Al-Qazwini

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[pp. 381-385]

AL-QAZWĪNĪ

(d. 1274 A.D.)

Zakariā ibn Muḥammad ibn Yaḥyā al-Qazwīnī, an Arab geographer and historian.

ʿAjā'ib al-Makhlūqāt wa-Gharā’ib al-Mawjūdāt (The Marvels of the Creation and the Rarity of Existing Things: on Cosmography). Two editions (1263 and 1274 A.D.) by the author, with considerable improvements.

His other work on Geography, revised by the author himself, had two successive editions, the first under the title of ʿAjā'ib al-Buldān (The Marvels of the Countries) and the second as Āthār al-Bilād (The Monuments of the Countries).

EI (s.v. Kazwini); GAL I, 481 s.

[p. 382]

1.) Ed.: F. Wüstenfeld, El-Cazwinis Kosmographie, I-II, Gottingen 1848.

Exc.: MC 1046-47.

2.) Ed.: Āthār al-Bilād, ed. Beirut 1960.

T. : MC (Wüstenfeld) and Beirut A:1 and O


[1.) From ʿAjā'ib al-Buldān]

Treatise II [The Earth], Ch. 4: The Sea of Qulzum is a branch of the Indian Ocean (baḥr al-hind). South of it lie the countries of the Barbar and the Ḥabasha. (Wüstenfeld-I, p. 119; MC 1046 v).

The Sea of the Zanj is the same as the Indian Sea. The countries of the Zanj lie south of this sea, under Suhayl [Canopus Constellation]. Those who sail there can see the South Pole (al-quṭb al-janūbī) and Suhayl, and never the North Pole. On its coasts are the countries of the Barbar, a tribe of Blacks (Sūdān) different from those [Berber] of the Maghrib. The continent of the Barbar extends along the Sea of the Zanj as far as 'Adan. (ibid. I, p. 120; MC 1046 v).

Ch. 5: The southern half [of the Earth] also is divided into two quarters: the quarter which lie in the south-east includes the territories of the Ḥabasha, the Zanj and the Nūba; in the quarter lying to the west nobody has ever set foot. On the border of this quarter live the Blacks (Sūdān) who are neighbours to the Barbar, the Kūkū and other similar peoples. (ibid. I, p. 147; MC 1046 v).

The Nile river. It is said that no river in the world is longer than the Nile, for it flows over a distance of one month [journey] in the country of Islam, two months in the country of the Nūba, and four months in [p. 383] desert countries, until it touches the country of al-Qamar on the other side of the equator. It is the only river in the world flowing from south to north. Also there is no other river in the world which is in spate during summer [lit. "the dry season"], while all the other rivers shrink: actually, it increases as much as the others decrease. (ibid. I, p.185; MC 1047 r).

The First Climate has as its limits: to the south, the countries of the Zanj, the Nūba and the Ḥabasha; to the north, the line dividing the First and the Second Climate. (ibid. II, p. 9; MC 1047 r).

[2. From Āthār al-Bilād]

The Beja. It is a country bordering on the northern part of 'Aydhāb, to the west of this town. The people are a kind of Ḥabasha. There are found the emerald (zumurrudh) mines, whence emerald is exported to all countries of the world. The mines are on the mountains. The best kind of emerald [mined in Bejaland] is the green one, which is boiled (as-silqī) and is rich with humidity.

Persons who have been poisoned, if they drink from it [a poison made of this emerald], recover. If a snake looks at it, its pupil (hadaqa) melts. (Beirut, p. 18)

The Nūba (an-Nūba). It is a very large country, the population of which is numerous. They are all Christians.

One of their customs<ref>All these customs, almost in the same words, are stated by Yāqūt (q.v.) of the king of the Zaghāwa. </ref> is to worship the king, whom they call "Kābīl". They fancy that he never eats, but they bring him food secretly, and if anyone of his subjects chanced to notice it, they kill him at once. The [p. 384] king drinks a potion made of dhurra strengthened with honey. His clothing consists of fine garments of wool (ṣūf), silk and silk-brocade (dībāj). His orders are promptly obeyed by his subjects, he has absolute power (yad muṭlaqa) so that he can reduce to slavery anyone he wants and can freely dispose of their property; his subjects believe that he has the power of giving death and life, health or illness.<ref>The story of the flight of the Merwanid, reported concisely by Qazwīnī, contains some details not found in other accounts. (Cf. Ibn Qutayba, Ibn Wasif, Ibn Iyas q.v.).</ref> [One day] as mentioned of the Nubian king was made in the council of the Caliph al-Mahdī, some counsellors said 'He [the Nubian king] had an amazing talk (qiṣṣa ‘ajība) with Muḥammad [= 'Abdalla b. Marwān]. Al-Mahdī ordered that Muḥammad b. Marwān be brought into his presence and asked him to tell the story he had had with the Nubian king. He said: 'When we had a fight with Abū Muslim in Egypt and we were defeated and our men dispersed, I fled to Nubia. I wished the [Nubian] king would allow me to stay in his kingdom for some time (zamān). He came to pay me a visit: he was a tall, black man. I went out of my pavilion (qubba) to meet him and invited him to enter, but he refused to sit [on the carpet]; he only sat on the bare ground (turab), outside the pavilion. I asked him the reason for doing so and he said: 'God Almighty bestowed on me the royal power (mulk); therefore, it is my duty to correspond with humility.' Then he said to me: 'Why do you drink wine (nabidh) which is forbidden in your religion (milla)?' I answered: 'We don't drink wine; it is only some libertines (fussāq) from our people who do so.' Then he said: 'And why do you wear silk brocade (dībāj), which is forbidden in your religion?' I said: 'The kings who reigned before us, that is the Caesars (al-akāsira), used to wear silk clothing and we did the same in order not to lessen our [p. 385] dignity (haybatu-nā) among the foreigners.' He said: 'Why do you approve the seizure of the property of your subjects without any right?' 'I replied: 'This is a thing we have never done, nor do we approve; but some of our wicked agents (ʿummāl) did it.' The king kept silent with cast down eyes and repeated to himself: ‘It was some of our wicked agents who did it.' Then he raised his head and said: 'Surely the anger of God Almighty against you has not yet reached its end. Leave my country lest God's punishment fall upon me.' He appointed someone to escort me out of his land." (ibid., p. 24).

[Dunqula<ref>Al-Qazwīnī’s description of Dunqula differs from Yāqūt’s in some details.</ref>]

It is a great town (madīna 'aẓīma) in the country of the Nūba, [which] extends along the bank (sāḥil) of the Nile. [Nubia] is eighty days' journey in length, but very little (qalīl) in width.

[Dunqula] is the residence of their king Kābīl. The people [of Nubia] are Jacobite Christians. Their country is burnt because of the extreme heat; yet despite the burning heat, they grow barley (sha'īr) and wheat (hinta) and dhurra, they have palm-trees, vines and muql and thorny trees (arāk). Their country is very similar to Yemen. Their houses are all built of reeds; so are also the palaces (quṣūr) of their king.The inhabitants, of Dunqula go naked, except that they are wrapped (mu'tazirūn) with skins. Leopards are very numerous in their country and they make use of their skins for clothing. Also the giraffe is common. This is a strange animal, sloping backwards because of the length of its fore legs and the shortness of its hind legs. They also have a kind of camel (ibil) of small size with short legs. (ibid., p. 39).

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