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 SCIENCE AND SCHOLARSHIP IN AL-ANDALUS 4

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PostSubject: SCIENCE AND SCHOLARSHIP IN AL-ANDALUS 4   Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:08 am

Another important field of study in al-Andalus was the study of geography. Partly out of economic and political considerations, but mostly out of an all-consuming curiosity about the world and its inhabitants, the scholars of Islamic Spain started with works from Baghdad and went on to add such contributions as a basic geography of al-Andalus by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Razi and a description of the topography of North Africa by Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Warraq. Another contributor to geography was al-Bakri, an important minister at the court of Seville but also an accomplished linguist and litterateur. One of his two important geographical works is devoted to the geography of the Arabian Peninsula, with particular attention to the elucidation of its place-names. It is arranged alphabetically, and lists the names of villages, towns, wadis, and monuments which he culled from the hadith and from histories. The other was an encyclopedia of the entire world, arranged by country, with each entry preceded by a short historical introduction. It included descriptions of the people, customs, and climate of each country, the principal features, the major cities, and even anecdotes.

In the study of geography such figures as Ibn Jubayr, an Andalusian traveler, and the most famous traveler of all Ibn Battutah, also made important contributions. Born in North Africa, then in the cultural orbit of Islamic Spain, Ibn Battutah traveled extensively for twenty-eight years and produced a travel book that proved to be a rich source for both historians and geographers. It included invaluable information on people, places, navigation, caravan routes, roads, and inns. But the most famous geographer of the period was al-ldrisi, who studied in Cordoba. After traveling widely, al-ldrisi settled in Sicily and wrote a systematic geography of the world, usually known as the Book of Roger after his patron Roger II, the Norman King of Sicily. The information contained in the Book of Roger was also engraved on a silver planisphere, a disc-shaped map that was one of the wonders of the age.

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