Superphysics Superphysics
Part 2d

Zone 1: Egypt, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Korea

by Ibn Khaldun Icon
11 minutes  • 2279 words
Table of contents

The Canaries from which Ptolemy began the determination of geographical longitude, are in the west. They are not part of the land mass of the first zone.

They lie in the Surrounding Sea. A number of islands constitute them. The largest and best known are three in number. They are said to be cultivated.

European Christian ships reached them in the middle of this century, fought with the inhabitants, plundered them, captured some of them, and sold some of the captives along the Moroccan coast where they came into the service of the ruler.

After they had learned Arabic, they gave information about conditions on their island. They said that they tilled the soil with horns. Iron was lacking in their country. Their bread59 was made of barley.

Their animals were goats. They fought with stones, which they hurled backwards. Their worship consisted of prostrations before the rising sun. They knew no (revealed) religion and had not been reached by any missionary activity.

These islands can be reached only by chance, and not intentionally by navigation.

Navigation on the sea depends on the winds. It depends on knowledge of the directions the winds blow from and where they lead, and on following a straight course from the places that lie along the path of a particular wind. When the wind changes and it is known where a straight course along it will lead, the sails are set for it, and the ship thus sails according to nautical norms evolved by the mariners and sailors 60 who are in charge of sea voyages.

The countries situated on the two shores of the Mediterranean are noted on a chart (sahifah) which indicates the true facts regarding them and gives their positions along the coast in the proper order. The various winds and their paths are likewise put down on the chart.

This chart is called the “compass.” 61 fit It is on this (compass) that (sailors) rely on their voyages. Nothing of the sort exists for the Surrounding Sea. Therefore, ships do not enter it, because, were they to lose sight of shore, they would hardly be able to find their way back to it. Moreover, the air of the Surrounding Sea and its surface harbors vapors that hamper ships on their courses.

Because of the remoteness of these (vapors), the rays of the sun which the surface of the earth deflects, cannot reach and dissolve them. It is, therefore, difficult to find the way to (the Eternal Islands) and to have information about them.

Section 1

This contains the mouth of the Nile which has its origin in the Mountain of the Qumr. 62 This is called the Sudanese Nile river which flows toward the Surrounding Sea and into it at the island of Awlil. 63

The city of Sila,64 Takrur,65 and Ghanah66 are situated along this Nile. At this time, all of them belong to the Mali people,67 a Negro nation. Moroccan merchants travel to their country.

Close to it in the north is the country of the Lamtunah and of the other groups of the Veiled Berbers (Sinhajah), as well as the deserts in which they roam.

To the south of this Nile, there is a Negro people called Lamlam. They are unbelievers. They brand themselves on the face and temples. The people of Ghanah and Takrur invade their country, capture them, and sell them to merchants who transport them to the Maghrib. There, they constitute the ordinary mass of slaves.

Beyond them to the south, there is no civilization in the proper sense. There are only humans who are closer to dumb animals than to rational beings.

They live in thickets and caves and eat herbs and unprepared grain. They frequently eat each other.68 They cannot be considered human beings. All the fruits of the Negro territory come from fortified villages in the desert of the Maghrib, such as Touat (Tawat, Tuwat), Tigurarin, 69 and Ouargla (Wargalan).70

In Ghanah, an ‘Alid king and dynasty are said to have existed. (These ‘Alids) were known as the Banu Salih.

According to the Book of Roger, (Salih) was Salih b. ‘Abdallah b. Hasan b. al-Hasan, but no such Salih is known among the sons of ‘Abdallah b. Hasan .71 At this time the dynasty has disappeared, and Ghanah belongs to the Mali ruler.

To the east of this territory, in the third section of the first zone, is the territory of Gawgaw 7 2 It lies along a river that has its origin in certain mountains there, flows westward, and disappears in the sand in the second section. The realm of Gawgaw was independent.

The Mali ruler then gained power over the territory, and it came into his possession. At this time it is devastated as the result of a disturbance that happened there and that we shall mention when we discuss the Mali dynasty in its proper place in the history of the Berbers. 73

To the south of the country of Gawgaw lies the territory of Kanim, a Negro nation Beyond them are the Wangarah 75 on the border of the (Sudanese Nile) to the north. To the east of the countries of the Wangarah and the Kanim, there is the country of the Zaghay 76 and the Tajirah, 77 adjoining the land of the Nubah in the fourth section of the first zone. The land of the Nubah is traversed by the Egyptian Nile throughout its course from its beginning at the equator to the Mediterranean in the north.

This Nile originates at the Mountain of the Qmr, sixteen degrees above 78 the equator. There are different opinions as to the correct form of the name of this mountain.

Some scholars read the name as qamar “moon,” because the mountain is very white and luminous. Yaqut, in the Mushtarik, 79 as well as Ibn Sa’id, 80 reads qumr, with reference to an Indian people. 81

Ten springs issue from this mountain. Five of them flow into one lake and five into another lake. There is a distance of six miles between the two lakes. From each of the two lakes, three rivers come forth. They come together in a swampy [?] lake (batihah) at the foot of which a mountain emerges. This mountain cuts across the lake at the northern end and divides its waters into two branches.

The western branch flows westward through the Negro territory, and finally flows into the Surrounding Sea. The eastern branch flows northward through the countries of the Abyssinians and the Nubah and the region in between.

At the boundary of Egypt, it divides. Three of its branches flow into the Mediterranean at Alexandria, at Rosetta, 8 2 and at Damietta. One flows into a salt lake before reaching the sea.

In the middle of the first zone along the Nile, lie the countries of the Nubah and the Abyssinians and some of the oases down to Assuan. A settled part of the Nubah country is the city of Dongola, west of the Nile. Beyond it are ‘Alwah 83 and Yulaq. 84 Beyond them, a six days’ journey north of Yulaq, is the mountain of the cataracts.

This is a mountain which rises to a great height on the Egyptian side but is much less elevated on the side of the country of the Nubah, The Nile cuts through it and flows down precipitately in tremendous cascades for a long distance. Boats cannot get through.

Cargoes from the Sudanese boats are taken off and carried on pack animals to Assuan at the entrance to Upper Egypt. In the same way, the cargoes of the boats from Upper Egypt are carried over the cataracts. The distance from the cataracts to Assuan is a twelve day’s journey.

The oases on the west bank of the Nile there are now in ruins. They show traces of ancient settlement.

In the middle of the first zone, in its fifth section, is the country of the Abyssinians, through which a river flows, which comes from beyond the equator and 8 5 flows toward the land of the Nubah, where it flows into the Nile and so on down into Egypt.

Many people have held fantastic opinions about it and thought that it was part of the Nile of the Qumr (Mountain of the Moon). Ptolemy mentioned it in the Geography. He mentioned that it did not belong to the Nile.

In the middle of the first zone, in the fifth section, the Indian Ocean terminates. It comes down from the region of China and covers most of the first zone to the fifth section. Consequently, there is not much civilization there. Civilization exists only on the islands in (the Indian Ocean) which are numerous and said to number up to one thousand.

Civilization also exists on the southern coast of the Indian Ocean, the southernmost limit of the cultivated part of the earth, as also on its northern coast. Of these coasts, the first zone contains only a part of China to the east and the whole of the Yemen in the sixth section of this zone, where two seas branch off northwards from the Indian Ocean, namely, the Red Sea (Sea of al-Qulzum) and the Persian Gulf.

Between them lies the Arabian Peninsula, comprising the Yemen, ash-Shihr to the east on the shore of the Indian Ocean, the Hijaz, the Yamimah, and adjacent regions which we shall mention in connection with the second zone and the regions farther north.

On the western shore of the Indian Ocean is Zayla’ (Zila’), which is on the boundary of Abyssinia, and the desert plains of the Beja north of Abyssinia, which lie between the mountain of al-‘Alliqi 86 in the southernmost part of Upper Egypt and the Red Sea which branches off from the Indian Ocean.

North of Zayla’ (Zila’) in the northern part of this section is the straits of Bib al-Mandeb, where the sea that branches off there is narrowed by the promontory of alMandeb which juts into the Indian Ocean from south to north along the west coast of the Yemen for twelve miles. As a result, the sea becomes sonarrow that its width shrinks to approximately three miles. This is called Bib al-Mandeb.

Yemenite ships pass it on their way to the coast of Suez near Egypt (Cairo). North of Bib al-Mandeb are the islands of Suakin and Dahlak. Opposite it to the west are the desert plains of the Beja, a Negro nation, as we have just mentioned. To the east, on the coast of (the straits of Bib al-Mandeb) is the Tihimah of the Yemen. It includes the place of Haly b. Ya’qub.87

To the south of Zayla’ (Zila’) on the western coast of the Indian Ocean are the villages of Berbera which extend one after the other all along the southern coast of the (Indian Ocean) to the end of the sixth section. There, to the east, the country of the Zanj adjoins them. Then 88 comes the city of Mogadishu, a very populous city with many merchants, yet nomad in character, on the southern coast of the Indian Ocean.

Adjoining it to the east is the country of the Sufilah on the southern coast in the seventh section of the first zone.

East of the country of the Sufilah on the southern shore, lies the country of al-Wiqwiq 89 which stretches to the end of the tenth section of the first zone, where the Indian Ocean comes out of the Surrounding Sea.

There are many islands in the Indian Ocean.

One of the largest islands is the island of Ceylon (Sarandib) which is round in shape and has a famous mountain said to be the highest mountain on earth. It lies opposite Sufilah. Then, there is the island of Java (Malay Archipelago), 90 an oblong island that begins opposite the land of Sufilah and extends northeastward until it approaches the coasts that constitute China’s southern boundary.

In the Indian Ocean, to the south China is surrounded by the islands of al-Wiqwaq, and to the east by the islands of Korea. 91 There are numerous other islands in the Indian Ocean.

These islands produce different kinds of perfumes and incense. They also are said tocontain gold and emerald mines. Most of their inhabitants are Magians. 92 They have numerous rulers. These islands present remarkable cultural features that have been mentioned by geographers.

The northern coast of the Indian Ocean, in the sixth section of the first zone, is occupied by the whole of the Yemen. On the Red Sea side lie Zabid, al-Muhjam, 93 and the Tihamah of the Yemen. Next beyond that is Sa’dah, the seat of the Zaydi imams, lying far from the (Indian) Ocean to the south, and from the Persian Gulf to the east.

In the region beyond that are the city of Aden and, north of it, San’a’. Beyond these two cities, to the east, is the land of al-Ahqaf and Z, afar. Next comes the land of Hadramawt, followed by the country of ash-Shihr between the (Indian) Ocean in the south and the Persian Gulf.

This part of the sixth section is the only part that is not covered by water in the middle region of the first zone. Apart from it, a small portion of the ninth section is not covered by water, as well as a larger area in the tenth section that includes the southernmost limit of China.

One of China’s famous cities is the city of Canton. 94 Opposite it to the east are the islands of Korea which have just been mentioned. This concludes the discussion of the first zone.

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