Back to Table of Contents 3
To next page
Al-Qazwini(d. 1283). 'Aja'ib al-makhluqat wa-ghara'ib al-mawjudat (Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing) from Kazwin in Persia
Qazwini's worldmap taken from and its translation from the Mappae Arabicae by Miller Konrad
on top from a 1537 manuscript
A worldmap from a 1650 copy of his mss
Qaswini's book (the wonders of creation) is also known because of its miniature paintings.
The big picture is called :
Creatures from the Island of the Zanj (Jazirah-i-zanj), including green and gray humanoids.
Giraffe ; (I redrew this picture by hand)
There are more maps available in his manuscripts. The following ones are called grid-world maps. All maps under here are taken out of the Miller atlas

Taken from:
-Marcel Devic : Le pays des Zendj
- F. Wustenfeld  Cazwini's Kosmographie.
- Dammann : Beitrage aus arabischen Quellen zur Kenntnis des negrischen Africa,    Bordesholm 1929
Also called al Kazwini or Al Kasvini or Al Caswini

The best known islands are: Cyprus, Samos, Rhodos, Sicilien, and in the south the islands of Zanguebar, Taprobana, Sokotora, the Maldiven, and the island of Java.

Abbesinia is a big country, to the north is the gulf of Bereberia, in the south and the east it borders Zeng and in the west El-Bega.

The surrounding ocean, mother of all seas (madda) forms is the east the sea of China, then the Indian Sea, from which two enormous arms leave, the sea of Fars (Persian Gulf) and the Sea of Qolzoum (Arabian Gulf) after that the sea touches the land of Berbera, which stretches from Aden to Sofala of the Zendjs, there you have a sea that the ships avoid, because of the big dangers that one encounters there. The ocean goes to the mountains of Qomr (or Qamar) where the Nile of Egypt has its source, to the land of the western Negroes, and so arrives at the coast of Andalousia.   

The sea of the Zendj borders the land of the Berbers and it furthest points joins the surrounding ocean.

The sailors say that the waves on the sea of Berbera and Djafouna (Ras Hafun) resemble high mountains, they call them blind waves, with what they mean that after they are blown up to mountains, they dig down into valleys, without crushing, and without any foam as the waves in other seas. They call them also crazy waves. (this he copied from Masudi)

The people of the sea say:  these three kinds of fish approach in each year two times Basra, and every time they stays two months there.  If two months are past, then their term  of this kind is to an end, and the other one comes.  This particularly now is true for the  barastug (or Berestoudj), it comes from the countries van Zanguebar to have the benefit of the sweet Tigris water at Basra, and puts his eggs there,  and that is well-known to the inhabitants of Zanguebar.  Those who escape the fishermen, return then to the countries of Zanguebar.  There are no barastug fish in the parts of the sea lying between Basra and Zanguebar except on those days, when he comes and goes again.  This indicates the time the sea is empty from them.  The sailors report the time that the barastug is in Zanguebar as well as in the Tigris (Adjaib al-Makhl).

In the sea of Zanguebar which is actually the Indian sea, the countries of Zanguebar lie in southern direction that is below Suhail, and not the north pole.  Because its coast is like the Berberlands, they have people resembling the inhabitants of the Sudan (the Aethiopen), but different from those which live in the west.  The Berberland at the coast  of the sea of Zanguebar extends up to Aden.  The outermost ends of this sea are connected with that all surrounding Ocean, and the waves of this sea are enormously large, similar to high mountains, and they swell as highly rising mountains.  In addition, just as deeply they sink again down, as the deepest holes.  Its waves do not break, and therefore for the largest part do not show the same foam, which in the remaining seas is the case.  One stated, that it is possessed by Demons, it has far-lengthened islands, on which bush and trees are e.g. the ebony- tree, the sandal-wood tree (teak tree, tectonia grandis).  From its coasts one collects also the amber, and sometimes a piece is as large, as an enormous hill.  We want to talk now about some of the islands and animals of this sea.

Some of the Islands in this Sea

1-The burning Island (elg'ezira 'Imu htarika.)
Once every 30 years the island burns down when a star that appears only then reaches its zenith.

2-The island Eddanda (or Ed-Douda)(island of the loud noise).  That is one more island close to the one from Zanguebar. A merchant said: On this island there is a town of white stone from which one hears loud noise and voices, although there is nobody living. Many times the sailors landed there, took water, they drink it and find it sweet and good and with a camphor smell to it. They also say that they do not know where the island ends, only that close to it there are mountains, out of which at night there is a tremendous fire, then comes out of it very loud a lamenting screaming. Some people also say; this noise and this fire are sign that one of their kings has died. Further is said that in the neighborhood of the island there is a snake but only visible once a year, and many times already have the kings of Zanzibar tried to catch it, and they really caught it, then cooked it and took the fat.....

3- The island el'ur
(an island with people one el long)

4- The island Seksar
( an island where people have the head of a dog)(there are cannibals on this island)

In the sea of the Zendjs is the island of the Himantopodes, beings with a human face, the most pretty that you can see, but there are no bones in their legs, They have to crawl. If they meet somebody, they beg them to sit besides them, and as soon as they do, the monster jumps on its shoulders, puts its feet around the body, and beats him in the face to make him walk.

Some of the creatures in this sea
Here first the message I got from merchants who say the following: there is in this sea a fish which resembles a big mountain. From head to tail were teeth, like with a saw, from boon as black as ebony from those to the eyes was approximately 2 el. Besides his head were two about 10 el long bones, and with those he beats the water left and right so that you can hear a terrible noise. And we saw the water come out of his nose and go up
in the air, and drops of this came up to us, just like rain, although between him and us there was a big stretch. This fish is known under the name saw-fish and he cuts the boat when he comes under one or one goes over him. When the boat-people see a fish like this they lament loud to God the Almighty so as to protect themselves.
The fish known as Whale: Its length is 4-500 el: and sometimes is in this sea only the end of his tail visible, and that is as big as a ships sail. Sometimes you also see his head and he blows the water high up. And it goes higher then an arrow. The boats are night and day affright of him. If you however beat the drums, he will flee for the noise. With his tail he pushes fish and other sea creatures into his mouth, and the destruction that he makes under the sea animals is very great. If this fish becomes to dangerous, then sends God the almighty an other fish, about one el long, called ellasak, that attaches himself to his ear, and he does not come lose again. Then he goes to the bottom of the sea where he beats around him heavily irritated, till he finally dies. After that he floats up on the water like a big mountain. When this sea is at its heaviest, it throws at its shores pieces of Amber, as big as mountains, these are eaten by the whale, and those big amber pieces kill him. Then he floats on the water, and there are some people in Zanzibar who head for their boats as soon as they see him, they throw their spears into him and pull him ashore. Then they cut open his stomach and get the amber out. Everything however that is in the stomach of the fish has a bad smell, that the merchants and medicine shops in Iraq, Persia and India know very well.  What is found however on the back of the animal is considered clean and usable.

People can not agree on the subject as to where Amber comes from. Some say it comes from an under seas source like bitumen, others say it is a substance that rains on the rocks in the ocean and then coagulates, and that makes it that it appears in certain places at exact determined intervals like the manne... There are also those who say it is execrated by an animal. What is sure is that it comes from the sea, and is thrown onto the shores.

Amber has up to the dimensions of a human head, the weight can be up to 1000 mithcals. (one mithkal is 5 gr) It strengthens the brain, the senses and the hart in a wonderful way, it increases the mental substance, and is of the greatest use to old men owing to its subtle warming effect.

On the shores of the sea of the Zendjs the amber sometimes resembles a monticule (tell).
The map above is a translation of the relevant part of the former one.
Please note the special idea that the author had of Africa. It is cut in the middle with the Maghrib and the Zang in one half while the gebel al Kamar (Mountains of the moon) are in the other half. This division does not show up on his world map.
The map on top and its translation under are taken from a different manuscript then the two previous ones.
The next map has the Zang people living in the west of the planet and again in the east of the planet.
This map and the previous one are inspired on Al Biruni's maps of the earth
Ebony ; (I redrew this picture by hand)
under also ebony but from a different ms
When talking about the Nile:
About its springs now, he comes out of the land of Zanguebar, passes by Abyssinien and goes through Nubia. Then he goes between two mountains, in between them are villages and towns. And when you are on the Nile you see these mountains on the left and on the right, till he reaches the sea. Some people say: the reason that in summer the Nile swells is because in the countries of Zanguebar there is rain.

Kazwini, just like Abulfedra thought that ginger was a plant originating from East Africa:
There are the wolf and the parrot, and the peacock, and the dove, and the plant of Zinj, and al-sasim, and pepper...
(verses on India by Aby'l-dhal'i, quoted by Kazvimi)


From his Atar al Bilad (Monuments of Lands)

The lands of Zendsch are as long as two months travel. In the north is Yemen, in the south the deserts, in the east Nubia, and in the west Abyssinian. All Sudanese belong to the offspring of Kus bin Kanan bin Ham. The countries of Zendsch are hot above everything, and the darkness of their skin is due to the fact that they  are burned. It is said that Noah -on him be peace- cursed his son , so that he became black. In their countries there are no crops and trees. The roofs of their houses are made of fish-bones.
Knowable people say that they are bad people and because of that they are called 'predators among the humans'. Galen says: the people of Zendsch have very specific characteristics: black skin, curled hair, flat nose, big lips, light hands and feet, they smell of sweat surrounds them, small intelligence, extremely happy, and they eat one another, in their wars they eat the meat of their enemies and when they are captured by the enemy they also serve as food .  Most of them are naked; they have no clothes. Never you will meet a Zendsch filled with thoughts, problems never take a hold of them they give completely over to fun. That is; say the doctors; because of the kind of blood in their hart, or say others because the star Soheil (canope) is standing every night above their heads and that star has the privilege to provoke gaiety.
There are many marvelous things in their countries. There is a lot of gold in their country. When you go to their country, you have to love fighting. The climate is very dry, all get scabies, before they leave these countries. When the Zendj come to our country, and when the country pleases them, they will remain healthy, and they will even become fat.
The king of the Zendj is called WQLIM (Aouqlim or Ouqlim). He rules over the lands of the Zendsch with 300,000 people. Their animals are cattle, on those with saddles they go to war. There are no horses in the country, no mules and no camels. They have no Holy Scriptures, to which they can refer, but keep to the traditions that their kings and rulers have ordained. In their countries there are big amounts of giraffes and elephants in the wild and they hunt them.
They have strange habits. Among those is that they kill their king and say: When the king is unjust it is not good that he is the ambassador of heaven on the earth. They also eat their enemies after the victory. They also say that this is a habit of only some of them; not a general habit.
They know how to make palm wine (nebidh). He who drinks it gets drunk this is because it is made of the coconut. They give it to drink to the one they want to capture. They are also the ones who use iron for jewelry, just like others use silver and gold this although they themselves have a lot of gold. They believe that the iron puts the devil to flee, and adds glitter to the one who wears them. They also fight on cattle. They use them like horses.  Masudi says: I have seen their cattle, they have red eyes, and they kneel down just like a camel with its packages, and stand up again with that luggage. Among its weird habits is also their hunting of elephants, and
their trade in elephant bones. This is due to the fact that elephants are abundant in the land of Zendsch. The Zendsch don't use them in war and also not for work; they only use his bones, skin, and meat.  They have a kind of leaves which they throw in the water. When the elephant drinks the water, he becomes drunk, and can't walk anymore. Then they arrive and kill him. The bones and the ivory are exported from the country of Zendsch. The ivory is at least 50 to 100 mann heavy, and sometimes reaches 300 mann. 

Sofala is the last know town of the Zandj, which has gold mines. It is said from this place that, as is the case in other gold countries, that the merchants bring the goods, they lay them down, then leave, then the people of Sofala come, -and they are blacks- and they put their price for each item besides it.
The gold of Sofale is well known through the merchants of the Zendj.
There you have the bird called Hawai, who repeats what he has heard with a high voice. Pronouncing the words properly, better then the parrots.
Says Muhammad bin al Dschahm: I have seen people who eat flies (other translations say lizards) and believe that it makes them healthy. And they are not sick in no way.

He says that Sofala of Zandj has a cavern measuring 500 parasangs in every direction. Because of shifting sands and the heat and aridity, the country is not thickly inhabited.

Maqdaschu is a town situated at the beginning of the lands of Zendsch to the south of Yemen at the coast of the sea. Its people are Arabs who don't have a sultan. The people handle their businesses through agreements. The merchants let it to be know that there the south pole comes close to the center of heaven and also Suhail, that they can not see the north-pole. And that they see something as big as the moon resembling a white cloud that never disappears and doesn't move. They export sandalwood, ebony, amber, and ivory.
On top a buffalo and under giraffes from different manuscripts
Top and under: Karkadan or Rhino
an Austrich and a Rhino
Hosted by