A merchant’s account of his travels through an independent African state
Muhammad ibn 'Umar al-Tunisi (d. 1274/1857) belonged to a family of Tunisian merchants trading with Egypt and what is now Sudan. Al-Tunisi was raised in Cairo and a graduate of al-Azhar. In 1803, at the age of fourteen, al-Tunisi set off for the Sultanate of Darfur, where his father had decamped ten years earlier. He followed the Forty Days Road, was reunited with his father, and eventually took over the management of the considerable estates granted to his father by the sultan of Darfur. In Darfur is al-Tunisi’s remarkable account of his ten-year sojourn in this independent state.
In Volume One, al-Tunisi relates the history of his much-traveled family, his journey from Egypt to Darfur, and the reign of the noted sultan 'Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid. In Darfur combines literature, history, ethnography, linguistics, and travel adventure, and most unusually for its time, includes fifty-two illustrations, all drawn by the author.
In Darfur is a rare example of an Arab description of Africa on the eve of Western colonization and vividly evokes a world in which travel was untrammeled by bureaucracy, borders were fluid, and startling coincidences appear almost mundane.
In Darfur offers an interesting glimpse of a (still) neglected part of Africa, and a surprising wealth of information.
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