The Residences and Migrations of Arab Tribes


Heinrich Ferdinand Wüstenfeld (1808–99) was a German Orientalist who specialized in Arab history and literature. He studied at the universities of Göttingen and Berlin and taught at Göttingen from 1842 until 1890. Die Wohnsitze und Wanderungen der arabischen Stämme (The residences and migrations of the Arab tribes) is a German translation by Wüstenfeld of the preamble to Muʻjam mā istaʻjama min asmā’ al-bilād wa-al-mawāḍiʻ (The dictionary of corrupted names of regions and places), a geographical dictionary by Andalusian Muslim geographer, historian, and botanist Abu ʻUbayd al-Bakri (1040‒94). The preamble identifies place-names in the Arabian Peninsula, describing roughly where each area is located, and relating each region to its traditional tribal inhabitants. The rest of al-Bakri’s dictionary, which includes 784 entries on places in Arabia and the surrounding regions, is not present in this edition. The preamble contains a wealth of literary, historical, geographical, and genealogical information that was also used by Wüstenfeld in his Genealogische Tabellen der arabischen Stämme und Familien (Genealogical tables of the Arab tribes and families). Unlike in other geographical dictionaries, such as Yaqut al-Hamawi’s Muʻjam al-Buldān (The dictionary of countries), al-Bakri’s entries are short on details. This is because the work is only meant to authenticate place-names by substantiating their correct spelling and pronunciation. Al-Bakri is perhaps better known for his Kitāb al-Masālik wa-al-Mamālik (The book of routes and realms), one of the most important sources for the history of West Africa and the Sahara, including crucial information on the Ghana Empire (circa 300‒1200). The Al-Bakri crater on the moon is named after this great 11th century scholar. 

Last updated: April 29, 2016