Al-Harrani

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[pp. 445-449]

AL-ḤARRĀNĪ

(about 1295 A.D.)

Najm ad-dīn Aḥmad b. Hamdān b. Sabith al- Ḥarrānī al-Hanbaīi. An Egyptian ophthalmologist and poet.

Brockelmann 1, 512; 2, 130

Jamī’ al-'ulūm wa sulwān al-mahzūn (The Collection of All Arts and the Consolation of the Sad)

MS: Gotha, herzogliche Bibl., MS ar. 1513.

T.: MC 1125-1127 (Excerpts) A: 1


[p. 446] Now, let us turn to the countries lying towards the south,<ref>South of the Maghrib.</ref> where the sūdān peoples dwell.<ref>Several countries are mentioned, which lie outside the area of our concern.</ref>

... The land of Kuwār is well known and visited [by travellers]. There is a mine of white alum (ash-shibb al-abyad), called "kuwārī". One of the important towns of this country is Yalamlama, situated on a low mountain... Nikias is the largest town of Kuwār<ref>See: Idrīsī n. 15.</ref> and their most active commercial centre... Tatrū was an ancient, great town, but now only a few ruins of it and remains of pal-trees can be seen. To the east there is a mountain difficult to climb, with a great lake at its feet... The territory of Kuwār<ref>See: Idrīsī n. 15.</ref> adjoins, on the east, the territory of the Oases (al-Wāhāt).

... The land of Qamnūriyya lies north of Maghrāra and faces the Sea of Darkness (al-baḥr al-muẓlim). East of it [Qamnūriyya] there extends a desert called Nīsar... It is crossed by the Maghribī traders on their way to Ghāna<ref>Cf. al-Ya’qūbi (q.v.) n. 2.</ref> and to Wanqāra. In the past, there were many towns in this country, all belonging to the sūdān; but time has effaced them. Between the country of Qamnūriyya and Takrūr and Sīla there are routes little known and little frequented. In this country there is the Qābān Mountain, which extends to the ocean coast. It is said that the clouds pass below its summit. At the foot of this mountain there are sources of good drinking water.

... The land of the Zaghāwa belongs to a great town situated on the bank of the Nile adjoining the country of the Nūba... In this territory there is a mountain called Lūbiya, very difficult to climb. It is said that the Kūkū River rises from this mountain. One of the [p. 447] famous towns was Qalīliyya, once a very great town, today, in ruins; the wind-blown sand has buried it and dried its water supplies. Within [the territory of] this town there is a mountain called Gharghara.

... The territory of Fazzān, which is neither small nor large, belongs to the land of Zaghāwa. One of its towns is Ghadāmas, a large town; ... another is Dārqāra, a large beautiful town. Near it there is a mountain called Jirjīs, with a silver mine from which the natives earn their living. They also own pasture lands situated on a mountain called Ṭanṭana, where they move during the summer, because fresh water gushes plentifully from springs in that land. The iron mine which is found nearby, makes another source of revenue for them. Thence one goes to the land of Baghāma, twenty days' distance across a sheer, uninhabited desert.

... The land of Kanem (al-Kānam) is a vast country stretching along the Nile (ʿalā shāṭī an-nīl). The population is Moslem except in some of the outer districts.

... The land of the Tājūwīn is a vast territory contiguous to the west frontier of the Nūba. This land is a flat desert plain, but it is rich with water and palm-trees. It is not inhabited because it is always invaded by the sand which is blown as far as Sījilmāsa.

The country of the Nūba is a vast country, as much as three months' journey in extent, lying beyond the frontier of Egypt. The [Egyptian] army often wages war against them. There is also a silver mine. The inhabitants are Christians and their king is powerful and has a great army.

This people is divided into two groups; one is called 'Alwa, and their capital is called Waylūla, which is a very large town. There one finds innumerable peoples [p. 448] of all races of sūdān. The other group is called Nūba, and their capital is Dunqula. This town, like Waylūla, is built on the west bank of the Nile. The population is reckoned as the finest of all the sūdān races, in figure and features. In their country there are elephants, giraffes and gazelles. One of the most famous towns of the Nūba is Nuwābiya, also called Nūba, a town of average size, four days distant from the Nile. Its inhabitants draw water from wells. Then there is Tarmī, a very large town sitting at the confluence of the waters of the Nile... and, lastly, Ablāq,<ref>Cf. Idrīsī, n. 14.</ref> a great town which is a meeting place of the traders from the Nūba and the Ḥabasha. From Ablāq to the mountains of al-Janādil it is six days' journey; it is at this place that the boats coming from Egypt and from Nubia end their navigation.

... The country of the Ḥabasha lies opposite al-Hijāz on the other coast of the sea. The majority of the population are Christians. This country, which is situated southeast of the Nūba, extends far and wide... One of the greatest and best known towns is Ka'bar,<ref>Probably identifiable with Aksum.</ref> which is the royal town of the Najāshī... Zayla', a town on the coast of the Red Sea, is a very populous commercial centre. The inhabitants draw their water from wells. There is a mine of silver and mercury (zībaq), but gold is very scarce... Then there is the town of Bujāma, on a river, near a mountain called Mūris, rich with minerals from which the natives earn their livelihood. Opposite al-Yaman there is also a big town, which is the sea-port from which the Ḥabasha crossed the sea to al-Yaman, and nearby there is the island of 'Aql.

[p. 449] ... The land of Zayla' is contiguous to the Ḥabasha on the north. It is situated between the Ḥabasha, the Nūba, and the land of Upper Egypt, between the Nile and the Red Sea. The natives are of a very dark complexion and are pagans. In their country there are several kingdoms (mamālik); the people are kind to the merchants. In this country there is a gold mine, but there are neither villages, nor cultivations; it is only a desert plain which the traders cross on their way to Wādī al-'Allāqī. One of their well-known towns is ‘Aydhāb. The desert that stretches behind this town is all fine, wind-blown sand, with no marked route; one can get orientation only from the mountains.

... 'Aydhāb is a beautiful town and a meeting place for traders.

... Between the land of the Buja and the Nūba there dwell a people called Balliyūn, a race of bold warriors; all their neighbours fear them and seek their alliance. They are dissident Christians (nasārā khawārij), who follow the confession of the Jacobites (madhhab al-ya'qūbiyya).<ref>Other Sūdān peoples mentioned by al-Ḥarrānī are the Barbara, who dwell opposite al-Yaman, and the Zanj of the East African coast.</ref>

... The country of the Damādim lies along the Nile above the country of the Zanj. It is densely populated. The sūdān always go on raids to this country, killing and plundering. The Damādim do not care about their religions (adyāni-him). In their country there are many giraffes. It is in this country that the Nile bifurcates, one branch flowing to Egypt, and the other towards the Zanj country. (MS Gotha, fols. 30 v - 31 v; MC 1126 v - 1127 r).

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