Al-Idrisi (CA. AD 1100–1165)

al-Idrisi was arguably the greatest medieval geographer. A descendant of the prophet Muhammad, this Arab scholar was titled al-Sharif al-Idrisi but known in the West as Geographus Nubiensis, the Nubian geographer. Born in Morocco and educated in Cordoba, he worked in Sicily at the Palermo court of the Norman king Roger II, after whom his book of world geography was called Kitab Rujjar (Book of Roger) in 1154; its full Arabic title is Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ‘khtiraq al-afaq (Entertainment for One Desiring to Travel Far). A later, shorter world geography, sometimes called “the Little Idrisi,” is known by various Arabic titles. Both are extensively illustrated with maps; the maps in Nuzhat al-mushtaq are full or half-page in size and oriented to the south, while the ...

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