Al-Zuhri

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[pp. 255-263]

AL-ZUHRĪ

(scr. 1137-1150 A.D.)

An Arab-Spanish geographer of Granada (sor. "Anonymous of Almeria").

K. al-Jughrāfiya (Commentary on al-Ma'mūn's World Map; cf. al-Fazarī q.v.)

Ed.: M. Hajj Sadok, Bull. D’Études Orient. XXI, Damas 1968<ref>I had access to his publication only after my translation had been made from MC and Arabskiye Istochniki. As the Damascus edition seemed, in general, more accurate than the MC text, I have adopted the former; reference, however, is made to all three editions. Whenever possible. In the footnotes. Discrepancies between one edition and another are indicated. The numeration of pages in Bull.d’Etudes Orient. progesses from left to right.</ref>.

Exc.: (from MSS) MC 801r - 803r and Ar.Ist.II, pp. 214 - 217.

T.: Sadok, MC and Ar.Ist. A:0


[Hunting the Zumurrudah]<ref>A kind of monkey, as unequivocally shown by the word “qird” below.</ref>

As for the land lying south [of Nubia], it consists entirely of desert (qafr) where nobody enters except those who dwell near it, such as the Ḥabasha and the Nūba. These peoples live in countries situated across the Equator - which is the line girdling the Earth in its middle. They enter that desert some twenty parasangs and not more. Perhaps they went sometimes as far as the lakes from which the Nile begins and where the waters of Jabal al-Qamar collect. In fact, they use to go to those places to hunt the Zumurruda (or Zumarrada), which is a venomous beast (dabbā masmūma). No other creature on earth is more dangerous than it, on account of its poison, which is hot and dry, and burns instantly. In this broad desert (saḥrāʾ) very large and tall trees grow. When a Nūba, or [p. 256] a Ḥabasha, wishes to go and take this poison, he prepares a small vessel, which must be made only of the stone of a mountain called Jibāl al-Ardakān,<ref>Ar. Ist. And MC consistently have “jabal al-Azdakan”.</ref> which is a mountain surrounding the country of the Zanj. ... Then he enters the uninhabited land (saḥrāʾ) among those trees until he finds one of these monkeys (qirada). If he sees the monkey (qird) before being seen by it, he hurriedly climbs up a tree and hangs from a branch, and the monkey (qird) follows him. But if the monkey overtakes the man before he climbs the tree, the beast breathes (nafakh) on him and he dies at once. If he overtakes the monkey and succeeds in climbing to the top of the tree, the monkey continues watching him askance, then it jumps near and blows on him. If the man is reached by that breath, he dies then and there on the top of the tree and falls to the ground. But if that breath fails to catch the hunter, there may be some hope for him to save himself and the monkey will fall on the ground. The monkey makes a second jump, but this is one-half shorter than the first jump, then the creature falls again to the ground. Then it makes a third jump, shorter than the previous one and falls to the ground where it gives one loud shout; then its gall-bladder (mirratu-hu) cracks and a sort of scum, like foam, pours out of its mouth. The hunter then jumps on it from the top of the tree and takes out a sort of lancet (mijrada) and the bottle and collects that foam with the mijrada and fills the bottle. If both the mijrada and the bottle were not made of that special stone we mentioned above, the hunter would die at once. Once he has collected the foam, he goes and sells it to kings at a very high price, because that poison is so powerful that one grain can kill any animal at once. (Sadok § 13-14, p. 301).

[p. 257] [Hunting the Rukhkh]<ref>A fabulous animal. The same word is used also for the “Condor”. Ibn Batutah (cf. Enc.Brit. q.v.) affirmed he saw such a bird looking like an island, but the image was surely a mirage phenomenon.</ref>

Likewise, in this desert they hunt the rukhkh, a beast as big as a bull, has four legs like those of the camel (ba’īr) and two heads similar to the wolf’s head; it walks forward and backward and does not turn aside because its legs are formed by only one bone. It turns its head right and left, back and fourth, eats with two mouths and discharges through one orifice situated in the middle of its body. On either side it has something like two wings; when it kneels down it raises them, but when it walks, it lets them down. The natives of this country, who are Nūba and Ḥabasha, hunt and eat it. It is an animal which can be caught only with the musical reed (mizmār). The natives dig a hole to trap it, a man enters the pit and plays the musical reed [= flute]. If the rukhkh hears the sound of the "flute”, it walks towards it and stands near the mouth of the pit. When the hunter sees it, he blows in the flute even more, the rukhkh draws nearer and nearer until it falls into the pit and the hunter kills it and then takes it out.

Al-’Udhrī described in his Ta’rīkh the use, properties and size of this animal; so those who want to know more, should just consult al-'Udhrī's Ta’rīkh. We have described the rukhkh, the hunt to the zumurrudah and the method of catching it in [the book] al-Ju’rāfiyyah (sic!). The scientists (ḥukamāʾ) have also mentioned, among the wonders of the animals of that land, some other things which are unbelievable: we have refrained from relating them here as they are too far from reality. (Sadok § 15, p. 300).

[p. 258] [The Reason why the Southern Hemisphere is Uninhabited]

The scientists (falāsifah) claim that that land cannot be visited [by man] because of the fierce heat of the sun, as it passes directly over that land; but this is not the true reason. Were the excessive heat the effect of the sun passing over those lands while it is in the southern part of the Zodiac, the same should happen when the sun comes into the northern part of the Zodiac and passes above the Hind, the Sind, the Sīn and Yemen and goes up to the Tropic of Cancer, the northernmost point of its course. In fact the sun passes over Iraq, Mecca and Ta'if, which axe populous countries inhabited by sedentary people.

The reason why the southern hemisphere is uninhabited is because, lying below the equator, it is the earlier and lower half of the terrestrial globe (kurrat al-arḍ), and he who is born in the northern hemisphere under the northern signs of Zodiac cannot live in the southern hemisphere. In fact the air (hawāʾ) [there] is totally turned against him, his head is turned towards the southern stars [of Zodiac] and his feet are turned towards the northern ones, which is contrary to the air in which he was born. Yet the Nūba and the Ḥabasha penetrate into that land; as their home land extends north and south of the equinoxial line, the air of their country is a mixture [of the air coming from the northern and the southern hemispheres]. They penetrate there as far as some twenty parasangs, after which the air becomes unbearable to them and they cannot walk: so they are drawn towards the ground and [creep rather than] walk, to a place near the source of the Nile which rises from the Jabal al-Qamar. Were it not for that trick, they could not walk in that land at all. (Sadok § 16, p. 300).

[p. 259] [Jabal al-Qamar]

Now, let us talk about the mountain which is found in that hemisphere. It is called Jabal al-Qamar and has been so called because it changes its colour<ref>The text goes on saying that the more the Moon increases in its phases, the brighter the tops of these mountains become during the night. Probably this is the origin of the name “Mountain of the Moon”. See Ibn Sa’īd Al-Andalusia who copied the description by Zuhrī.</ref>. ... Many streams flow [down] from it and collect in lakes in the middle of the desert (saḥrāʾ) which we have just mentioned above. From this lake the greater Nile, crossing the Equator, enters between the Mountains of Gold and flows into the country of the Ḥabasha, to the country of Kawkaw and down to Aswān.

From this mountain also rises the Smaller Nile (an-nīl al-asghar),<ref>Ar.Ist.:”an-nīl al-asfar” (the Yellow Nile).</ref> which descends behind the Equator and continues its course between the mountain called Jibāl Tūtā (? Tūbā) and reaches the territory of the Nūba, and from the mountains of al-Ardakān flows to the country of the Zanj until it reaches the Great Ocean, which surrounds the land from the side of the Maghrib. ... This mountain lies in the western part of this desert. From this land a wind blows called "suwaydāʾ” a dry and hot wind which dries up the water-skins and kills anyone coming across that desert. (Sadok § 17-19, pp. 299 - 298).

[The Seventh Part of the Earth]

The Seventh Part<ref>Zuhrī, unlike most Arab geographers, divides the northern hemisphere into “seven parts” [climates], beginning from the north and ending at the equator. Ibn Sa’īd (q.v.) in his later geographical work followed the division made by Zuhrī.</ref> [includes] al-Ḥabasha, an-Nūba, al-Janāwa (Khanawa) and the Zanj… and among other lands lying west of this sea [Red Sea],<ref>Zuhrī, writing in Iraq, had the Red Sea on the west.</ref> there are the town of 'Aydhāb, the town of Dabābāl and others.

[p. 260] Among the strange things of this region (saqʾ) near Egypt, a seven days' journey on the road to the Ḥabasha, [there is] the "Well-Not-Used" (al- bi'r al- mu'aṭṭala) and the Lofty Palace (al-qaṣr al-mushayyad). [From Qos], travellers enter the desert of 'Aydhāb, which is the route to Hejaz: the length of this desert is an eighteen days’ journey, during which no water is found except in three wells: the first well is called "Well of the Box-tree" (?) (baqsh) the second is called "Fifty Blames" (lawm) ... the third is called "al-Ḥabib" which is the last of the wells of the desert. ...

From this town [Aswan], traders enter the country of the Habasha and the country of Kanāw. From this mountain which overlooks Aswān, precious emerald stones are extracted. (Sadok § 25, p. 297).

[The Descendants of Yaphet, Sam and Ham]

Ham b. Noah - blessings upon him - when he settled in the Maghreb had as his offspring the Blacks (Sūdān), who are divided into four tribes viz. the Nūba, the Ḥabasha, the Zanj and the Janāwa (Khanāwa). (Sadok § 161, p. 240).

The 7th part (juzʾ) of the inhabited Earth includes the Ḥabasha, the Zanj, the Nūba. ... It is the largest part of the Earth and is divided into three regions (asqāʾ). The first region of this 7th part of the Earth. The seventh part, [of the Earth] comprises the Nūbah, the Zanj and Jibāl al-Ardakān; among its towns there are Marwah,<ref>Ar.Ist.I.: “Marūk”. Probably the ancient town of Meroe is meant. (?)</ref> which is the residence of their king and this [p. 261] [kingdom] is the first which drinks from the Nile water after it flows out of Jabal al-Qamar and enters the Jibāl al-Ardakān and [successively] the country of the Zanj towards the Great Sea. (Sadok §§ 31S-319, p. 187; MC 802; Ar.1st.II, pp. 214 - 215).

... Between the country of the Nūba and the country of the Zanj there are the Ardakān mountains, where is found the stone of which are made the bottles for the collection of the poison extracted from the monkeys, as already mentioned. Between this country and the country of the Nūba, there are statues (aṣnām) which were built by a giant king and were mentioned by Mas'ūdī in his Kitāb at-tanbīh wa-l-ishrāf. He said that they come forth one from another (yaẓhar ba'ḍuha min ba'ḍ), and that one of them is the monument which once was in the town of Qādis (Fārus). The author [Mas'ūdī] said: 'I saw this sea and sailed on it, but neither did I see that monument nor did I hear about it, nor did I meet anybody who knew about it. Surely, it must be a tale in the mouth of common people.’ Mas'ūdī just mentioned that he actually failed to ascertain; in fact, what he mentioned is nothing other than the Light-house (manāra) of Qādis (fārus, Gr. pharos).<ref>“Qādis” is a misreading of “fārus” (the famous Pharos of Alexandria). Bull.Etud.Orient. XXI consistently has “Qādis”. (Sadok § 322, p. 186)</ref>.

The Nūba of this region collect gold in the Tūtā (? Tawba) Mountains which are very high mountains rivalling with the clouds. In the month of November (nuwinbar), when the sun enters the head of Cancer, it is cold in that part [of the Earth], rains pour down and streams rush down the slopes of the mountain so that a basin is formed at its foot. The Nūba carry with them planks (sahā'if) of ebony and soft sheets (sahā'if) made of [p. 262] feathers of a bird which lives in their country; then they wash the sand and extract from it gold dust (ṭibr) the size of grains of wheat, more or less. The Zanj do the same in their own country. (Sadok §§ 318-319, pp. 181 - 185; MC 802; Ar.Ist.II, p. 215).

Among the strange things concerning the Zanj there is also this: nobody ever saw them without becoming blind, nor can they see any foreigner without losing their sight. The Nūba and the Ḥabasha go there to sell their goods, such as salt - which is the most highly priced commodity imported there. Every merchant places his goods on the bank of the Nile, then goes away; the Zanj come with gold dust;' then the Nūba and Ḥabasha merchants return to see. If they are pleased with that amount, they take it. If they are not, they withdraw their goods and carry them away to another place in the hope that the [price] offer may be increased. They conclude the transaction without seeing each other. (Sadok §§ 322, p. 185; MC 802; Ar.Ist.II, pp. 214 - 215).

The second region (saqʾ) of the seventh part of the country of the Ḥabasha, whose western frontier is the Greater Nile (an-nīl al-a'zam), the eastern frontier the Red Sea, the southern the Mountains of Gold (Jabal adh-dhahab) on the equator, and the northern frontier the extremity of the country of Kawkaw,<ref>Ar.Ist.: “Kawkaz”. It seems more correct to read “Kawkaw” with the majority of writers and MSS.</ref> to the country of Aswān.

The people of this town - I mean the Ḥabasha – who are also the richest of all the inhabitants in clothes (thiyyāb) and money (māl) because they dwell between Egypt and the Maghrib - hunt many elephants and carry [p. 263] them to Egypt and other countries. From their own country they export elephant tusks. In the southern part of this land and further south till the extremity of the inhabited Earth, there is the town of Dunjulah (other readings: Dumthulah, Dumthunah; sic! cf. Sadok, p. 184), which is the residence of the king of the Ḥabasha as mentioned by Ibn al-Jazzar in his Kitāb 'Ajā'ib al-buldān. In its vicinity there is the town of Wasdītah (Rasdināh).<ref>Unidentified, but probably a misreading of “Subah” (Soba).</ref> The inhabitants of this country collect gold in their land as the Nūba and the Zanj do. From their country is exported the aflūniyā which is a good drug useful in the diseases of phleghm (balghamiyya). From this country the Ḥabasha entered Yemen when they invaded it under their leader Abrahah, the one who became famous for the elephant (ṣaḥīb al-fīl). (ibid. § 332, p. 183).

From the lower slopes of Jabal al-Qamar to the country of the Nūba there are 100 parasangs up to the place where the Nile crosses the equator; from there to the place where it enters the [Mediterranean] Sea it is 1004 parasangs, and in all this land there flows no other river except the Nile. (MC 803; Ar.Ist.II, p. 217).

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