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A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic

Esther-Miriam Wagner

II. Reader

18. Ḥannā al-Ṭabīb, Riḥlat al-Shammās Ḥannā al-Ṭabīb ilā baldat Istanbūl (1764/65)

Feras Krimsti

Texte intégral

1Gotha Research Library, Gotha, Ms. orient. A 1550. The text excerpt is selected from folios 14a–14b.


2Folio 14a

3Folio 14b



5[14a] (13) We reached it after six hours and the road is easy and very beautiful. (14) Before Bolvadin, a bridge was built over the river, and the bridge is about three (15) hours long and leads to the river [=Akar Çayı] and from there to Bolvadin. You should know that the road to Istanbul, from (16) when you leave Antakya until you enter Istanbul, is all kaldırım, built like a bridge. (17) Ragıp Paşa provided this, using Asʿad Paşa’s money, by repairing the road (18) to Istanbul and making it very easy. Because initially one could only pass along the road (19) if one put up with weariness, many an injured beast, the loss of burdens, troubles, and great problems, (20) but now Ragıp Paşa made the road so easy that wood and litters can be transported easily. (21) Close to the town, there is another bridge consisting of fifty arches, big ones and small ones, (22) a very pretty bridge this is with the aforementioned pavement. As for Bolvadin, it is a medium-size keep, (23) between a village and a town, and it is prosperous. In it are five mosques with minarets one of which [14b] (1) has a leaden dome and it is a pretty mosque. The water of this town is also good. It is a cheap town because we bought in (2) Bolvadin three chickens for nine misriya, seven ounces of red apples, which whet the appetite with their (3) beauty and their scent, for a single misriya, many grapes, honey melons, and water melons, a lot of everything. [Bolvadin’s] bread (4) is delicious and its cheese is delicious. There are also chestnuts, i.e., Abū Furaywa; seven ounces of them cost a misriya and each single one of them has the size (5) of a big walnut. There is nothing new that would not come to this town. This city has a prosperous market (6) and everything is available there. It has two khāns for pilgrims and they are two pretty khāns. There are some (7) pretty carved stones and stones with crosses on them. [The city] has pretty water fountains, built by ancient kings (8) and displaying evidence of their antiquity, and they come from the big cities of the Greek kings. There are few gardens (9) and a lot of tasty big fish is sold in them, because a big river, which we mentioned before, (10) is close and a small lake with a lot of fish is also close. The wood in this village, (11) and in the entire area, is very cheap because a load that weighs thirty and forty raṭl is sold (12) in this area for fifty misriya or less, and charcoal is also plentiful and cheap. As for the grapes, the honey melons (13), the apples, and the rest of the fruit, don’t ask about them—it is as if they were illusions. Ask someone who travels on the road (14) to Istanbul during the fruit season. As for the chestnuts, i.e., Abū Furaywa, loads of them are available everywhere. (15) There is tütün yananca belonging to Istanbul in [the town], a pottery workshop where good earthenware is produced, (16) and a pretty khān the roof of which is leaden. As for the people of this town, they are hardly civil, (17) just vulgar Turks. During that night, we stayed in the [town’s] khān and on Saturday morning, (18) 27 October [1764], we departed, heading to Bayat.


6Ḥannā al-Ṭabīb (c. 1702–1775) was a Maronite physician from Aleppo with contacts among bureaucratic circles in Istanbul. While his travelogue in general contains numerous dialectal elements, the text is not colloquial in the strict sense; rather, a striving for the use of classical Arabic can be detected, e.g., in the excerpt sahl jiddan, and not ktīr, for ‘very easy’; yūjad bihī asmāk, and not fī asmāk, for ‘there is fish’; ayḍan ‘also’, instead of kamān; etc. It is not clear if the travelogue was intended to be read aloud or silently in a private setting, but the style is generally unofficial, as evinced in the excerpt by the frequent recurrence of casual phrases, e.g., the water of the town is said to be ‘good’ (jayyid), bread and cheese are ‘delicious’ (ṭayyib)—without further specification. The narrator addresses the reader directly with imperatives, here, notably, iʿlam ‘you should know’ and lā tasʾal ʿanhum ‘don’t ask about them’. Also quite notable is the tendency to use emphatic language, e.g., phrases like shī mithl al-kadhib ‘it is as if they were illusions.’

7Folio 14a, line 16

. Ottoman Turkish kaldırım ‘pavement.’

8Folio 14a, lines 17, 19; 14b, line 7

,,, and further instances. The absence of final hamza can be regularly observed in so called ‘Middle Arabic’ texts. See Lentin (2011, 220).

9Folio 14a, line 18

‘he made it very easy’ (to traverse).

10Folio 14a, line 19

‘to such a degree’, here ‘so many’. Ha + l + qadar is equivalent to the demonstrative construction hādha l-qadar and the result of the assimilation of the demonstrative pronoun. See Kallas (2012, 236–37) and Barthélemy (1935–1969, 870–71).

11Folio 14a, line 22; 14b, lines 1, 6, 7, 16

/ fem./ dualhere ‘pretty’. The extremely frequent use of this word is a peculiarity of Ḥannā al-Ṭabīb’s writing style (in the excerpt six times, in the entire travelogue more around three hundred occurrences). In Arabic, the use of the word mukallif with this meaning is rather unusual. Ḥannā may have used Ottoman Turkish mükellef, which means ‘great, grandiose, magnificent’.

12Folio 14a, line 23

Hamza in the plural maʾādhin is replaced by wāw. The dhāl is replaced by a dāl. Interdentals shifting into postdental plosives are a regular feature in the Aleppo dialect and can be detected elsewhere in 17th- and 18th-century travel accounts. See Kallas (2012, 224–26, especially 225–26).

13Folio 14b, lines 2, 3, 4, 12

/ plural. Currency, a para.

14Folio 14b, lines 2, 4

(plural of) weight measurement. The Aleppo ūqiyya corresponded to 100 dirhams or 320 gr. See Barthélemy (1935– 1969, 905).

15Folio 14b, line 2

literally ‘which impassionate the eye’.

16Folio 14b, lines 4, 14

literally ‘the father of the little fur’. The kunya refers to the furry shell of chestnuts.

17Folio 14b, line 4

‘of the size, of the dimensions’.

18Folio 14b, line 5

The phrase is syntactically awkward; it supposedly means ‘there is nothing new that would not come to this town’; however, the negation ‘there is nothing’ is missing.

19Folio 14b, line 6

kull shī < kull shayʾ ‘everything’. On the absence of final hamza, see above. On the different uses of shī, see also Barthélemy (1935–1969, 421–22).

20Folio 14b, line 11

‘the load of a beast of burden’. See Barthélemy (1935–1969, 178).

21Folio 14b, line 11

a weight measurement. The Aleppo raṭl corresponded to the weight of 800 dirhams (2.566 kg). See Barthélemy (1935–1969, 284).

22Folio 14b, line 13

‘it is as if they were illusions’, i.e., they are so fantastic that they can only be made up.

23Folio 14b, line 15

Probably Ottoman Turkish tütün yananca ‘tobacco that burns’. The reference may be to tobacco that is smoked (as opposed to smokeless tobacco).

24Folio 14b, line 15

Ottoman Turkish kerhane ‘workshop’, here a ‘pottery workshop’. On the dialectal word in Arabic, karkhāna, see also Barthélemy (1935–1969, 709).

25Folio 14b, line 17

Ottoman Turkish kaba ‘rough, vulgar’.

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