May 3, 2012

Tinnis City in Egypt

Tinnis, a City, c. 1000 
al-Muqaddasi

Tinnis City in Egypt
Tinnis, situated between the Roman Sea and the Nile, is a small island in a lake, the whole of which has been built as a city and what a city! It is Baghdad in

Departure from Old Cairo miniature! A mountain of gold! The emporium of the Orient and of the West! Markets are elegant, fish cheap. It is the goal of travellers, prosperity is evident, the shore delightful, the mosque exquisite, the palaces lofty. It is a town with resources, and well-populated yet as it is situated on a narrow island, the water encircles it like a ring.

Water and Money, c. 1050
Naser-e Khosraw
When the water of the Nile rises, it pushes the salt water of the sea away from Tennis so that the water is fresh for ten parasangs. For that time of the year, reinforced, underground cisterns called masna’as have been constructed on the island. When the Nile water forces the salty seawater back, they fill these cisterns by opening a watercourse from the sea into them, and the city exists for a whole year on this supply. When anyone has an excess of water, he will sell to others, and there are also endowed masna’as from which water is given out to foreigners.

The population of this city is fifty thousand, and there are at any given time at least a thousand ships at anchor belonging both to private merchants and to the sultan; since nothing is there, everything that is consumed must be brought in from the outside. All external transactions with the island are made therefore by ship, and there is a fully armed garrison stationed there as a precaution against attack by Franks and Byzantines. I heard from reliable sources that one thousand dinars a day go from there into the sultan’s treasury. Everyday the people of the city turn that amount over to the tax collector, and he in turn remits it to the treasury before it shows a deficit. Nothing is taken from anyone by force. The full price is paid for all linen and buqalamun woven for the sultan, so that the people work willingly not as in some other countries, where the artisans are forced to labour for the vizier and sultan! They weave covers for camel litters and striped saddle-cloths for the aristocrats: in return, they import fruits and foodstuffs from the Egyptian countryside.

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