Kitāb Ṣūrat al-arḍ by Abū l-Qāsim Ibn Ḥawqal
M.J. de Goeje’s Classic Edition (1873)
The journeys of Abū l-Qāsim Ibn Ḥawqal, who might have been a merchant, took him to North Africa, Spain and the southern edge of the Sahara (947-51), Egypt, Armenia and Azerbaijan (c. 955), the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Khuzistan, and Iran (961-69), Khwarazm and Transoxania (c. 969), and Sicily (973). By about 988 CE the final version of Ibn Ḥawqal’s Kitāb Ṣūrat al-arḍ was ready. It is effectively both a continuation and an update of al-Iṣṭakhrī’s Kitāb al-Masālik wa-l-mamālik and is also known under that same title.
Ibn Ḥawqal transformed what was meant as a commentary on a series of maps into a work in its own right, which also included remarks on various countries or peoples bordering on the Islamic world, e.g. the Turks, the Khazars, the towns of southern Italy, the Sudanese and the Nubians. Although he owed much to al-Iṣṭakhrī’s work, Ibn Ḥawqal aimed to place the text firmly within his own period. He took great care to depict a region precisely in the state and at the date that he himself had seen it, with occasional references to the distant or more recent past. This is particularly true of the notes on economic matters, which form a complete break with convention. Ibn Ḥawqal was the only Arab geographer of the period who really sketched a vivid picture of production.