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Istakhri (957) :Kitab al Masalik wa-al-Mamalik,
(book of roads and provinces.)

Istakhri's Worldmap and its Translation

(Taken from : Mappae Arabicae by Miller Konrad)


Know that : -Bilad al Zanj means Land of the Black . Zanj means black People in Persia. It is mostly used to

                  denominate East Africa

                 -Al Bagga : The Bedja tribe who lives in Erytrea and surroundings.

                 -Bilad al Sudan : Land of Black People.


Taken from: The Oriental Geography of Ebn Haukal, an Arabian Traveller of the Tenth Century. Front Cover. Ibrāhīm ibn Muḥammad Iṣṭakhrī, Muhammad I. Haukal.

Father Giovanni Vantini FSCJ's Oriental Sources Concerning Nubia

المسالك والممالك للاصطخري أو مسالك الممالك – مصر (Tracts and kingdoms Istakhri – Egypt)

المسالك والممالك للاصطخري أو مسالك الممالك – ليدن (Tracts and kingdoms Istakhri – Leiden)


(The text under is a collection of what I found in these four different versions.)


Here we shall not mention such peoples of the Maghrib as the Blacks (Sudan), the Buja and the Zanj, because, whereas the sound political organization is based on good morals, religion and permanent institutions, these peoples possess none of these. Only a few branches of the Blacks who dwell along the borders of the aforesaid empires [i.e. the Byzantine and the Moslem empires] possess some religious beliefs, moral and political institutions similar to [those of] the above mentioned empires. Such are the Nubians (an-Nuba) and the Ethiopians (Ḥabasha) because they are Christians and follow the customs of the Rum. Before Islam, those peoples had some links with the empire of the Rum because they were neighbours. In fact, the territory of the Nubians borders on Egypt and that of the Ethiopians (Ḥabasha) faces the Red Sea. Although the Ethiopians are separated from Egypt by a desert - where gold mines are found - they are in touch directly with Egypt and Syria (ash-Sham) through the Red Sea. Nothing farther can be said in their favour.…………………..

The inhabitants of the south are of a dark complexion, and the blackness of their skins increases as they dwell farther to the south.


(when talking about a line starting in the North going South)

…… take from the coast of the ocean until it ends to the land of Gog and Magog, and then pass on the Slavs, and cut off the land of Bulgarians entering and Slavs, and go in the land of the Romans to Syria until the land of Egypt and Nubia, and then the line spread in the wilderness between the Sudan and the country of Zeng until it ends to the ocean, and this is the line between the south and north of the earth; as for what I know from the distance of this line, on the one hand Gog on the side of Bulgar and the land of Sakalpah of forty stages, and the land of Sakalp in the country of the Roman to the Levant of sixty stages,…….


(when talking about the seas of the world)

……….. And the earth is all round and the ocean surrounded it like a collar, and take the sea of the Romans and the sea of Persia from this sea; As for the Caspian Sea, it does not connect to this sea, but it is a sea on its own with his coast of the Khazars on the land of the Dilem, Tabaristan and Jorjan, without preventing him from blocking a river located therein, and Lake Khorazm as well. And of something similar in the countries of Zanj as the channels and lakes beyond the Rum countries here nothing is mentioned, because they come not directly to those seas.


…….. but the land of the Beja, their homes are small, it is between Abyssinia and Nubia, and this land that does not behave; As for Abyssinia, it is on the sea of al-Qulzoum, which is a sea of Persia, the end of it is at the land of Zinj, and united in the wilderness between Nubia and the Sea of Qulzoum, united them to Beja and the land, which does not behave; the land of Zinj is bigger than the land of Sudan, it does not relate to any kingdom other than Abyssinia, they are in the neighbourhood of Yemen, Persia and Kerman till they reach the land of India;…..


If you leave Qulzum (= Suez) travelling along the west coast of the sea, you walk through deserts from Egypt up to the territory of the Buja where gold mines are found; then you arrive at the town of Aydhab situated on the sea coast. Beyond this town, the sea widens all along the country of the Ḥabasha, which stretches opposite Mecca as far south as the territory opposite Aden. Beyond this point there are no more Ḥabasha. On their rearward side, [i.e. West] the Ḥabasha are neighbours to the Nuba, as far as the territory of the Zanj. These are the largest of the kingdoms extending along the frontier of all the Moslem countries,………


  …… underneath Yemen it is called the Sea of Aden to go beyond Aden and then it is called the Sea of Zinj, to Uman to be aligned for Persia, and this sea up to the country Zinj is seven hundred leagues, which is a dark sea, black, one does not see anything, and near Aden pearls come out of it, and then to Oman till the borders of Islam, and beyond it to the vicinity of Sirendib called the Sea of Persia, it is very wide sea, in the south of the Zeng countries, in this sea many dangers and difficult coasts, and the most severe between Janaba and Basra,……….


On the sea-coast there is a place called Zeila, which is the port for those who go to Yemen and Hejaz.

On another side, [the mine] also touches the desert (mafaza) of Nubia. The Nubians too, are Christians. Their territories are larger than the Ḥabasha's and have more towns and cultivations. The Nile of Egypt is flowing through their towns and villages. [Their homes extend] as far upstream, as a sandy place of the Zanj country and beyond it, up to the impassable deserts (barari). Beyond this desert, the river ends in the land of the Zanj proper, which lies opposite Aden and extends down to the sea. The frontier of the Nuba borders that of the countries of Islam and, in some places, is contiguous to the countries of the Hind. The country of the Nuba is very large and includes an innumerable people. Someone told me that in the remotest lands of the Zanj there are cold regions inhabited by a Zanj people of white complexion, who bring from other places articles of food and clothing. This side of the Zanj country, however, is sun-burned (qashf), sparsely inhabited, poorly cultivated, except in the lands near the king's residence.


This land of the Sudan is a very extensive region, but extremely dry. In the mountains of it are to be found all the fruits which the Mohammedan world produces ; but they do not eat of them ; eat other fruits and vegetables unknown in the countries of Islam. The slaves (khadam) who are sold in the countries of Islam come from there: they are neither Nubians, nor Zanj, nor Ḥabasha, nor Buja; they are from another race of Blacks, whose complexion is darker than any other.Their country is situated on the coast of the ocean to the south : to the north they have deserts which extend towards the deserts of Egypt : from behind Wahh the desert reaches to near the Nubians ; then to the desert in the vicinity of Zingbar. Whatsoever they get, comes to them from the western side, because of the difficulty of entering their country from any other quarter.


And there is not any person who knows the fountains or source of the river Nile ; on this account, because it issues from a cavern in the territories of Zingbar, from a certain spot, which a man may very nearly approach, yet never can arrive at : after this, it runs through the inhabited and desert parts of the land of the Nubians to Misr (Egypt) ; and there where it first becomes a river, it is equal to the Deljeh and Frat (Tigris and Euphrates.) And the water of the River Nile is the most pure and delicious of all the waters on the face of the earth.


The biggest town of that province after Shiraz is that of Siraf. It is nearly as big as Shiraz. The houses of Siraf are build in teak wood (Saj) and other kinds of wood that come from Zang; the houses have several floors, they spend too much on buildings, so that the man from the merchants spend on his house more than thirty thousand dinars, and there are no orchards and trees, but they search their fruits and the best of their water from Mount Musharraf……


One exports from Siraf the following products that have been brought there by sea; aloes, amber, camphor, precious stones, bamboo, ivory, ebony wood, pepper, sandal and other perfumes, medicines, aromatics of which it is too long to make a list....
On top a special world map in transliteration found in the Miller atlas