Calicut, konwn as Kozhikode is still the most important city in northern Malabar, but it doesn’t have the bustle and energy that brought adventurers like lbn Batuta visited Kozhikode at least six times between 1342 and 1347. He was impressed by the wealth of its Muslim merchants: “(Any) one of them can purchase the whole freightage of vessels that put in here.” Calicut was then at the peak of its fame as a mighty seaport. Arabs and Chinese met here, exchanging spices, coir and timber. In 1498, Vasco da Gama landed here at Kappad Beach, heralding the advent of Portuguese colonisation in India
Much like the many meanings of its name, the town offers many facets. The name derives from the words koyil (palace) and kotta (fort). The city was once surrounded by the fort built by its ruler, the Zamorin, who encouraged trade with the Arabs by giving special concessions. Though the locals called it Kozhikode, for the Arabs it was Kalikat; for Chinese, Kalifo; and for Europeans, Calicut. The British then immortalised the name by calling the locally produced cloth ‘calico’.