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A View from Within: Ibn Ṭawq’s Personal Topography of 15th century Damascus

Torsten Wollina
p. 271-295

Résumés

Vue de l’intérieur: Damas au xvesiècle selon Ibn Ṭawq
La ville de Damas à l’époque médiévale est l’une des villes du Proche-Orient islamique les plus étudiées que ce soit du point de vue sociologique, administratif ou architectural. En prenant comme source le journal d’Aḥmad Ibn Ṭawq (834-915/1443-1510), un notaire et clerc damascène, cet article a pour but d’aborder la question de la vie quotidienne et de s’interroger sur la façon dont les habitants eux-mêmes percevaient la ville à la fin de l’époque mamelouke.

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Entrées d'index

Index géographique :

Syrie, Damas

‫فهرس الكلمات المفتاحية :

سوريا, دمشق, المماليك, ابن طوق, طوبوغرافيا, تماثيل
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Texte intégral

  • 1 The higher estimates are from the 14th and 15th centuries. The lower counts are from 16th century O (...)
  • 2 Sack 1989, p. 45.
  • 3 Sack 1989, p. 56.

1This article sets out to show how the indigene court clerk Aḥmad Ibn Ṭawq recorded his ways around 15th century Damascus and how he localized events within the second biggest metropolis of the Mamluk Empire. At the end of the Mamluk rule, Damascus had probably between 60.000 and 100.000 inhabitants (in the 15th century) and settlements had long spread out from the Old City.1 In the 11th century, al-Šāġūr to the south and al-ʿUqayba, north of the old city were established. After the conquest of Damascus by Nūr al-Dīn Zankī in 549/1154, the settlement of al-Ṣāliḥiyya was established at the foot of the mountain Qāsiyūn. Urban expansion developed speed through the Mamluk age. New suburbs grew, first along the Sūq Ṣārūǧā street, which started from one of the northern gates in the city walls (Bāb al-Salāma). The Mamluks gave impulses for this development.2 Around the citadel a whole quarter formed for housing the military and catering its many needs (Taḥt al-Qalʿa), most noticeably in the area around the Horse Market (Sūq al-Ḫayl). The former courthouse (Dār al-Saʿāda or Dār al-ʿAdl) was transformed into a residence for the civilian governors.3 The city continued to expand to the north and northwest but was surrounded by a belt of suburbs, clockwise from al-Šāġūr in the south, through Mīdān al-Ḥaṣā, al-Qubaybāt, al-Qanawāt and Taḥt al-Qalʿa to Sūq Ṣārūǧā and al-ʿUqayba to the north. But the immediate influence of the metropolis stretched at least as settlements such al-Ṣāliḥiyya (2 km to the northwest), Qābūn, Barza (both to the northeast), and the villages of the oasis (al-Ġūṭa) surrounding Damascus.

  • 4 In this article I will rely exclusively on the edition published in four volumes by the French Inst (...)
  • 5 Guo 2008, p. 215.

2As Li Guo remarked, the journal of the Damascene court clerk Šihāb ad-Dīn Aḥmad Ibn Ṭawq was a promising source for urban historians of Damascus.4 Ibn Ṭawq’s “first-hand descriptions of the houses, mosques, alleys, residential quarters, and other properties are valuable. […] The journal is full of documented accounts about the buildings and grounds in Damascus and its suburbs.” 5 Furthermore, Ibn Ṭawq wrote down itineraries, in which he listed the stopovers he deemed important. In this manner, in the entry for Tuesday, Rabīʿ II 27th 899/4 february 1494), he wrote:

  • 6 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1253.

During the night and the day the sky was unclouded. I was in Qubaybāt at [the house of] šayḫ Burhān ad-Dīn al-Nāǧī, then at [the house of] šayḫ Šihāb ad-Dīn b. al-Maḥūǧab; the afternoon prayer I prayed there in the Manǧak Mosque and came back to the walled city (madīna). I met with our master the šayḫ at the end of the day, shortly before the evening prayer.”6

  • 7 Ibid., p. 1254.
  • 8 Guo 2008, p. 210.

3On Saturday of the same week (ǦumādaI 2nd 899/8 february 1494), he “went into the city, and, then, went up to [the suburb of] Ṣāliḥiyya, but there (ʿindahum) I found no one, so I returned.”7 He was home before the midday prayer. There are literally hundreds of more or less exhaustive itineraries in the journal. Ibn Ṭawq’s journal “is virtually a laundry list of his showings-up, and no-shows, at countless appointments and events required by his job, his family, and his community.”8

4As a court clerk and notary (kātib, šāhid), and a client to his mentioned “master”, the then šāfiʿī šayḫ al-islām Abū Bakr Ibn Qāḍī ʿAǧlūn (841-928/1433-1521), Ibn Ṭawq went to and fro throughout the city. For over twenty years he took notes of his errands. This leaves us with plenty of material from which I intend to draw up the personal topography of Ibn Ṭawq. By this, I mean his description of places within the urban space. Which spatial entities did he take for granted and which did he feel obliged to localize in his journal? How did he localize events? By which means did he localize these places and events in a city without official street names and no street signs whatsoever? First, however, we should turn our attention towards the author and the journal he left.

The author: Šihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad Ibn Ṭawq

  • 9 Ziadeh 1953, p. 82.
  • 10 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, I, p. 9.

5Šihāb ad-Dīn Aḥmad Ibn Ṭawq lived in a residential neighbourhood around the Qaṣab Mosque, situated in the quarter of Sūq Ṣārūǧā, just north of the walls of Old Damascus. This quarter had been established for housing the military.9 His house was next to a public bath (Ḥammām Burhān ad-Dīn) and not far from one of the city gates (Bāb al-Salāma).10

6Ibn Ṭawq is mentioned in Naǧm al-Dīn al-Ġazzī’s biographical dictionary “kawākib al-sā’ira bi-aʿyān al-mi’a al-ʿāšira. His entry is only three lines long and does not go into any detail about Ibn Ṭawq’s biography:

  • 11 Al-Ġazzī, Kawākib, i, p. 126. Ibn Ṭawq is also mentioned in the entry on his patron; see below.

Aḥmad b. Ṭawq: Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Aḥmad b. Aḥmad b. Aḥmad, the šayḫ, the imām, the ʿālim, the pious, the traditionary Šihāb al-Dīn al-Dimašqī al-Šāfiʿī, known as Ibn Ṭawq. He was born in Rabīʿ I of the year 834; he died in Damascus on Sunday, the 3rd or 4th of Ramaḍān in the year 915.11

  • 12 E.g. al-Buṣrawī, Tārīḫ; Ibn al-Ḥimṣī, Ḥawādiṯ.

7The entry suggests that, at some point in his life, Ibn Ṭawq has achieved full recognition among the learned men (arab. ʿulamā’; sg. ʿālim). Al-Ġazzī calls him a šayḫ, a prayer leader (imām), an ʿālim [sic!], and a traditionary (muḥaddiṯ) - a complete scholar so to say. However, he is not mentioned in other chronicles of his day.12 The only other source on Ibn Ṭawq’s life is the journal he wrote himself.

  • 13 He regularly receives visitors from Ǧarūd : a mubāšir and a ḫaṭīb as well as one šayḫ Muḥammad, and (...)
  • 14 Ibid. i, p. 9.

8As a court clerk (kātib/šāhid), Ibn Ṭawq was not of high status. He was not rich nor did he hold an office or administrative post. He did not come from a renowned lineage, either. In fact, his father’s family originated in the village Ǧarūd, about a day’s journey to the northeast. Ibn Ṭawq maintained links and paid regular visits to Ǧarūd throughout his life.13 In Damascus, his family networks stem mainly from his mother’s family who had been Damascene.14

  • 15 Marcus 1989, p. 38.
  • 16 In 887/1482-3, the author mentions that he rented, among other things, the part of the lower house (...)
  • 17 Ibid., iv, p. 1697.

9His social standing could be considered middle class; as someone “who possessed property, a comfortable life-style, learning, good occupations, and other attributes considered desirable by [his] community.”15 Indeed, Ibn Ṭawq owned at least one story of a house, a nearby orchard, and several female slaves.16 He usually was able to afford meat although it is mostly through complaints about its high price or its absence on his plate that we know that. In 904/1498-1499 he noted exasperated that his household had to cook without meat for about a week.17

  • 18 Rapoport 2005, p. 106.
  • 19 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 449. This situation seems to repeat itself later on ; ibid. iii, p. 1159.
  • 20 Ibn Ṭawq speaks of each of them as umm al-awlād, a legal term which denotes a freed slave-girl who (...)

10On the other side, there runs a concern about the author’s social and financial security throughout the journal. He vigorously followed the development of the prices of meat, wheat and barley. He took note of all his expenses. There was a reason for this scrutiny. As Yossef Rapoport points out, at one time Ibn Ṭawq was knee-deep in debts to his business partner šayḫ Zayn al-Dīn Ḫiḍr, so much so that he swore “on pain of divorce” not to take more loans, which at the time was one of the strongest oaths to take.18 But there was no way around again loaning money. So, in order to circumvent the consequences of the oath Ibn Ṭawq repudiated his wife in 890/1490 “in answer to her request”.19 Throughout the journal, he was married to the same woman, although he had changing concubines beside her.20

  • 21 Ibid. i, p. 442; iii, p. 1095.
  • 22 Ibid. i, p. 9.

11To counter the dangers of descent into poverty, Ibn Ṭawq applied several strategies besides fulfilling the obligations of his job as a court clerk. He strived for salaried positions in madrasas and mosques while, at the same time, he tended to his garden which could provide emergency provisions his household would depend on in bad times.21 He could be considered “a peasant on the fringes of the jurists”.22

  • 23 Henceforth I will refer to the author’s patron as the šayḫ to avoid ambiguities with regard to othe (...)
  • 24 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 197, 227-228.
  • 25 Ibid. ii, p. 580-581. According to an ancient Damascene custom a pious person should sleep in the b (...)

12While Ibn Ṭawq might have had a hard time avoiding social descent, he also had opportunities for social advancement. He was acquainted with several high ranking ulama; first and foremost he enjoyed some sort of patronage by the highest ʿālim in town, the šāfiʿī šayḫ al-islām Abū Bakr b. Qāḍī ʿAǧlūn.23 Maybe it is due to this relationship that, in 887/1482-1483, Ibn Ṭawq was able to attain a post as a chanter of the Koran in the Zinǧiliyya school, and another one a year later in Qābūn.24 When the šayḫ’s son was to be married in the year 891/1486-1487, it was Ibn Ṭawq who was chosen to sleep in the couple’s bed prior to the marriage.25

  • 26 Al-Ġazzī, Kawākib, i, p. 114.
  • 27 Ibid., p. 115.
  • 28 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 298.

13According to the journal, the šayḫ was one of the most important figures in the social and political life of Damascus. He came from a distinguished family of ulama; his father had been the highest judge (qāḍī al-quḍāt) and his brother was the šayḫ al-islām before him.26 His teachings in Damascus and in Cairo were very well attended, and he had more students than any other scholar of his day.27 For the beginning of the šayḫ’s travels to Cairo Ibn Ṭawq interrupted the yearly course of the journal by an inserted caption saying that the following “report is on what happened after the honourable šayḫ departed for Cairo. May God let him and his companions arrive in health. May He send him back in health and success and his companions in wealth and health!”28

  • 29 To give a selection only from the first one hundred pages of the journal: the šayḫ freed a judge, ((...)
  • 30 Al-Buṣrawī, Ta’rīḫ, p. 77, 87, 92, 211 ; Ibn al-Ḥimṣī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 114, 151, 192-193, 206, 221, 252 (...)
  • 31 Lapidus 1967, p. 93. Ibn Ṭawq does not transmit this episode. At other times, he obscures the šayḫ(...)
  • 32 Al-Ġazzī, Kawākib, i, p. 114-118.

14The šayḫ appears in the journal as an advocate for the common people. They would turn to him to ask for his mediation in their problems with the rulers; to free people imprisoned for pressing money, to make peace in the case of social unrest, or to achieve compensation for a murder.29 Meanwhile, other chronicles of the time do not grant him the same status. Al-Buṣrawī mentions the šayḫ only four times while Ibn al-Ḥimṣī mentions him in thirteen instances.30 Ibn Ṭūlūn who wrote about a generation later depicts the šayḫ mostly as a collaborator with the Mamluk authorities against the Damascene populace.31 Al-Ġazzī mostly followed Ibn Ṭūlūn’s chronicle in writing since there was scarce information on the šayḫ’s life.32

  • 33 The šayḫ lived in polygamy housing his wives in different quarters of the city.
  • 34 Quarrels between the šayḫ and his wife are frequently mentioned; e.g. Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 25, 5 (...)
  • 35 Amelang 2007, p. 133.

15Ibn Ṭawq does not depict the šayḫ exclusively as a public figure but also as his close acquaintance and even friend. The author visited the šayḫ’s households on a regular basis.33 The text is often more a tale of the šayḫ’s life than of its author’s. Ibn Ṭawq was usually informed about the šayḫ’s state of health, his marriage problems (especially with his Egyptian wife), and other of his issues.34 But, it does definitely not provide a coherent picture. It is testimony to the everyday life in which it was created, which it was part of, growing day by day. The character of the text plays a great role in how the city is depicted in it. Therefore we should turn our attention to the text itself. Otherwise we would implicitly “assume that it is transparent, which means that it practically explains itself.”35

The yawmiyyāt+ a little tradition

  • 36 Conermann 2003, p. 11. I do not intend to single out Ibn Ṭawq as the first author to write a diary (...)
  • 37 Weintritt 2008, p. 19.
  • 38 The tendency to record personally important events happened at the same tine in renaissance Italy w (...)
  • 39 Irwin 2006, p. 160; also Guo 2001.

16Ibn Ṭawq’s journal resembles a diary in its outer form, in its lack of content-related focus and, more importantly, in the mode of its production. I argue that, in this respect, it is «the one and only known work of yawmiyyāt from Mamluk times”.36 Historiography flourished in 15th century Egypt and Syria, reaching new readerships, adopting new forms of writing. In Syria, the chronicle remained the first choice for historians. It was turned into a sort of diary-chronicle, a process which continued into Ottoman times.37 Autobiographical notes became almost a standard ingredient of these chronicles:38 “This was perhaps the symptom of a turbulent age, when individuals felt that their personal experiences of the Crusader wars, the Mongol invasions of the Black Death were worthy of record.”39

  • 40 Hirschler 2006.
  • 41 Rapoport 2007, p. 3.
  • 42 Guo 2001, p. 132.
  • 43 Such works were ‘published in the context of teaching. They were read to an audience of one’s stude (...)
  • 44 For emplotment and use of stylistic elements in chronicles, see Hirschler 2006, chapters 5 (p. 63-8 (...)
  • 45 Chamberlain 1994, p. 18-21.

17As was demonstrated by Konrad Hirschler, the annalistic form of the chronicle is not necessarily based on a chronological writing process. Chronicles were often designed according to a plot.40 So was al-Biqāʿī’s chronicle “Iẓhār al-ʿasr li-asrār ahl al-ʿaṣr”, which is why I do not share Yosef Rapoport’s assessment of it being a diary,41 although it was probably based on one.42 Al-Biqāʿī’s account is an edited text, which was compiled with ‘publication’ already in mind.43 It interprets past events retrospectively emphasizing the impact of events which led to the author‘s quasi-exile in Damascus. This is also manifest by al-Biqāʿī‘s use of stylistic elements, such as dream narratives.44 As Michael Chamberlain pointed out, such narrative texts were of great importance in social competition.45

  • 46 Holm 2008, p. 26.
  • 47 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iv, p. 1743.

18Ibn Ṭawq’s journal, on the other side, did not aim at making sense of things. It records the events of the day, but seldom explains them. While the next entry in a chronicle is determined by events, the diary continues the following day. It is the day that gives the diary its rhythm.46 The keeping of the diary itself becomes part of an author’s everyday life. Indeed, Ibn Ṭawq very often noted the date and day of week but nothing else, or he simply stated: “Today nothing happened to write down” (lam yakun fīhi mā yuktabu).47

  • 48 There were, of course, limits to his willingness to tell about private business, especially with re (...)
  • 49 For a list of contracts from the 2nd and 3rd volume, see Guo 2008, p. 216-17.

19On the other days we find a wild variety of topics lined up one after the other. Weather phenomena, price lists, the author’s and others’ domestic affairs, and his attendances at the scholarly circles are juxtaposed with news from Cairo and Aleppo, from the front lines during the first Mamluk-Ottoman war, Bedouin raids, appointments of new officials or the punishment of criminals. Whatever the author deemed important, he took note of in his journal.48 Ibn Ṭawq furthermore used it to give account for the manifold legal contracts he witnessed or supervised.49 In its size and the diligence in which the author took note of events from the level of the Mamluk Empire down to the level of his household the journal is one of its kind. It is the longest chronographic account from late Mamluk Damascus. In the edition of Ǧaʿfar al-Muḥaǧir, published in four volumes by the Ifpo in Damascus from 2000 to 2007, the published journal is 1,916 pages long. It makes the chronicles by al-Buṣrawī (276 pages in edition) or Ibn al-Ḥimṣī (664 pages including indices) look petite by comparison.

  • 50 Al-Ġazzī, Kawākib, i, p. 115.
  • 51 Guo 2008, p. 210.

20It cannot be ascertained, however, that Ibn Ṭawq’s journal was meant to remain a private text. Al-Ġazzī mentions that it was Ibn Ṭawq who compiled the šayḫ’s legal opinions (fatwa) and also wrote an appendix (ḏayl) for this collection.50 Is the journal this ḏayl? There is no indication in the text that Ibn Ṭawq was working on any other text. Moreover, it is more than a private journal. It is of a “hybrid format: a strange blend of a ‘public’ text, in the form of ta’rīḫ annals, and a ‘private’ journal.”51 Probably it was not meant for publication in its present form but it was certainly to provide the material for something more refined.

  • 52 An exception is the introduction to the year 902/1496-1497 where the list of notables appears only (...)

21The journal is organized by year. This is emphasized by passages which signal the beginning or the end of a year, sometimes giving extensive listings of emirs, judges and other officials. Usually, after this passage the entry for the first day of muḥarram follows.52 In addition, entries are often dated according to the Christian months, the signs of the zodiac, or the Syrian agrarian calendar. It was a tool which Ibn Ṭawq used to remember all the places he went to every day, or when he could not do any errands, he wrote down his reasons. Often enough, he only states bluntly: “I did not go to town (lam adḫul al-madīna).”

22When he went ‘to town’, he usually wrote down his stopovers. He did not write about the paths taken. And why should he? His entries made sense to him. Although most of the houses mentioned could not be localized, the journal still proves an interesting study for the study of Mamluk Damascus because it can give insights into how Ibn Ṭawq perceived his city and how he appropriated its urban space.

The urban space of Damascus+ how to approach it?

  • 53 E.g. Wulzinger & Watzinger 1924 ; Sack 1989 ; Burns 2005.
  • 54 E.g. Lapidus 1967.

23Damascus is one of the most studied cities of the Islamic Middle East. There are studies on its architecture, its urban planning53, its elites and its populace at large.54 Mostly they deal with either the morphology of the city’s physical surface or with its society.

  • 55 Lassner 1970.
  • 56 For this quote and the following, see Oleg Grabar’s foreword in Lassner 1970, p. 12-13.

24In his 1970 “Topography of Baghdad in the early Middle Ages”, Jacob Lassner proposed three ways to access a medieval city.55 First, access is possible through the city’s institutions, some of which serve practical needs, but others “expressed loftier aims and purposes, often independent from the character of any individual city and related to more universal Muslim concepts […].”56 Second, Lassner suggests the access through the sphere of everyday life. Third, it is possible through the architecture of the city: “In a general sense everyone knows that there were mosques, palaces, baths, markets, rich and poor houses, cemeteries, shrines, walls, and gates in almost all cities. But did all these architectural features spring up suddenly and at the same time? How did a city grow?” The access through the study of everyday life seems to be the most elusive and least studied topic among the three.

  • 57 Recently, Lefebvre’s concept of space has been fruitfully utilised by Harithy 2001 and Leeuwen 1999
  • 58 All citations refer to a German translation of the introduction in « The Production of Space » (Lef (...)
  • 59 Lefebvre 2006, p. 331.

25In order to analyze the relations between a society, its institutions and its buildings, the French sociologist Henri Lefebvre shifted the focus on an analysis of urban space.57 In the introduction to his main work “la production de l’espace” (1974), Lefebvre asks the question of how (urban) space was produced in pre-modern societies.58 According to him, no society can be understood merely as a “collection of people and things in space” nor out of “a certain number of texts and speeches on space”.59 Every society produces its own space, and this is inseparable from the society which created it.

  • 60 On the muḥtasib and his duties, see Ziadeh, p. 118f., 122-25; see also Essid 1995, chapter IV.
  • 61 Sack 1989, p. 45.
  • 62 Lapidus 1967, p. 51.

26Lefebvre proposes a three-dimensional concept of space consisting of the spatial practices, the representations of space, and the representational space. The representations of space are dominant in this triad. Such representations can be found in the institutions examined by Lassner as well as in literature, architecture, or art. They comprise all ideas on space which are expressed verbally, and can, thus, be abstracted. With regard to medieval Muslim cities, the concept of ḥisba (including religious and moral principles, pious lifestyle and of public behavior) was one of the strongest influences in shaping urban space which led to the establishment of the office of the supervisor of the markets (muḥtasib).60 He had to enforce good, appropriate behavior in the markets, but he was also obliged to keep the city’s main roads and the entrances to the quarters unobstructed.61 “The fundamental elements of Mamluk period social organization+ the quarter, the fraternity, the religious community, and the state” +also bore their impact on the city’s spatial organization.62

  • 63 There was no cohesive image of space but gives room to a lot of ideas, ranging from cosmology and a (...)
  • 64 See al-Nuʿaymī, Dāris; Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīḫ.
  • 65 See articles « Faḍīla » and « al-Maḥāsin wa-l-Masāwī », E.I.2, respectively ii, p. 729, and v, p. 1 (...)

27With regard to literature, the field of geography seems promising.63 With regard to the city of Damascus, I would point out the works of al-Nuʿaymī (al-Dāris fī tārīḫ al-madāris) and Ibn ʿAsākir (Tārīḫ madīna Dimašq) which were religious guidebooks (ziyārāt-literature) intended for pilgrims, presenting the city as a sacred landscape.64 Furthermore the literature on the (religious) merits of cities should be taken into account.65

  • 66 Lefebvre 2007, p. 340; employed with regard to architecture in Cairo by Harithy 2001.
  • 67 Ibn Ṭawq mentions a couple of architects (miʿmar) but rarely in the context of construction works: (...)

28These representations of space influenced construction and architecture, which only then is understood “as a project which is embedded in a spatial context and a texture.”66 It is obscure how much influence the patron and the architect exerted on the final design. Medieval architects conceived of it as a craft, handed down from father to son.67

  • 68 Lefebvre 2007, p. 336.
  • 69 Ibid., p. 339f.

29In Lefebvre’s concept, the representational space is “the ruled, hence suffered space” which is dominated by the representations of space and which one’s imagination tries to change, to appropriate.68 To achieve this people make use of objects of physical space which are charged symbolically. The representational space is something that is experienced and communicated. It includes a centre of affection and localities of passion, of activity and of one’s own past. It also originates in the past, in the collective as well as the individual past.69 In the journal, it is Ibn Ṭawq’s social contacts what turned certain places into affective centres.

30Spatial practices connect one’s time plan with the available tracks and modes of transportation, which, in turn, connect places of work, private life, leisure time, etc. It is being contested by representations of space and the representational space. This is exactly what Ibn Ṭawq kept track of in his journal. But his image of the city+ or places therein +was as much influenced by predominant ideas of the city as his walks were helped and obstructed by its physical design and its organization into market streets and closed quarters. This does usually not show in the journal, since for the author it was just the way the city was. Still, he felt the need to localise some places within the city. These descriptions give an idea how Ibn Ṭawq experienced and spoke about Damascus, to his personal topography of the city.

31This topography was not stable throughout the twenty years of record. It was subject to myriads of forces which contributed to the creation and re-creation of space, and, thus, had an impact on Ibn Ṭawq’s perception of the same:

  • 70 Molotch 1993, p. 888.

A space is thus neither merely a medium nor a list of ingredients, but an interlinkage of geographic form, built environment, symbolic meanings, and routines of life. Ways of being and physical landscapes are of a piece, albeit one filled with tensions and competing versions of what a space should be. People fight not only over a piece of turf, but about the sort of reality that it constitutes.70

  • 71 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1252.
  • 72 Ibid., IV, p. 1560.

32Natural forces had an impact which is not to/should not be underestimated. The weather influenced mobility extra muros as well as intra muros. Rain and mud changed conditions on the streets dramatically sometimes, sometimes hindering the author from going anywhere.71 Earthquakes rendered even the own house unsafe, so that Ibn Ṭawq had to leave it “barefoot”.72

  • 73 Musallam 1983, p. 117.
  • 74 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1121, 1136.
  • 75 Ibid., iii, p. 1123.

33More than anything, it was the recurring epidemics what changed the city and its people. The plague was “medieval man’s major traumatic experience”.73 In more quiet years, Ibn Ṭawq took note of sixty to about one hundred deaths. In 897/1491-2, however, the plague hit Damascus hard, which led to a body count of 280 deaths in the journal. Among them were two of Ibn Ṭawq’s daughters.74 In Ramaḍān 897 (27 July-25 August 1492) alone, 117 deaths are reported. On one day, the qāḍī šāfiʿī had to lead the prayers for eight or nine dead at once.75 The plague proved a major crisis for Damascus, taking a higher death toll than any riot or civil war.

Ibn Ṭawq’s topography

34It is understood that, to Ibn Ṭawq, Damascus was not only an agglomeration of wood, stone and tiles, of buildings and streets. Much more, it was the centre his life evolved around. Ibn Ṭawq kept notes on the erection and the collapse of houses, on the restoration of public buildings such as souks or mosques, social unrest in the suburban quarters. He wrote about many places within the city. But was the city itself an entity to Ibn Ṭawq? Did he even see Damascus as a city? Where were the boundaries of Damascus?

  • 76 E.g., Ibn Ṭawq writes Damascus when news of an Ottoman offensive upset the city, or when an Anato (...)

35The text provides no unmistakable answer to the first question. Ibn Ṭawq speaks of Damascus (Dimašq) in relation to places far away, when he writes on the itineraries of armies, emirs or notables.76 On the local level references to the city at large are scarce. They emphasize the impact of an event, as in the case of the fitna (riot, revolt) of one šayḫ Mubārak. Mubārak had been zealous in his fight against drugs and alcohol for a time and had probably not gained the best reputation among the mamluks for confiscating and destroying loads upon loads of wine and hashish. On Ramaḍān the 2nd 899/6 July 1494, šayḫ Mubārak and three of his followers walked past the Madrasa al-Nuḥḥās while the dawādār was inside it. The latter called some of his mamlūks and caught the šayḫ and one of his followers. He brought them to the Bāb al-Barīd prison where they were beaten and lashed severely. But two of Mubārak’s company could escape and brought word to Ibn Ṭawq’s patron. The šayḫ and the qāḍī šāfiʿī both went to the governor where they had to pledge and argue until the evening, to set the šayḫ free again. On his way back to Qābūn, Mubārak was aching from the beating, Ibn Ṭawq reports. He and his followers were ordered not to carry a sword anymore.

  • 77 Ibid., p. 1288-89.
  • 78 Ibid., p. 1288.

36But already the next day the šayḫ Mubārak came back from Qābūn with his entourage. They were joined by a large crowd who gathered to storm the prison in order to free a bookseller (warrāq). This developed, despite the ideally peaceful time of the fasting month, into a great bloodshed by the governor’s mamlūk-s among the crowd. The mamlūk-s proceeded towards Qābūn and laid waste to Mubarāk’s house and sufi lodge (zāwiya).77 Ibn Ṭawq narrates the incident with detailed information on the whereabouts of the several encounters between the mob and the mamlūk-s. Several spectators were killed as well. After the killing, fifteen corpses lay on the doorstep of the Madrasa al-Bādirā’iyya. Only near the end of the account the author dwells on the consequences of the tumult, saying: “the souks were shut, the whole city (balad) is in unrest (iḫtabaṭat al-balad ǧamīʿuhā)”.78 This is the scale of events which provoked Ibn Ṭawq to speak of the “city” in a local context. Moreover, by referring to the city as “balad” instead of “Dimašq” this account provides us with a first hint towards how Ibn Ṭawq conceived of his city.

37The first distinction Ibn Ṭawq makes within the city is between the walled city, the old centre of Damascus (madīna) and the city’s immediate sphere of influence (balad). The balad includes the madīna as well as the suburbs outside the walls and outlying settlements. In this respect the denomination of the old city is ambiguous, since although it is comprised of several quarters, it is used in the journal it is often used as a reference similar to the quarters. Furthermore, in this account Ibn Ṭawq refers to the madrasa as a self-evident landmark (see below).

38Ibn Ṭawq also speaks of the surrounding oasis, the Ġūṭa, and the ring of grazing land surrounding the oasis, called al-Marǧ, without explaining their relationship with the adjoining parts of the city. For him all these references were all self-explanatory, matter of fact. The same is true for the farther outlying settlements of al-Ṣāliḥiyya, Qābūn, Barza, Kafr Sūsā or al-Mizza. None of these settlements was marked as completely distinct from Damascus by being referred to as a village (qura). They were all linked to the city to a different degree. Al-Ṣāliḥiyya and Qābūn rather seem to have been considered part of Damascus than the other settlements. Interestingly enough, they were both situated north to the Old city as well as Ibn Ṭawq’s own residential quarter Sūq Ṣārūǧā. Mobility which was always precarious within the city could have played a role in this. But so did Ibn Ṭawq’s social ties. He had family on his mother’s side in al-Ṣāliḥiyya and went on errands for his patron in Qābūn.

  • 79 Only two city maps are known from the medieval Islamic world, one of the Tunisian city al-Mahdiyah (...)
  • 80 Al-Nuʿaymī, Dāris, ii, p. 346.
  • 81 Ibid., ii, p. 346 ; i, p. 16.

3915th-century Damascenes did not use city maps nor were there any street signs.79 They had to other means to find their ways around town and to localise specific places in it. In the following, I will elaborate on three of these ways of that are used in Ibn Ṭawq’s journal: the spatial entity of the quarter, the use of landmarks, and the reference to social ties. These categories are not mutually exclusive. Neighbourhoods were often designated by the name of their congregational mosque. Private houses became landmarks because Ibn Ṭawq held the owners in high esteem. Furthermore, he often used more than one reference in order to specify a place. The same method of specification can be found in Nuʿaymī’s book on the religious schools of Damascus (see above). With regard to the Masǧid al-Qaṣab in Ibn Ṭawq’s neighbourhood, Nuʿaymī localises it in Dabāġa, the old quarter of the tanners, which lay outside the Thomas Gate (Bāb Tūmā), but also close to the quarter al-ʿUqayba.80 Nuʿaymī relates its site to other recognizable structures as well; opposite the mill of Dabāġa, north of the Fāris-caravansarai and east of the Baqasmāṭ-caravansarai, as well as at the end of the Rummān Alley or the Ṣaṭrā Alley.81

  • 82 Ibid., p. 1100.

40Ibn Ṭawq follows the basic pattern Nuʿaymī uses for the localisation of the mosque when he locates the sufi lodge (zāwiya) of šayḫ Muḥammad al-Ḥuṣnī which he located close to the Ḫān al-Dašāriyya.82 However, since Nuʿaymī wrote a book on the merits of the city, his topography of Damascus appears different from the personal perspective Ibn Ṭawq provides on the city. It is shaped and biased by his social relations, social status, place of residence, occupation, gender, age, available modes of transportation, personal attitudes, hobbies and so on, which influenced the roads and alleys the author walked and the places he visited as well as the meanings he attached to them.

The Quarter

  • 83 Lapidus 1967, p. 94.

41The spatial entities used first and foremost by Ibn Ṭawq are the quarters and the residential neighbourhoods. The quarters proved to be a valid point of reference since much of the administration was handled on their level. The imposition of taxes and the jurisdiction addressed the quarters as collectives and held them responsible accordingly.83

  • 84 Leeuwen 1999, p. 189.
  • 85 Lapidus 1967, p. 86.

42In terms of orientation, reference to quarters was vague at best. They proved more valid in their relevance as signifiers of social, religious and political affiliation. This connotation of quarters and neighbourhoods as social entities is also explored in Richard van Leeuwen’s monograph on “Waqfs and Urban Structure”. Leeuwen investigates the role religious foundations (waqf, pl. awqāf) played in shaping and structuring the urban space of Damascus in the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. In his opinion, religious buildings or complexes were “founded to express the authority of certain emirs or merchants within specific quarters, which were thus ‘marked’ as their personal spheres of influence, with their personal clientele.”84 This ‘compartmentalization’ he deemed a feature particular to Mamluk Damascus which was often founded on the whole quarters’ affiliation with a religious rite (maḏhab).85

  • 86 For fights between quarters see Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 23, 462, 504, 505, 520; ii, p. 762, 770, 77 (...)
  • 87 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iv, p. 1549, 1555.
  • 88 Ibid.
  • 89 Ibid., p. 1569.

43Ibn Ṭawq perceived the quarters as collective actors in the urban sphere. On the basis of their alignment with the quarter, gangs of young men (zuʿar) fought with each other or with the authorities over control of the public space within the quarters or beyond them.86 Men from the quarters of Šāġūr and Mīdān al-Ḥaṣā even fought along mamlūk factions in an upcoming civil war (903/1497-8).87 The entrances to the quarter were sealed and defended, if necessary. Eventually, all of Šāġūr was ordered to be burned; even the mosques and madrasas “and all books and other things inside the [Madrasa] al-Tarābiyya burned”.88 The Bedouin moved into the deserted quarter a few weeks later.89 The name did not change but certainly did this development Ibn Ṭawq’s spatial practices. With fights and, later, fires raging in the quarter, he would have been careful not to get too close to it. From what can be learned from his record, the course life in other parts of the city was not necessarily hampered by these events.

44Ibn Ṭawq’s own quarter Sūq Ṣārūǧā is barely mentioned in the journal. Here, it was his smaller neighbourhood that was important to him, he refers to it as “our neighbourhood” (ḥāratunā) or “the people of the Qaṣab Mosque” (ahl al-qaṣab).

  • 90 Lapidus 1967, p. 87.
  • 91 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1135, 1131, 1137, 1124; iv, p. 1649.
  • 92 Ibid., iii, p. 1363.
  • 93 Ibid., iv, p. 1714.

45Neighbourhoods had mixed populations and were “communities of both rich and poor”.90 Members of other occupations appear more often than usual in this context, such as a carpenter, two ophthalmologists, a weaver, and a wood turner.91 Also, Ibn Ṭawq received a miller and his family as guests.92 All those people seem to have been granted the status of “our neighbour” (ǧārunā). Was it due to this characteristic that Ibn Ṭawq recorded their marriages, deaths, circumcisions and births with the same diligence he usually reserved for the ulama and high state officials? One point in case would be that when he wrote the obituary for one of his neighbours, he remarked that “I am not sure if the mother of his children was from the neighbourhood or from elsewhere”.93 It seems that a person’s status changed in Ibn Ṭawq’s perception when both were neighbours. His neighbourhood held a special value for him, where his focus on the ulama was undermined by other allegiances.

  • 94 See above footnote 2, p. 1.

46To sum up, Ibn Ṭawq used reference to a quarter as a spatial as much as a social category. In some cases, a more precise specification was not possible or suitable, in others the general area was affected. Another reason was due to the motivation for writing the journal, as in the itinerary presented at the beginning of this article: “I was in Qubaybāt at [the house of] šayḫ Burhān ad-Dīn al-Nāǧī, then at [the house of] šayḫ Šihāb al-Dīn b. al-Maḥūǧab”.94 To Ibn Ṭawq it must have been obvious where these houses were situated within the quarter, but both šayḫ-s probably owned houses in other parts of the city, as well. Thus, Ibn Ṭawq referred to the quarter because it was helpful for remembering in which houses he met them on that specific day.

  • 95 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1260.

47In another instance, when a certain šayḫ Ibrāhīm al-Nāǧī went to the Manǧak Mosque in Qubaybāt, mentioning the quarter again avoided ambiguity.95 Ibn Ṭawq lived in the neighbourhood of the Masǧid al-Qaṣab which was also known under the name of Ibn Manǧak Mosque. Only by referring to the quarter as well as to the mosque Ibn Ṭawq specified the location of the event indisputably.

  • 96 Also Gardens’ Gate, cf. Élisséeff, La description de Damas, p. 329.
  • 97 Ibid., ii, p. 811-812.

48Indeed, it is rather the exception that reference to a quarter disambiguates the reference to a landmark like the mosque. More often, Ibn Ṭawq referred to landmarks in order to specify a certain place within a quarter. In the case of one ʿAbd al-Razzāq, Ibn Ṭawq speculates, that he had lived in the house of someone (the name is not decipherable in the manuscript) “in the quarter below the citadel (Taḥt al-Qalʿa), close to the hospital”, only to correct himself in the next entry, stating that he really lived close to a mosque inside Paradise Gate96 (Bāb al-Farādīs) in the Old City.97 In the absence of street signs or names, Ibn Ṭawq relied on landmarks as the next best thing available. They were an effective means to find one’s way through the labyrinth, or to describe a location to others.

The landmarks

  • 98 Lapidus 1969, p. 70.

49At first glance, mosques seem to be ideal architectural landmarks. Their minarets rise high into the air, visible from afar. From within the maze of streets they could still be recognized acoustically when the muezzin called Muslims to prayer five times a day. It was urban, social, and political factors that made the mosques ideal landmarks. Settlement as such was identified with the building/neighbourhood? of a mosque.98

  • 99 Leder 2005, p. 237; for its importance for the Mamluks, see Walker 2004.

50In the case of Damascus, there was no mosque more important than the Umayyad Mosque which was the epicentre of cultic and social life in Damascus.99 Obtaining a teaching position or leading the Friday prayers in the Umayyad Mosque granted the highest prestige there was for the ulama in Damascus. A burial taking place in the Umayyad Mosque told of the high social standing of the deceased. Ibn Ṭawq always took note if prayers took place in the Umayyad Mosque.

  • 100 Behrens-Abouseif 2004.
  • 101 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq I, p. 40, 46, 55.

51In the first two years of the journal (885-886/1480-81), Ibn Ṭawq noted some important steps of the repairs, after a fire had destroyed large parts of the Umayyad Mosque in 884/1479. But he did not follow them as diligent as other contemporary writers.100 At first the outer structure was rebuilt. Only a few days later, after the gates and the minbar were restored, the first sermon (ḫuṭba) after the fire was held. Next, two pillars of white marble were taken from a madrasa in al-Ṣāliḥiyya to be used in the maqṣūra. 101

  • 102 In 903/1497-1498 the governor was praying there, once to the right of the prayer niche (miḥrāb) (Ib (...)
  • 103 Guo 2008, p. 212.

52Moreover, Ibn Ṭawq always mentions when he performed the Friday prayer in the Umayyad Mosque. He notes when he prayed close to or even in the maqṣūra, a segregated room for prayers or religious tuition. Praying in this place meant much to him, since it was reserved for men of the social elite such as the šayḫ or the high ranked mamlūk emirs.102 Most of all, Ibn Ṭawq identified the Umayyad Mosque with his patron who even was assigned to one of its sanctuaries (mašhad). The mosque was the greatest stage to show off “his status in his community and his closeness to his patron’s family”.103

53As the Umayyad Mosque was synonymous for the city centre, every/each smaller mosque represented the centre of its neighbourhood. This was indicated in the naming of neighbourhoods, which were often called by the mosque’s name: Ibn Ṭawq lived in the neighbourhood of the Masǧid al-Qaṣab, as the above mentioned ʿAbd ar-Razzāq’s domicile was located with reference to a mosque as well as one of the seven city gates.

  • 104 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, ii, p. 684.
  • 105 Ibid., iii, p. 1229.
  • 106 Ibid. i, p. 81.

54Other buildings of the sacred landscape feature as landmarks as well. Ibn Ṭawq refers to a Sufi lodge to localise a fatal accident: “on this [day] a house in the alley of the Sufi lodge of al-Aqbāʿī dropped on a woman; she died, may God be merciful upon her.”104 He refers to a Sufi lodge of one šayḫ Faraǧ when his acquaintance šayḫ Abū al-Faḍl al-Qudsī moved into the house of the above mentioned al-Buṣrawī.105 The location of a stone bench which was to be demolished was given as “adjoining the wall of the Madrasat al-Muʿīniyya to the west”.106

  • 107 Ibid., i, p. 125; ii, p. 601.

55In a few instances, Ibn Ṭawq refers to Christian churches. He localises a bath house (ḥammām) with reference to one of them: “and this ḥammām is next to the building of his [i.e. the owner of the Ḥammām ʿĪsā al-Qārī+ TW] son Muḥammad and of his uncle’s son Muḥammad, close to church of the Christians, westwards.”107

  • 108 Ibid., i, p. 65.
  • 109 Ibid., i, p. 81.
  • 110 Ibid., p. 103.

56As he deemed the reconstruction of the Umayyad Mosque a pious deed, Ibn Ṭawq was also in favour of the renovation of other structures. In 886/1481-1482 he was amazed as the souks of the armourers, the silk weavers and others east of the Umayyad Mosque were reopened. The buildings were «most beautiful» (ʿalā aḥsan mā-kānū).108 Another souk was intentionally destroyed in the same year: “They destroyed Bāb al-Barīd, I mean its souk. They decided to rebuild it more splendorous (aḥsan) than it was before.”109 About two months later, Ibn Ṭawq observed that now the souk was torn open and “nothing [was] there but the closed shops and the alleyways and the white wash (bayyāḍ).”110

  • 111 Ibid., iv, p. 1904.
  • 112 Grehan 2007, p. 95.

57On Šawwāl 28th 906/17 May 1501 his son Muḥammad Abū al-Faḍl took over a shop in the silk market (Sūq al-Ḥarīrī), which he took off one Muḥammad Ibn Šahlān for an agreed price of 560 dirhams of which he paid two hundred on the spot. He did not pay in silver coins though, for he would need the silver in order to pay the monthly amount of fifty silver pieces to the mosque.111 Having a shop for silks tells of/bears witness of wealth and wide ranging business relations. The fee Muḥammad had to pass on to the mosque alone is telling of the splendid position his shop must have been set at. In comparison, one raṭl of meat cost only 4 dirhams on the same day. And meat was already considered a luxury food: “No food was more coveted, or better epitomized the balance between desires and constraints, than meat.”112

58As often as Ibn Ṭawq noted that he went to one or the other souk on a certain day he rarely went into detail. He did not write about his purchases of food stuff, although he regularly gave lists of prices for grain, meat, vegetables or yoghurt. In this, the author followed the literary norms of the time, making profane activities subject to «censure».

  • 113 Leeuwen 1999, p. 185.

59In terms of mobility gates were obvious landmarks, since they were erected at the most sensitive locations: “where the city touches the outer world.”113 Through gates, mobility between the city and the hinterland could be controlled, restricted or blocked completely. Whereas most buildings in Mamluk times were built that their façades aligned with the edges of the buildings next to it, gates arched across the street and were highly visible.

  • 114 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1501.

60Ibn Ṭawq followed the erection and reconstruction of major gates as he did with the other great structures. But in one case Ibn Ṭawq gives the reason why the gate was erected. On the last day of Šawwāl 902/1 July 1497, “Ibn al-Dīwān constructed a gate under the large walnut tree which stands in the garden of Ibn al-ʿAttār”, situated at a forking of a road in Qābūn. The construction had already been decreed by the deceased governor after one Naṣr al-Ǧammāl had pleaded to the governor: “This is the road to Anatolia and Ḫurāsān; shouldn’t a gate be built there?” These regions were synonymous for the Ottoman Empire and the confederation of the Aqoyunlu. The construction of the gate had begun the week before the author wrote this entry. On that day the author witnessed, that arcs had been erected on the right and the left side.114

  • 115 Grehan 2007, p. 161.

61All the structures mentioned so far can be found in most accounts on Islamic cities. Descriptions of mosques, souks and gates were part of the faḍā’il-literature as well as many travel accounts. But Ibn Ṭawq used also private residences as landmarks in his journal. This choice might have been only due to the character of the text but it stands out as the most unusual and most personal aspect of his topography. Domestic houses usually were seen as ‘the rest of the city’, being built without space between one house and the next. As a rule, they were built not more than two stories high.115 Furthermore, they were surrounded by high walls. In short, they had all the features which would disqualify them as landmarks. Still, Ibn Ṭawq invested them with meaning because their owners were part of his social circles. Whereas most descriptions of Damascus concentrate on its eternal merits, Ibn Ṭawq’s topography emphasizes his social contacts, and, therefore, demarks Damascus as a social space.

Social landmarks

  • 116 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 127; ii, p. 702; iv, p. 1859.

62More than anything else, it was social ties that determined Ibn Ṭawq’s topography of Damascus. The Aqbāʿī family is one case in point. As was mentioned above, Ibn Ṭawq referred to a sufi lodge belonging to one member of the family. He took note of the death of another Ibrāhīm al-Aqbāʿī in Ṣafar 887/1482. Ibrāhīm had commissioned the building of a public bath in the Sūq al-Aqbāʿiyya which also carried the family’s name. Furthermore, at least two members of the family lived in his neighbourhood. On one of them, Ibn Ṭawq comments that “he had been our neighbour for a long time”.116 He related several buildings throughout the city to this family which was also connected to him via his neighbourhood.

  • 117 For a study on allegiance within Mamlūk households, Henning Sievert proposed a model of four ideal (...)
  • 118 In contrast to other members of his family Ibn Ṭawq’s brothers stay almost invisible. I found only (...)
  • 119 Ibid., p. 667, 531.

63It was Ibn Ṭawq’s social ties that made him stride through the city. In many cases, he just notes that he went somewhere to meet someone. In some instances, however, he refers to the property of his associates in order to localise another place. Although Ibn Ṭawq identified the settlement of al-Ṣāliḥiyya very much with his mother’s side of the family, namely his two cousins Abū al-Ḫayr and Nūr al-Dīn, the one group of people that played the major role for his topography were the ulama as his network of patronage.117 Ibn Ṭawq’s relatives appear often in the journal, but do not play a decisive role for his topography.118 When the author’s mother-in-law decided to buy property, it is only stated that it was on some square in Šāġūr; when she sold “her story and the stable” there is no location at all.119

  • 120 A selection from the year 886/1481-1482 gives an idea of how often he went to such places. Excluded (...)
  • 121 In the journal five different šayḫ-s appear under this name. Additional attributes are not always g (...)
  • 122 When šayḫ Abū al-Faḍl was away in 886/1481-1482, Ibn Ṭawq noted whenever a letter arrived. Ibn Ṭawq(...)
  • 123 In the years 890 and 891/1485-1487 Ibn Ṭawq mentions frequent mutual sleepovers of their households (...)

64It was his connections to the ulama that shaped Ibn Ṭawq’s topography more than anything else. Most of his appearances at mosques, madrasas, shrines and tombs were due to his attendances at social events of this group.120 Every year he took part in the recitation of the Buḫārī at the Umayyad Mosque or in one of the schools. He went there for his job as a notary. In addition, he met with other ulama in orchards both in the city and the surrounding oasis, and in their houses. One of the ulama who were among the author’s closest acquaintances was one šayḫ Abū al-Faḍl. He could not be identified with certainty.121 But Ibn Ṭawq mentions regularly that he corresponded with this šayḫ122, and that his household or the šayḫ’s paid regular visits to each other.123

  • 124 Ibid., ii , p. 594, 597.
  • 125 Ibid. i, p. 75.

65Although Ibn Ṭawq’s conduct with šayḫ Abū al-Faḍl was frequent and friendly, the šayḫ’s house did not qualify as a landmark for the author. With regard to one šayḫ Abū al-Faḍl al-Qudsī, Ibn Ṭawq remarked that he lived in a house that belonged to one al-Aḏrāʿī but had moved his household to the house of Ibn an-Nayrubī al-Ḏahabī which was situated in the Old City. He moved back to his own house a couple of days later.124 Maybe it is due to the šayḫ’s status as a tenant that his dwelling was not seen fit as a landmark. Although he lived there the houses were considered as someone else’s property; they were his only transitorily. Ibn Ṭawq refers to the houses of the qāḍī šāfiʿī Muḥibb al-Dīn, or the ones belonging to the several sons of the šayḫ, and he does so as if their sites were self-evident. Ibn Ṭawq mentions the murder of a gardener who had lived in the same quarter as Muḥibb al-Dīn.125 Otherwise they rarely qualified as landmarks by which other localities could be described.

  • 126 The house had belonged to one Šihāb al-Dīn Ibn al-Muzalliq, not to Qāḍī Šams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ibn al (...)
  • 127 Ibid., i, p. 154,

66Only buildings that belonged to the šayḫ al-islām were used in this way. In the journal the three houses where the šayḫ’s households resided feature most prominently. They were called the large house (al-bayt al-kabīr), the new house (al-bayt al-ǧadīd) and the Muzalliq house.126 Only the new house was located by Ibn Ṭawq, probably because it had been in the šayḫ’s possession only briefly. It stood in al-Qaymariyya, a street in the heart of the Old City and close to the Umayyad Mosque.127

  • 128 Ibid., i, p. 157.
  • 129 Ibid., ii, p. 592.

67To Ibn Ṭawq the šayḫ’s houses were as valuable as landmarks as were mosques or souks: On the 21st Rabīʿ I 887/10 May 1482, “I met with the qāḍī l-quḍāt šāfiʿī in the house of Ibn Sālim, which is in the neighbourhood of the šayḫ’s house”.128 When a merchant of flour, the author knew, died, he noted the Christian quarter Bāb Tūmā as his place of work as well as his living place: he “had lived in the alley of the šayḫ’s house”.129 Both the alley and the neighbourhood are the šayḫ’s in Ibn Ṭawq’s point of view. Where that neighbourhood was, or which of the šayḫ’s houses is meant, does not become clear.

68Furthermore, the šayḫ is depicted as an actor in the change of the physical features of the city. He convinces an emir to tear down the excessive stories of his newly built house, he ordered the masṭaba mentioned above to be demolished, he worked on restoring an alley in his neighbourhood, he might even have had a say in the reconstruction of the bridge he and Ibn Ṭawq went to watch.

  • 130 Ibid., i, p. 498; iii, p. 1147.

69Ibn Ṭawq’s own house did not qualify as a landmark. Even within its immediate vicinity he refers to it only rarely. In 897/1491-1492, he remarked that two women occupied the hall (qāʿa) adjoining his house. A wedding was held in the garden next to his house in 890/1485-1486. 130 This does not mean that he did not write on his own dwelling though.

  • 131 There are only a few indications to the position of the room called murabbaʿ; the small murabbaʿ op (...)
  • 132 Ibid., i, p. 35.
  • 133 Ibid., i, p. 36.
  • 134 Ibid., i, p. 91.
  • 135 Ibid., i, p. 107.

70He noted whenever he made repairs or adjustments in the house. From the journal we know that his house had at least one qāʿa and one murabbaʿ.131 Ibn Ṭawq furnished the murabbaʿ in Ḏū-l-ḥiǧǧa 885/January 1481, and his household spent the following night there.132 Only six days later he restored parts of the roof. First he tore down the dome of the lavatory (murtafaq) and the roof of the corridor. The following night and day there was a thunderstorm but nonetheless Ibn Ṭawq resumed the work and repaired and covered the roof.133 In the following year he hired a foreman and nineteen workers to patch the roof terraces.134 Near the end of the year 886/1481 he again recruited seventeen carpenters for repairs.135

  • 136 Ibid., ii, p. 635.
  • 137 Ibid., i, p. 739; IV, p. 1560.

71In 891/1486 Ibn Ṭawq resumed work on the murabbaʿ, shattered the partition wall and installed a door.136 He does not tell where this door was leading, though. In 893/1487 the roof over the qāʿa and the murabbaʿ was leaking so badly, the family moved to their neighbours’ house. Even greater damage was caused by an earthquake in 903/1497: “Shortly before the midday prayers there was a little bit of an earthquake. I felt it, and the earth below me moved (tartaǧa) about one moment; the wife told me that the roof had screamed. We stayed in the garden, barefooted.”137

  • 138 Ibid., i p. 159, 309; ii , p. 738-739, 1004; IV, p. 1587, 1690.
  • 139 Ibid., iii, p. 1482.

72Weather put much pressure on the house. Almost every winter there were days when Ibn Ṭawq notes that his roof was leaking.138 Ibn Ṭawq had to spend time and money on the buildings’ maintenance. The greatest change in the author’s domestic space came in 902/1496 when he extended the house to make room for his newly wed son and his bride. They were to get a story to themselves. Therefore, on Šaʿbān 7th 901/10 April 1496 Ibn Ṭawq was working on the terrace and the railing of the respective qāʿa.139

73Ibn Ṭawq’s house is depicted in some detail in the journal. However, it did not play any role in his topography. In this case, the bath house of Burhān ad-Dīn or the Masǧid al-Qaṣab proved to be the better landmarks. Most often, however, the author preferred to refer to his neighbourhood at large.

Conclusion

  • 140 Ibid., I, p. 227.

74Since Ibn Ṭawq had lived almost all his life in Damascus, the organization of the city into public market streets and residential neighbourhoods was as obvious to him as were the sites of the great market streets, the Umayyad Mosque at the heart of the Old City, or the citadel at the north-western corner of the city walls. The same could be said for the seven city gates. Thus, Ibn Ṭawq referred to these spatial entities and landmarks without any specifications. He did not need them, nor did any possible contemporary readers of his text. Ibn Ṭawq’s perspective was also influenced by the way his line of work was done in Mamluk Damascus. A great lot of legal transactions were not treated in courthouses but in mosques, madrasa, private residences or even on the author’s own doorstep.140

75The sacred landscape played an important role in Ibn Ṭawq’s topogaphy. Mosques, shrines and madrasas featured prominently but under a different, social pretext. Ibn Ṭawq incorporated them into his topography, attached new meanings to them and, at times, gave priority to his social contacts over the sacred landscape of Damascus. By drawing connections between the sacred landscape and his social circles, how elusive they might have been, Ibn Ṭawq appropriated the city. On the other side, by doing so he integrated private houses into the sacred landscape.

  • 141 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq I, p. 30.

76It becomes evident in all references to houses as landmarks that Ibn Ṭawq based his topography on connections with people. In his topography, Ibn Ṭawq focused on the elite of the religious establishment, omitting most references to people he knew from other strata of society. But they only gained importance for his outlook on the city, when he knew them personally. He referred to meeting places as the house of such-and-such, which, for him, needed no further explanation. Thus, Ibn Ṭawq localised a mosque with reference to the šayḫ’s home. In this small masǧid which neighboured his house to the west, the šayḫ stood down from half a teaching post he held at two madrasas.141 Clearly, the šayḫ’s residence had more meaning to Ibn Ṭawq than the nameless mosque.

  • 142 De Certeau 2006, p. 347-349.
  • 143 Foucault 2006, p. 317.

77Ibn Ṭawq’s descriptions did not provide a ‘map’ of Damascus. Rather, he cited certain localities which either result from the paths he took, or authorize them.142 He omits most of his paths and concentrates on his destinations. According to is description, he perceived the urban space basically as a space of localisation which was comprised of a number of places, which were linked to a number of people he knew.143

  • 144 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, I, p. 91, 202, 507 (for the peasants), 85; II , p. 1048.

78One promising way of further investigating the social realities of a 15th century Damascene court clerk would be to look at the necrologies included in the journal. Among others, several peasants appear there, a Turkmen horseshoer, and a Jewish ophthalmologist (kaḥḥāl).144 Ibn Ṭawq did not deem them relevant for his topography. They just fit in between the mosques, souks, and great residences. They are granted no impact on the shape of the city.

Keypoints of Ibn Ṭawq topography

Keypoints of Ibn Ṭawq topography
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Haut de page

Notes

1 The higher estimates are from the 14th and 15th centuries. The lower counts are from 16th century Ottoman censuses ; Lapidus 1967, p. 79.

2 Sack 1989, p. 45.

3 Sack 1989, p. 56.

4 In this article I will rely exclusively on the edition published in four volumes by the French Institute for Middle Eastern Studies (Ifpo) in Damascus from 2000 to 2007. I will not deal with the manuscript of the text which does not only cover twenty years (885/1480+ 906/1500) but continues for either two years (foreword in Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 7) or even eight more years until one year before the author’s death (foreword in Buṣrawī, Tārīḫ, p. 11). The four volumes are distinguished by roman numbers (i-iv),

5 Guo 2008, p. 215.

6 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1253.

7 Ibid., p. 1254.

8 Guo 2008, p. 210.

9 Ziadeh 1953, p. 82.

10 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, I, p. 9.

11 Al-Ġazzī, Kawākib, i, p. 126. Ibn Ṭawq is also mentioned in the entry on his patron; see below.

12 E.g. al-Buṣrawī, Tārīḫ; Ibn al-Ḥimṣī, Ḥawādiṯ.

13 He regularly receives visitors from Ǧarūd : a mubāšir and a ḫaṭīb as well as one šayḫ Muḥammad, and he is still informed about social events in the village ; he also travels there himself occasionally ; Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 26, 64, 76 ; ii, p. 543, iv, p. 1911.

14 Ibid. i, p. 9.

15 Marcus 1989, p. 38.

16 In 887/1482-3, the author mentions that he rented, among other things, the part of the lower house and the story (ṭabaqa) which beforehand belonged to his uncle’s granddaughter, for a hundred dirham a year. See Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 206.

17 Ibid., iv, p. 1697.

18 Rapoport 2005, p. 106.

19 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 449. This situation seems to repeat itself later on ; ibid. iii, p. 1159.

20 Ibn Ṭawq speaks of each of them as umm al-awlād, a legal term which denotes a freed slave-girl who bore her master children.

21 Ibid. i, p. 442; iii, p. 1095.

22 Ibid. i, p. 9.

23 Henceforth I will refer to the author’s patron as the šayḫ to avoid ambiguities with regard to other Damascene šayḫ-s.

24 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 197, 227-228.

25 Ibid. ii, p. 580-581. According to an ancient Damascene custom a pious person should sleep in the bridal bed the three nights before the wedding ; Guo 2008, p. 212.

26 Al-Ġazzī, Kawākib, i, p. 114.

27 Ibid., p. 115.

28 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 298.

29 To give a selection only from the first one hundred pages of the journal: the šayḫ freed a judge, (ibid., p. 41); he remained unwavering when the governor wanted to raise money (p. 66); people seek his help because of high sugar price (ibid.); he wants an armistice (p. 67); the muḥtasib seeks his advice (p. 71); he makes an emir tear down a building he had built too high (p. 79); he takes care of some prisoners’ corpses and prays for them (p. 83).

30 Al-Buṣrawī, Ta’rīḫ, p. 77, 87, 92, 211 ; Ibn al-Ḥimṣī, Ḥawādiṯ, p. 114, 151, 192-193, 206, 221, 252-253, 312, 396, 423, 447, 557.

31 Lapidus 1967, p. 93. Ibn Ṭawq does not transmit this episode. At other times, he obscures the šayḫ’s role in freeing the riotous šayḫ Mubārak. See Lapidus 1967, p. 106; Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1288-1289.

32 Al-Ġazzī, Kawākib, i, p. 114-118.

33 The šayḫ lived in polygamy housing his wives in different quarters of the city.

34 Quarrels between the šayḫ and his wife are frequently mentioned; e.g. Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 25, 521-522, 533; ii, p. 584, 587, 1049. For cases of sickness, see Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 91, 122-123, 126, 522-528, 541, 546; II, p. 641, 789, 1009-1019; iii, p. 1107-1108, 1157-1159 ; the šayḫ did not go to the teaching session because he was furious with one of his sons (iii, p. 1091). Furthermore, a wife of the šayḫ got injured (i, p. 94), another had a miscarriage (i, p. 102). A couple of days after the šayḫ even spoke of divorce from his Egyptian wife, Ibn Ṭawq asked him if he was going through with it (ii, p. 744, 747).

35 Amelang 2007, p. 133.

36 Conermann 2003, p. 11. I do not intend to single out Ibn Ṭawq as the first author to write a diary in Arabic. On the contrary, the practice seems to have been widespread for centuries ; Makdisi 1986; also Conermann & Seidensticker 2007.

37 Weintritt 2008, p. 19.

38 The tendency to record personally important events happened at the same tine in renaissance Italy where traditionally historiographical chronicles were used in a new way to fix personal or family history, such as births, deaths, harvests, celebrations. Holm 2008, p. 12.

39 Irwin 2006, p. 160; also Guo 2001.

40 Hirschler 2006.

41 Rapoport 2007, p. 3.

42 Guo 2001, p. 132.

43 Such works were ‘published in the context of teaching. They were read to an audience of one’s students who, in turn, wrote them down again and made copies of the original text. See Rosenthal 1968, p. 173–174 ; Robinson 2007, p. 181-82.

44 For emplotment and use of stylistic elements in chronicles, see Hirschler 2006, chapters 5 (p. 63-85) and 6 (p. 86-114).

45 Chamberlain 1994, p. 18-21.

46 Holm 2008, p. 26.

47 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iv, p. 1743.

48 There were, of course, limits to his willingness to tell about private business, especially with regard to his own wife. Her name is never mentioned, and she appears quite amorphous throughout the text.

49 For a list of contracts from the 2nd and 3rd volume, see Guo 2008, p. 216-17.

50 Al-Ġazzī, Kawākib, i, p. 115.

51 Guo 2008, p. 210.

52 An exception is the introduction to the year 902/1496-1497 where the list of notables appears only in the entry for Muḥarram 1st. Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1439f.

53 E.g. Wulzinger & Watzinger 1924 ; Sack 1989 ; Burns 2005.

54 E.g. Lapidus 1967.

55 Lassner 1970.

56 For this quote and the following, see Oleg Grabar’s foreword in Lassner 1970, p. 12-13.

57 Recently, Lefebvre’s concept of space has been fruitfully utilised by Harithy 2001 and Leeuwen 1999.

58 All citations refer to a German translation of the introduction in « The Production of Space » (Lefebvre 2006).

59 Lefebvre 2006, p. 331.

60 On the muḥtasib and his duties, see Ziadeh, p. 118f., 122-25; see also Essid 1995, chapter IV.

61 Sack 1989, p. 45.

62 Lapidus 1967, p. 51.

63 There was no cohesive image of space but gives room to a lot of ideas, ranging from cosmology and astronomy through maritime literature and travel accounts to the genre of ʿaǧāʾib, fantastic accounts of far away and often legendary countries and the wonders one could see there; an interesting study is Brauer 1995 on the role of frontiers and boundaries.

64 See al-Nuʿaymī, Dāris; Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīḫ.

65 See articles « Faḍīla » and « al-Maḥāsin wa-l-Masāwī », E.I.2, respectively ii, p. 729, and v, p. 1223. Ibn Ǧubayr emulates their perspective on Damascus in his own account of the city. Ibn Ǧubayr, Riḥla, p. 271-294.

66 Lefebvre 2007, p. 340; employed with regard to architecture in Cairo by Harithy 2001.

67 Ibn Ṭawq mentions a couple of architects (miʿmar) but rarely in the context of construction works: e.g. the father of the šayḫ al-miʿmar (the architect) šayḫ ʿUbaid died; the architect al-Ṭībī whose daughter died (iii, p. 1122, 1127).

68 Lefebvre 2007, p. 336.

69 Ibid., p. 339f.

70 Molotch 1993, p. 888.

71 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1252.

72 Ibid., IV, p. 1560.

73 Musallam 1983, p. 117.

74 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1121, 1136.

75 Ibid., iii, p. 1123.

76 E.g., Ibn Ṭawq writes Damascus when news of an Ottoman offensive upset the city, or when an Anatolian woman came through on her way back from Cairo. Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, ii, p. 765; iii, p. 1278.

77 Ibid., p. 1288-89.

78 Ibid., p. 1288.

79 Only two city maps are known from the medieval Islamic world, one of the Tunisian city al-Mahdiyah and one of Tinnis in the delta of the Nile. Edson 2005, p. 107.

80 Al-Nuʿaymī, Dāris, ii, p. 346.

81 Ibid., ii, p. 346 ; i, p. 16.

82 Ibid., p. 1100.

83 Lapidus 1967, p. 94.

84 Leeuwen 1999, p. 189.

85 Lapidus 1967, p. 86.

86 For fights between quarters see Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 23, 462, 504, 505, 520; ii, p. 762, 770, 775, 776; iv, p. 1533-1536. See also for their interpretation according to Ibn Ṭūlūn, Lapidus 1967.

87 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iv, p. 1549, 1555.

88 Ibid.

89 Ibid., p. 1569.

90 Lapidus 1967, p. 87.

91 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1135, 1131, 1137, 1124; iv, p. 1649.

92 Ibid., iii, p. 1363.

93 Ibid., iv, p. 1714.

94 See above footnote 2, p. 1.

95 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1260.

96 Also Gardens’ Gate, cf. Élisséeff, La description de Damas, p. 329.

97 Ibid., ii, p. 811-812.

98 Lapidus 1969, p. 70.

99 Leder 2005, p. 237; for its importance for the Mamluks, see Walker 2004.

100 Behrens-Abouseif 2004.

101 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq I, p. 40, 46, 55.

102 In 903/1497-1498 the governor was praying there, once to the right of the prayer niche (miḥrāb) (Ibid., IV, p. 1619), once in mull and linen (Ibid., p. 1626).

103 Guo 2008, p. 212.

104 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, ii, p. 684.

105 Ibid., iii, p. 1229.

106 Ibid. i, p. 81.

107 Ibid., i, p. 125; ii, p. 601.

108 Ibid., i, p. 65.

109 Ibid., i, p. 81.

110 Ibid., p. 103.

111 Ibid., iv, p. 1904.

112 Grehan 2007, p. 95.

113 Leeuwen 1999, p. 185.

114 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1501.

115 Grehan 2007, p. 161.

116 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 127; ii, p. 702; iv, p. 1859.

117 For a study on allegiance within Mamlūk households, Henning Sievert proposed a model of four ideal types of group allegiance based on kinship, patronage, friendship or similar geographic or ethnic background. An exclusiveness of one of these types, however, is never found in Ibn Ṭawq’s journal. Sievert 2003, p. 104.

118 In contrast to other members of his family Ibn Ṭawq’s brothers stay almost invisible. I found only two remarks on them; once the son of his brother Šuʿayb was present at a meeting in the Ġazāliyya school, and in the occasion of his brother Ibn al-Yaʿmūrī’s death. Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, p. 578, 581.

119 Ibid., p. 667, 531.

120 A selection from the year 886/1481-1482 gives an idea of how often he went to such places. Excluded are his appearances for the Friday prayers; Ibid., i, p. 43, 46, 54, 57, 62, 65-8, 72-3, 75, 84, 87-90, 103, 107, 109, 112. These are just the denoted appearances. The frequency was probably higher in reality, judging from all the news he received from and about other ulama without naming the place where he received them.

121 In the journal five different šayḫ-s appear under this name. Additional attributes are not always given. Moreover, the author’s son and one son of the šayḫ carry the same name as well.

122 When šayḫ Abū al-Faḍl was away in 886/1481-1482, Ibn Ṭawq noted whenever a letter arrived. Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, i, p. 76, 91, 96, 106, 116, 121.

123 In the years 890 and 891/1485-1487 Ibn Ṭawq mentions frequent mutual sleepovers of their households which could last up to a week. Ibid., p. 443, 453, 469, 479, 519, 618, 664. Also, Ibn Ṭawq and the šayḫ paid each other mutual visits in this time; ibid., p. 430, 436-7, 447, 455, 481, 533, 538, 542, 555, 589, 624, 662.

124 Ibid., ii , p. 594, 597.

125 Ibid. i, p. 75.

126 The house had belonged to one Šihāb al-Dīn Ibn al-Muzalliq, not to Qāḍī Šams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ibn al-Muzalliq mentioned by Meier and Weber, who lived in Šāġūr and died in 902 or 903 (1497). Meier & Weber 2005, p. 392. The šayḫ moved there with his Egyptian wife in 897/1491-2. Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, iii, p. 1129.

127 Ibid., i, p. 154,

128 Ibid., i, p. 157.

129 Ibid., ii, p. 592.

130 Ibid., i, p. 498; iii, p. 1147.

131 There are only a few indications to the position of the room called murabbaʿ; the small murabbaʿ opened onto the courtyard (ḫawš); ibid., i, p. 109-10, 131. Apparently this room was used for receptions: Ibid., p. 109-110; ii, p. 689.

132 Ibid., i, p. 35.

133 Ibid., i, p. 36.

134 Ibid., i, p. 91.

135 Ibid., i, p. 107.

136 Ibid., ii, p. 635.

137 Ibid., i, p. 739; IV, p. 1560.

138 Ibid., i p. 159, 309; ii , p. 738-739, 1004; IV, p. 1587, 1690.

139 Ibid., iii, p. 1482.

140 Ibid., I, p. 227.

141 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq I, p. 30.

142 De Certeau 2006, p. 347-349.

143 Foucault 2006, p. 317.

144 Ibn Ṭawq, Taʿlīq, I, p. 91, 202, 507 (for the peasants), 85; II , p. 1048.

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Titre Keypoints of Ibn Ṭawq topography
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Torsten Wollina, « A View from Within: Ibn Ṭawq’s Personal Topography of 15th century Damascus », Bulletin d’études orientales, Tome LXI | 2012, 271-295.

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Torsten Wollina, « A View from Within: Ibn Ṭawq’s Personal Topography of 15th century Damascus », Bulletin d’études orientales [En ligne], Tome LXI | décembre 2012, mis en ligne le 20 mars 2013, consulté le 25 mai 2017. URL : http://beo.revues.org/955 ; DOI : 10.4000/beo.955

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Auteur

Torsten Wollina

Doctorant à la Freie Universität Berlin

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© Institut français du Proche-Orient

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