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Ibn al-Fakih al Hamadhani (903) Kitab al Buldan

(Book of Countries) from Hamadan Iran's ancient capital.

Taken from : www.colorq.org

                      Neville Chittick: East Africa and the Orient

                      N. Levtzion and J.F.P.Hopkins; Corpus of early Arabic Sources for West

                                                                        African History.

                      Friedrich Storbeck; (1914) Mitteilungen des Seminars fur orientalische


                       Al Hamadani : Abrege du livre des pays

                       Serjeant; Society and Trade in South Arabia


(Chapter: Creation of the world)

According to Abd Allah b. Amr b. Al-As b. Wa’il as-Sahmi, the map of the world here below divides into five: it is like the head of the bird, the two wings, the chest, the tail. The head of the world is China; Beyond China is a people called Waq-waq, and beyond the Waq-waq, people of whom Allah alone knows the number. The right wing is India, and beyond India is the sea after which there is no one. The left wing is al-Hazar and, behind al-Hazar, two so-called peoples, one Mansak, the other Masak, behind which Gog and Magog they belong to the known peoples of God alone ; The chest of the world is Mecca, Hijaz, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. The tail goes from Dat al-Humam to Magrib, and the worst part of the bird is the tail. (Note: the map was never added to the manuscript. But a bird-map is found in Abul Mufakhir: Ashkal al-alam of Jayhani (The Shapes of the World)(1219) with behind the tail the mountains of the moon.)


In the words of Abu Halaf, the earth is 24.000 parasanges; the blacks have 12.000, the Rum 8.000 the Arabes 1.000 the Persians 3.000.


The first climate begins at the land of al-Muhraqa, called by the Greeks Ryamyarus (?); It ends up in the land of Ceylon (Sarandib). Its inhabitants are black, ugly faces, naked like wild animals. They live long. Their quadrupeds and their fowls are greater than all the others, there are sorceries, sorceries, simple, healing stones, and naturally beneficent. There are 4 dragons (tinnin) and venomous reptiles. The length of this climate is 5,500 parasanges. Its width, of 285 parasanges.


There is no bigger sea in the world then the Big Sea. She starts at the Magrib and through the Kolzon sea reaches Wakwak and China. The Wakwak of China is different from the Wakwak of Yemen (the south) which only produces pour quality gold.


(Chapter: In praise of the remoteness of the native country)

If nobody had ever traveled,...... then the kings would not have collected the blades from Yemen, the swords from India, lances from Baloutchistan (Balus), the iron for lances from the land of Hazar, ........ the leader bags from Magrib, the bags from Tibet, the leather from the land of Zang, the panther skins from Barberia, the brides handadiyya, ........


(Chapter: On Egypt and the Nile)

The land of Egypt, it has been said, is delimited thus in the Book: it comprises a journey of forty nights in both directions; The Black Country needs a seven-year journey. The excess of their waters is directed towards Egypt. The land of Egypt is a sixtieth of the land of the Blacks, which represents one-sixtieth of the earth.


The Egyptians count the crocodile in the Nil as one of the curiosities of their country. That animal swims around in the bays of Sindan and the land of the Zang, ......


Some people say that the Nile issues beyond the Equator from two lakes called the Two Lakes of the Nile. It flows around the land of the Habasha, then it passes between Bahr al-Qulzum (Red Sea) which is the same as Bahr al-Farama, and the desert to flow on and pour itself out at Dimyat into al-Bahr al Rumi al Maghribi, The Western Roman Sea. Dimyat is on the coast of that sea. Abu 'l-Khattab related that al-Mushtari b. al-Aswad said: I have raided the land of Anbiya twenty times from al-Sus al-Aqsa, and I have seen there the Nile. Between the river and the salty sea is a dune of sand and the Nile emerges from beneath it. (Note: his raids were from Marocco to the Sahara) 


There is the white ebony (Abnus), from which one makes the throne (Sarir). There also lives the Rhinoceros (Karkadan); It resembles the calf, on his forehead there is a horn with which it inflicts deadly wounds, and another smaller one, which is between his eyes. With it, it tears out the herbs. With the horn on the forehead, it pierces and kills the lion. It has a hoof like the cattle. The lion and the elephant fled before him. The giraffe lives in Nubia. It is said that it takes its place between the panther and the camel mare, that the panther mates with the latter who produces the giraffe. There are cases analogous to this one: thus the horse pairs with the ass, the wolf with the hyena, the panther with the lioness from whom the pard issues. The giraffe has the stature of the camel, the head of a stag, hoofs like those of cattle, and a tail like a bird. Its fore legs (literally, 'hands') have two callosities, while these are lacking in its hind legs. Its skin is panther-like and presents a marvellous sight. In Persia the animal is called 'camel-bull- panther' (ushtur or shutur-gdw-palank), because it has something in common with each of these three. Some scholars assert that the giraffe is generated by stallions of various kinds. This, however, is erroneous, for the horse does not impregnate the camel nor does the camel the cow.


The Buga are of different sorts. By the Nubians and the Buga, Allah is called Bahir, with the Zang, Lamaklujlu (or Mkulu njulu ) (la-makalujalu) with the Coptes, Abnudah (pnuti), with the berbers, Madikas.   


Behind Alwa  is a strong nation of blacks, called Bukna. They are naked like the Zang. Their country produces gold. In the country of these, the Nil splits in two. A big channel which splits of that becomes green of color. The big watermass, (the Nil) goes further through the country of Nubie, without changing color. Every now and then, it happens that the water in the channel becomes less, and the big water becomes white from color, the small one green. Each channel then goes through thickly populated valleys, and ends close to Chalabis and the desert, where they end in the ocean.


(Chapter: Syria)

Hisam b. Abd al-Malik having questioned Al Basra Halid b. Safwan, the latter said to him: I will inform you, Commander of the Believers. Two hunters leave: one reports birds and Ostrich, the other brings fish [various] and shad. We are the richest in teak, ivory, raw silk, brocade, swift horses, and coquettish girls. Our homes are golden. Our River is a wonder beginning with fresh dates and finishing with reeds.


One of the faults of Syria is its many bad insects; one says; the fever of Haybar, the pests of Syria, the beetles of Mesopotamia, the scabies of the Zang, and the rat problems of Bahrain.

It has been said: he who lives for one year in Mossoul sees his strength increase, he who prolongs his fast in Mopsueste, is thought to become crazy, he who continues from the frontiers of Iraq towards the land of Zang is always feeling bad, the worse as longer they stay there. Those who drink alcohol and the coconut milk (whine), become crazy.


(Chapter: Iraq)

A man of discernment said: The people of Iraq have sound minds, commendable passions, balanced natures, and high proficiency in every art, together with well-proportioned limbs, well-compounded humors, and a pale brown color, which is the most apt and proper color. They are the ones who are done to a turn in the womb. They do not come out with something between blonde, buff, blanched, and leprous coloring, such as the infants dropped from the wombs of the women of the Slavs and others of similar light complexion; nor are they overdone in the womb until they are burned, so that the child comes out something between black, murky, malodorous, stinking and crinkly-haired, with uneven limbs, deficient minds, and depraved passions, such as the Zanj, the Ethiopians (Hubsan), and other blacks who resemble them. The Iraqis are neither half-baked dough nor burned crust but between the two.


Abu Bakr al-Huḏali said, (about Basra) We have more than you teak, Ivory, brocade, noisy streams and income.


We are the People (from Basra) who possess the most ivory, teak wood, ḫazz (cloth), brocade, frames with a soft and fast pace, virgins with oblique glances. Our houses are golden and our river is a wonder.


(Chapter: Eastern Countries)

Ardasir said: The land is divided into four parts: one, the land of the Turks extends from western India to the east of the country of Rum. Another, the land of the Magrib, extends from the western country of the Rum in the lands of the Copts and Berbers; another, which is the country of the Negroes, extends from the land of the Berbers to India; the fourth, the earth which bears the name of Fars,…….


We have been preserved stigmata in our colors, 18 defects in our forms, our skin and our hair system, while other people have been disfigured by various well-known characteristics: Their black, very frizzy or very flat hair, small eyes, rare beard, we have been given the middle ground for the qualities, hair, complexion, and body shapes.


The people of the Magrib have the mules of Barbarie; the slave girls from Spain, the panthers from the land of Zang.


The barastug (kind of fish) is he not swimming to Basra, setting of from the land of Zang, looking for the sweet water of the Tigris. All sailors know this. And all sailors know, and they believe it, that the distance between Basra and Oman bigger is then between Basra and Zeng, and the people mistakenly believe that China further is then the sea of Zeng.

The sea of Zeng is a deep white channel, with big waves, and over this sea blows a heavy wind, and from Oman to Zeng you need two months, and because the sea is deep, the wind strong, and the waves big, what makes that proper trading goods in Zang are scares, so one does not leaves the sail down, that one navigates with the cord and not with the bow without knowing kannab or makaand the trip goes fast, all this makes the trip to Zeng shorter.

The barastug goes through the waves, swimming from Zang to Basra, then the ones who have escaped the fishermen return to Zang.


The whole world, it is said, measures 24,000 parasanges, of which 12,000 for the country of the Negroes, 3,000 for the country of the Rum, 3,000 for the Fars, and 1,000 for the territory of the Arabs. As for the population of Khorassan, it is part of Fars, although it is more extensive than it.


According to Plato (Aflatun), there is no good faith with the Turks (waja). Neither is there in existence munificence (sakha) amongst the Byzantines (Rum); bashfulness (haya) amongst the Khazar; worry (and sadness) (ghamm) amongst the blacks (Zanj); valor (shaja’a) amongst the Saqaliba, and chastity (iffa) amongst the Sind.