The Nabataeans maintained two ports that we know about. The first was Aila at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Nabataeans also maintained a port on the Red Sea known as Leuce Come (meaning white village.) This harbor later served as a port of trade for European ships as well as the smaller Arab dhows that would come loaded with freight from Arabia. (Periplus 19) The Nabataeans/Romans maintained a customs office at Leuce Come as well as a centurion and a detachment of soldiers. The usual customs on luxury goods was 25%. This port may have been located at the modern village of Khuraybah. From Leuce Come a caravan route wound it’s way north to Petra. (Strabo 16.781)

To date, no one has established the exact location of Leuce Come. The Periplus describes briefly describes it, mentioning that there was a fort there where taxes were collected. It also mentions that small ships used this port. Perhaps this was due to coral reefs. Strabo mentions Leuce Come in his narration about the Roman attempt to take Arabia. He tells how the Romans had trouble navigating their ships through the coral reefs to land.. “After enduring great hardships and distress, he arrived on the fifteenth day at Leuce-Come, a large mart in the territory of the Nabataeans, with the loss of many of his vessels, some with all their crews, in consequence of the difficulty of the navigation, but by no opposition from an enemy. These misfortunes were occasioned by the perfidy of Syllaeus, who insisted that there was no road for an army by land to Leuce-Come, to which and from which place the camel traders travel with ease and in safety from Selah, and back to Selah, with so large a body of men and camels as to differ in no respect from an army.” XVI.iv.24

The fort and taxation center at Leuce-Come demonstrates to us that foreign caravans would frequent the place, and that they would be taxed. Nabataean caravans and boats were part of internal trade, and may not have been taxed in the same way. Interestingly enough, to date this is the only reference we have of the Nabataeans taxing goods passing through their land.

Several suggestions have been made about the location of Leuce Come. Check out Dan Gibson’s on the page: Trade On The Red Sea, in the section Travel and Trade

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