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Author Topic: AL IDRISI MAP  (Read 3518 times)
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« on: December 05, 2007, 09:19:06 pm »

Sicily, naturally, came in for special praise; it was "a pearl of the age," and al-Idrisi told the story of the Norman conquest of the island by Roger d'Hauteville, "the greatest of Frankish princes," followed by the succession of "the great king who bears the same name and who follows in his footsteps."

Every area had its fascinations. In Russia, winter daylight periods were so short that there was hardly time for Muslim travelers to perform all five obligatory daily prayers. The Norwegians had to harvest their grain when it was still green and dry it at their hearths "since the sun shines very rarely upon them." As for Britain, it "is set in the Sea of Darkness. It is a considerable island, whose shape is that of the head of an ostrich, and where there are flourishing towns, high mountains, great rivers and plains. This country is most fertile; its inhabitants are brave, active and enterprising, but all is in the grip of perpetual winter." Al-Idrisi gave the names of many English towns, principally ports, with the distances between them. Hastings was a "considerable town, densely populated, with many buildings, markets, much industry and commerce;" Dover, to the east, was "an equally important town'' not far from the mouth of the "river of London, the broad and swiftly flowing Thames." London, however, was mentioned only as "a city of the interior."

Towns of France were also described, again with emphasis on the ports, particularly those of Britanny and Normandy; but cities of the interior were also listed: Tours, then, as now, a wine center "surrounded by numerous vineyards;" Chartres, an agricultural market (its famous cathedral had not yet been built); Meaux, "the center of the land of France;" Bayeux, Dijon, Troyes, Orleans, Le Mans and many others. Paris (Abariz) earned a condescending reference as a town "of mediocre size, surrounded by vineyards and forests, situated on an island in the Seine, which surrounds it on all sides;" however, "it is extremely agreeable, strong, and susceptible of defense."

The impressive assemblage of facts from travelers' accounts and geographical writings was interrupted now and then by fables, some taken directly from Ptolemy, some from popular folklore. The Strait of Gibraltar, according to Roger's Book, did not exist when Alexander the Great—as medieval legend had it—invaded Spain. Because the inhabitants of Africa and Europe waged continual warfare, Alexander decided to separate them by a canal, which he cut between Tangier and al-Andalus (southern Spain). The Atlantic rushed in, inundating the land and raising the level of the Mediterranean.
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