Abu'l-Qasim Ubaydallah ibn Abdallah ibn Khordadbeh (Persian: ابوالقاسم عبیدالله ابن خرداذبه‎) (c. 820 – 912 CE), better known as Ibn Khordadbeh or Ibn Khurradadhbih,[1] was the author of the earliest surviving Arabic book of administrative geography.[2] He was a Persian geographer and bureaucrat of the 9th century.[3] He was the son of Abdallah ibn Khordadbeh, a prominent Abbasid general, who was the son of a Zoroastrian convert to Islam. Ibn Khordadbeh was appointed "Director of Posts and Intelligence" for the province of Jibal in northwestern Iran under the Abbasid Caliph al-Mutammid (ruled 869–885 CE). In this capacity ibn Khordadbeh served as both postmaster general and the Caliph's personal spymaster in that vital province.

Around 846-847CE ibn Khordadbeh wrote Kitāb al Masālik w’al Mamālik (The Book of Roads and Kingdoms) (with the second edition of the book being published in 885CE).[4] In this work, ibn Khordadbeh described the various peoples and provinces of the Abbasid Caliphate. Along with maps, the book also includes descriptions of the land, people and culture of the Southern Asian coast as far as Brahamputra, The Andaman Islands, peninsular Malaysia and Java.[5]:108 The lands of Tang China, Unified Silla (Korea) and Japan are referenced within his work.[6] He was also one of the earliest Muslim writers to record Viking trade to the east: 'merchants called Rus traded in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, transporting their merchandise by camel as far as Baghdad.[7]

Ibn Khordadbeh clearly mentions Waqwaq twice: East of China are the lands of Waqwaq, which are so rich in gold that the inhabitants make the chains for their dogs and the collars for their monkeys of this metal. They manufacture tunics woven with gold. Excellent ebony wood is found there. And again: Gold and ebony are exported from Waqwaq.[8]

The book does not reflect a strong influence from Greek earlier works such as Ptolemy's. The work uses heavily Persian administrative terms, gives considerable weight to Pre-Islamic Iranian history, uses native Iranian cosmological division system of the world. These reflect the existence of Iranian sources at the heart of the work.[9]

It is one of the few surviving sources that describes Jewish merchants known as Radhanites.

Khordadbeh wrote other books. He wrote around 8–9 other books on many subjects such as "descriptive geography" (the book Kitāb al Masālik w’al Mamālik), "etiquettes of listening to music", "Persian genealogy", cooking", "drinking", "astral patterns", "boon-companions", "world history", "music and musical instruments". The book on music had the title Kitāb al-lahw wa-l-malahi which is on musical matters of Pre-Islamic Persia.[2][9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Charles Verlinden uses "Ibn Khordadbeh" in his article Les Radaniya et Verdun: à propos de la traite des esclaves slaves vers l'Espagne Musulmane aux IXè et Xè siècles (1983), whereas Michael McCormick uses "Ibn Khurradadhbih" in his Origins of the European Economy: Communication and Commerce A.D. 300–900 (2001)
  2. ^ a b Bosworth, C. Edmund. "EBN KORDADBEH". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2008-02-07.
  3. ^ "GEOGRAPHY iv. Cartography of Persia – Encyclopaedia Iranica". www.iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 2019-08-24. Ebn Ḵordādbeh (fl. 9th cent., q.v.), one of the earliest Persian geographers, produced in 232/846 his major work Ketāb al-masālek wa’l mamālek, which is considered the foundation for the later Balḵī school of geography
  4. ^ Hee-Soo, Lee, Early Korea-Arabic Maritime Relations Based on Muslim Sources, Korea Journal 31(2) (1991), p26 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella (ed.). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1.
  6. ^ Isabella Bird (9 January 2014). "1". Korea and Her Neighbours.: A Narrative of Travel, with an Account of the Recent Vicissitudes and Present Position of the Country. With a Preface by Sir Walter C. Hillier. Adegi Graphics LLC. ISBN 978-0-543-01434-4.
  7. ^ Christys, Ann. Vikings in Spain. Bloomsbury. p. 11. ISBN 9781474213752.
  8. ^ http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/200504/the.seas.of.sindbad.htm
  9. ^ a b Meri, Josef W.; Bacharach, Jere (2005). Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-96690-6. pp. 359–60.


  • Ibn Khordadbeh (1865). Des routes et des Provinces (in French). Translator: Charles Barbier de Meynard. Paris: Journal Asiatique.
  • Adler, Elkan. Jewish Travellers in the Middle Ages. New York: Dover Publications, 1987.
  • Bendiner, Elmer. The Rise and Fall of Paradise. New York: Putnam Books, 1983.
  • Bareket, Elinoar. "Rādhānites". in Jewish Civilization: An Encyclopedia. Norman Roth, ed. Routledge, 2002. pp 558–561.
  • Fossier, Robert, ed. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages, vol. 1: 350–950. Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Gil, Moshe. "The Radhanite Merchants and the Land of Radhan." in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 17:3 (1976). 299–328.
  • Israeli, Raphael. "Medieval Muslim Travelers to China" in Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 2000

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