Floating on Mercury in the Moonlight: “Birkat az-Zi’baq” in the Palace of Khumārawaīh in al-Qaṭā᾿i‛

Alexei Krol

Vostok/Oriens '2014, №1

The author analyzes references to a basin filled with mercury “Birkat az-Zi’baq” in the palace of the Tulunid dynasty ruler Khumārawaīh in al-Qaṭā᾿i‛. This basin mentioned in several medieval Arabic sources (al-Maqrīzī, Ibn Duqmāq, Ibn Iyās, Isḥāqī) was built in order to heal Khumārawaīh of insomnia. According to al-Maqrīzī, the basin had the dimensions of 50×50 cubits (ca. 25×25 m); however, the depth of the basin was not mentioned. The author critically analyzes the known references to the mercury basins in the palaces of Muslim rulers and advances several hypotheses explaining the construction of such basin in the palace of Khumārawaīh. He supposes that mercury covered the bottom of the basin only. The rest of the basin was covered by water.

Keywords: Egypt, the Tulunid dynasty, Khumārawaīh, al-Qaṭā᾿i‛, basin filled with mercury

Pages: С. 41–52

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