Left: Plan of "Timbuctoo" from: Dubois, Félix (1896), Timbuctoo: the mysterious, White, Diana (trans.), New York: Longmans. Page 341. View or download entire book at http://www.archive.org/details/timbuctoomysteri00duborich
Leo Africanus was a geographer extraordinaire to kings, sultans, emperors, caliphs, the Sublime Porte, and the Christian Pope. How he came to be all that is the subject of this fascinating fictionalized auto-biographical account of his life and times, excellently researched and told by Maalouf, with a great deal of verisimilitude to the telling of the tale. Obviously there are many things we can never know about a person from the 15th century, especially in those days before Facebook encouraged daily regurgitation (oops! I mean updating and documenting) of one’s life, but despite the potential for gratuitous fabrication and sensationalist imaginings, I feel the book hews closely to the facts as far as they are known, while fleshing out the particulars of al-Hassan’s life with the more general details on the history and geography of the day. I recommend this book as a great window onto a time and place that most of us know very little about.
About one hundred years earlier, in 1068, the Moorish geographer Abu Abdullah al-Bakri wrote the Book of Roads and Kingdoms, or the Book of Highways and Kingdoms, in Cordoba, al-Andalus (present-day Spain), which was a compilation of the works of other Islamic scholars of his day and before.