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10th century map of the World by Ibn Hawqal.
Mohammed Abul-Kassem ibn Hawqal ( , born in Nisibismarker; travelled 943-969 CE) was a 10th century Arab writer, geographer, and chronicler. His famous work, written in 977, is called Surat al-Ardh (صورة الارض; "The face of the Earth").

What little is known of his life is extrapolated from his book, which was a revision and extension of the Masalik ul-Mamalik of Istakhri (951). That itself was a revised edition of the Suwar al-aqalim of Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi, who wrote about 921. Ibn Hawqal was clearly more than an editor; he was a traveller who spent much of his time writing about the areas and things he had seen. He spent the last 30 years of his life travelling to remote parts of Asia and Africa. One of his travels brought him 20° south of the equator along the East African coast. One of the things he noticed was that there were large numbers of people living in areas that the Greek, working from logic rather than experience, said must be uninhabitable.

His descriptions were accurate and very helpful to travellers. Surat al-Ardh included a detailed description of Muslim-held Spainmarker, Italymarker and particularly Sicily, and the "Lands of the Romans," the term used by the Muslim world to describe the Byzantine Empire. In it, among other things, he describes his first-hand observation that 360 languages are spoken in the Caucasus, with Azeri and Persian languages being used as Lingua Franca across the Caucasus, he also gives a description of Kievmarker, and is said to have mentioned the route of the Volga Bulgars and the Khazars, perhaps by Sviatoslav I of Kiev Encyclopedia of Ukraine.

lbn Hauqal's work was published by M. J. de Goeie (Leiden, 1873). An anonymous epitome of the book was written in 1233.


  • James, Preston Everett. All Possible Worlds: A History of Geography. New York: Wiley, 1981.

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