Al-Bakri

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[pp. 242-244]

AL-BAKRĪ

(1028-1094 A.D.) 1067 A.D.

Abū 'Ubayd 'Abdallah b. 'Abd al-'Azīz b. Mus'ab al-Bakrī. An Arab-Spanish geographer, traveller and philologist from Cordoba.

EI (s.v.); GAL 2, 297

K. al-masālik wa-l-mamālik ("A Book of Kingdoms and Routes")

MS.: London, Brit.Mus. MS 374.

Ed.: (partly, with French transl.): McGuckin de Slane, Algiers 1857, Paris 1913.

Exc.: from MS and de Slane: MC fols. 730 - 740; Ar. Ist.II, 149-190.

T.: Ar.Ist. (de Slane and MC) A:0


[Description of the Qos-'Aydhāb Route.]

From this Oasis (al-Wāḥ) to the other two outer Oases (al-wahāyn al-khārijayn) there are three stopping-places. There the country of Islam ends. Between it and the country of the Nūba there are six stopping-places across the desert. (Ar.Ist.I, II, p. 149).

The regions (kuwar) of Miṣr, ... Nūba, ... Dunqula ... (MC 7 30 r)

The town of Qos is situated on the bank of the Nile between Aswān and Akhmim. The distance between it [Qos] and Aswān is three days' journey. It is a big town with extensive ancient ruins (āthār). ... Between Qos and Aswān there are caverns excavated in the mountains, where there are tombs of dead from which [piss] asphalt (al-mūmyā) of good quality is extracted. They find this in the decayed bones (rimam) and between the shrouds of the [p. 243] dead. It is said that in the desert which stretches from Qos to Aswān there is a mountain with a mine of green emeralds (az-zumurrud al-akḥdar). But the danger arising from the fear of the Bujāh, the Nūba, and other tribes of Nuba and Arabs who dwell in those plains, prevents [travellers] from visiting the mine, besides the fact that the caverns of that desert are distant and sanded up, and have been abandoned because of their remoteness from any inhabited country. (MC 730 v).

The town of Aswān is the last town of Islam and a defense post for the [other] towns of Egypt. It has connections with Nubia. (MC 730 v).

Between Aswān and the town of Sūrī (? or Surā? Sawrā)[1], where the territory of Nubia begins, there is a desert inhabited by nomads (a'rāb) called Banī Jamāl, Banī Hilāl, Banī Kināna and Banī Juhaina: they pay tithes to the Lord (sahīb) of Egypt.

At Aswān begins the desert which extends as far as the coast of the Red Sea (bahr an-Na'm, or b. an-nu’m) to a town on the Red Sea called ʿAdhdhāb.[2] It is a desert in which various tribes of the Sūdān such as the Beja roam. The mosque of an-nardīnī (ar-rudaynī)[3] is the last post dependent on Aswan and a station for the horses (ribāt) of Aswan. (MC 730 v).

[The route from Aswan to ‘Adhdhāb]

‘Adhdhāb is a town lying on the western coast of the sea. It is an embarkation port for 'the pilgrims, for [p. 244] those who go to Yemen and in other directions. It is inhabited by a tribe called Banī Būlos: it is said that these belong to the Bujāh, but others claim that they are related to the Arabs and that they actually are the Marāzīyyah, a section which was expelled by Abū Bakr as-Siddīq ...

From 'Adhdhāb to Aswān there are two routes: one is called Al-Waḍaḥ and is an 18 days' journey across deserts and barren sands. These sands contain a little water; they are loose sands, blown by the winds so that the tracks are quickly effaced and nobody can take the correct direction on a footpath or a track; camelmen themselves travel on this desert trusting their she-camels which feel the route, and allow themselves to be guided by them. The other route is that called after al-'Allāqī ... which is also 18 stations; it is completely isolated. It is called after a river bed (nahr) called 'Allāqī. This town is rich with pomegranates and produces them in abundance: it also has a large number of inhabitants who claim descent from the Arab tribe of Kalb ibn Wabrah. They behave properly with travellers and protect them. Most of the mountains along this road contain gold and silver mines. The mountains which are of difficult access are inhabited by the Bujāh, some of whom are Muslims, and trade with those who happen to pass through that region.

In this plain, from Aswān to ʿAdhdhāb and further on to Ra’s al-Maldam there are elephants and giraffes found. To the west of Aswān lies the island of Bilāq surrounded by the Nile; on it there is a town with a mosque and Muslim townsmen from the country of Miṣr and from Aswān. This island is situated in a place called the cataracts (al-Janādil). (Ar.Ist. II, pp. 167 - 168; MC fol. 730 v.).

  1. All the Arab writers mention "al-Qaṣr" as the first Nubian locality. Probably "Sūrī" is a misreading for "al-Qasr".
  2. "Adhdhāb" is consistently found in the printed editions of Al-Bakri instead of ʿAydhāb.
  3. A misreading for the Arabic script of "ar-rudaynī".