Leo Africanus - Leo Africanus: Description of Timbuktu from...

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Leo Africanus: Description of Timbuktu from The Description of Africa (1526) El Hasan ben Muhammed el-Wazzan-ez-Zayyati was born in the Moorish city of Granada in 1485, but was expelled along with his parents and thousands of other Muslims by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. Settling in Morocco, he studied in Fez, and as a teenager accompanied his uncle on diplomatic missions throughout North Africa and and to the Sub-Saharan kingdom of Ghana. Still a young man, he was captured by Christian pirates and presented as an exceptionally learned slave to the great Renaissance pope, Leo X. Leo freed him, baptised him under the name "Johannis Leo de Medici," and commissioned him to write in Italian the detailed survey of Africa which provided most of what Europeans knew about the continent for the next several centuries. At the time he visited the Ghanaian city of Timbuktu, it was somewhat past its peak, but still a thriving Islamic city famous for its learning. "Timbuktu" was to become a byword in Europe as the most inaccessible of cities, but at the time Leo visited, it was the center of a busy trade in African products and in books. Leo is said to have died in 1554 in Tunis, having reconverted to Islam. What evidence does he provide that suggests the importance of learning in Timbuktu? The name of this kingdom is a modern one, after a city which was built by a king named Mansa Suleyman in the year 610 of the hegira [1232 CE] around twelve miles from a branch of the Niger River. (1) The houses of Timbuktu are huts made of clay-covered wattles with thatched
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This note was uploaded on 10/28/2008 for the course CULTURAL S 300 taught by Professor Mcquinn during the Spring '08 term at Pratt.

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Leo Africanus - Leo Africanus: Description of Timbuktu from...

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