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[pp. 453-458]


(d. 1327 A.D.)

Shamsaddīn Abū 'Abdalla m. b. Abī Ṭālib aṣ-Ṣūfī ad-Dimishqī. Arab traveller and geographer.

Brockelmann 2, 130, 138; EI (s.v.)

Nukhbat ad-dahr fī 'ajā'ib al-barr wa-l-baḥr

Ed.: M.A.F. Mehren, Cosmographie de Chams-ed-din Abou Abdalla ad Dimishqui, St. Petersburg 1866.

Exc.: Al-Maktaba 236-237.

T.: MC 1199 - 1203 (Mehren) A:1

[Climates<ref>Ad-Dimishqī, reporting various opinions, says the Earth, south of the Equator, is inhabited according to Ptolemy, down to Lat. 12° 25’; or to Lat. 13° according to some others, or down to Lat. 16°, according to some other geographers. The peoples living south of the Ḥabasha are called, with a general name, Daghūta, and are Zanj. In the time of Ptolemy there were eight towns among them, viz. al-Qumr, Aghna, Laqmarana, Dahmī, Lamlama, Daghūta, Sūfāqas and Kūgha. (Mehren, op.cit., p. 15).</ref>]

The First Climate is 3000 parasangs in length and 150 in width, i.e. from Lat. N. 12° 30’ to 20°. In the Nūba country, it crosses over Dongola and al-Ḥabasha, in the countries of the Sūdān, it passes over al-Ḥabasha, then over Jazal, Kanāwar, Khūmat, Dāmūt, and Kūra, after which are the countries of the Da'āmah, Samghārī, Sam'arah, Zaghwa, Kūghah and Kanam. (Mehren, pp. 18 - 19; MC 1199r).

The Second Climate ... crosses over the Sea of Moses (baḥr Mūsā), the Dahlak island, the Sawākin island and ‘Aydhāb; west of which is Aswān ... (ibid., p. 19; MC 1199).

[p. 454] [Rivers]

Those who are experts in this matter say that the river of Egypt, called Nile, which is also the River of the Nūba, begins in the Mountains of the Moon (jibāl al-Qamar), which separate the inhabited land south and north of the equator from the burnt, austral [southern] land, about which we have no information. (Mehren, ibid., pp. 88 - 89; MC 1199).

[Western Countries]

As for the Oases (al-Wāḥāt) mentioned among the districts of Egypt, this region formed in the past an independent territory, but it later became a dependency. It is a region which border on no other province, but is surrounded by deserts. Its territory lies between Miṣr, Alexandria, the Maghrib, the Ṣa'īd, the Nūba and the Ḥabasha, almost equally distant from each. It is divided into three parts, the first called al-Khārija [the Khargah O.] and has as its chief town al-Madīna; the second includes two towns al-Qaṣr and Hundād; the third is called ad-Dākhila and has two towns, viz. Aris and Manūn. (ibid., p. 232; MC 1202 r).

[p. 455] The country of Kanem (Kānam) is extremely vast and extends on both sides of the river of Ghāna,<ref>See: al-Ya’qūbi, n. 2.</ref> which is also known as the river of the Ḥabasha... The capital of this country is the town of Kanem. Then there is the town of Jīmī, the town of Takrūr and the town of Samghāra. The river of Ghāna flows through all these towns or near them. Then there is the town of Jājā in a very fertile region, the town of Mātān (Mānān ?) and Tājū. The population of these towns is as handsome and graceful as the Zaghwā, who are a branch of the sūdān peoples, are ugly and savage.

The country of Kanem borders on the country of the Ḥabasha at the town of Sūra; Kanāwa belongs to the upper Ḥabasha. Within the country of Kanem there is the country called Kūwār <ref>See: Idrīsī, n. 15.</ref> in a valley rich with palm-trees but poor in water. There is a nation called Ankilāwūs; they also dwell in a valley similar to the valley of the Kūwār; another nation is the Balamlama; in this valley there is the town called Abzan. To the west of this region there is a salt lake 12 miles in width. Somewhere around this lake there is the town of Fazzān, the town of Jarmā, the people known as the Zawīla, the town of Tasāwa and the town of Wān.

The natives of Lamlam dwell south of the Ghāna River and the Kūgha dwell southwest of the same river. The dwellings of the Bajāt, the Tamīm and Damdam extend towards the Equator and beyond. West of the Tamīm there are the Salāqas. All these peoples are savage; they have no religious beliefs (dīn) and behave more like animals than like human beings. These countries have been reached by [the influence of] Islam and Moslem travellers have explored them. (ibid., p. 241).

[Genealogies and Peoples]

About the Qibṭ (al-Qibṭ), it is said that they are the descendants of Qift b.Miṣr b. Baysar b. Ḥam. [Ḥam’s] children were Ushmūn, Qifṭ, Sā and Atrib. Qifṭ was the only one who left offspring: his son was Ṣayfān. Those of his [Ṣayfān's] children who settled in Upper Egypt (Ṣa’īd Miṣr) are now called al-Marīs: those who settled in Lower Egypt (asfal) are called Bijāma.

According to another tradition, Ḥam had three children; Qifṭ, Kana'ān and Kūsh. Qifṭ is the ancestor of [p. 456] the Copts (Qibṭ), Kūsh that of the Blacks (Sūdān) and Kana'ān that of the Berbers (Barbar). (ibid., p. 266).

The race of the Blacks (as-sūdān) comprises of many peoples (tawā'if). We reckon them beginning from those who live in the southern parts<ref>Dimishqī mentions among them the Takrūr (“Toucouleur”), the Lamlam, the Tanīm, the Damdam.</ref> ... Those among them [Sūdān] who have embraced Islam are the Ghānim (Kanam ?) Ghāna, Kūkū, Kūwār, Fazzān and Zaghwā. (ibid., p. 267 s).

Another people among the Sūdān are the Ḥubūsh, who live near the Zaghāwa. It is said that they are the Ḥabasha of the upper regions (al-ḥabasha al-'ulyā). It is said that they are the infidels (Kuffār) who go naked.

Also to the peoples of the Sūdān belong the Kanāw, the Sūra, the Hujāma and Qaljūr, all of whom are Christian Ḥubūsh. They are divided into six groups, via. the Amhara, to whom belonged the Najāshī, whose descendants [still] hold the royal title, then the Sahart and the Jazal who have fine features, the Khūmad and Dāmūt. (ibid., p. 268).

[The Nūba]

One of the peoples of the sūdān are the Nūba, who, according to the tradition, are descended from Nūba, son of Qifṭ, son of Miṣr, son of Miṣir [Baiṣar], son of Ḥam, son of Noah. This race [Nūba], according to information given by the Aswān merchants, is divided into several tribes such as the 'Anj (ʾAnaj), Azkarsā, Tibān, Andā, and Kankā. The 'Anj and 'Andā live on a large island, called 'Andā formed by the Nile, they wear no dress. The Azkarsā live very far from the Nile, the Tibān are in a district rich in iron ore, but where no animal can live because of the excessive heat.

[p. 457] According to al-Musabbiḥī, the Nūba are divided into two peoples, one is called 'Alwa, whose king resides in a town called Kūsa; the other is called Maqurrā and their king resides in a town called Dunqula; they never wear clothes with seams but wrap themselves in woollen tunics called dikādik.<ref>Cf. Monneret, Storia, p. 213.</ref> The Arabs call them "pupil-smiters", because, during the invasion of Nubia led by ‘Abdalla b. Abī Sarḥ, in the year 31 H. [652 A.D.] a part of the Arab army was wounded in the eyes by the arrows of the enemy. This battle is referred to in the verse: "Never has my eye seen a day like Dongola's, where the cavalry advanced loaded with heavy breastplates". The Nubians are Jacobite Christians and read the Gospel in Greek, according to the "Malkanite" rite (al-malkāniyya).

They have ancient Greek churches. They keep the rite of circumcision and ablution after pollution. They never approach their women during menstruation.

Beyond the 'Alwa country there is a land inhabited by a race of Sūdān who go naked like the Zanj and who are like animals because of their stupidity; they profess no religion.

To the Sūdān belong also the Beja (al-Bujāh), who live along the Arabian Gulf as far as the Nile. They are divided into two groups, viz. the Ḥadāriya (? Ḥadāriba), whose king resides in the town of Hajar and the Zanāfikha (Zanāfija), whose king lives in the town of Naqlīn (? Baqlīn); all of them pull out the hairs of their beard and put their horses to draw carts ... The towns which they possess are Utīl and Adel (ʿAdal) and also the islands of Dahlak and Sawākin and the town of 'Aydhāb, which is a port for the traders of Yemen and Egypt. Their [p. 458] territory borders on that of a race of Sūdān called Khāsā the Lower, who are infidels, and Khāsā the Upper, who are Muslims. They are the least haughty and the least jealous towards women among all the (sūdān) peoples. Most of them wear no dress (tailored and sewn) with seams, nor do they live in towns. (ibid., p. 269).

The Zanj are of a lighter complexion than the Nūba, because the Zanj dwell on the eastern side (of Africa) where the breeze of the Indian Ocean is felt; the Hamīs and the Nūba, on the contrary, dwell to the west, where the black wind (ar-rīh as-sawdāʾ), the sīmum and the yahmūm blow unceasingly. Therefore, their bodies, burnt by the rays of the sun, have become black and their hair curly. The same is true about the Ḥabasha who dwell between the mountains, but not far from the sweet waters, therefore their complexion has become olive (khudr) tending to brown (sumr) or black (sūd). (ibid., p. 274; MC 1203 r).