In Darfur

9781479867844: Hardback
Release Date: 8th May 2018

9781479861842: PDF
Release Date: 8th May 2018

53 black and white illustrations

Dimensions: 152.4 x 228.6

Number of Pages: 400

Series Library of Arabic Literature

NYU Press

In Darfur

An Account of the Sultanate and Its People, Volume Two

Written by
Muhammad al-Tunisi
,
Edited and translated by
Humphrey Davies
Hardback / £34.00
PDF / £37.00

A merchant’s account of his travels through an independent African state

Muhammad ibn 'Umar al-Tunisi 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 Two, al-Tunisi describes the geography of the region, the customs of Darfur’s petty kings, court life and the clothing of its rulers, marriage customs, eunuchs, illnesses, food, hunting, animals, currencies, plants, magic, divination, and dances. 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.

Muhammad al-Tunisi (1790-1857) belonged to a family of Tunisian merchants who
traded with Egypt and what is now Sudan. Raised in Cairo, al-Tunisi spent ten years traveling through the Darfur Sultanate. On his return to Egypt, he played an important part in Muhammad Ali's modernization project, supervising the translation of veterinary and medical texts and editing the first printed editions of classical Arabic texts.

Humphrey Davies is an award-winning translator of some twenty works of modern Arabic literature, among them Alaa Al-Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building, four novels by Elias Khoury, including Gate of the Sun, and Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg over Leg. He has also made a critical edition, ranslation, and lexicon of the Ottoman-period Hazz al-quhuf bi-sharh qasid Abi Shaduf (Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded) by Yusuf al-Shirbini and compiled with a colleague an anthology entitled Al-‘ammiyyah al-misriyyah al-maktubah: mukhtarat min 1400 ila 2009 (Egyptian Colloquial Writing: selections from 1400 to 2009). He read Arabic at the University of Cambridge, received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, and previous to undertaking his first translation in 2003, worked for social development and research organizations in Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine, and Sudan. He is affiliated with the American University in Cairo, where he lives.

In Darfur offers an interesting glimpse of a (still) neglected part of Africa, and a surprising wealth of information.

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