East meets West and Mecca in the middle… Mysteries of the inverted globe!
At the height of the conflict between the Islamic East and the Christian West in the south and west of the Mediterranean in the 12th century AD, the Normans in Sicily used an eminent Arab scholar to map the world.
Despite the famous saying of the English poet Rudyard Kipling: “East is East, and West is West, and they will never converge,” this meaning does not apply to the reality of human life on a round planet.
At that distant time, East and West met in Sicily, and it was then under the rule of the Norman king Roger II, and he spoke both Arabic and Latin, where Roger II invited the scientist Idrisi, who is considered one of the founders of modern geography and cartography in the Middle Ages and commissioned him to draw a complete map of the world.
Al-Idris, whose full name is Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Muhammad Al-Idrisi Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi, worked on the task with a team of 12 assistants for about 15 years, and the result was impressive, an integrated map of the known world at that time , in addition to 70 cutaway cards, and the crown jewel of his creations was a silver globe.
Al-Sharif Al-Idrisi was a well-rounded scholar who composed poetry and wrote about plants, philosophy, medicine, and the stars, and his maps were used on Renaissance European expeditions.
In a unique step ahead of his time, Al-Idrisi drew a map of the world in the form of a small circle, of which only nine copies remain from the Middle Ages.
It is noteworthy that the world, as al-Idrisi sees it, is turned upside down, since the south is embodied at the top, and the north is at the bottom, and the Arabian Peninsula and Mecca are in the center of the map, and according to ancient traditions, climatic regions are distinguished. The upper red line distinguishes the equator, and the world is in the northern part of the equator fit for human habitation.
According to the Greek scientist Claudius Ptolemy, in the southern part of the equator, in tropical Africa, there are large lunar mountains, from which the Nile River is believed to originate. Since the whole of Africa is marked on the map as an empty region, “a land where there is nothing but desert and sand”, however, unlike the famous ancient world, the land on the map of al-Idrisi is open and does not surround the entire Indian Ocean.
Parts of the maps of the al-Idrisi collection, taken together, form a rectangular map and represent the most complete geographical representation of the world known to the Arabs at that time. The map includes the entire Eurasian continent, the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa and the northern regions of the Indian Ocean.
Al-Idrisi studied in depth the writings of the ancient Greeks, such as Claudius Ptolemy, and while the basics of Ptolemy’s teachings were used in medieval Arabic cartographic models, most of Europe forgot these provisions for more than a millennium.
Experts argue that al-Idrisi was not only the heir to ancient Greek traditions, but also to a large extent a developer and proofreader of cartography, he produced the first known systematic atlas in which all parts of the map were made on the same scale. In other words, he used a single scale when drawing up the map, in contrast to the approach of the Greek scholar Ptolemy.
During the long years during which he worked on completing the silver spherical map of the earth, he completed his atlas known as the Book of Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi Intirak al-Afak, which is known in Europe as the Book of Roger and is considered one of the most important books Middle Ages.
In the introduction to this book, Al-Idrisi told the story of his achievement, pointing out that he worked for years to collect oral and written information and data, and repeatedly carefully reviewed all sources and did not rely on them. according to conflicting sources, while the geographic material of the book covered the entire known world, from the Canary Islands to the Korean Peninsula.
The world map compiled by Al-Idrisi and engraved on a silver disk one and a half meters high and weighing 130 kilograms was lost over time, and the original copy of the world map he drew was lost, but his name remained a hallmark of the bright meeting of East and West.