A merchant’s account of his travels through an independent African state
Muhammad ibn 'Umar al-Tunisi (d. 1274/1857) belonged to a family of Tunisian merchants trading with Egypt and what is now Sudan. Al-Tunisi was raised in Cairo and a graduate of al-Azhar. In 1803, at the age of fourteen, al-Tunisi set off for the Sultanate of Darfur, where his father had decamped ten years earlier. He followed the Forty Days Road, was reunited with his father, and eventually took over the management of the considerable estates granted to his father by the sultan of Darfur. In Darfur is al-Tunisi’s remarkable account of his ten-year sojourn in this independent state.
In Volume Two al-Tunisi describes the geography of the region, the customs of Darfur’s petty kings, court life and the clothing of its rulers, marriage customs, eunuchs, illnesses, food, hunting, animals, currencies, plants, magic, divination, and dances. In Darfur combines literature, history, ethnography, linguistics, and travel adventure, and most unusually for its time, includes fifty-two illustrations, all drawn by the author.
In Darfur is a rare example of an Arab description of Africa on the eve of Western colonization and vividly evokes a world in which travel was untrammeled by bureaucracy, borders were fluid, and startling coincidences appear almost mundane.
A bilingual Arabic-English edition.
"In Darfur offers an interesting glimpse of a (still) neglected part of Africa, and a surprising wealth of information."
— The Complete Review
"As edited, translated, and presented by Davies, al-Tūnisī’s account is not only a rich primary source for the early nineteenth-century history of Darfur but also a literary gem marking Egypt’s dynamic and innovative intellectual history at mid-century."
— Journal of the American Oriental Society
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