Kitab al-Istibsar

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[pp. 305-306]

ANONYMOUS KITĀB AL-ISTIBṢĀR

(about 1192 A.D.)

K. al-istibṣār fī ‘ajā’ib al-amṣār (a treatise on geography closely following Al-Bakrī).

MS: Paris, Bibl.Nat., MS ar. 2225

Ed.: A. de Kremer, Wien 1852.

Exc.: MC 905 ss.

T.: MC A: 1


It is commonly said that this plain, which stretches between Qos and Aswān, consists of gold mines, but the Beja (Bujāh), a branch of the Ḥabasha, make it inaccessible. The country of this people stretches between the Red Sea (Qulzum) and the Nile of Egypt. A colony of Arabs of the Rabī'a tribe settled among them: They live there to work in the mines. This territory borders on the mine of the precious emerald, which is, at the moment the only one of its kind. It lies in a place called "al-Kharba", in a desert and mountainous region, guarded by the Beja. Those who wish to exploit the mine must pay a royalty (khufārah) to them. The distance between this place and the Nile is a 20 days' Journey.

The town of Aswān. It is the last town of Miṣr, because it is a frontier-post (thaghr) on the frontier of the Nūba, who are infidels. Were there neither mountains [p. 306] nor steep escarpments to separate Egypt from the Nūba, the latter would doubtlessly have pillaged Egypt. The Nile rushes so precipitously through rocks and slopes from the Nūba country [to Egypt] that no boat can sail in this place. (MC 908: fol. 37r, 38r).

Leaving Kawkaw alongside the bank of the river ["Nile of the Sūdān], downstream, one arrives in a country called Damdam. The inhabitants devour all Whites who fall in their hands. This is a very large country. There is a great fortress where an idol, in the likeness of a woman (ṣanam fī ṣūrat imra'a) is kept. They worship it and go on pilgrimage to it. (MC 915v: f. 89v).