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[pp. 264-284]


(before 1170 A.D.)

Abū 'Abdalla Muḥ. b. Muḥ. 'Abdalla b. Idrīs al-Hammūdi al-Habanī ash-Sharīf. The most famous Arab geographer in the Middle Ages is born in Ceuta; he lived in Sicily at the Court of King Roger II. All his biographical data, however, are of doubtful authenticity, especially whether he was the author or only the editor of the famous geographical work attributed to him.<ref>G. Oman, Notizie bibliografiche sul geografo arabo al-Idrīsi (XII secolo) e sulle sue opera, Annali dell’ Ist.Univ.Or. di Napoli (aiuon), N.S. XI, 1961, pp. 25-61; Addenda alle notizie, Aiuon, N.S. XII, 1962, pp. 93-94; Addenda II alle notizie, Aiuon, N.S. XIX, 1969, pp. 101-103; Addenda III alle notizie, Aiuon, N.S. XIX, 1969, pp. 45-55; Osservazioni sulle notizie biografiche comunemente diffuse sullo scrittore al-Idrisi (VI/XII sec.), Aiuon, N.S. XX, 1970, pp. 209-238. I express my gratitude to Dr. Oman for his personal communication and literature supplied on this matter.</ref>

EI (s.v.)

Nuzhat al-mushtāq fī-'khtirāq al-āfāq

Ed.: (partly) P. Dozy-de Goeje (Africa and Spain). Leiden 1366. Al-Idrisi, Opus Geographicum (critical edition), Rome - Naples 1970-71.

Exc.: MC fols. 827 - 845 (from MSS and de Goeje).

French transl.: P.A. Jaubert, Géographie d'Edrisi traduite de l'arabe en francais d’apres deux manuscrits de la Bibl. du Roi et accompagnée de notes, 2 vols., Paris 1836-1340.

T. : ed. Rome-Naples A:0

First Climate

Section 3

[Towns in the Nūbah Land]<ref>Idrīsī’s information is derived partly from Ptolemy, and partly from Middle Age travellers. The latter is very obscure (Conti Rossini, Storia d’Et., p. 324). No vowelling of place-names was notated in the Arabic original, which itself was based on the presumably unreliable pronunciation of the oral sources. Most of the vowels used here are those tentatively read by Dozy-de Goeje. (Description de l’Afrique, Leiden 1866). Monneret de Villard tentatively discussed the identification of some of Idrīsī’s toponyms in Storia della Nubia Christiana, pp. 199-206 and Map IV. As Idrīsī often mentioned water points in connection with towns, the Michelin Route Map of N-E Africa – where many water points are shown – may be of some help for research work in the identification of place-names. The distance between one place and another, expressed in days, is no safe guide to their identification.</ref>

From Tamalmah<ref>Monneret, Storia, p. 202 presumably identified it with Bilmā’. A most useful, richly illustrated article on Bilmā’ (in Mali) where also the traditional trans-Saharan salt trade is described: “Azalai, sulle vie del sale” is found in Atlante, Nov. 1973, pp. 82-85.</ref> to the town of Mānān<ref>Unidentified. Monneret, Storia, p. 204.</ref> (Māthān, Mānān, Māmān) in the country of Kānim (Kanem) takes twelve [p. 265] days. Mānān is a small town, no products are manufactured there; the people have only a little commerce, camels and goats.

From the town of Anjīmī,<ref>“Ngigmi”. Monneret, Storia, p. 203.</ref> (Njīmī, ... jīmī) takes eight days. This town, too, belongs to Kanem. Anjīmī is a very small town, and has a small number of inhabitants who are poor, wretched people. (The Anjīmī) on their eastern side, border on the Nūbah. Between Anjīmī and the Nile there is a distance of three days southwards. Their drinking water is drawn from wells.

[p. 266] From Anjīmī to the town of Zaghāwa requires six days. The town of Zaghāwa is the capital of many districts (kuwar) and has a large population; around it there are many Zaghāwa (az-zaghāwiyyīn) [who are] camel-breeders. They have little commerce and industry, but do shape handicraft for their own use. Their drinking water is drawn from wells, their food consists of millet (dhurrah), dried camel-meat and fish; game and dairy products are plentiful among them. Their dress is made of tanned hides. They are among the Blacks (Sūdān) those who live the hardest life (jarb) [an alternative reading: ḥarb = are the most warlike].

The town of Zaghāwa is eight days distant from Mānān. Mānān is the residence of the prince (amīr) and his agent (ʿāmil); the majority of his men go naked and are bowmen.

The town of Mānān is thirteen days distant from Tājuwah (Tājirah)<ref>“Bir Natrūn”. Monneret, ibid.</ref> : this is the capital of the country of the Tājuwīn (Tājirīn), who are pagans (majūs), without any [revealed] beliefs. Their land borders on the Nūbah country. In their land there is a small town called Samnah.<ref>“Uweinat”. Monneret, ibid.</ref> Some travellers who journey to the towns of Kawār<ref>Cf. Monneret, Storia, p. 202.</ref> report that the Lord of Bilāq<ref>Cf. Id., pp. 155-199.</ref> went to Samnah and settled there [as] a prince (amīr) [acting] on behalf of the king of the Nūbah: he burnt and destroyed the town and scattered the population far around so that it is now a town in ruins. The distance between Tājuwah and Samnah is six days.

From Tājuwah to Nuwābah it is eighteen days' journey. The Nūbah are named after this town. It is a small town, but its inhabitants are rich. They wear tanned skins and [p. 267] loin-cloth (izār). Thence to the Nile there are four days. They drink water from wells, eat millet (dhurrah) and barley; dates are imported by them, but dairy products are plentiful.

[The "Nubian" Women]

Their women are extremely beautiful and circumcised. They are of good stock, which is by no means negro stock. All over [the country of] the Nūbah the women are of perfect beauty. They have thin lips, small mouths, white teeth, hair which is short and not curly. Nowhere among the Blacks (as-Sūdān) is such hair found as the Nubian women possess; neither is it found among the Magāzirah nor in Ghāna (al-ghāniyyīn), nor in Kanem (al-kānimiyyīn), nor among the Beja (al-bujah), nor the Ḥabashah, nor the Zanj. Besides, no woman is found preferable to them for marriage. Today the price of a female slave from this country rises to 300 dīnār or about this amount. On account of these qualities the kings of Egypt seek to have them; they buy them at very high prices in order to make them the mothers of their children, enraptured as they are by the bliss of their embraces and by their unrivalled beauty.

It is said that the Andalusian Vizier Abul-Ḥasan al-uṣḥafī had one of these Nubian women; she was a woman like of whom his eyes had never seen considering all her features: her waist, cheeks, graceful smile, gentle eyelids, in brief, a perfect beauty. This Vizier desired her so eagerly that he would almost never leave. He had paid 250 almoravid dīnārs for her. Besides all her beauty, this girl spoke so gently that those who listened to her were enraptured by her pure pronunciation and her sweet accent. She had been reared in Egypt, and had become perfect from all points of view.

[p. 268] From the town of Nuwabiya to Kushan<ref>Unidentifiable according to Monneret, Storia, pp. 154-155; 220.</ref> it requires an 8 short days' journey. (ibid., pp. 29 - 31).

Section 4


This fourth section of the First Climate includes the country of the Nūbah and part of the country of the Ḥabashah the remainder of the southern part of the territory of the Tājuwīn (Tājirīn) and a part of the Inner Oases (bilād al-wāhāt ad-dākhilah). In the country of the Nūbah the best known places and the most famous towns (qawā’id) are: Kūshah (kūsah, Ku’ah), ʿAlwah, (Ghulwah, ʿUlwah), Dunqulah, Bilāq (Yalāq), Sūbah (Sūlah, Shūlah); in the land of the Ḥabashah: Markaṭah (Mukazah, Markazah) and an-Najāghah: in the territory of the Inner Oases and in the upper districts (diyār) of Egypt; the towns of Aswān, Edfu and ar-Rudaynī.

[The Nile]

Within this section the two Niles divide, viz. the Nile of Egypt, which traverses her land and flows from South to North; most of the towns of Egypt are situated on either bank of this river and also on its islands.

The other branch (qism) of the Nile flows from the East to the extreme West; along this branch of the Nile lie all the countries of the Sūdān or the majority of them. Both of these branches have their origin from Jabal al-Qamar, which begins sixteen degrees beyond the equator.

[The Nile Source]

The Nile has its origin on this mountain, from ten streams, (anhār) five of which flow and unite in a big [p. 269] lake (buṭaiḥah), the other five flow down the mountain into another lake. From each of these two lakes start three rivers (anhār), all of which enter a very big lake. On its banks lies a town called Tarma [other readings: Tarsha, Tarfa, Turma] which is a populous town; around it rice is cultivated. On the shore of the said lake there is an idol with [its] hands raised to its breast, called Masakh (Musikh); it is said that he was transformed into a statue because he was an evil man.

In this lake there is a fish, the head of which has a bill and so it resembles the head of a bird. There are also dreadful animals. This lake lies beyond the equator but close to it. In the lower part of it, where the [six] rivers begin, one very near the other, there rises a mountain which protrudes into the greater part of the lake toward northwest. Near this mountain [on its western side] an arm (dhiraʿ) of the Nile flows out westward: this is the Nile of the Land of the Blacks (bilād as-Sūdān): most of their countries lie along its banks. On the eastern side of this mountain flows the other arm, which also goes in a northern direction, traversing the land of the Nūbah and the land of Egypt, and in the lower part of Egypt branches off into four streams (aqsām) three of which end in the Mediterranean Sea (al-baḥr ash-shāmī), while one stream enters the Salt Lake (al-buḥayrah al-malḥa) which ends near Alexandria. Between this lake and Alexandria there are six miles, so that it is not connected with the Mediterranean Sea, but it is formed [only] by the Nile flood extending a little along the seashore: we shall deal with it fully at its proper place, if God pleases.

From Jabal al-Qamar at the head of the ten streams down to the lakes, going northward until the beginning of the lakes, the distance is ten days, and the distance bet-[p. 270]-ween the two lakes in the east-west direction, is six days. In this country, here above described, there are three mountains, from East to West. The first is next to Jabal al-Qamar and is called by the Egyptian priests the Mount of the Temples of Images (Jabal haykal as-Suwar); the second, which comes next on the northern side, is called [by the priests] the Mountain of Gold (Jabal adh-dhahab), because there are gold mines in it; the third mountain, which is near the second, together with the land around it, is called Land of the Serpents (Ard al-ḥayyāt) , because the natives claim that there are big snakes, the sight of which causes death. In the mountain and land just mentioned, there sure scorpions as big as sparrows, black in colour, which cause instant death: this is what is told by the author of the Book of Marvels (Kitāb al-‘Ajā’ib).<ref>Ḥassān ibn al-Mundhir.</ref> In the Book of the Treasury (Kitāb al- khizānah) by Qodāmah it is written that the course of the Nile, from its source to its mouth in the Mediterranean Sea (al-baḥr ash-shāmī), is 5634 miles, and its width in the Nūbah country is one mile, according to what the author of "The Book of Marvels" told - while in Egypt the width is one-third of a mile.

[The Fauna of the Nile]<ref>Idrīsī depended on Ptolemy for his description of the Nile fauna.</ref>

In the small lakes and downstream from them, there is the crocodile (ṭimsāh); also there is a fish (hūt) called khanzīr [pig], which has a [kind of] trunk (khurṭum) bigger than that of the buffalo (al-jāmūs): it goes out on to the land near the Nile and eats vegetables (az-zarʿ), then returns to the river. In the aforementioned Nile there is: (1). a round fish, with a red tail, called lash, [p. 271] which is rarely seen: it is fleshy and of excellent flavour; (2). a fish called al-abarmīs (al-abramīs; abrāmis), which is white, round, with a red tail; it is said that it is the king of fish, of excellent meat flavour, and is eaten raw or salted, but it is small, about one palm in length and about the half of it in width; (3). the rāī (salmon) which is a big fish of red colour, some of which are large and others small: the big ones may weigh up to three pounds; it has a good flavour near that of the abarmīs; (4). a fish called al-bunnī (carp) large and of wonderful flavour; one of them may weigh five pounds or even ten; (5). a fish called bulṭī, a round fish of the kind of the ʿafar of the lake of Tiberias: it has little thorn and is tasty; some samples can weigh up to five pounds; (6). a fish called lutis, which the Egyptian natives call farkh (perca nilotica): it tastes excellent and has fat, some rare samples may weigh up to a quintal (qintār, 45 kg) or more or less; (7). the lābīs, very good to eat, very appetizing; when cooked it does not keep the flavour of fish; it is prepared to make a variety of dishes in the same way as meat: its flesh is firm; it is found in big and small sizes, some samples up to ten pounds: all these kinds of fish have scales. There are some [kinds of] fish" without scales, among which:(8). one called samūs which has a big head, is very fat, and can weigh up to a quintal (qintār) more or less; its meat is sold cut into pieces; (9). a fish called nīnāriyāt, which may be classified among the long fish; it has a long mouth in the shape of the bill of a bird; (10). there is also a fish called umm’ubaid, which has [something like] menstrual discharges and has no scales; (11). the halbuwah (jalbirah,jalizah) without scales, which may reach in weight about a pound and is venomous; (12). also a fish similar in shape to snakes, which is called inkalīs and is [p. 272] venomous; (13). a fish with black back, long whiskers, big head and a thin tail, called jirrī; (14). a round fish with rough skin called qāfū: women make use of it to card flax fibres; (15). also a fish known as ra'adah (torpedo); it is of a spheric form, with a rough poisonous skin; if a man touches it he receives a shock; this property remains in this fish so long as it is alive, but once it is dead it is like any other fish; (16) the water-dogs (kilāb al-maʾ) which resemble dogs and are of various colours; (17). the water-horse (faras al-māʾ) which looks like a horse in shape, but is smaller and has hoofs similar to the feet of a duck, capable of contracting them when raised and of expanding them when laid down; it has a long tail; (18). there is also siqanqūr<ref>Most probably the Varanus Niloticus.</ref> which is a kind of crocodile; it is different in shape from the fish because of its two hands and two legs, and is different also in shape from the crocodile because its tail is smooth and round while the tail of - the crocodile is plain-sided. Its fat is used as an aphrodisiac and its salt is also utilized like salt for preservation. Nowhere is the siqanqūr found except in the Nile as far downstream as Aswān. The crocodile, too, is found only in the Nile of Egypt. It has a big head, the length of which is half the total length of the body; its tail is covered with scales. It has such teeth that whenever it catches any wild animal or a man with them, it drags his prey into the water. It is an amphibious animal because it comes out to the banks and sits there in day-time and creeps on its hands and legs during the night and causes little harm on the shore, but it causes much harm when it is in the water. God, however, has placed against it another creature in the Nile, called lashk (ichneumon), which pursues it and observes when it [p. 273] opens its mouth: as soon as the crocodile opens the mouth, the lashk jumps into it and penetrates into the throat and goes on eating the liver and intestines until it causes its death. There is also a fish which passes from the Salt (Mediterranean) Sea into the Nile: it is called būrī (‘grey mullet'; Fr. mulet; "Mugil Cephalus"), beautifully coloured and with an excellent flavour like the rāī (salmon): it can weigh two or three pounds; another fish passing from the Sea into the Nile is called shabīl, as long as a cubit or little more, sweet to the taste, its meat is good and fat; a third one is a kind of fish called shabbūt, (goby "Gobius”) similar to the shabīl, but smaller, as long as a span. Also many other kinds of fish pass from the sea into the river. In the lower course of the Nile, near Rosetta and Fuwah there is a kind of fish with a shell: it is generated at the mouth of the Nile where the sweet water mixes with the salty water. This shell is called dalīnas (oyster?): it is a small shell with a little lump of flesh, on which there is a black spot which is the head. The inhabitants of Rosetta salt it and ship to all the country of Egypt.

About the Nile, more details and marvels can be reported, but we shall mention what we can in its proper place in this book, with the help of God. (ibid., pp. 34 - 37).

[The Nūbah]

As for the country of the Nūbah whom we have mentioned above, one of their towns, in the interior part, is Kūshah, a six days' journey from Nūwabah. This town, which lies not far from the Nile, is situated beyond the equator; it is neither densely populated nor very active in commerce: its land is extremely dry. Drinking water is drawn from sources which discharge into the Nile. It [p. 274] is subject to the king of the Nūbah, who is called Kāsil (Kāmil), a name which is inherited among the kings of the Nūbah. The chief town and royal residence is Dunqulah. This town lies on the west bank of the Nile; its inhabitants drink the water of the Nile: they all belong to the race of the Blacks (Sūdān), but are the finest of all the Blacks, both for the comeliness of their countenance and the perfection of their bodies. They live on barley and millet (dhurrah); dates are imported to them from the neighbouring countries; they make use of a drink called "mizr" which is made from millet, they eat camel-meat, either fresh or sun-dried, which they grind and boil in camel's milk. Fish is plentiful in their country; there are also giraffe, elephant and gazelle.

In the country of the Nūbah there is also the town of ʿAlwah on the bank of the Nile, lower than the town of Dunqulah, at six days' distance by boat. The population of this town (ʿAlwah) drink the water of the Nile. On its bank they grow barley, millet and other vegetables such as rape (saljam: Brassica Campestris Oleifera), onion, horse-radish, cucumber and watermelon. The general of ʿAlwah, its buildings, the habits of the people and its trade are similar to those of Dunqulah. The people of ʿAlwah journey to Egypt: between ʿAlwah and Bilāq the distance is, overland, ten days, and less than that by river downstream. The total length of Nubia, along the Nile, is a little more than two months. The people of ʿAlwah and ""Dunqulāh"" also travel by boats descending the Nile as far as the town of Bilāq on the Nile.

Bilāq<ref>Phonetically, it should be identified with the Coptic Peilak (Pilak), Philae Island. Also the total lack of rains and the fact that “Bilāq” is the terminal of navigation of the Nile boats coming from Nubia and Egypt, support this identification. But Idrīsī’s description of the town of Bilāq set between the Nile and the other “river coming from Ethiopia” suggests a town situated at the Junction of the Atbara River with the Nile. Monneret (Storia, p. 233) admits the existence of two towns of this name, the one identified with Philae, the other an unidentified town in the kingdom of ‘Alwa. An alternative reading of the latter is Yalāq (according to the reading of the diacritic dots in the Arabic script). Some ancient cartographers placed Yalāq at the Nile-Atbara junction. </ref> is a town of the Nūbah situated between two arms (dhira’ayn) of the Nile. The inhabitants of this [p. 275] town have permanent houses and good resources; wheat is usually imported to them, but barley and millet are plentiful in their country. It is in this town of Bilāq that the merchants from the Nūbah and the Ḥabashah gather; those from Egypt also come here, when there is peace between them. The dress of the population consists of a waist wrapper (izār) and mantles (ma'āzir, "veils"). Their land is watered by the Nile and by that river which comes from the country of the Ḥabashah, which is quite large and discharges into the Nile near the town of Bilāq, in the same arm (dhirāʿ) which surrounds the island. On the bank of this river there are fields cultivated by the Ḥabashah and many of their towns, which we shall describe below. No rain falls at Bilāq, nor is there any over all the country of the Blacks (Sūdān) such as the Nūbah, the Ḥabashah, the Kanim (al-kānimiyyīn), Zaghāwa (az-zaghāwiyyīn) and others. The peoples of these countries have received from Allah no other gift or resource than the Nile flood which enables them to cultivate their lands. The food of the inhabitants of Bilāq consists of millet (dhurrah), dairy products, fish and vegetables, which are plentiful among them.

From the town of Bilāq to the mountain of the Cataracts (jabal al-janādil) it is overland six days' journey, and four days by boat descending the Nile. At the mountain of the Cataracts the boats of the Blacks end their navigation downstream, and thence sail back because [p. 276] they cannot proceed to the town of Miṣr. The cause of this impediment is that God created this mountain and made it sloping gently on the side of the Blacks, but very high and steep on the other side looking towards Egypt. The Nile flows on both sides and drops from this mountain through a frightening cataract, through boulders and rocks. When the boats of the Nubians (an-nūbiyyīn) and other Sūdān arrive at this point of the Nile, they cannot pass through because of the extreme danger. The merchants then unload the boats of their contents and load them on camels and go overland to Aswān. From this mountain to Aswān the distance is about 12 days' journey by camel. This town of Aswān is one of the frontier post (thughūr) on the borders with the Nūbah, the people who are for most of the time at peace with their neighbours. The boats from Egypt do not sail up the Nile beyond Aswān, which is the end of the Upper Sa’īd.

[Aswan] is a small town, but very populated, rich in wheat and other cereals, fruits, watermelon (dullaʾ) and other vegetables; there is plenty of meat of cattle, lamb, goats and sheep and other excellent meats, fat and tasty, all low priced. There are also [depots for] the goods bound for Nubia. The country around is sometimes exposed to raids by [a branch of] Sūdān horsemen known as Balliyyīn.

[The Beja Country and the Western Oases]

Some people say that these Balliyyīn are Rūm and that they have followed the Christian religion since the time of the Copts, before the rise of Islam, except that they are heterodox and follow the Jacobite sect. They roam over the country lying between the country of the Beja (bujah) and that of the Ḥabashah and also come into the land of the Nūbah: they are nomads without any permanent [p. 277] home, like the Lamtūnah of the desert, who live in the extreme Maghrib.

No moslem country is adjoining the town of Aswān on the eastern side except Jabal al-'Allāqī, which is a mountain, the lower part of which consists of a dry wādī, where no water flows; but, if one digs in its bed, water is found at a shallow depth, gushing out abundantly. On this mountain there is the gold and silver mine, where scores of men searching for these metals (ma’ādin) gather. Near Aswān, on the southern side of the Nile, there is a mountain, on the foot of which there is the emerald mine, in a desert region fair from any village. Nowhere in the world is emerald found except in this mine. Many people are searching for this mineral (ma'dan). Emerald is mined here and is exported to all the other countries. As for the gold mine, it is situated at about 15 days' distance from Aswan in a northeast direction and lies within the Beja (bujah) territory.

On the western side of Aswān there is no: other country except the Oases, which are now quite uninhabited, but in the past they were inhabited. Water springs from its soil. There are no trees, [but only] ruined, uninhabited villages. Also in the region behind them, up to the territory (diyār) of Kawār and Kūkū,<ref>Monneret identified Kūkū (Kawkar) with Kūka (Kukawa) in the Chad territory. Kawār (Kouwar) is the region 100 miles north of the Lake Chad.</ref> the lands are devoid of palm oases (jazā'ir nakhl) and ruins of buildings. Al-Ḥawqal said that up to the present time there are found flocks of sheep and goats, but they turned wild and flee from man and can [only] be caught by hunters in the same way as the other wild game is hunted. The greatest part of the Oases territory is [adjoining] the territory of Egypt and remains of villages are found there: we shall mention them below.

[p. 278] From the town of Bilāq to the town of Markaṭah<ref>A town in the upper valley of the Atbara River.</ref> there are thirty days. This is a small, unwalled town, but densely populated, with permanent houses. The population grow barley and make their living from it; they have fish and dairy products in abundance. To this town go the traders of the town of Zāligh<ref>Zaylaʿ</ref>, which lies on the shore of the Red Sea (bahr al-qulzum). We shall mention these countries in due course. (pp. 36 - 41).

Section 5

[The Atbara River]

This fifth section of the First Climate includes the majority of the lands of the Ḥabashah and the whole of their country. The greatest of all their towns is Junbaitah<ref>Junbayta (in other MSS: Hunbīta, Janbīta, Janbiyya) is described by several Arab writers as an important and populous, royal town in the country of the Ḥabasha. Perhaps this name comes from the Ethiopic “jan-biet” (the king’s residence), Conti Rossini, Storia d’Etiopia, p. 324.</ref>, a town with permanent dwellings (mutahaḍḍirah) although built in a desert plain far from villages (ʿimārāt) [both its villages (ʿimārāt) and deserts (bawādī] border on the [river] tributary of the Nile, which flows through the country of the Ḥabashah and has on its banks the town of Markaṭah and the town of Najāghah. This river has its source beyond the equator on the extreme border of the inhabited earth to the south; then it flows northwest until it reaches the country of the Nūbah and there discharges into that branch of the Nile which surrounds the town of Bilāq, as we have already mentioned. It is a very large river, with much water, but a slow stream. Along it there are villages of the Ḥabashah. Some travellers wrongly assumed that this river [p. 279] is the Nile, because they noticed here what they saw on the Nile at its mouth, and that the decrease of its flood occurs at the same time as that of the Nile; for this reason most people formed a wrong opinion about it. But this is not the truth:<ref>Here there is clearly a misunderstanding: the travellers who observed and reported both the Atbara and the Nile rising in the same season were right, but they probably mistook the Atbara River for the Nile, because the Atbara River is a tributary of the Nile. Idrīsī on the contrary, considering that the “Nile of Egypt” was the only river which flows northwards from the “Mountain of the Moon” would not admit that the Atbara River, flowing down from Ethiopia in a N-W direction, might also be called Nile and be confused with it.</ref> so much so that they did not make any difference between this river and the Nile, [as they failed] to take into account the properties which we have mentioned above. A further proof of what we said, i.e. that this river is not the Nile, is what was written in the books of this science and what the scientists have said about this river, its source, its course and its mouth discharging into the branch of the Nile at the town of Bilāq. Ptolemy Claudius (Baṭlimyūs al-Iqlawdī) in his "Geography" mentioned it, as did also Ḥassān b. al-Mundhir in his Kitāb al-ajā'ib when mentioning the rivers, their sources and their places. This is something on which the man of high understanding has no doubt, nor does any scientist ignore if he looks in the books for this matter. The people who live in the deserts of the Ḥabashah grow on the banks of this river most of their foodstuffs, on which they live, namely dhurra (sorghum vulgare) and dukhn (pennisetum typhoideum), kidney beans (lubyah) and lentils. It is a very large river which cannot be crossed except by boat; along it there are many villages and [cultivated] fields belonging to the Ḥabashah it is from these villages that food supplies are transported to Junbaiytah, Qalyūn,<ref>Qaljūn: the same as Ibn Sa’īd al-Andalusī’s “Qaljūr” and “Kalghur”. (Conti Rossini, Storia, p. 324-328).</ref> Batā and the other villages in the desert. (pp. 42 - 43).

[p. 280] Second Climate

Section 4

[The Kharga Oasis]

This fourth Section of the Second Climate includes the remainder of the Kharga Oases (al-wāḥat al-khārijah) in that part which is adjoining to the land of the Tājuwīn<ref>Probably to be identified with today’s Daju (Tajo) of Darfur (Sudan).</ref> to the south, and the greatest part of Jifār and Bahrain, returning back through the land of Santariyyah [the Siwa Oasis], which we have previously mentioned, then passing through the areas occupied by the Banī Hilāl and descending by way of the side of the mountain known as Jabal al-Jālūt al-Barbarī. The eastern part of this section includes the greatest part of Egypt, which stretches along the Nile, a river which reaches this country flowing from the upper parts of the Nūba country.

The territory of the Kharga Oasis is at present an uninhabited desert, although water is found there. In the past it was inhabited and all covered with palm trees and [various types of] cultivations. In those olden days, travellers passed through this oasis on their way to the town of Ghāna<ref>See: Al-Ya’qūbī (q.v.) note 2.</ref>, following tracks which were then in use and water points which were well known; but today these tracks are abandoned and effaced. In the Kharga Oasis there are wild sheep and cows, as we have mentioned above. Between the Oasis and the frontier of the Nūbah, there is a three days' journey across uninhabited desert. In the Kharga Oasis there is the Jabal ʿAlsānī, a very high mountain, the width of which at the foot is the same as that at the top. In this mountain there is the mine of lapis lazuli (hajar al-lazurd), which [p. 281] is taken to Miṣr for cutting... The town of Santariyyah is small... Santariyyah is the point of departure for those travellers who go to the country of Kawar<ref>The remainder of Section 4 of the Second Climate deals with the Egyptian towns.</ref> and other countries of the Blacks (Sūdān). (pp. 121 – 122).

Section 5

['Aydhāb and the Royalties on the Passage of Pilgrims]

The fifth Section of the Climate includes parts of the countries lying on the coast of the Red Sea (Qulzum), such as the town of ʿAydhāb (ʿAdhdhāb) and the adjoining desert which is also called after it. In this desert there is no permanent road, one must direct one's way using [the position of] the mountains and the fixed stars, because all this desert consists of drifting sand and uninhabited plains. Sometimes even an experienced guide may lose his way, therefore he seeks guidance from the stars and the course of the sun from east to west ... (p. 132).

In the upper part of this section there are the plains of ʿAydhāb. They form an uninterrupted desert without inhabitants, if one makes exception of some nomad Beja (bujah), who live there for a short period [of the year] because of the extreme scarcity of water in these surroundings. Travellers can cross this desert from Qos to ʿAydhāb in 20 days, or, sometimes, in less than that. In this desert there is the source called Jubb Hamīrah. A very wonderful thing about this source is that its water is not digested in the natural way by the one who drinks it, i.e. it does not stay in the stomach, but as soon as one drinks it, it is released at once without delay, from the lower orifice of the body.

[p. 282] This desert cannot be crossed when the heat reaches its extreme intensity and the midsummer hot wind (simūm) blows, because water dries up, the wind is very dry and the ground burns so fiercely as to kill the travellers; therefore travellers cross it at the end of autumn.

In the upper part of this desert, on the sea coast, lies the town of ʿAydhāb, whose native inhabitants are black in colour. They draw their water from wells. The town is not large nor densely populated. It is from here that one sails to cross the Sea to Jedda (Juddah), the width of the sea being one day's and one night’s sail. The town of 'Aydhāb is the official residence of the agent (ʿāmil) of the Beja chieftain (ra'īs al-bujah), as well as of the agent (ʿāmil) of the king of Egypt (malik Miṣr), who divide between them, in equal parts, the customs dues received. The agent of the Lord of Egypt (sāḥib Miṣr) is responsible for providing the food supplies for ʿAydhāb; and the Beja chieftain must protect the town against the Ḥabashah. The chieftain who has [official] residence in 'Aydhāb on behalf of the king of the Beja (malik al-bujah) usually lives in the desert and only very rarely in the town. The inhabitants of ‘Aydhāb visit all the districts of the Beja country for commerce; from there they bring butter, honey and milk. In the town there are also small boats with which the people catch a great quantity of fish of excellent flavour.

It is in this town that in our days a tax is levied on all Moslem pilgrims who come from the country of the Maghrib.<ref>From this passage, one may gather that Nuzhat was written before the year 1172-74 A.D., i.e. before Saladin abolished this tax. Cf. Ibn Jubayr (q.v.).</ref> This tax amounts to eight dinars (danānīr) per head, [payable] in gold of any kind, whether melted [p. 283] or in pieces or coins. No pilgrim from the Maghrib can sail to Jedda without producing the certificate of payment [maks]. Whenever the captain (rabbānī) of the ship admits any one to a passage across the Red Sea without having first ascertained that the payment has been made, he himself must pay for him. Therefore, nobody can cross from 'Aydhāb to Jedda, unless he produces the certificate of payment.

After the ship has crossed the sea and God has helped them to arrive safely at Jedda, it moors in the bay. Then specially trusted employees (ath-thiqāt) of the Governor of Jedda (wālī Juddah) come on board and take note of all that is aboard subject to customs duty and record it all in their registers, then they leave the ship and all the passengers leave together; they are notified what amount of customs duty (al-mukūs) they have to pay. If they find a man who has not the certificate of payment (maks), the captain of the ship who gave him the passage is obliged to pay for him; sometimes the pilgrim is put in jail until the season of the pilgrimage is over; sometimes God inspires someone else to have him released by paying the tax (maks) which, in this case, is taken by the Hashemite Lord of Mecca to spend on his guards, as his resources are rather poor and his revenues do not cover his personal expenses.

This sea which comes into this section, is difficult to cross and has many shoals and prominent reefs; there are also many small islands which are uninhabited in winter time; but when the sea is in full tide with water and rises, in the season of the voyages, there are some people of dark brown colour, who come with small boats to live on these islands; they catch a great quantity of fish which they dry in the sun, then grind to powder and bake it: this is their only food for most of the time. [p. 284] The reason why they come to these islands is to catch fish and to dive for small pearls<ref>This is the earliest mention of the pearl fishing in the Red Sea.</ref> and also catch sea-turtles which carry a shell on their back; these shells are plentiful and are very useful. The greatest island in this part is the Nu'mān Island which is permanently inhabited. There is also the island of as-Sāmirī which is inhabited by some Samaritan Jews. (pp. 134 - 136).