From his Al-Bayan wa'l-tabyin (The explanation and the evidence):

taken from the original translation

They (the Shu'ubiyya) maintain that eloquence is prized by all people at all times- even the Zanj, despite their dimness, their boundless stupidity, their obtuseness, their crude perceptions and their evil dispositions, make long speeches.

Nevertheless we find people, which are capable to copy the mode of expression of the inhabitants Yemen with them the peculiar discussion of the words without ignoring a little thing; likewise they can copy also a Kurasaner, a Ahwazer, one of the Zang, a man of Abessinia and others, it can even be that one finds one, that it more faithful than the inhabitants of those areas. If they copy a stutterer, is it, as if all characteristics of all stutterer of the earth would be united in the language of this person.

Abul Hasan al-Madani told me that the Zanj have the incisors pulled. They sharpen their teeth, not only to use them in battle as a weapon but also so as to be able to eat the enemies later on.

If you hear me mention al awwam, then I do not include in that the farmers, the people living in bad conditions, artisans, traders, as well as Kurds, the people of the islands, not those like the Berber, the Tailasaner, the Muqaner and the Gilaner (all on the shore of the Caspian Sea), the Zang and those who resemble the Zang. The people that are worth mentioning are four: the Arabs, the Persians, the Indians and the Byzantines. The others are savages (hamag) and those who resemble savages.

Taken from: Al Jahiz, nine essays

from the translation by William M. Hutchins; Nine essays of al-Jahiz

You asserted that the difference between the Turks and the Khurasani is not like the difference between the Persian and Arab, the Byzantine and the Slav, or the Zanj and the Ethiopian, not to mention those more distant in substance and more intensely different. It is rather, like the difference between a resident of Mecca and of Medina.

Taken from Al Jahiz: Kitab al-Bukhala; Avarice & the Avaricious

taken from the original translation

We know that the Zanj are the least intelligent and the least discerning of mankind, and the least capable of understanding the consequences of actions.

He had the habit to say : I never had the pleasure to eat dates with a Zang or someone from Ispahane. The Negro is not choosing, there where I do; the ones from Ispahane they take a handful and before he has finished those won't touch the others.

Taken from: "Kitab al Akhbar" ("The Book of the New")

found in: Gerald Messadie : A History of the Devil

Having become interested in the Byzantine, we found that they were doctors, philosophers, and astronomers. They are familiar with the principles of music, are able to create Roman(weights and measures) and know the world of books. They are excellent painters........ They possess an architecture different from any other.... It is unarguable that they have beauty, are familiar with arithmetic, astrology, and calligraphy, and that they possess courage and a variety of great talents. The Blacks and similar peoples have less intelligence because they lack these qualities.
Investigation into commerce

Taken from: Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World by Olivia Remie Constable, Irving W. Raymond,


The imports in Iraq .
From Barbary and the borders of the Maghrib: panthers, salam leaves, felts, and black hawks.
From Yemen: eye lotion, tanned skins, giraffes, cuirasses, colored gems, incense, the leaves of the Khitr (for dyeing) and the spice safran-bamboo (Zingiberaceae).
From Egypt…..
Le Kitab al Tarbi wal tadwir (Gahiz)

Why is it that they do not speak different languages? Some speak the language of Zang, others the Nabateen, others Persian? If you say one finds among them people seldom found, the poet, the ……..

Jahiz: Al-Barsan wal-Argan

(on social responses to physical disability

It was said: a lot of saliva makes not to show the smell of the mouth. Therefore, the dogs have the best breath.. And the best people are the Zinj.


Ibn Qutayba (880) : Kitab al-ma'arif
(The book of knowledge) worked in Baghdad

Taken from: David M. Goldenberg: The curse of Ham, Race and slavery in early Judaism

Wahb b. Munabbih said that Ham b. Noah was a white man having a beautiful face and form. But Allah (to Him belongs glory and power) changed his color and the color of his descendants because of his father's curse. Ham went off, followed by his children. They settled on the shore of the sea, and Allah increased them. They are the Sudan. Their food was fish, which used to stick to their teeth. So they sharpened their teeth until these became like needles. Some of Ham's descendants settled in the west. Ham begot Kush b. Ham, Kanan b. Ham and Fut b. Ham. Fut traveled and settled in the land of Hind and Sind, and the people there are his descendants. The descendants of Kush and Kanan are the races of the Sudan: the Nuba, the Zanj, the Qazan, the Zaghawa, the Habasha, the Qibt, and the Barbar.

The Zanj live of fish, and for this reason sharpen their teeth like needles, so that the fish should not stick to them.

He also states that blacks are ugly and misshapen, because they live in a hot country. The heat overcooks them in the womb and curls their hair.

Ibn Qutayba: Uyun al-akhbar (Book of useful knowledge)


Taken from: The natural history section from a 9th century Book of useful knowledge the Uyun al-akhbar of Ibn Qutayba.

The Sages say: Hermaphroditism befalls Arabs [as well as] Kurds and Negroes,

lunatics and any [other] kind [of human being], except eunuchs; there will never be a hermaphrodite eunuch.

They (further) say: Any creature affected with evil smell and pungent odour – such as the goat’s ram (tays) and its like – will lose its bad odour and its stench will become less after having been castrated; man expected, for his stench will become (even) stronger, his bad odour even more pungent and his sweat and breath loathsome.

The bones of all species of animals become thinner after castration, and when this has come to pass the flesh becomes slack and loosens itself from the bones. (here too) man is an exception, for if he be castrated his bones become longer and thicker.

They (further) say: Eunuchs and women are not affected with baldness, and a eunuch’s food becomes long and coarsened.

I have been informed that Muhammad ibn al-Jahm owned a packhorse (birdhawn) with thin hooves. He gelded it, whereupon its hooves improved. Compare this with (what I just mentioned above) man, (viz:) if he is castrated his feet become bigger.

They (further) say: The tread of a eunuch’s food is heavy, for the insertion of his sinews have become slackened. He is affected with contortion and crookedness of his fingers and toes, his tears come quickly, his skin becomes wrinkled, he is quick to anger but easy to reconcile and incapable of keeping a secret.

Some (among the sages) assert that they (the eunuchs) attain old age on account of their having no sexual intercourse. In their opinion that is also the reason for the long life of mules, whereas …………

The Sages say: The Negroes (zanj) are the most inferior of creatures and those with the worst constitution; for their country is hot, and therefore the wombs burn them. The same applies to people living in cold regions….

They (further) say; The sun has scorched their (the Negroes) hair and thus made it crisp. Any hair you bring near a fire will (first) become curled, and if you continue (holding it there) it will become crisp (contracted) and afterwards be consumed by the fire.

They [also] say: Of all races the Negroes have the best odour of the mouth,

although they do not cleanse their teeth. Any human being with his mouth moist and his saliva abundant has a good- smelling mouth. The corrupt odour of a fasting person's mouth is occasioned by the the thickening of the saliva, and so is the bad odour at the end of the night.

The giraffe (zarafa) is (cross-breed) between the wild she-camel, the baqara wahshiyya (the Oryx) and the male hyena (dib’an). Its (Persian) name is ushturgawpalank, viz. between the camel and the rhinoceros (karkand). It ownes its existence to the fact that the male hyena in Abessynia mounts the (wild) she-camel, which then brings forth a young one, the bodily constitution of which is (something) between the camel and the hyena. The male young one od such a she-camel mounts the wild cow (maha) and begets with it the giraffe. The giraffe is called zarafa because it is (properly speaking) a group although one (animal). It is, so to speak, a camel, a (wild) cow and a hyena (all in one), and in the Arabic language zarafa means group.

Abu Ubayda said: A scorpion (once) stung an Arab of the desert in Basra, and they feared for his life, so that he became extremely grieved. Then one of his people said : There is nothing better than to cleanse for him the testicle of a negro (zinji), who has sweated; and so it was done. This happened on a sultry night; and when they gave it to him to swallow, he frowned. On being asked: What taste do you find (in it), he replied: I find the taste of a new water-skin.

Al Fakihi; Tarikh Makkah (History of Makka) (883AD)


Taken from: Concepts and Ideas at the Dawn of Islam by M. J. Kister

Die Chroniken der Stadt Mekka, edited by Ferdinand Wustenfeld

The mountain group Thabir Plur Athbira consists of six parts:

1 Thabir Geina…..
2 The Thabir el Zang (jabal al-zanj) is so called because the black slaves of Mecca when fetching wood there play game
here it is a part of the

3 Thabir el Nachilund……..

In the place where we nowadays have the dar al- abbas there used to be in the old days the market where slaves were sold.


Abu Mashar al-Balkhi, Jafar Ibn Muhammad (d885) Kitab al-mudkhal al-kabir ila 'ilm ahkam an-nujjum (The Greater Introduction to Astrology) from Balhi

Taken from : Actes; XII congres inernational vol 1A D’histoire des sciences Paris 1968

Richard Lemay, Fautes et contresens dans les traductionsarabo-latines médiévales : l’Introductorium in Astronomiam d’Abou Ma’shar de Balkh
Also called: Albumazar; Abu-Mashar; Abu Maschar,

I did not find a translation of the MSS only quotes from his work.
He writes down what he heard from sailors:
The people on the coast of Berbera are a kind of Zanj.
He mentions that in the land of the Zanj they see what later was to become known as the Magellan cloud.
He mentions the two countries in east Africa being Zanj and Zabay which however have to be reached following a different course; For Zanj the Arab navigators go immediately by the Oman sea and the eastern shore of the Indian Ocean. He also uses for the big island of Zabay other words like al-Qimar and al-Chymer. Al-Qimar, situated behind India and populated by a kind of Zanj.
The people of the East African coast: And there is nobody who has reached their land, and those people are not recorded, and we do not know anybody who reached the continent who can describe us the people and the natives.

Abu Mashar al-Balkhi Dialoges with Sadan

Taken from: Notes on Marco Polo: ouvrage posthume‎ by Paul Pelliot

Abu Masar said: In the country of the Zanj, people see a great star rising, looking like a snake, which is only visible in the region of the sky where it rises. I have seen somebody who had observed it, and he reported that it emitted a faint light, like a piece of a cloud in which there is a feint light, and also that it was always southern (since) the arc of its trajectory was small.

Abu Mashar al-Balkhi, Jafar Ibn Muhammad; Kitab al-milal wa-al-duwal (The book of religions and dynasties)

Taken from: On Historical Astrology: The Arabic original - Kitab al-milal wa-al-duwal (The book of religions and dynasties)

If [a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter] happens in Capricorn, it indicates wars occurring between Ethiopia, Zanj, India, the Berbers, and the people of those regions. If the Sun and Mercury aspect them, this indicates illnesses destructive to kings, and that tumours, cutting, and burning (of the skin) come to them because of them together with frequent winds lightning mists fire the lack of planets, and plenty of thieves.

Libra: the countries belonging to it are the lands of Bukhara, Tuharistan, the Comoro Islands, the land of the Turks, Amsr, the part of the land of Ethiopia which is called Wasifin, the land of Sigistan, and the land of Kirman.

If Venus conjoins with it, this indicates the corruption of the conditions of women, intense lewdness among men, plenty of children, false rumours among the people, and anxieties, and that the year is oppressive for the people of the coasts (Sawahil) and Egypt and that emigration increases among them, together with cheapness of jewellery made of water, like pearls and the like, poverty coming to the common people, and calamities.

(According to the translator of the book; this perhaps refers to the inhabitants of the coast of East Africa, who became known as the Swahili, from the Arabic term for coasts.)


Ibn Khordadbeh (886) Al-Masalik wa'l-Mamalik
(Book of Roads and Countries)

Postmaster general of the Caliph from Baghdad.
Taken from : Journal Asiatique 1865

Also called Ibn Khurdadhbih and Ibn Hordadbesh, Ibn Khurradadhbih
As postmaster general he traveled very far and wrote the above book about it. Both Ibn Hawqal and Istakhri would later write a book with the same title.
His description of the world ends in Aden, the furthest southern place were the postal service reaches. (This way he gives indirect evidence that no large scale immigration to Africa from Arabia had taken place. And that the Swahili civilization then starting was of African origin)

The biggest king of India is the Balhara or king of kings. The other kings of that country are those of Djabah, of Tafen, of Djouzr, of Ghanah, of Rahina and of Kamroun. The king of Zabedj (one has surely to read here of the Zendjes, according to the translator) is called Alfikhat, the king of the Nubiens, Kamil (or kabil), the king of the Abussins, Nedjachy (or najashi), the king of the isles in the eastern sea Maharadja, the king of the Slaves, Kobad.

Once more he talks about the Zendjes, when talking about the big snakes in their forests. Here however the translator thinks it must be Zabaj as it occurs in the middle of the description of that part of the world.

About Aden he says: Aden is one of the chief ports in that sea. There is no wheat nor cattle but it has lots of amber and musk. It is the place for goods from Sind, Hind and China, from Zendj, Habacha, Qoloum (Persia), Basra, Jidda and Egypt.

When talking about the influence of climate: He who goes to the land of the Zendjes gets leper (or elephantiasis) (Man dakhal bilad ez-Zendj, feld boudd an yadjrab) (more recent authors have translated this by scabies). This sentence gets repeated further by many authors still for centuries to come.

The Nile of Egypt comes out of the Mountains of the Moon, flows towards the regions on the northern side of the equator, passes by Nubie, and enters Egypt.

The Al-Bahr ash-Sharqi al-Kabir (The great Eastern Sea) flows round the Ethiopian shore and that of the Zanj country.

Taken from Islamic Culture 1927
(about Jiddah’s trade)… The commodities of Sind, Hindustan, Zanjibar, Abyssinia and Persia are to be found here.