Medieval Arab Maps

Early Arab maps depicted the world in a spherical shape with the land mass of Africa, Europe and Asia surrounded with water. The map was oriented to look southward first, placing South on top and the North looking downward. The maps clearly identified East, West, South and North, and showed familiarity with inner seas, waterways and river basins. Africa seems to dominate Ibn Hawkal’s 10th century map, with the river line extending far into Africa. Perspective is not accurate, but knowledge of peoples living on the shores of Africa to the north, designated as “bilad al-Arab” or “land of the Arabs”, and down the Atlantic with people designated as Muslim or kuffar (non-believers) is demonstrated. To the East, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nubia, bilad al-zanj and other territories are identified.

Al-Istikhari’s Map – 934 AD

Al-Istikhari’s Map – 934 AD

“…the 10th century … famous artist Abu Ishaq al-Farisi Al-Istikhara, in the year 934 drew a map not only showing details of the northern coast of Australia, but also the details of Japan, between Kobe and Tokyo … Even the ancient Aborigines of Australia recorded journeys of early Arab traders. Written traces of the Aborigines, showed two small Arab ships…

Read More

Muhammad Ibn Battuta  – 1304-1369 AD

Muhammad Ibn Battuta – 1304-1369 AD

Ibn Battuta set out from Morocco early in the fourteenth century seeking knowledge, with Mecca and Pilgrimage as ultimate destinations. By the time he sat down to narrate his adventures to be written down by scribes, he had taken four voyages covering the Mali Empire, the coast of East Africa all the way down to Mozambique, the Mamlukid Empire, the…

Read More

Prince Henry the Navigator – 1394 AD

Prince Henry the Navigator – 1394 AD

The Portuguese prince, Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), often described as the initiator of the European “Age of Discovery”, was a sponsor of cartographers and had particular interest in Africa and its western shores. With developments in ship-building, new maps and knowledge and technology of sea-faring, Portugal began discovery of the western seacoast of Africa, reaching all the way to present-day…

Read More