Ishaq ibn al-Husain

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[pp. 122-123]

ISHĀQ IBN AL-HUSAIN

(about 950 A.D.)

Author of K. al-akmām al-marjān.

Ed.: A. Codazzi, Rend.Acc.Naz. Lincei, Cl. Di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche 6,5, 1929, 373-463 with Italian translation.

T.: MC 624 (Codazzi) A: 3


The country of the Blacks (bilād as-sūdān) is very extensive. In longitude it extends from the Sea of Maghreb to the Sea of Qulzum. It is a very large and important (jalīlah) country. Between the town of Ghāna[1] and country of the Nūba, there are regions completely covered by sandy deserts. The Nūba country is very hot, and poor in rainfall, rivers, vegetation and trees. The natives[2] go naked because of the excessive heat which is predominant in their country. The woman does not cover anything except her genitals. They rear their children inside round holes (jafr), which they dig in the sands. In that country there are many lions, wild animals and terrific monsters. There is also much gold, but they prize copper more than gold. In the civilized cities (ḥawādir)[3] and in the country of the Nūba and the Rīfāt they use it [copper] to make ornaments for their women. They make use of skins of mules and wear them for many years because they do not get torn, as they are very resistant.

[p. 123] The main town in the country of the Ḥabasha is [the town of] Jarmī, [which is] the capital (dār) of the kingdom of the Ḥabasha. This kingdom is ruled by the Najāshī. In that country one can buy pure gold in exchange for copper. The inhabitants do not understand [foreign languages]. Therefore, if a trader wants to conclude a transaction with anyone of them ... [blank] ... he lays it on the ground: if [the merchant] is satisfied, he takes it; but if he [the merchant] is not satisfied, he takes his own and goes away.

One of their [the Blacks'] towns is the town (madīna) of Zaghāwa, situated at the borders of the country of the Nūba [who dwell] near the Nile; then, the town of Kūs, the town of Kūkū and the town of ‘Alwa in the country of the Nūba on the Nile.

The Nūba country lies along the river branch (khalīj) which flows between the Nile and the [other] river which rises from behind the Equator. All the territory behind those regions to the extreme south is uninhabited because of the unbearable heat. (Codazzi, pp. 410 - 411).

  1. See al-Yaʿqūbī, note 2.
  2. It is not clear whether this is referred to the Nūba country or to the country of the Blacks in general.
  3. The text in op. cit., p. 410, has "khawāsir" presumable a misprint for "ḥawādir" (cities).