This book examines how a particular historical conjuncture of amplified global interactions in the second half of the nineteenth century formed and transformed society, culture and notions of identity in the Red Sea port town of Massawa, in present-day Eritrea. By reconstructing the social, urban, religious and cultural history of a cosmopolitan community in a period of sweeping economic and social change this study shows how different forms of capital were converted and reconverted in the process of social integration, the construction of urban power and communal authority, as well as the definition of a new moral order. Adopting a strong comparative approach the book transgresses traditional epistemological paradigms that have governed our understanding of the region at large. The book offers a critique of ‘Area Studies’ as it has been conceptualized in the past and blurs the boundaries between ‘Africa’ and the ‘Middle East’, much as the fields of African and Middle Eastern History. Making use of a rich and wide variety of European, Arabic-language sources, and oral data, the book explores historical processes operating on Massawa between the local and the global.