, and my mother married a fish. I was born one leg in the air, one in the water was. That day sea and wind pulled so hard, that in two broke my chest. My heart fell in a well, and when I want to know who I am, I have to drink a lot.
I am Leandro, content writer at OTW.


  • Wow what a read! So frustrating not knowing the end of Wenamon and his world adventure! He perhaps got married with princess of Cypress and lived well all after so there wasnt anymore adventure to write!

  • Wow. Just wow. I am fascinated, had no idea something like this exists from over 3000 years ago. I wonder how it might have ended. Hopefully it was a happy ending!

  • Though I consider myself relatively well-traveled, I’ve never taken the time to learn much about the history of travel or its significance throughout the years. How ironic that the ending of the first documented trip remains a mystery- perhaps an unintentional metaphor for exploration and the unending vastness of our world. Would definitely love to read more stories of early travel.

    • I must admit that I did not know much about history of travel (not yet…) This literary piece came to my mind from a university lesson I assisted long ago. I did not travel much at that time, and for me it was just a document enlightening the relationship between Phoenician cities and Egypt. Thanks to inspire me back, I did not think about it as a metaphor when I wrote the article but now I see it… Fortunately we can travel all our life, being sure that the road will never end

  • That is so cool to get a glimpse of history! That was truly one adventure-filled history-making trip. It’s curious how it would’ve wrapped up though. But thanks for sharing a bit of a history lesson for today!

  • I would love to read ‘The report of Wenamon’ in detail. It should give a vivid picture of what life was like 3100 years ago. In India and China too, many old manuscripts have been found. I enjoyed reading this blog. It makes me curious o find out more.

  • Ah why did you do this to us 😀 I wanna know how it ends now! 🙂 but seriously, such a great story! I actually study history and Ive heard and watch so many great movies about traveling back in a date and its insane how different it is this days! Such a great idea for post! Thanks for sharing!

  • 3100 years–wow. I always get baffled in the face of enormously long historical distances in time like that. It was just SO long ago! But alas, there’s a first time for everything–including documented travel, lol. Though we’ll never know, here’s hoping there was a happy ending for Wenamon!

  • Reading The report of Wenamon which is a 3000 years old script sounds so historical. This writing must have depicted so many things about ancient life, how they live, what they think and other things. I am too curious to know our glorious ancient past. Great to know that first documented script came from waters of Mediterranean sea. In India there are many ancient Devanagari scripts from BC era.

  • Really intriguing!! Sad the report was broken and we couldn’t know the end of Wenamom and his further life. History has always made me curious, and this story was just another reminder that there’s still so much to know!!

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