Born in Baghdad and died in Cairo.
The text is compiled from :
- Freeman-Grenville; Selected documents
- Ingrams; Zanzibar, its history and its people
- James de Verre Allen; Swahili origin,
- Basil Davidson; The African past
- Neville Chittick; East Africa and the Orient
- M. Guillain; Documents sur l'histoire, la geographie....
- Al-Mas'udi; Les Prairies d'or
The text concerning east Africa is taken out of different parts of the book and put together in sequence Every paragraph comes from a different place..
The Erythraean Sea
On this sea extending from China along India, Faris, Oman, Al Basra, Al Bahrein, Yemen, Abyssinia, Al Hejaz, Al Kulzum, Az Zanj, As Sind and the islands which it surrounds are so many and various nations that their description and number is known only to the Almighty. From the countries which form the coast of this sea, come different sorts of perfumes, scents, ambergris, various drugs used in medicine, plantains, cinnamon, cinnabar and incense.
Eager... to study with my own eyes the peculiarities of each country, I have with this object visited Sind and Zanj and Sanf and Sin (china) and Zabay.
The Indians are different from all other races of Negroes, like the Zendjis, the Dendemes, etc. Galen states the ten qualities of the Zendjs thus: Kinky hair, thick eyebrows, broad noses, thick lips, sharp teeth, malodorous skin, dark pupils, small hands and feet, elongated penises and excessive merriment.... Galen also said; surely the dark complexion person (al-aswad) is overwhelmed by merriment due to the imperfection (fasad) of his brain; therefore his intellect is weak. The liveliness of the negro, the empire that takes upon him the joy, and the extreme freakishness distinguishes Zendjis from among all black races, inspired other authors to comment that what we inserted in our former books.
Al Kindi has the following to say:
God created a chain of cause and result in all the parts of his creation, the cause brings upon the creatures an influence, what makes it to be a cause then on its turn, but this subjective creature can not react on that cause or its agent. Or the soul being the cause and not the effect of the globe, the globe can not react on the soul. But it is in the nature of the soul to follow the temper of the body as long as that does not give problems, and that's what is happening with the Zendjs; Because their land is very hot, the heavenly bodies have a great influence and make for the character of the upper part of the body. From there you have it that their eyes grow big in their heads, their lips are hanging, their nose big and flat, and the head is formed under influence of their character. The brain loses its equilibrium, and the soul can not completely influence it, vague perceptions and an absence of all intelligent acts is the result.
The most important of those stars is the sublime Saturn, old and powerful as a king. His character is black and cold, black like the soul taken by despair. He influences the Zendjis and the slaves, and also lead and iron. Taous el-Yemani, companion d'Abdallah, son of el-Abbas, never touches the meat of an animal killed by a Zendji, because he says, Zendji are deformed creatures. I've heard say that Abou'l-Abbas er-Radi billah, son of el-Moktadir, never accepts anything from the hands of a black, because those are deformed slaves. I do not know if he by doing so follows the doctrine of Taous, or if he follows any philosophical line.
Amr, son of Bahr el Djahiz wrote a book : On the superiority of the Blacks, and their battle with the Whites.
That author could bring in the authority of Homer who called the Ethiopians without blame, and putted at their table Jupiter and the Gods of the Olympus.
Ibn Tulun, who was appointed governor of Egypt in 868, learned of an aged Copt from Upper Egypt who was said to be 130 years old. As the old man was reputed to have "journeyed to numerous lands and realms" and to be "highly knowledgeable about their cities and about Egypt and its blessed Nile," Ibn Tulun ordered him brought in. "When the man was brought to the court, the signs of his decrepitude were obvious, but he still had a clear mind, was fully cognizant of what was said to him and thoroughly lucid in his responses." After Ibn Tulun inquired into the secret behind the old man's longevity, he went on to ask about the sources of the Nile. The aged Copt responded, "The source of the Nile is a vast lake which is located at that geographical point where night and day are always of equal duration."
I've seen in Djografia (Ptolemy) the Nil represented as coming from the feet of the mountains of Qomr, its waters, coming first from 12 sources, streams into two lakes resembling those of Basra and later reunited and travel then through sand and mountain lands. Traversing the land of the Negroes (Sudan) who adjoin the regions of the Zanj. From it there branches out into a gulf (khalij) which falls into Bahr az Zanj, the sea where the island of Qanbalu is found. Among the inhabitants of the island is a community of Muslims, now speaking Zahjiyya (the language of the Zanj) who conquered this island and subjected all the Zanj on it in the same manner as the Muslim conquest of the island of Crete (or Cyprus or the Creoles) in the Mediterranean.(ka ghalabat al-Muslimin 'ala jazirat Iqritish) This event (the conquest of Qanbalu) took place around the period of the changeover from the Umayad to the Abbasid dynasty (c.747-754). From them (Qanbalu) to Oman is about 500 farsakhs (1415 miles) according to the guess rather then the exact calculation by the sailors. Many sailors (nakhoda) of Syraf and Oman who are on these seas, say that they find at about the time of the floods of the Nile in Egypt, changes in the color of the sea water, there at that small place where the current of the river continues in the sea. The river comes from the mountains of the Zendj and is about one mile large. The water is sweet and becomes muddy when the floods arrives in Egypt and in Said. One finds in this sea the chouhman or crocodile, so common in the Nile, it is also called el-waral.
About the arm of the Nile which as we have said throws itself in the sea of Zendj, it is only a channel which comes from the upper basin of the Zendj and it serves as frontier with the lands inhabited by the Abyssiniennes. Without that channel, the vast desserts, and the moving sands, the enormous turbulent hordes of the Zendjs would have chased the Abyssiniens from their native lands.
It has a gulf towards Abyssinie, as far as Berbera, the land situated between the Zendj and the Abyssins. This gulf is called Beurberian, and according to Al-Fazari 7 or 6 hundred parasangs by 500. Do not confuse this land of Berbera with the Berbers, situated in the land called Ifrikiyah, a land very distinct of the one we are talking about, they only have the name in common. The sailors of Oman pass by the channel (of Berbera) then go on the sea of the Zanj to reach the island of Qanbalu, as we have mentioned . It has a mixed population of Muslims and Zanj idolater. The sailors of Oman think that the gulf of Beurberien, which they call the sea of Berberia and of the land of Jafonni (or Djafouna)(Ras Hafoun), is way bigger then we have said. The waves of this sea are as big as high mountains, the rollers are called blind because they grow into great mountains and open deep valleys between them. But they do not produce the foam as they do in other seas. The sailors say the waves are bewitched.
The sailors from Oman who sail there are Arabs from the tribe of Azd. And when traveling there and having there boat taken up to the top of the waves, they pray: O Berbera and Jafonni and your bewitched waves. Jafonni and Berbera and their waves are as you see. The goal of these (ship captains) on the sea of the Zanj is the island of Qanbalu and the land of Sofale and the Waqwaq is on the extremity of the country of the Zanj and the Low Countries thereabout. There also are the lowest parts of the sea of the Zanj.
Massoudi writes quit a lot about Jafonni or Djafouna. Every geographer after him will talk about it. The way the word is spelled differs. Many times it is mentioned that there a mountain is visible with seven peaks. Cafouna and Kharfouna are just some of the possibilities under which Ras Hafun can be found. I thought it necessary to give a map of this very auspicious landmark on the Somali coast.
The people of Siraf also make this voyage. And I myself have sailed on this sea, setting off from Sohar (or Sanjar), the capital of Oman, in the company of Sirafi ship-owners who were ship captains Muhammad bin Zaidabud and Jawhar bin Ahmed surnamed Ibn Sirah, who was later lost at sea with his ship. My last voyage from Qanbalu to Oman was in A.H. 304 (AD 916) on the ship belonging to Ahmad and Abd al-Samad, who were the brothers of Abd al-Rahim ibn Ja'far al-Sirafi, a native from Mikan, which is a quarter of Siraf. They were both lost at sea with all their goods later on. The Amir of Oman at the time of my last voyage was Ahmed ibn Hilal, son of a sister of al-Qital. I have sailed much on the seas, those of China, Rum, the Khazar, Qulzum and Yemen, but no sea is more dangerous than the Bahr al-Zanj.
It is there that you meet the fish called el-owal (whale), which measures sometimes up to 4 to 500 elbows omari, which is the measure in this country, but its normal length is 100 elbows. Often, in calm weather, it comes partly above water his "arms" look like big sails of a boot, with intervals, he puts his head up and blows out a water column which goes higher then an arrow can fly. The sailors being day and night affright of him threw pieces of wood at him or play the drum to keep him away. It is with his tail and "arms" that he moves and brings the fish on which he feeds into his mouth....
The sea of the Zendj still has several other kind of fish, who present the most different forms. Without the human tendency to ignore what one does not know, and the habit to reject everything that is different from his normal experiences we would be able to talk about a big number of wonderful things in this sea, about snakes and the animals that are in it and in general all the phenomenon that belong to the seas.
But let us return to our subject and describe the ramifications of the Abyssinian Sea, its channels, gulfs, and coastal lands that it forms. An other canal derived from the sea of Abyssinia goes up to the town of Kolzoum, in the territory of Egypt, and three days distant from Fostat (old Cairo) This channel, which passes by Eilah, Hedjaz, Djeddah and Yemen, has a length of 1400 miles by 200 miles wide, at its smallest and 700 miles wide at its largest. In front of Hedjah and the town of Eilah, on the western side of the gulf, you find the land of Allaki, the territories of Aidab situated in upper Egypt and in the land of Bedjah, then comes the land of the Abyssinians and the Negroes till there where the Gulf joins the extend of the land of the Zendjs, not to far from the land of Sofala. At the Sofalah of the country of the Zanj another gulf branches off, and this is the Persian sea which comes up to el-Obollah, to the Khashabat, (the wooden sea-marks), and to Abbadan which belongs to el-Basrah.
These are the seas that reach up to China, the Indian, Persian, Oman, Basrah, Bahrein, Yemen, Abyssinia, Hedjah, Kolzoum, Zanguebar, and Sind.
The sea that is collectively known as the sea of Abyssinie, and its subdivisions which have particular names, like the sea of Fars, the sea of Yemen, of Kolzoum, Abyssinie, Zendj, Sind, India, Kalah, of Zabedj, and of China, all are subject to different winds. I have noticed that the sailors of Siraf and Oman, who travel the seas of China, India, Sind, Zendj (Zanguebar) of Yemen Kolzoum and Abyssinia, never were generally in agreement with the philosophers, of which we retraced the opinions, about the vastness of those seas, they even say that at certain places the sea is unlimitedly big. The collective sea of Abyssinia; it holds in its immensity the sea of Zendj, and reaches the shores of that country. Amber is rare in the sea of Larewi, but it is found in big quantities on the Zendj shores and the coast of ech-Chihr in Arabia.
The best Amber is that found in the islands and on the shores of the Zanj sea: it is round and pale blue, sometimes as big as an ostrich egg; sometimes slightly less. The fish called the whale, which I have already mentioned, swallows it: when the sea is very rough it vomits up pieces of amber as large as rocks, which are later swallowed by other fish. It is asphyxiated by them and then swims up to the surface. Then the Zanj, or men from other lands, who have been biding their time in their boats, seize the fish with harpoons and tackle, cut its stomach open, and take the amber out. The pieces found near the bowels have a nauseating smell, and are called nedd by the Iraqi and Persian chemists: but the pieces found near the back are purer then those which have been a long time in the inner part of the body... Amber comes from the bottom of the sea, where it is formed like the bitumen white or black.
This picture and all the others in this article do not belong to the work of Masudi they and the accompanying red text are from Theodore de Bry of Frankfurt who made them 1598-1603. They are added as illustration only How the inhabitants catch whales of the Island of Santa Marta [just off the east coast of Madagascar]
When the natives of S. Marta see a whale, they row out in their little boats and throw out a rope with a large hook on the end. When the hook buries itself in the creatures flesh, the natives pull on the rope until the wound widens and the whale becomes weak, nearly bleeding to death. Then they haul it ashore and start chopping it up. Everyone could take as much meat as they needed because it was so large.
The king of China, of the Turks, of India, of the Zandj and the other parts of the world, all view the king of Babel as their superior; they agree he is the first king of the universe.
The principal ingredients of perfumes are five musk camphor aloes ambergris and saffron they all come from India except saffron and ambergris which are found in the country of the Zanj in esh Shihr and Spain.
Let us come back to the different Kings of the earth and the list of the Kingdoms which we still have to describe on the coast of Abyssinia. The king of Zanj is called Flimi; the one of the Alains, Kerkendadj; the one of Hirah, of the family of the Beni-Nasr Noman and Mondir; the one from the mountains of Tabarestan, Karen...
Later in this book when we talk about the land of the Zendj, we will speak about the elephant and his way of living in those parts, where they are more numerous then anywhere else, and where they live in the wild.
Behind the land of Alawah (Lowata), there lives a numerous population of blacks called Bekneh (Bedjneh); they are naked as the Zendj; there are gold mines in their territory. It is in this country that the Nile splits, and gives birth to a big canal that when separating from the Nile, becomes green. The main river, the real Nile, goes without changes towards the land of the Nubiens. But at certain times of the year the big branch of the Nile, becomes white, while the small one becomes green. This canal divides in several small branches through inhabited valleys, then it arrives at the southern dessert at the coast of the Zendjs where it throws itself into the sea.
Noah's posterity began to spread all over the earth, the sons of Kush, sons of Canaan (Cham) followed a western direction and crossed the Nile. There they formed new groups, some of them, the Nubians, Beeljah and the Zinj, turned to the right between the east and the west. The others, in great numbers, went westwards in the direction of Zagawah, Canem, Makah, Ghanah, and other parts of the land of the Blacks and the Dendemeh. Those who had taken the right between east and west soon separated again, thus forming several tribes of the Zinj such as the Makir (or Mekir), Maskar (or Mechkir), the Marira and others.
The land of the Zanj produces wild leopard skins. The people wear them as clothes, or export them to Muslim countries. They are the largest leopard skins and the most beautiful for making saddles.
The Sea of Zanj and that of Abyssinia lie on right of the sea of India and join up. They also export tortoise-shell for making combs, for which ivory is likewise used as well as bracelets and several kinds of jewelry. The most common animal in these countries is the giraffe: it generally lives in Nubia, and is not found in any part of Abyssinia. People do not agree on the origin of the giraffe. The ones consider them as a variety of the camel, others say that its form is due to crossing a camel with a panther, others still say it is a distinct species just like the horse, the donkey and the bull, and not a crossbreed, like the mule, which you get by crossing a horse with a donkey. The giraffe is called in Persian uchturgav. It got send as a present from Nubia to Persia, as it got later offered to the Arabs, to the first Abbasite Caliphs and to the governors of Egypt. This animal has the front legs and the neck very long, the rear legs way smaller. The front legs are the only ones having a knee. El-Djahiz, in his book on animals, gives long details on the origin of the giraffe. According to him a big amount of wild beasts come together, during the summer heads, on the shores of the vast watery plains at the extremity of Nubia. From the crossing that results from it, some are sterile, while others give bird to very varied forms among them the giraffe. This animal has forked feet, its back is backwards inclined because his rear legs are very short. The origin of the giraffe has given birth to a lot of discussion.
A long discussion about the giraffe is found in the big book of animals of Aristotle; that author explains there the function of each part of the giraffe and in general for all animals. We borrowed from him in our book Questions and Experience, everything that is good to know on this subject. The giraffe is remarkable by his softness and the affection that it gives to its family. In this species, just like among the elephants, there are wild individuals and domestic ones.
The Zinj , with other Abyssinian tribes spread themselves to the right of the Nile, down to the extremity of the Sea of Abyssinia. Of all the Abyssinian (Ahabish) tribes the Zinj were the only ones who had crossed a tributary of the Nile (the Jubb) which flowed into a bay or canal, which in turn opened into the Indian Ocean. Only the Zendjs cross the arm that splits of from the upper Nile, and throws itself in the sea that wears the name of those people, they fix themselves on the beaches, and extend their homes up to Sofala, which is the limit of their land. Their country goes down as far as the country of Sofala and the Waqwaq. There is the furthest limit for the voyages from Oman and Siraf on the Sea of the Zanj. In the same way that the sea of china ends with the lands of Sirla (Japan), the sea of Zanj ends with the land of Sofala and the Waq-waq, which produces gold and many other wonderful things. It has a wonderful climate and is fertile.
It is there that the Zanj build their capital (dar mamlaka): then they elected whom they called Waklimi (or Flimi) (or Ouaqlimi) (the word means sun of the supreme Lord "ibn er-Rabb el-Kebir"). This name… has always been that of their sovereigns. The Waklimi has under him all the other Zanj kings, and commands three hundred thousand men. The Zanj use the ox as a beast of burden, for their country has no horses or mules or camels and they do not even know these animals. Snow and hail are unknown to them as to all Abyssinians. Some of their tribes have sharpened teeth and are cannibals. The land of Zanj begins with a branch which leaves the upper Nile and continues to the land of Sofala and the waqwaq. Their settlements extend over an area of about 700 parasangs (1 parasangs is 2.8 nautical miles) in length and in breath; this country is divided by valleys, mountains and stony deserts. Elephants are extremely common in the land of the Zinj; but they are wild and none are kept in captivity. The natives do not employ them in warfare nor for any other purpose, but they hunt them merely to kill them. When they want to catch them, they throw in the water the leaves, bark and branches of a certain tree which grows in their country: then they wait in ambush until the elephant comes to drink. The water makes them drunk and sick. They fall down and can not get up: their limbs will not move anymore. The Zanj rush upon them, armed with very long spears and kill them for their ivory.
It is from this country that large elephant tusks of fifty pounds and more are obtained. (Tusks from the country of Zanj) go generally to Oman, and from there are send on to China and India.
This is the chief trade route, and were it otherwise, ivory would be very abundant in Muslim countries. In China the kings and their military and civilian officers use carrying-chairs of ivory; no official or person of rank would dare to visit the king in an iron chair, and ivory alone is used for this purpose. Thus they seek after strait tusks in preference to the curved, to make the things we talked about. They also burn ivory before their idols and sense their altars with it, just as Christians use the Mary incense and other perfumes. The Chinese make no use of the elephant, and consider it unlucky to use it for domestic purposes or for war. This fear has its origin in a tradition about one of their most ancient expeditions. Ivory is much prized in India; there it is made into handles for the daggers known as harari as well as for the hilts of curved swords called kartal. But the biggest use of ivory is in the manufacture of chessmen and gaming pieces.
Several pieces of chess represent figures of people or animals, sometimes a bit bigger then one empan (22-25 cm), this makes that the players sometimes have during their game an assistant to carry the pieces from one place to another.
In the Land of the Zinj the elephant lives about 400 years, according to what the people say, and they speak with certainty of having met an elephant so tall that it was impossible to kill him… It is only in the land of Zenj and in India that elephants reproduce. In India and in Sind their ivory is not as much developed then at the Zendjes, these ones as well as the Indians make belts with the skin of the elephant, who really do not have the strength of those that come from China, Tibet or the Bedja. The leather is inferior to the one that has been formed in the milk…
People watch to explain why the elephant can only be found with the Zendjs and in Sind, why it does not exists outside there, why it dislikes an animal as enormous as the rhinoceros and flies when meeting a cat.
The rhino horn is white, with a black figure in the middle, which represents men, or a bird with a big tail, or a fish, or the rhino itself or a different animal from those regions. With ropes they make belts of it in which the pieces of horn are put with gold and silver or a mixture with other metals. The kings and the important ones of China like these jewelry above all, they even pay as much as 2000 or 3000 dinars for it. Gold is used in it and the total is of such splendor and also strong, sometimes different kinds of precious stones are put in it, fixed in it with gold nails. The images of which we talked are normally traced in black onto the white of the horn, sometimes the opposite. Sometimes however with horns from different regions, the horn does not show these drawings.
Now let us return to our subject of the beginning of the chapter, the Zanj, the description of their country and of the other people of Abyssinia. The Zanj, although always busied hunting the elephant and collecting its ivory, make no use of it for domestic purposes. The zanj use iron for ornament instead of gold and silver just as they use oxen, as we said previously to carry loads as well as for war, instead of camels and horses.
To come back to the Zanj of Sofala and their kings, the name of the king of the country is Waklimi which means supreme lord; they give this title to their sovereign because he has been chosen to govern them justly. If he becomes tyrannical or strayed from the truth he is killed and his seed excluded from the throne for ever, for they claim that in thus conducting himself he ceases to be the son of the Master, that is to say of the king of heaven and earth. They call God by the name of Maklandjalu, which means supreme Master (er-rabb el-kebir)...
The Zanj speak elegantly, and they have orators in their own language. Often a ascetic (zahid) man of the country, will get up and address a large crowd exhorting them to draw near to their god and render him obedience; frightening them with his punishment and authority, recalling them to the example of their former kings and ancestors. They have no revealed law to turn to but the customs of their kings.
The Zanj eat bananas, which are as abundant with them as in India, but the basis of their food is dhurra (sorghum), a plant called al-kalari (jams) which they take from the ground like a truffle. It is plentiful in Aden and the neighboring part of Yemen near to the town. It is like the cucumber of Egypt and Syria. They also have honey and meat. Each worships what he pleases, a plant, an animal, a mineral. They possess a great number of islands where the coconut grows, a fruit that is eaten by all the peoples of the Zanj. One of these islands, placed one or two days' journey from the coast , has inhabitants who are Muslims (fiha khala'iq min al-Muslimin) who provide the royal family. This is the Qanbalu about which we have written elsewhere in this book.
A: a forest is set on fire so that grain can be sown.
B: the natives prepare the ground for sowing.
C: a fire is made form the roots of the burnt forest. When the work is finished, the people sit round and drink.
D: the grain is watched over while it grows.
E: here are shown growing little red and black peas.
F: here rice is shown growing.
G: here maize is shown growing.
H: a tree where large beans grow.
I: grain or ‘manigete’.
Lastly, a palm-tree is shown. When it produces no more wine, it is cut down and the last drops burned out into a bowl. A new tree grows up from the roots of several stumps. ... the country of the Nubiens, of which the king is called Nedjachi, 1500 parasangs, by 400; the country of the Zendjes, in the east, 7600 parasangs by 500 , the land of Ostoula, which belongs... Under the Caliph Moutazz, in 252 A.H. we have the first symptoms of discord between the Bellalities and the Saadites breaking out in Basrah; the revolt of the Zendj was the consequence of those troubles.
The revolt of the Zendj breaks out in Basrah, under the reign of Mouhtadi in 255 A.H. That man made himself pass as Ali, son of Mohammed (son of Ahmed, son of Yca, son of Zeid, son of Ali, son of El-Hucein, son of Ali, son of Abou Talib), but according to the general opinion, this was a wrong genealogy and needs to be rejected. He came from a village called Verzenin, which depends from the province of Rey. His behavior proves that the accusations brought against him of belonging to the sect of the Kharedjites called Azrakites is true; because he killed the women, the children, the old and all those of whom the live has to be spared, this proves how much this accusation is real. We have also preserved one of his sayings, which starts with the words; (profession of faith of the Kharedjites); God is great, God is Great, there is no other God then God, God is great, to God alone belongs the command, he also kept to saying that all sin makes you into an infidel. He puts himself at the head of the Zendj, they revolt in Bir Nakhl (the holes of the palm trees) between Medinet el-Fath and Kerkh-Basrah, Thursday third day before the end of the Ramadan, in 255 A.H., they conquer Basrah in 257 and got killed Saturday 2 of safer 270, under the Caliph Moutamid-Alallah.
Mouaffak starts his campaign against the chef of the Zendj in the month of safar 267 A.H. he orders his son Abou'l-Abbas to march to Souq el-Khamis, or Charani, one from Alevide (that means one of the chef of the Zendj), who had been with a big party of Zendj. Abou l'Abbas conquerors that place and everything that is in there, he conquers several other towns and massacres all he meets of Zendj. From his side Mouaffak enters the province of Ahwaz (Susiane) and repairs the destruction made by the enemy, then he returns to Basrah and does not leave fighting the Zendj till he kills them. This rebel, of which the domination went on for 14 years had killed without pity kids, old people, man and women, everywhere he had brought fire and plunder. In one single battle fought close to Basrah, he had killed 300,000 people.
Mohallebi, one of the principal officers of Ali ben Mohammed (chef of the Zendj) lived in Basrah after this battle. He had put up a seat in the quarter called 'Cemetery of the Benou-Yachkor. There he recites the solemn prayers, and the Friday prayer. He first calls the name of his boss Ali ben Mohammed and asks Gods protection for Abou Bekr and Omar; but he leaves out the names of Otman and Ali in his reciting. Then he talks about the tyrants of the Abbas family, as well as Abou Mouca el-Achari, Amr, son of El-Ass, and Moawiah, son of Abou Sofian.
We have earlier talked about his doctrines and added that he belongs to the sect of the Kharedijtes, called Azrakites. As those of that party who were still staying in Basrah still clung strongly to the opinion of Mohallebi and continued to united on certain Fridays, they were put outside the law. Some united to save themselves, the others were massacred or drawn. Many among them went into hiding in houses and holes, they only showed up at night and hunted dogs, rats and cats, who they killed for food, but soon those resources were exhausted and there was nothing left to eat. Then they started eating the bodies of their people who died; they waited their dead impatiently, the stronger ones killing the weaker ones. With this came a lack of drinking water. The story is told of a women being close to one of her family close to dead, the sister of the dying one was there, all those women sitting in a circle waiting for her dead to have her meat. This is what literally is the witness said; She still hadn't stopped breading, we throw us on her, and cut her in pieces, and started to devour her. Her sister was with us, while we were in a place called Yca ben Abi Harb, she starts crying. When asked why, she answered; Those women assembled around my sister, and without letting her die a natural dead, they cut her in pieces. And they stole from me the body of my sister of whom they only left me the head. And she continued this way to lament the wrong that was done to her when dividing the body. There were many scenes of this kind and even worse ones.
The Zendj army was such that they sold publicly the women of the family of Hacan, Hucein, and Abbas, the descendents of Hachem, of Koreich and the most noble Arab families. A young girl sells for 2 to 3 dirhams, the caller screaming the genealogy in the following words; this one, daughter of , of such a family. Every black owned 10 , 20 and even 30 of those women, they served as concubines to the blacks and had to be the most humble of the slaves. One of those captives, who descended through Hacan, from Ali, son of Abou Talib, belonged to a black; she begged the chef of the Zendj, Ali ben Mahammed, to give her another master instead of the one who owned her. No answered the chef, he is your owner and fits you better then an other one.
There is speculation, about how many people died in those war years. Some make very big estimates, others with more moderation. According to the first the figure is impossible to calculate. It is only God in his complete knowledge who can know what the taking of those towns, districts and villages and the massacres that resulted from it cost in lives. The more moderates estimate the total loss in live at a half million. But both opinions rest upon unverified figures, and all absolute calculations are impossible. The chef of the Zendj died in 270, under the Caliph of Moutamid, as we said higher. Of the country of the Bejah....There are four kinds of emerald: mar, the most pretty; bahri sought for by the kings of countries on the shore: Inde, Sind, Zandj and Chine; maghrabi sought for by the western kings: francs, lombards, espagnols, basques, slaves and russes; asamm, which is less pretty.
The kings of India paid very high prices for any elephant of greater height than the above average. The elephants of zanj have still higher statures. Their tusks at times weigh .180 to 200 maunds each maund weighing two ratals (i.e. pounds of Bagdad).
The people from the southern quarter, like the Zendj and the different branches of the Abyssinians and those who are south of the equator and who have the son in the zenith..... With them the heat is intense, the moisture low, they are very black, have red eyes, what comes natural with them because the atmosphere is overheated and the kids develop so that their skin is burned, their hair is curled through the radiation of the dry heat.....
Ahnaf ibn Qais enumerates the merits of Basra versus those of Kufa:
Basra has reed below, woods in the middle and meadows above. We have more teak than you, more ivory and silk brocade, and likewise more sugar and more coin. Truly it is a city I always enter with joy and leave with regret.
( of a statue in a temple of the slaves)
under his left foot are the feathers of birds such as black crows and other birds and of men in
strange shapes like the Abyssinians and the Zendj
(a performer in front of the caliph)
I gave him my imitations of Bedouin, grammarians, transvestites, judges, gypsies, Nabateans,
Sindi, Zanj, eunuchs and Turks…..
Greed is common in Persia and simplicity in food is a speciality of Isfahan. The feet being apart
and noses like a duck are native defects in the Sudan and joy is the privilege of residents of Zendj.
Taken from: translation by B. Carra de Vaux
The people from the southern parts like the Zendj and the different branches of the Abyssinians and those who are to the south of the
equatorial line and who have the sun in its zenith of its clime, representing the opposite characteristics of the former; there the heat is
intense moister rare, they are black skinned, have red eyes, which is natural, because it is so hot that the children develop inside their
mothers so that they are burned, their hair is kinky through the effect of the radiation from the dry heat; it is like long hair brought close to
the fire it first contracts then they bent in rings as one brings them closer to the fire are then further away……….
The limit of the second climate is the sea from the region of Oman following the borders of Ech-Chihr and El-Ahkaf till Aden Abyan, then up
to the peninsula of the Zendjs and the Abyssinians. The longest extend of the days there is 13 hours……..
The sea of Abyssinia and the sea of China, of Sind and from India, of the Zendj, of Basra, of Obollah, of Fars, of Karmanie, of Oman, of
Bahrein, of Chihr, of Yemen, of Eilah, of Kolzoum in the land of Egypt, and Abyssinia. In the whole world, there is no bigger sea….
The Nil ; Starts with sources situated in the mountain of the moon (Djebel el-Kamar) 7 and a half degrees behind the equator, what comes
to 141 parasangs and two thirds, or in miles 425 miles. From those sources leave 10 rivers that go 5 by 5 in two lakes which are situated
to the south behind the equatorial line. From each of these two lakes comes three rivers and all those river arms throw themselves in one
lake in the first climate. It is from there that the Nile of Egypt starts…..
And from the origin of the Nil in the mountains of the moon to the place where it throws itself in the sea of Roum, the distance is 748
parasangs and 2/3 what comes to 2,245 miles. There are people who measure the distance from the origins of the Nile till its end to 1,130
and some parasanges. In the neighborhood of the mountain of the moon are many villages and places from the Zendjs; after having crossed these one arrives in
the land of Sofalah of the Zendj and the island of Kanbalou where the inhabitants are Muslim, then to the land of Berbera and Hafouni……..
The same learned people teach that when the northern hemisphere is in summer, the southern one is in winter, and when winter reigns in
the north, summer reigns in the south. This allows to explain why the rise of the Nile happen in summer, because it is the time of winter and
of rain in that part of the earth of the Abyssinians like Nubie, Zagawah, the land of the Zendjs, up to the mountains of the moon who are
situated behind the equator. It is from those mountains that flow the sources of the Nile.