Leo Africanus

Joannes Leo Africanus (/ˌæfrɪˈkeɪnəs/; born al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi, Arabic: حسن ابن محمد الوزان الفاسي‎; c. 1494 – c. 1554) was a Berber[2] Andalusi diplomat and author who is best known for his book Descrittione dell’Africa (Description of Africa) centered on the geography of the Maghreb and Nile Valley. The book was regarded among his scholarly peers in Europe as the most authoritative treatise on the subject until the modern exploration of Africa.[3] For this work, Leo became a household name among European geographers.

Leo Africanus
Sebastiano del Piombo Portrait of a Humanist
Portrait of a Humanist, c. 1520. The identity of the sitter is unknown but suggested to possibly be Leo Africanus [1]
al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan

c. 1494
Diedc. 1554
OccupationDiplomat, geographer, traveler
Notable work
Description of Africa


Var 132
The courtyard of the University of al-Qarawiyyin, Fez, Morocco, where al-Hasan (future Leo Africanus) studied.

Most of what is known about his life is gathered from autobiographical notes in his own work. Leo Africanus was born as al-Hasan, son of Muhammad in Granada around the year 1494.[3] The year of birth was estimated from his self-reported age at the time of various historical events.[4] His family moved to Fez soon after his birth.[3][5] In Fez he studied at the University of al-Qarawiyyin (also spelled al-Karaouine). As a young man he accompanied an uncle on a diplomatic mission, reaching as far as the city of Timbuktu (c. 1510), then part of the Songhai Empire. In 1517 when returning from a diplomatic mission to Istanbul on behalf of the Sultan of Fez Muhammad II he found himself in the port of Rosetta during the Ottoman conquest of Egypt. He continued with his journey through Cairo and Aswan and across the Red Sea to Arabia, where he probably performed a pilgrimage to Mecca.

On his way back to Tunis in 1518 he was captured by Spanish corsairs either near the island of Djerba or more probably near Crete. He was taken to Rome and initially imprisoned in Rhodes, the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller. During this period, the usual fate of unransommed Muslim captives was slavery in Christian galleys, but when his captors realized his intelligence and importance, he was moved to Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome and was later presented to Pope Leo X. He was soon freed and given pension to persuade him to stay. He was baptized in the Basilica of Saint Peter's in 1520. He took the Latin name Johannes Leo de Medicis (Giovanni Leone in Italian). In Arabic, he preferred to translate this name as Yuhanna al-Asad al-Gharnati (literally means John the Lion of Granada). It is likely that Leo Africanus was welcomed to the papal court as the Pope feared that Turkish forces might invade Sicily and southern Italy, and a willing collaborator could provide useful information on North Africa.[3]

Raffaello Sanzio - Ritratto di Leone X coi cardinali Giulio de' Medici e Luigi de' Rossi - Google Art Project
Pope Leo X (center) was Leo's initial benefactor in Rome. His cousin, Giulio de' Medici (left) later became Pope Clement VII and continued the papal patronage of Leo.

Leo Africanus left Rome and spent the next three or four years traveling in Italy. The death of his patron Leo X in 1521, and suspicions from the new Pope Adrian VI against a Moor in court, was likely the reason for his leaving Rome. While staying in Bologna he wrote an Arabic-Hebrew-Latin medical vocabulary, of which only the Arabic part has survived, and a grammar of Arabic of which only an eight-page fragment has survived. He returned to Rome in 1526 under the protection of the new Pope Clement VII, a cousin of Leo X who replaced Adrian. According to Leo, he completed his manuscript on African geography in the same year. The work was published in Italian with the title Della descrittione dell’Africa et delle cose notabili che iui sono, per Giovan Lioni Africano in 1550 by the Venetian publisher Giovanni Battista Ramusio. The book proved to be extremely popular and was reprinted five times. It was also translated into other languages. French and Latin editions were published in 1556 while an English version was published in 1600 with the title A Geographical Historie of Africa.[6] The Latin edition, which contained many errors and mistranslations, was used as the source for the English translation.[3]

There are several theories of his later life, and none of them are certain. According to one theory, he spent it in Rome until he died around 1550, the year Description of Africa was published. This theory was based on indirect allusion in a later preface to this book. According to another theory, he left shortly before the Sack of Rome by Charles V's troops in 1527. He then returned to North Africa and lived in Tunis until his death, some time after 1550. This was based on records by German orientalist Johann Albrecht Widmannstetter, who arrived in Italy and planned (but ultimately failed) to travel to Tunis to meet Leo who had since reconverted to Islam. Yet another theory said that he left Tunis after it was captured by Charles V in 1535 for Morocco, his second home country after Granada where his relatives were still living. This was based on the assumption that Leo, having left Granada, would not have wanted to live under Christian Spanish rule again, and his wish (recorded in Description of Africa) that he wanted to ultimately return to his home country "by God's assistance".[3]

Veracity of Africa trip

It is unlikely that Leo Africanus visited all the places that he describes and he must therefore have relied on information obtained from other travellers. In particular, it is doubtful whether he ever visited Hausaland and Bornu[7] and it is even possible that he never crossed the Sahara but relied on information from other travellers that he met in Morocco. The historian Pekka Masonen has argued that the belief of his further travels was based on misreadings by modern scholars who interpreted his book as an itinerary.[3]

At the time Leo visited the city of Timbuktu, it was a thriving Islamic city famous for its learning. Home to many scholars and learned men, Timbuktu also possessed a Great Mosque, renowned for its expansive library. The town was to become a byword in Europe as the most inaccessible of cities. At the time of Leo's journey there, it was the centre of a busy trade carried on by traders in African products, gold, printed cottons and slaves, and in Islamic books.[3]


In an autograph in one of his surviving manuscripts, a fragment of an Arabic-Hebrew-Latin medical vocabulary he wrote for the Jewish physician Jacob Mantino, he signed his name in Arabic as Yuhanna al-Asad al-Gharnati (literally means John the Lion of Granada), a translation of his Christian name, John-Leo, or Johannes Leo (Latin), or Giovanni Leone (Italian). He was also given the family name Medici after his patron, Pope Leo X's family. The same manuscript also contained his original name al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi. al-Hasan ibn Muhammad was a patronymic name meaning "al-Hasan, son of Muhammad", and al-Fasi is the Arabic demonym for someone from Fez, Morocco.[3]


The title page of the 1600 English edition of Leo Africanus’s book on Africa.

Description of Africa, published in 1550 by Giovanni Battista Ramusio, is Leo's most famous work.

Other than this, he wrote an Arabic-Hebrew-Latin medical vocabulary for the Jewish physician Jacob Mantino. He also wrote an Arabic translation of the Epistles of St. Paul, which is dated in January 1521, and the manuscript currently belongs to the Biblioteca Estense in Modena. Another surviving work is a biographical encyclopedia of 25 major Islamic scholars and 5 major Jewish scholars. It was completed in Rome before he left the city in 1527 and published for the first time in Latin by Johann Heinrich Hottinger in 1664. Unlike Description of Africa, this biographical work was hardly noticed in Europe. It also contains various erroneous information, likely due to his lack of access to relevant sources when he was in Italy, forcing him to rely solely on memory.[3]

In Description of Africa, he also referred to plans to write other books. He planned to write two other descriptions of places, one for places in the Middle East and another for places in Europe. He also planned to write an exposition of the Islamic faith and a history of North Africa. However, none of these books survived nor has there been any proof that he actually completed them. This might have been due to his possible return to North Africa.[3]

A fictionalized telling of Leo's life is presented in an eponymous novel by Amin Maalouf.

References in media

A fictionalized account of his life, Leo Africanus, by the Lebanese-French author Amin Maalouf, fills in key gaps in the story and places Leo Africanus in prominent events of his time.

The BBC produced a documentary about his life called "Leo Africanus: A Man Between Worlds" in 2011. It was presented by Badr Sayegh and directed by Jeremy Jeffs. The film followed in Leo's footsteps from Granada, through Fez and Timbuktu, all the way to Rome.

It has been suggested that William Shakespeare may have been inspired by Leo Africanus' book to create the character of Othello.[8]


  1. ^ Rauchenberger 1999, pp. 78-79.
  2. ^ Rauchenberger 1999, pp. 27–28.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Masonen 2001.
  4. ^ Leo Africanus 1896, Vol. 1 p. v. He was 12 years old when the Portuguese captured the port of Safi on the coast of Morocco in 1507 and 16 years old when he visited Timbuktu in 1509–1510.
  5. ^ Rauchenberger 1999, p. 26.
  6. ^ Leo Africanus 1600; Leo Africanus 1896.
  7. ^ Fisher 1978.
  8. ^ Verde 2008.


  • Fisher, Humphrey J. (1978). "Leo Africanus and the Songhay conquest of Hausaland". International Journal of African Historical Studies. Boston University African Studies Center. 11 (1): 86–112. doi:10.2307/217055. JSTOR 217055.
  • Masonen, Pekka (2001). "Leo Africanus: the man with many names". Al-Andalus Magreb. 8–9: 115–143. Text also available here.
  • Rauchenberger, Dietrich (1999). Johannes Leo der Afrikaner: seine Beschreibung des Raumes zwischen Nil und Niger nach dem Urtext (in German). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-04172-2.
  • Leo Africanus (1600). A Geographical Historie of Africa, written in Arabicke and Italian. Before which is prefixed a generall description of Africa, and a particular treatise of all the lands undescribed. Translated and collected by John Pory. London: G. Bishop. The first translation into English.
  • Leo Africanus (1896). The History and Description of Africa (3 Vols). Brown, Robert, editor. London: Hakluyt Society. Internet Archive: Volume 1 (pp. 1–224), Volume 2, Volume 3 (pp. 669–1119); Geographical index. The original text of Pory's 1600 English translation together with an introduction and notes by the editor.
  • Verde, Tom (2008). "A man of two worlds". Saudi Aramco World (January/February 2008): 2–9.

Further reading

  • Davis, Natalie Zemon (2007). Trickster Travels: a sixteenth-century Muslim between worlds. New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 0-8090-9435-5.
  • Jean-Léon l'Africain (1956). Description de l'Afrique: Nouvelle édition traduite de l'italien par Alexis Épaulard et annotée par Alexis Épaulard, Théodore Monod, Henri Lhote et Raymond Mauny (2 Vols). Paris: Maisonneuve. A scholarly translation into French with extensive notes.
  • Hunwick, John O. (1999). Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Sadi's Tarikh al-Sudan down to 1613 and other contemporary documents. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-11207-3. pages 272–291 contain a translation into English of Leo Africanus's descriptions of the Middle Niger, Hausaland and Bornu. Corresponds to Épaulard 1956 Vol II pages 463–481.
  • Masonen, Pekka (2000). The Negroland revisited: Discovery and invention of the Sudanese middle ages. Helsinki: Finnish Academy of Science and Letters. pp. 167–207. ISBN 951-41-0886-8.

External links


Africanus, in Latin, means "African". It may refer to:


A cognomen of ancient Rome :

Africanus Fabius Maximus, the younger son of Quintus Fabius Maximus (consul 45 BC) and an unknown wife

Cresconius Africanus, a Latin canon lawyer of uncertain date and place

Julius Africanus, an orator in the time of Nero

Titus Sextius Africanus, a censor of Gaul in the 1st century

Lucius Apuleius Africanus Madaurensis (c. 124 – c. 170 CE), a Latin-language prose writer

Titus Sextius Cornelius Africanus, a consul in the 2nd century under Trajan

Sextus Caecilius Africanus, a 2nd-century Roman legal scholar

Scipio Africanus (disambiguation)

Sextus Julius Africanus, a Christian traveller and historian of the 3rd century

Junillus Africanus (fl. 541–549), a Quaestor of the Sacred Palace in the court of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I

Constantine the African i.e. Constantinus Africanus (11th century)

Leo Africanus (1488–1554)

George Africanus (1763—1834), a West African slave, later credited as Nottingham's first black entrepreneur

Africanus Horton (1835–1883), also known as James Beale, a writer and folklorist from Sierra Leone

Albert Freeman Africanus King, one of the attending doctors during the Assassination of Abraham LincolnOther uses:

Africanus (journal), a scientific journal published by UNISA, about development problems with special reference to the Third World and southern Africa


Anfa (Berber language: Anfa or Anaffa, ⴰⵏⴼⴰ; Arabic: أنفا‎ Spanish: Anafe Portuguese: Anafé) was the ancient toponym for Casablanca during the classical period. The city was founded by Berbers around the 10th century BC, with the Romans under Augustus later establishing the commercial port of "Anfus" in 15 BC. Anfus is now the name of a district in the oldest part of Casablanca, located in the Casablanca-Settat region of Morocco. The district covers an area of 37.5 square kilometres (14.5 square miles), and as of 2004 had 492,787 inhabitants.

Basra, Morocco

Basra, Morocco, nicknamed Basra al-Hamra (Basra the Red), is an archaeological site in Morocco. It was originally a summer capital of the Idrisid dynasty from the 8th to 10th centuries.

It is situated on the road from Souq al-Arba to Ouezzane, about 40 km from the Atlantic coast and 20 km south of Ksar el-Kebir.

It was named after the famous city of Basra in Iraq. The geographer and traveller Ibn Hawqal in the 9th century described it as a flourishing commercial centre. The main productions were cotton and cereals. The red earth fortifications which gave it its nickname were destroyed in 979 but the city lingered on. By the time of Leo Africanus it was in ruins.

Bilala people

The Bilala are a Muslim people that live around Lake Fitri, in the Batha Prefecture, in central Chad. The last Chadian census in 1993 stated that they numbered 136,629 persons. Their language, Naba, is divided in four dialects and is in the Nilo-Saharan group; it is shared by two of their neighbours, the Kuka and the Medogo. These three peoples are collectively known as Lisi and are believed to be descendants of main ethnic groups of the Sultanate of Yao.

They first appeared in the 14th century near lake Fitri as a nomadic clan led by scions of the Sayfawa dynasty. They were originally a political entity that came about as a result of fusion of the Kayi (old Zaghawa = current Kanembu, the clan exist even today in Kanem) and Ngizimis Kanembu clan, which exists event today in Dibbinintchi, Lake Tchad inhabitants of the Fittri region. Settled east of the Kanem Empire, in today's Chad, they shattered the empire's power, killing five of six of Kanem's mais (kings) between 1376 and 1400.

At the end the Bulala conquered Kanem and forced the Kanem mais to migrate to Bornu. As a result, the Bulala put their hands on Kanem, founding in the 15th century the Muslim sultanate of Yao. The Kanem-Bornu Empire counter-attacked a century later under Ali Gaji. Kanem was retaken by Ali's son after a great battle at Garni Kiyala, forcing the Bulala to move east, where they were to remain a menace for centuries to Kanem-Bornu. It continued also to be a flourishing kingdom: the traveller Leo Africanus even thought that the Bulala's reign was richer than Kanem-Bornu for its prosperous trade with Egypt.

Their power survived in diminished forms until the onset of colonialism, when they submitted to the French.


Bzou (بزو) is a town in the northwest corner of Morocco’s Azilal Province, just off the main road between the major cities of Beni-Mellal and Marrakesh. The sprawling commune of Bzou is composed of various Berber (a mix of Tashelhit and Tamazight) and Arabic speaking douwars tucked into the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. The main, Arabic speaking cluster of douwars (Lamdarssa, Douwar Shms, Foum Sheaba) forms Bzou's heart; on its flanks are an assortment of smaller, generally Berber douwars up in the surrounding mountains and cradling the banks of the river Oued el Abid.

With a population of approximately 4200 people in its center and 14,505 in the commune as a whole, Bzou is regionally and nationally famous for its production of the highest quality fabric used in the tailoring of a specific piece of traditional Moroccan clothing known as Djellaba. Additionally, Bzou produces a considerable amount of olives, olive oil, and honey. Economically speaking, Bzou is heavily dependent on this basic agriculture and the extremely labor-intensive, handmade fabric for which it is famous.

Cannabis in Tunisia

Cannabis in Tunisia is illegal since 1953. Cannabis is also known as zatla nationally or takrouri regionally.

Description of Africa (1550 book)

Description of Africa, a largely firsthand geographical book, which was published under the title Della descrittione dell’Africa et delle cose notabili che ivi sono by Giovanni Battista Ramusio in his collection of travellers' accounts Delle navigationi e viaggi in Venice in 1550, contained the first detailed descriptions published in Europe of the Barbary Coast (modern Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) and the gold-trading kingdoms of west-central Africa. The book was dictated in Italian by Leo Africanus, the famed Moorish traveler and merchant who had been captured by pirates and sold as a slave. Presented, along with his book, to Pope Leo X, he was baptized and freed. Leo, whose name he took in baptism, suggested that he recast his Arabic work in Italian; it was completed in 1526. It was republished repeatedly by Ramusio in his Delle navigationi e viaggi, translated into French and into Latin for the erudite, both in 1556.

The Descrittione is in nine books, an introductory book and an appendix on rivers and fauna and flora, with seven books between, each describing a kingdom: the kingdoms of Marrakesh, Fez, Tlemcen and Tunis, and the regions of Numidia, the sub-Saharan regions, and Egypt. The work circulated in manuscript form for decades. It was in Ramusio's manuscript that Pietro Bembo read it and was astonished: "I cannot imagine how a man could have so much detailed information about these things", he wrote to a correspondent, 2 April 1545.The book's importance stemmed from its accuracy at a time when the area was little known to Europeans, and its publication at precisely the moment when Latin Christian power was on a collision course with the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, while at the same time Western Africa was becoming more accessible to Europeans.

The book was an enormous success in Europe, and was translated into many other languages, remaining a definitive reference work for decades (and to some degree, centuries) afterwards. In English it was served by John Pory, whose translation appeared in 1600 under the title A Geographical Historie of Africa, Written in Arabicke and Italian by Iohn Leo a More... in which form Shakespeare may have seen it and reworked hints in creating the title character of his Othello (ca. 1603).A twentieth-century rediscovery of the originally-dictated manuscript revealed that Ramusio, in smoothing the grammar of Leo Africanus's text had coloured many neutral details, to make it more palatable to Christian European audiences; French and English translators added further embellishments. Modern translations which incorporate this manuscript are thus more true to the original.

Guinea (region)

Guinea is a traditional name for the region of the African coast of West Africa which lies along the Gulf of Guinea. It is a naturally moist tropical forest or savanna that stretches along the coast and borders the Sahel belt in the north.

JC Lattès

JC Lattès is a French publishing house. A division of Hachette Livre since 1981, JC Lattès' catalogue includes the works of Dan Brown, as well as Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.

Founder Jean-Claude Lattès died on January 17, 2018.

John Pory

John Pory (1572–1636) was an English government administrator, traveller, and author of the Jacobean and Caroline eras; he is widely considered to have been the first news correspondent in English-language journalism.

Kufra District

Kufra or Kofra (Arabic: الكفرة‎ Al Kufra), also spelled Cufra, is the largest district of Libya. Its capital is Al Jawf, one of the oases in Kufra basin. There is a very large oil refinery near the capital. In the late 15th century, Leo Africanus reported an oasis in the land of the Berdoa, visited by a caravan coming from Awjila. It is possible that this oasis was identical with either the Al Jawf or the Taiserbo oasis, and on early modern maps, the Al Kufra region was often labelled as Berdoa based on this report.

Leo Africanus (novel)

Leo Africanus is a 1986 novel written in French by Amin Maalouf, depicting the life of a historical Renaissance-era traveler, Leo Africanus. Since very little is actually known about his life, the book fills in the historical episodes, placing Leo in the company of many of the key historical figures of his time, including three popes, (Leo X, Adrian VI, and Pope Clement VII), two Ottoman emperors (Selim I and Suleiman the Magnificent), with appearances by Boabdil (the last Moorish king of Granada), Askia Mohammad I of the Songhai Empire, Ferdinand of Spain, and Francis I of France, as well as the artist Raphael and other key political and cultural figures of the period.

Leo Africanus is Maalouf's first novel. It received high praise. It is written in the form of a memoir.

Luis del Mármol Carvajal

Luis del Marmol Carvajal (Granada, Spain, 1520 - Velez Malaga, Spain, 1600) was a Spanish chronicler living many years among the formerly Moorish Granada kingdom morisco's inhabitants and in the North African Berber regions at the end of the 15th, and a good part of the 16th century.

He was proficient in Hassaniya Arabic, Berber Tamazight and/or the Algerian Berber Taqbaylit language. He was the illegitimate son of a High Justice Officer, Pedro del Marmol, who recognized him as his natural son in 1528. Whether his mother was some sort of slave or personal servant of this High Court Office lawyer, his father, "given" or "bought" after the conquest of Granada, 1492, cannot be confirmed.

It is well known that after the dissolution of the Caliph of Córdoba in the 11th century, many of the rulers and people from the kingdom of Granada maintained that their identities were essentially Zenata Berber. This may explain their settlements and affinity with the Merinid and after the Wattasids dynasty, (وطاسيون waṭāsīyūn), ruling Fez, until, after 1554, the Saadi´s rulers, (Arabic: سعديون), from Tagmadert, at the Draa river valley, near Tidzi, near Zagora, conquered the town.

It is said that for eight years Luis del Marmol was imprisoned in Algiers, and that he returned to Spain in his mid-thirties after fighting in Italy, Spain and the North African litoral from the Atlantic shores. He spent time moving and visiting places, including Libyan Berber areas. Dates for these adventures are given just around 1554, curiously enough after the conquest of Fez.

Luis del Mármol y Carvajal's history is a very valuable reference for it covers a period longer by a further 50 years, than that of the other Andalusian chronicler, the diplomat and author of Description of Africa, known as Joannes Leo Africanus, or al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi, (ar: حسن ابن محمد الوزان الفاسي) (c. 1494 – c. 1554?).

Malian literature

Mali has an extensive and well-known position within African literature.


Sijilmasa (Arabic: سجلماسة‎; also transliterated Sijilmassa, Sidjilmasa, Sidjilmassa and Sigilmassa) was a medieval Moroccan city and trade entrepôt at the northern edge of the Sahara in Morocco. The ruins of the town extend for five miles along the River Ziz in the Tafilalt oasis near the town of Rissani. The town's history was marked by several successive invasions by Berber dynasties. Up until the 14th century, as the northern terminus for the western trans-Sahara trade route, it was one of the most important trade centres in the Maghreb during the Middle Ages.


Taparura is a location within the city of Sfax, Tunisia. It was a former Catholic diocese.


Timbuktu () (Berber languages: ⵜⵏⴱⴾⵜⵓ, ⵜⵉⵏⴱⵓⴽⵜⵓ; French: Tombouctou; Koyra Chiini: Tumbutu) is an ancient city in Mali, situated 20 km (12 mi) north of the Niger River. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali. It had a population of 54,453 in the 2009 census.

Starting out as a seasonal settlement, Timbuktu became a permanent settlement early in the 12th century. After a shift in trading routes, Timbuktu flourished from the trade in salt, gold, ivory and slaves. It became part of the Mali Empire early in the 14th century. In the first half of the 15th century, the Tuareg tribes took control of the city for a short period until the expanding Songhai Empire absorbed the city in 1468. A Moroccan army defeated the Songhai in 1591 and made Timbuktu, rather than Gao, their capital. The invaders established a new ruling class, the Arma, who after 1612 became virtually independent of Morocco. However, the golden age of the city, during which it was a major learning and cultural centre of the Mali Empire, was over, and it entered a long period of decline. Different tribes governed until the French took over in 1893, a situation that lasted until it became part of the current Republic of Mali in 1960. Presently, Timbuktu is impoverished and suffers from desertification.

In its Golden Age, the town's numerous Islamic scholars and extensive trading network made possible an important book trade: together with the campuses of the Sankore Madrasah, an Islamic university, this established Timbuktu as a scholarly centre in Africa. Several notable historic writers, such as Shabeni and Leo Africanus, have described Timbuktu. These stories fuelled speculation in Europe, where the city's reputation shifted from being extremely rich to being mysterious.

White Aethiopians

White Aethiopians (Λευκαιθίοπες ; Leucæthiopes) is a term found in ancient Roman literature, which may have referred to various non-"Negro" and light-complexioned populations inhabiting the Aethiopia region of antiquity. The exonym is used by Pliny the Elder, and is also mentioned by Pomponius Mela, Ptolemy and Orosius. These authorities do not, however, agree on the geographical location of the White Aethiopians.

Medieval geographers, including Ibn Hawqal and Leo Africanus, similarly noted the existence of various "white" or "olive" groups and individuals in territories and kingdoms south of the Sahara. However, the fate of these inhabitants is uncertain.


The Zaër is an Arabic-speaking tribal confederacy of mixed Maqil-Arab and Berber origins.

The confederacy is composed of two tribal groups : Kefiane and Mzar'a. The Kefiane group is settling the western and southern part of the Confederacy's territory and is made of 7 tribes: Beni Obeid, Slamna, Uled Zeid, Uled Daho, Hlalef, Ruashed, and Mkhalef. The second group, Mzar'a, is settling in the eastern part of the territory and is made of 6 tribes: Nejda, Uled Ali, Gsisset, Brashua, Uled Ktir, and Uled Khelifa.The Zaër first settled in the highlands and the northern edge of the Sahara and southern High Atlas. Leo Africanus wrote in the early sixteenth century that they settled in the region of Khenifra, and later continued on to the north to the Rabat region.

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