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Lost Maps of the CaliphsDrawing the World in Eleventh-Century Cairo$
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Yossef Rapoport and Emilie Savage-Smith

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226540887

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226553405.001.0001

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Down the African Coast, from Aden to the Island of the Crocodile

Down the African Coast, from Aden to the Island of the Crocodile

(p.215) Chapter Nine Down the African Coast, from Aden to the Island of the Crocodile
Lost Maps of the Caliphs

Yossef Rapoport

Emilie Savage-Smith

University of Chicago Press

The map of the Indian Ocean in the Book of Curiosities shows the Gulf of Aden as a gateway to the ports and islands of the East Africa, known today as the Swahili coast. Fatimid commercial relations with East Africa are rarely documented, and recent scholarship has doubted any Fatimid impact on the region during its formative period of Islamization. But the detailed depiction of East Africa in the Book of Curiosities points to an unexpected level of familiarity, based on information gathered from navigation along the coasts of the Horn of Africa. We have here what may be the first recorded references in Arabic to the islands of Zanzibar (al-Unguja), Mafia, and several localities and capes along the coasts of modern Somalia. The treatise allows us to visualize the Indian Ocean from a Fatimid viewpoint, with the Isma'ili anchors of Sind and the Yemen as the two crucial nodes for further political, religious and economic penetration. This Indian Ocean, unlike the Mediterranean, was not a militarised space, and Fatimid ambitions there relate to the propagation of the Isma'ili missionary network. Visually, the Indian Ocean also lacks the perfect symmetry of the Mediterranean and is shown here in disparate segments.

Keywords:   Indian Ocean, Yemen, East Africa, Swahili coast, global history, Fatimid empire, Isma'ili missionary network, Aden, Zanzibar

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