Guarding the entrance to the Red sea, the port of Aden has been of strategic importance to all of its conquerors over the centuries. Unsuccessfully attacked by the Portuguese in 1513, it fell to the Turks in 1538 who were themselves forced out by the Yemen Arabs a century later. Seized by the Sultan of Lahej in 1728, he and his descendents ruled until 1836 when the wholesale plunder of a wrecked East Indianman brought about Aden's forcible annexation by British India. The East India Company immediately set about reviving ancient trade links and, following the establishment of a coaling station for steamships, Aden's position assumed even greater significance.
Although the vessel which has spawned the longboat in this charming scene is out of view, it is almost certainly an East Indiaman discharging passengers after the long voyage down the Red Sea or across the Arabian Sea from Bombay.