Ibn Hawqal

Arab geographer and traveller, Ibn Hawqal was born in Nisibin in 943. After spending his youth in Baghdad, he travelled for about 30 years, even reaching Western India, and in 973 he arrived in Sicily. Upon returning to his home town, he wrote the work Kitāb al-masālik wa l-mamālik, translated as “Book of Routes and Realms”. It is a book that tells the history, customs and traditions of the places he visited, from which these two passages referring to Sicily and Palermo are taken:

  • … Of all the Mediterranean islands, the most prosperous thanks to Islam and its population is Sicily, the largest of them all. The best supplied, the best defended by the energy of the Maghreb emigrants who flocked here.
  • … The Great Gami Mosque, an old Christian church from the Byzantine period, now the Mosque of the city, is an impressive mass and can give us an idea of the opulence and density of the population, I have in fact estimated that on any given day when it was full of people, that it could hold more than 7000 people.