Abu Salih the Armenian
ABŪ SALIḤ (SULḤ) THE ARMENIAN
(before 1200 A.D.)
Nothing is known about him but his name. Abū Saliḥ made use of valuable sources (Archives of Coptic Patriarchate ?).
Graf 2, 338-340
Ta'rikh Abu Salih al-Armané
Ed.: B.T.A. Evetts, The Churches and Monasteries of Egypt and some neighbouring countries attributed to Abu Salih the Armenian, Oxford 1894 (from Paris, Bibl.Nat. MS ar. 673). Engl, transl.: B.T.A. Evetts - A.J. Butler, Oxford 1895.
T.: Evetts and Evetts-Butler A:Evetts
[Bujaras - Pachoras]
At Bujarās, the capital of the province of al-Marīs, which is a well-populated city, there is the dwelling place of Jawsār, who wore a turban (ʿaṣābah) and two horns (al-qurnayn) and the golden bracelet (as-suwār adh-dhahab). A certain traveller came to [the Caliph al-'Azīz billah], and informed him that he had visited a certain city, and had seen a great wonder, passing man's understanding; namely, that on the seventh day of Barmūdah a city appears, with a wall, and a water-wheel going near [p. 324] the city gate (bāb al-hisn), and sycamore trees, and cattle drinking from the cistern fed by the water-wheel, and that this lasts for two hours in the day, and the horses go and drink from that cistern; then after that the city disappears, and nothing is seen where it stood, and no one can reach it, although it seems to him while it is far off<ref>Undoubtedly a phenomenon of mirage</ref>; and that city is called among the people of that district the city of Alfī, and it is not seen again until the same day in the next year.
The first place in the province (bilād) of Mukurrah (Muqurrah) is the monastery (dayr) called that of Safanūf, king of Nubia, which is the country below the second cataract (al-janādil ath-thāniya).
The monastery of Michael (Mikā’il) and Quzmā is large and spacious, and possesses a sycamore-tree, by which the rise and fall of the Nile are ascertained every year.
There is the monastery called that of Dairā near which there is an ancient temple, between two great mountains.
[There is] a city called the city of Bausaka. This is a large and handsome city, full of people and of all commodities, and possessing many churches. Here dwelt the Lord of the Mountain, whose eyes were put out by George, son of Zacharias Israel. Here is the monastery of Saint Sinuthius, in which Abū Rakwa al-Walīd ibn Hishām was taken prisoner in the month of Rabīʿ the First, in the year 397 of the Arabs [Nov./Dec. 1006 A.D.]. Near the town there is a gold mine.
Mountain of Zīdān. Here is the monastery of Abū Jarās in a town on the west, which possesses a bishop. It [p. 325] is a beautiful town on the mountain. At night a light as of fire is seen in this town from a distance, but if the beholder comes near to it he cannot find it, yet it is continuously seen as if there were many lamps in the town. In the same way, at Baghdad, in the district of ‘Ukbarā’, many lamps are seen on a certain night of the year, but they are not real.
[The Upper Maks - Akasha?]
In the land of Nubia, near the cataract, there is a town called the Upper Maks. No one is allowed to pass by the inhabitants of this place, without being searched, even if he is a king; and if anyone pushes on and refuses to be searched, he is put to death. The people carry on their trade in kind, and selling and buying among them is done by exchange; thus they exchange woven stuffs and slaves;<ref>Evetts' translation is here approximative. The Arabic has "mawāshī" (cattle, sheep) which Evett translated as "woven stuffs".</ref> and all that is bought and sold in exchange.
At this place is found emerald, with which precious stones are polished.
The people dive for it; and the touch of it is found to be different from that of the other stones, and so those who search for it recognize it, but if they are in doubt, they breathe upon it and then it is covered with drops, and they know that it is emerald. Emerald is found nowhere in the whole world except in Ceylon (Sarandīb) and at this place.
There is near this town a hill under which there is a spring of warm water (ʿayn mā' hārr) like that at Tiberias. Here also is the mountain of thirst, where no one can reach the water that is here, on account of the distance and the height; and even if a man ascends to the [p. 326] top of this mountain, he cannot reach the water, but can only look at it; although it seems to be near to him, when he tries to arrive at it, he cannot do so.
[Town of 'Alwa]
Here there are troops and a large kingdom with wide districts in which there are four hundred churches. The town lies to the east of the large island between two rivers, the White Nile and the Green Nile. All its inhabitants are Jacobite Christians. Around it there are monasteries, some at a distance from the stream and some upon its banks. In the town there is a very large and spacious church, skillfully planned and constructed, and larger than all the other churches in the country; it is called the church of Manbalī. The crops of this country depend upon the rise of the Nile and upon the rain. When they are about to sow their seed, they trace out furrows in the field and bring a supply of the drink called mizr and go away; and afterwards they find that the seed has been sown in the ground, and the mizr has been drunk. So again at the time of the harvest they reap some of the corn, and leave beside the rest of it a supply of mizr, and in the morning they find the harvest completed: and they say that this is done by beings of a different order from ours.
[City of Dongola]
Here is the throne (sarīr) of the king. It is a large city on the banks of the blessed Nile, and contains many churches and large houses and wide streets. The king's house is lofty, with several domes built of red brick, and resembles the buildings in Al-Iraq; and this novelty was introduced by Raphael who was king of Nubia in the year 392 of the Arabs [i.e. 1002 A.D.]. In that year Abū [p. 327] Rakwah, who is also called al-Walīd ibn Hishām al-Khārijī, rebelled against Al-Imām al-Hākim biamrillah, and attempted to ravage his country; but al-Hākim defeated the rebel and his troops wintered at Takhūm,<ref>Evetts read "shatat 'asākiru-hu" (his armies wintered"). As no such place-name as "Tukhūm" is found in Nubia, it seems more correct to take "tukhūm" (sing. takhm) as a common name, meaning "frontiers", and read "galaba-hu ... wa shattata 'asākira-hu" i.e. al-Hākim "vainquished him .. and dispersed his troops along the frontiers".</ref> in Nubia.
It is said that the Nubians formerly worshipped the stars, and that the first of them who was converted to the knowledge of the truth (al-ḥaqq) and the religion of the law (sharī'ah) of Christ was Bahriyā, son of the king, who was learned in the science of the sphere (falak) and was wise and skillful. When he was converted to the religion of Christ, all the blacks of Nubia (jamī’ an-nūba as-sūdān) followed him; and he built for them many churches, throughout the land of Nubia, and many monasteries, which are still flourishing, and some of them are at a distance from the river and some upon its banks.
In the land (bilād) of Nubia is the city of Ibrīm, the residence of the Lord of the Mountain (ṣāḥīb al-jabal), all the inhabitants of which are of the province of Marīs; it is enclosed within a wall (hisn). Here there is a large and beautiful church, finely planned and named after Our Lady (sittinā) the pure Virgin Mary (as-sayyidah al-‘adhrā aṭ-ṭāhira martimaryam). Above it is a high dome (qubbah) upon which rises a large cross.
[Saladin's Campaign in Nubia]
When Shams ed-Daulah, brother of Al-Malik an-Nāsir Salāh ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb the Kurd, brother of Shirkūh, marched into Upper Egypt, in the caliphate of Al-[p. 328]Mustaḍī’, the Abbaside, after the extinction of the Fatimide dynasty, the last caliph of which was Al-Adid lil-Dini’llah, in the month of Jumadā the First, of the year 568 [i.e. 1173 A.D.] under the government of the Ghuzz and Kurds (dawlah al-ghuzz wa-l-akrād), he invaded this district with his troops who accompanied him, and with those who joined him (as he proceeded), and he collected the boats from the cataract. In this town (of Ibrīm) there were many provisions (az-zād) and ammunitions (ʿudad) and arms (silāḥ) and the (troops of Shams ad-Daulah) marched thither; and when they had defeated the Nubians, they left the town in ruins, after conquering it; and they took the Nubians who were there prisoners. It is said that the number of Nubians was 700,000 men, women and children; and seven hundred pigs (khanāzīr) were found here. Shams ad-Daulah commanded that the cross on the dome (qubbah) of the church should be burned, and that the call to prayer should be chanted by the muezzin from its summit. His troops plundered all that there was in this district, and pillaged the church throughout; and they killed the pigs. And a bishop (usquf) was found in the city; so he was tortured; but nothing could be found that he could give to Shams ad-Daulah, who made him prisoner with the rest, and he was cast with them into the fortress (qal'a), which is on a high hill and is exceedingly strong. Shams ad-Daulah left in the town many horsemen and placed with them the provisions and the weapons and ammunitions and tools. In the town a quantity of cotton (qutn) was found which he carried off to Kūs (Qos) and sold for a large sum. Before this time, Muhammad al-Khāzin had captured Ibrīm, in the days of Kāfūr al-Ikhshīdī, under the dynasty of the Abbasides.
[p. 329] [King Cyriacus of Dongola Expedition Against Egypt]
In the history of the holy church and in the biographies of the fathers and patriarchs (sīrat al-bī'a al-muqaddasa wa-akhbār al-abā' al-baṭārika) it is said concerning Anbā Khā’īl, the forty-sixth patriarch, that when money was extorted from him, in the caliphate of Marwān al-Ja'dī, the last of the Omayyad caliphs, by the emir of Egypt, Salāh ad-Dīn Yūsuf the Kurd<ref>An anachronism: Saladin died in 1196 A.D. while the episode referred to, and the last Omayyad Caliph date back to the years 747/48 A.D.</ref> and the patriarch went to Upper Egypt, to beg for assistance from the people there and when Cyriacus (Kiryākūs) king of Nubia, heard of this, he was angry and filled with indignation because the patriarch was thus humiliated and pressed for money; so he assembled his troops and marched on Egypt, accompanied by 100,000 horsemen (fāris) and 100,000 camels (jamal); now Nubian horses (khayl) are small, like the largest of the Egyptian asses, but have a great power of enduring fatigue. When the Nubians entered Egypt, they plundered and slew, and took many prisoners, and laid waste many inhabited places in Upper Egypt, as they marched towards Miṣr. Now when the ruler of Egypt heard what was the cause of their coming, and was told as follows: "When the patriarch of Egypt went up to ask assistance of the Christians in Upper Egypt, news of this reached the king of Nubia, and the king of Abyssinia, and [another] king subject to the Jurisdiction of the patriarch of Egypt; and [Cyriacus] was indignant of the news" then the governor of Egypt released the patriarch from his obligations and ceased to extort money from him, and begged him to write to the king of Nubia and bid him return [to his own country]. So the patriarch wrote to [p. 330] the king as he was requested, and the king returned and no longer acted as he had done, but departed to his own country.
[The Journey of Prince George [Kurki] of Nubia to Baghdad]
According to the history of the church and the biography of Anbā Joseph (akhbār anbā Yūsuf al-batriark), the fifty-second patriarch, Ibrāhīm,<ref>Al-Mu'taṣim.</ref> brother of Al-Ma'mūm, the Abbaside, sent a letter to Zacharias (Zakhariāʾ), king of Nubia (malik an-nūba) asking him to send a tribute of slaves equivalent to the amount of fourteen years. But as the king could not do this, he sent his son George (Jirjah) to Baghdad, to Ibrāhīm. So Ibrāhīm rejoiced when he saw him, because, although the king had been prevented from carrying out the request that had been made to him, yet he had sent his son, than whom he possessed nothing dearer; and Ibrāhīm also admired the submission of the son, who made the journey in obedience to his father; and therefore Ibrāhīm conferred upon the king all the favours that he asked for and sent his son<ref>I.e. George, the son of the King of Nubia.</ref> back to Miṣr, where he was lodged at the house of the emir, who was governor of Egypt. Now he (George) desired to visit the father and patriarch; and therefore went to see him, with great respect, and received his blessing, and asked him to consecrate an altar (madhbaḥ) for him, that he might carry it to the palace of the emir where he was lodged. So the patriarch granted the request and sent him a consecrated altar (madhbah mukarraz)<ref>A.J. Butler (Churches and monasteries, p. 269) explained that this would probably be a portable wood slab to be fitted on the masonry block of the altar, still in use in the Coptic Church.</ref>, and [p. 331]sent bishops and priests and deacons to him, who celebrated the liturgy (yuqaddisūn) upon the altar, and gave the communion (yuqarribū) to the king’s son and to those who were with him. The governor of Egypt also commanded that the wooden gong (nāqūs) should be struck on the roof of [George's] lodging, that his friends might assemble at his house for prayers (salāt) and the liturgy (quddās), as in his own country. This went on until George, the king's son, returned to his father in safety and with honour.
And when the king's son returned to his father, the latter founded a large church (bī’a kabīra) which he caused to be skillfully planned, in thanksgiving to God for the safe return of his son. This church was [afterwards] consecrated by Anbā George (Jirjah), bishop of Natū who was sent by Anbā Christodulos, (Akhristādulūs) the sixty-sixth patriarch. This patriarch also asked for assistance from the king, on account of the exactions from which he suffered at the hands of the government and of the Lawātis, in the year 737 of the Righteous Martyrs, (= 1020 A.D.)<ref>This date is correct. Christodulos was Patriarch from 1046 to 1077.</ref>. At the consecration of the church, the Holy Ghost descended upon one of the vessels of water (aw'yiat al-māʾ) prepared for the ceremony (li-takrīz al-bī'a), and the people saw a light shed upon that water; so the king took that water in his hand, and carried it to his house; and he gave to the bishop money (māl) to take to the patriarch, that he might be relieved from the extortion from which he suffered.
[The Church of Al-Wādī - King Solomon of Nubia]
[Church of Al-Wādī – bī'at al-wādī]: This church is called after Saint Onuphrius (abu nufr). [The place where it stands] is called the desert of [... lacuna ...], and [p. 332] is at a distance of three days' journey from the extremity of Nubia, and at a distance of ten days' journey from Uswān. Solomon (Salamūn) king of Nubia, spent his time in worshipping God at this church, after he had abdicated. He said: - "Who is there among the kings that can be saved by God while he still governs among men; and that is not swayed by his passion and does not shed blood unjustly, and does not force men to do that which is not right for them?" The condition of this king was reported to the governor of the southern part of Upper Egypt, Sa'd ad-Daulah al-Kawāsī, in the caliphate of Al-Mustanṣir bi'llah, and the vizierate of Amīr al-Juyūsh Badr; and so the last-named sent men to take the king away from that place, and to bring him to Cairo. And when he came to the gate, he was received with honour and state, with a band of music (ṭubal khānāh), and a fine horse which he could mount; and (the vizier) ordered the chief men (akābir) of the state to attend upon him; and afterwards he lodged him in a fine house, abundantly decorated with marble and wood-work and brocades of many colours interwoven within this house the king lived for one year, and [the vizier] visited him constantly, and conversed with him on many subjects, and listened to his words; and found that he sought God, to whom be power and glory, with all his heart and mind, renouncing all that men desire. So when the king had lived here for the space of one year, he died and was buried in the monastery of Saint George (mārī jirjis) at Al-Khandak [a suburb of Cairo], in the patriarchate of Cyril (Kyrillus) the sixty-seventh patriarch. The king's tomb is within the wall that enclosed the church, and is near the door, on the right hand as you enter. It is said that among his letters there was found a letter (kitāb) written in his own hand and in Nubian characters (al-qalam an-nūbī) which proved his learning and his religion and his ascetism; and he was designated the 'holy king'.
[p. 333] [Priest - Kings of Nubia]
The kingdom of Nubia is composed of Nubia with its province (arḍ), and the land of Alwah and al-Makurrah and the neighbouring tribes (al-ajnās al-muḍāfah ilay-ha) It is said to be the custom among the Nubians, when a king dies and leaves a son (walad) , and also a nephew (ibn ukht = sister's son), that the latter reigns after his uncle (khāl), instead of the son (dūn walad al-malik)<ref>Lit. "to the exclusion of the king's own son".</ref> ; but if there is no sister's son, then the king's own son succeeds.
The land of Nubia is under the jurisdiction of the see of Saint Mark the Evangelist, which consecrates (yaqsim, yuqassim) [their bishops] for them; and their liturgy (quddās) and prayers (ṣalawāt) are in Greek (rūmīyyian). The number of kings in Nubia is thirteen<ref>This situation, which Abū Sāleh copied, together with this detail, from earlier writers (cf. John the Deacon, q.v.) might have been obsolete in Abū Sāleh's time.</ref> and all these rule the land, under the supremacy of Cyriacus, the Great King; and all of them are priests, and celebrate the liturgy within the sanctuary (haykal), as long as they reign without killing a man with their own hands; but if a king kills a man, he may no longer celebrate the liturgy (quddās). And this privilege of celebrating the liturgy is never restored to such a king; but when he enters the veil (hijāb) of the sanctuary (haykal), he takes off the royal crown (tāj), and stands bareheaded until all the people have communicated (yaqtarib) and not one of them is left who has not communicated; and then the king communicates after the people, if he wishes to communicate.
[p. 334] [The Temple of Kalabsha]
The town of Darmus, in the land of Nubia. Here there is a church of elegant proportions, beautifully planned, and looking on the river; and within there is a picture (ṣūra) of the great king and a picture (ṣūra) of the governor (ṣāḥib) of Darmus. The former picture represents George, son of Zacharias (Jirjī ibn Zakhariāʾ) king of Nubia, as an old man (shaykh kabīr), sitting upon a throne of ebony (sarir abanūs), inlaid (muṭaʿam) with ivory (ʿāj), and overlaid (muṣaffaḥ) with pure gold (dhahab khāliṣ); his age is eighty years; upon his head is the royal crown (tāj al-mulk), set (muraṣṣaʾ) with precious stones, and surmounted by a golden cross (salīb dhahab), which has four jewels (jawāhir) in its four arms.
In the same town there is an ancient temple (birbah)<ref>The Kalabsha temple.</ref> of great size, dedicated to the star of the Sun, within there is an idol resembling [... lacuna] which has on its breast the figure of the moon, and is all of one piece. In this temple there are most wonderful and astonishing pictures and immense pillars, so that the beholder is filled with wonder and stupefaction because men have been able to construct such works of so great difficulty. In this temple there is also a gigantic hall (majlis), which seems to the spectator to be all of one piece; it is roofed with slabs of hard, black, polished stone, each of which is fifteen cubits in length, five in breadth, and five in thickness; and of these there are twenty-five, so closely fitted together, that they seem to be one piece. In the same temple there is a well of great width, which is descended by steps; and if a man descends to the lowest step, he finds vaulted passages, with turnings in different directions, the end [p. 335] of which is unknown; so that, when he ventures into them, he loses himself, and will perhaps perish, if he does not quickly return.
Near the fourth cataract, on the eastern bank, there is a large monastery (dayr azim), upon a high mountain which overlooks the blessed Nile.
[Town of Tafah]
It is said that the prophet Moses, before he went out from the face of Pharaoh, was sent by the latter upon an expedition into the land of the Sūdān, to make his way to the extremity of it. Now in this land into which Pharaoh commanded Moses to make his expedition, there were many adders (afā’ī kathīr) and noisome beasts (ḥasharāt muhlikah). But the prophet Moses was wise and was assisted by God in all his actions; so he marched into the Sudan with his army, accompanied by birds such as cocks (duyūk) and owls (qūq) and entered into the uninhabited deserts where the ancient and noisome beasts and reptiles (al-ḥasharāt wa-l-afā’ī al-‘atq) dwelt; and when they heard the voice of the cocks and of the owls sounding by night and day, they fled away and remained no longer in their habitations, but vanished from the path of Moses; and so he marched onwards and saw none of them. Then Moses came to the city of Tāfah, and halted before the city; and the king's daughter saw him, and the birds with him, and she loved him; and so she sent messengers to him offering to open the city to him, and pointing out to him the road which he should take in order to conquer the city, and thus she made the capture of the city easy to him. Other writers state that she was the daughter of the king of Abyssinia (al-ḥabashah). So Moses captured the city by offering general quarter; and he granted immunity to the inhabitants and they brought him money.
[p. 336] In this city of Tāfah, there is a monastery called the monastery of Ansūn, which is ancient, but so skillfully constructed and beautifully planned, that its appearance has not changed in spite of the lapse of ages. Near it, in front of the mountain, there are fifteen hamlets.
There is a church of the glorious angel Michael (Mikhā’il) which overlooks the river, and is situated between the land of Nubia and the land of the Muslims; but it belongs to Nubia. Near it there is a mosque which has been restored; and also a castle which was built as a fortress (ḥiṣn) on the frontier between the Muslims and Nubians, and is at the extremity of the Nubian territory.
[Philae and Uswān]
Island of Philae. Between the land of Nubia and the land of the Muslims there are two stones upon a hill in the midst of the blessed river Nile and the Muslims possess, opposite to them, a strong and lofty fortress (ḥiṣn) called Philae (bilāq). This was built by Barūbā, and Sarādīb, and contains fortified dwellings (masākin ḥaṣīna) and the ruins of well-built edifices the work of the ancients. Philae is five miles distant from Aswān. Next to Philae comes Uswān, the large frontier town and the great caravan-station, and the last post of the Muslims. In its neighbourhood are the gold mines. In the town there is an ancient temple, containing the figure of a scorpion, which the children are brought to touch every year in the 12th of Barmūdah [20 April], and no scorpion will approach a family which Includes a child-that has touched that figure of a scorpion.
There is also a church (bī'a) named after the Lady and Pure Virgin Mary (Martimaryam) which was founded by [p. 337] the king. It was consecrated by Anbā George (Jirjah), bishop of Naṭū, when he was sent by the patriarch Christodulus (Akhrisṭādulūs) [1046 - 1077 A.D.] to Nubia, to ask the king for assistance on account of the extortion from which he suffered at the hands of [Marwān] al-Ja’dī,<ref>Patriarch Christodulos (cf. Severus, Life of C.) actually sent bishop George of Natū to Nubia, but the mention of Marwān al-Ja'dī (d. 749 A.D.) in connection with him is out of date. Badr al-Jamālī Emir al-Juyūsh, wa appointed vizier in 1075 A.D., two years before the death of Christodulos. It seems very strange to find such a mistake in Abū Sālih, who lived in a time very near to the time of the famous Emir al-Juyush, unless we attribute the mistake to the copyist who summarized the original History.</ref> the last of the Omayyad Caliphs.
It is said that the Mountains of the Moon, where the Nile rises, are of a red colour and are in the land of al-Karūbīs, and the country where these mountains are is burnt up with heat, and supports neither plant nor beast. In the land of the Sudan there is a river called the White (al-abyaḍ) River (nahr), which when it overflows for a certain length of time, runs into a river called the Black (al-aswad) River, which flows into the Nile from the east; and when the White River, which runs into the Nile, rises, then the health of the people of Egypt improves; but when it falls, and the Black River flows [into the Nile], then the people of Egypt fall sick. This Black River rises in a black mountain, and flows over black stones in an exceedingly black stream. Near the Black River there is a Yellow River (nahr aṣfar) which rises in a mountain as yellow as saffron.
[The District of Aswān]
The district (nāhiyah) of Uswān is inhabited by Arabs of the tribe of Rabī’ah and others. In this district there are springs of white naphta (nifṭ) in the mountains which were found by the son of ‘Ain as-Saif, the governor, when he was at Aswān in the year 400 (1010 A.D.). [p. 338] In this neighbourhood is found also the clay called "clay of art" (ṭīn al-ḥikmah) and there is the gold mine; and there is red and yellow ochre (maghrah). [There is in this district] a church named after the Saint Abū Haḍrī whose body is preserved within it, but it is in ruins. It stands on the island of Uswān. Near this church there is also a monastery, in which there were three hundred cells for monks, which are now ruined. The church was large and beautiful. There was also the church of Saint Mennas, which was solidly built of stone.
[There is also] a church of the Lady and Pure Virgin Mary (as-sayyidat al-'adhrā aṭ-ṭāhirah Martimaryam) which is exceedingly large; but it was turned by al- Hākim into a mosque.
[There is also] a ruined church of the glorious angel Michael outside Uswān, to the east, upon the mountain; and the church of the Saint and glorious martyr George (mārī Jirjis).
[There is also] a monastery of the Saint Abū Hadrī on the mountain on the west; and it is inhabited by monks. The monastery of Saint Anthony (anbā Andūnah) is built of stone. It possessed several gardens, but the Arabs seized them and wrecked the monastery.
There is here a church, named after Saint Ibsādah, which stands in the citadel of Uswān, upon the bank of the blessed river Nile, and it is said that this saint used to walk upon the water.
In this district there is a black mountain of granite of which was constructed a bridge (isqālah) of great length, which was to be placed over the river from one side to the other; but it has never been completely disengaged (from the quarry) from the time of the giants (al-jabābirah) until now, and it still remains in the form in which they left it. (Evetts, pp. 260-267 (Engl.) MS Paris 673, fols. 94a - 102a, Arabic).
[p. 339] [Abyssinia]
This country is under the jurisdiction of the see of Mark the Evangelist. Abyssinia is the same as the kingdom of Sheba, from which the queen of Al-Yaman came to Jerusalem ...
Abyssinia is contiguous to India and the adjacent territory. A metropolitan (muṭrān) is sent from the see of Mark the Evangelist to Abyssinia, from the patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt and this metropolitan of the Abyssinians ordains priests (qusūs) and deacons (shamāmisah) for them. The king of Al-Mukurrah, who is an Abyssinian (al-ḥabashī), and is an orthodox king (al-malik al-urthuduksī), is the Great King among the Kings of his country, because he has an extensive kingdom, including distant regions in the north (al-qibliyyah) of the country, and has many troops; and he is the fourth of the kings of the earth and no king on earth is strong enough to resist him; and at a certain place in his country he possesses the Ark of Noah.
All the kings of Abyssinia are priests, and celebrate the liturgy within the sanctuary as long as they reign without slaying any man with their own hand, but after slaying a man they can no longer celebrate the liturgy and the conditions by which they are bound after they have killed a man have already spoken of in this book.
If any of the Abyssinians commits a sin, he takes a handful of incense (bakhūr) of the kind which is burnt within the sanctuary; it is composed of frankincense (lubān), of sandarach (sandarus), of styrax (may’ah) of mastic (mustakā), of aloes (ʿawd), and of cassia (salīkhah) then he confesses his sins over (this mixture), and throws it into the censer, together with dried roseleaves.
All the kings of Abyssinia are crowned with the royal crown (tāj al-mulk) in the church of the Angel Michael, [p. 340] or the church of Saint George, beneath their pictures. After that, the king does not wear the crown, but the metropolitan blesses him (yubārikuhu), and lays his hand upon his head, and fastens a band (mandīl) over his head and beneath his chin (ahnāk, lower jaws) and clothes him in a robe of brocade (thiyāb dībāj). (Evetts, pp. 284 - 287; MS Paris, fols. 105a-b).
The fathers and patriarchs used to write letters to the kings of Abyssinia and Nubia, twice in the year; and the last of them who did so was Zacharias (Zakhāriyūs) the sixty-fourth patriarch; for Al-Ḥākim forbade the practice, which ceased from that time until now.
Nevertheless when a letter comes from any of these kings, to the Caliph at Miṣr or his vizier, he bids the patriarch write a reply to the letter, with all the respect and reverence for Christians, and all the compliments which are customary among them. The Patriarch charges the king of Abyssinia to avoid association with the Muslims, who are under his government. Formerly it was customary with all the kings of Abyssinia as well as their subjects to have several wives. This continued until the patriarchate of Anbā Sinuthius, the sixty-seventh patriarch, who commanded the metropolitan to bring them back from this mode of life to the mode of life existing among the Christians of Egypt and Syria, and not to authorize the king and his subjects to do as they were then doing; and after this the Abyssinians refrained from following their former custom, and began to have each of them one wife only. (Evetts, pp. 290 - 291; MS Paris, fols. 106a-b).