Ibn al-Faqih

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[pp. 88-93]


(about 902 A.D.)

Abū Bakr A.b.M.b. Ishāq Ibn al-Faqīh Al-Hamadhānī. Author of a K. al-buldān.

Brockelmann, 1, 227. His work survived in an abridged form ('Ali b. Ja'far b. A. as-Sayzarī (1022 A.D.).

Ed.: BGA 5, Leiden 1885. Large extracts in MC 557f and Ar. Ist. I, pp. 47-86.

T.: BGA A: O

Abū Khalaf said: 'The surface of the inhabited world is 24,000 farsakh (parasangs), of which 12,000 belong to the Sūdān; 8,000 to the Rūm; 1,000 to the Arabians and 3,000 to the Persians. (BGA 5, p. 4).

There are seven Climates: one Climate is occupied by the Arabs, another by the Rūm, still another one belongs to the Ḥabash. (p. 5).

The land of Egypt (Miṣr) is described in the Book<ref>Ibn Khordadhbeh, K. al-masālik, p. 9.</ref> in this way: "The area equals a journey of forty days in [p. 89] either directions [N-S and E-W]; the area of the Blacks (Sūdān) equals a seven years’ journey. The surplus waters of these lands flow into Egypt. The land of Egypt is 1/60 of the land of the Blacks, and the land of the Blacks is 1/60 of the whole Earth." (p. 59).

In Egypt there is the wall of the Old Lady built along the Nile by an old woman who lived in the earliest times. She was very rich. She had only one son who was killed by a lion. Therefore she said: "I will henceforth prevent lions from coming to the Nile!" So she built the wall to keep lions from reaching the Nile. It is said that the wall was a charm (tilasm): statues portraying [the people of] each country were placed on the wall, each statue showing [one people with] their own features and dress, [their] riding animals and their weapons. The effigy of each people was placed facing its own country. If any people ever attempted to invade Egypt, on arriving at that effigy, their army was disbanded.

It is also said that the Wall of the Old Lady was built in order to make a separation between the inhabitants of Upper Egypt from the Nubians (an-Nūba), for the latter used to carry out raids into Upper Egypt and could not be pacified. Therefore, this wall was built against the Nubians.

It is said that [an architect by name] Iflatūn [= Platon], of Miṣr, built a wall between Faramā and Aswān in the district of Miṣr, in the interior part of the country; the length of the wall was thirty parasangs. This wall separated them from the Ḥabasha. (pp. 59-60).

One of the marvels of Egypt is the hippopotamus (al-faras) which lives in the Nile. It devours crocodiles and other beasts. This horse (faras) - if it is a female [p. 90] (filw) - can be reared<ref>Ar. Ist, (I, p. 60) has “yurabba” (“it is reared”); Al-Maktabat has “yura” (“it is seen”). at home together with women and children.</ref> Its tooth cures stomach pains. The Nūba and the Ḥabasha, who are accustomed to eating coarse food, make use of it. Even when they are sick and on the verge of death because of stomach pains, they hold the tooth [of this animal] and immediately find relief.<ref>See Al-Jāhiz, [q.v.].</ref> Its gut is [believed to be] a cure against insanity (junūn) caused by the moon’s changes (ahilla).<ref>See Al-Jāhiz, note 1.</ref> (p.63).

Some people say that the Nile flows from the Equator, its source consists of two lakes (buhayratayn) called the "Lakes of the Nile". It surrounds the land of the Ḥabasha and flows across the Red Sea, also called the Sea of Faramā, [then] across the desert (mafāza) ... it ends at Dimyāt and empties itself into Mediterranean Sea of the Maghrib.

Abū-l-Khattāb reported the following statement made by al-Mushtarī ibn al-Aswad: "I raided the country of Inbiyah<ref>This reading (bilād inbiya), which was also adopted by Ar. Ist., I, p. 60, seems to be a misreading for Nūba.</ref> 20 times, from the extreme Sūs (sūs al-aqsā), and saw the Nile. Between it and the Salt Sea (al baḥr el-ujāj) there are sand hills and the Nile gushes out from beneath them.” (p. 64).

The last district of Egypt, on the frontier of an-Nūba is Aswān. Dunqula is the town of the Nūba and lies 40 days' (layla, nights) distance from Aswān. (p. 74).

[p. 91] One of the disadvantages of this country (Egypt) is its southern wind called al-marīsiyya, because Marīs it the name of the upper part of the Sa'īd up to the country of the Nubians.

When the marīsī wind blows thirteen days consecutively the people of Miṣr buy shrouds and ointments as they are aware that this brings a mortal plague and that a quick end is near. (pp. 74-75).

Above Upper Egypt are the Nūbah, the Buja and the Ḥabasha. 'Uthmān made peace with the Nūba on condition that they deliver 400 slaves (ra's) per year. It is reported (fī-l-khabar), that the Envoy of God said: "He who has no brother, let him take one from the Nūba." and also: "The best captive for you is the Nūba." In Nubia there is the white ebony from which thrones (asirrah, beds) are made. (p. 76).

The Nūba are Jacobites, the Slavs have crosses.<ref>Probably an interpolation, out of place here.</ref> Praise be to God for Islam. The people of 'Alwa and Tikrīt, the Copts and the Syrians (ash-shām) are all Christians [belonging to such sects as the] Jacobite (ya'qūbī), Melkite (malikī), Nestorian (nasṭūrī), Nicolaite (nīqūlā'ī), rakūsi, Marcionite (marqīyūnī), Sabean (sābī) and Manichean (manānī). The Nūba observe the circumcision and abstain from women during their menstruation; they do not wash from legal impurities (janābah). They are Jacobite Christians who read (yahdhawna) the Gospel without understanding. The Rūm are Melkites (malkāniyyan), read (yaqra'ūna) the Gospel with the bi-l-jarmaqāniyya.<ref>Probably from the Greek “hieromēchania”, the meaning of which escapes us. (Cf. Monneret, Storia, p. 118).</ref>

[p. 92] The Beja are worshippers of idols, but are governed by the Torah (tawriyya). Dunqula is the town of the Nūba and the residence of the king: it lies on the bank of the river (baḥr) and is surrounded by seven walls, the lower parts of which are of stone.

The length of their country along the Nile is 80 days, and the length of 'Alwa as far as the country of the Nūba, including the western part (al-maghrib) is three months. From Dunqula to Aswān, where Egypt begins, it is 40 days' journey. From Aswān to the lowest part of the Nile it is 5 days.

Between the country of the Nūba and the Buja there are forbidding mountains. They [Beja] are worshippers of idols. In their country are found the mines of topaz (az-zabarjad). The Buja are many clans (aṣnāf). The Nūba and the Buja call God "ʿAzza wa-Jalla bikheir",<ref>An attempt to render the Ge’ez word: “Egzī’abhēr”. (Monneret, op. cit., ibid.).</ref> in the Zanj language He is called La M K L W — J L W<ref>It may be useful to note that “Waq” is the Galla word for the “Supreme Being”. (Conti Rossini, Storia d’Etiopia, p. 60.</ref> and in Coptic Ibnudhah and in Berberi M. Dhī k. Sh.. After the country of the 'Alwa comes a nation (umma) of Blacks called Takna<ref>Conti Rossini (Riv. Stud. Or. IX, 1921, pp. 36-7) is of the opinion that Takna (Tekne, Bukna) should be identified with the Pachinoi of Ptolemy, dwelling in central Ethiopia. (Monneret, Storia N. C., pp. 118-120).</ref> who go naked like the Zanj. In their country gold lies on the surface of the ground. In this country the Nile divides in two. We have already mentioned its source. It is said that behind the sources of the Nile there is darkness and beyond the darkness, waters producing gold among the Takna and Ghāna, (pp. 77 - 78).

[p. 93] Al-Hajjāj b. Yūsuf questioned Zaddān Farrūkh [about several peoples]. "Tell me something about the people of Kūfa." He answered: - "They went to the great city of the people of Sawād and learnt hospitality and generosity." "And what about the people of al-Hijāz?" "They went to the town of the Sūdān and were affected by their thoughtlessness and quick emotion." Al-Hajjāj turned angry and exclaimed: "By God. You are not a Hijāzī; surely, you are a Syrian." (p. 114).