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The Maqámát of Badí‘ al-Zamán al-Hamadhání, tr. W.J. Prendergast [1915] at


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: I turned aside with a few 2 of my friends to the front of a tent to ask hospitality from its occupants, and there came out to us a portly little man 3 and asked: 'Who are you?' We replied: 'Guests who have tasted nothing for three nights.' He related: 'He coughed and then said: "O young men! What do you say to fresh butter of the flock, like the head of a bald man, in a broad shallow dish adorned with the dates of Khaibar, 4 taken from the bunch of a branch of a tall, young, and large palm-tree? One of them would fill the mouth of one of a hungry company five days without water; 5 the tooth is lost in it, and its stone is like

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the tongue of a bird, and they scoop up the butter with it, taken with deep wooden drinking-bowls of milk drawn from good milking-camels pastured on haram 1 and rabl2 O young men, do ye like it?"' We answered: 'Yes, by Heavens! we like it.' 'Ha, ha,' laughed the old man, 'Your uncle also likes it.' Then he said: 'O young men! What is your opinion of white flour like unto a piece of molten silver collected on a round piece of hide with the odour of the qaraz̤? 3 From among you one springs forward, a young, comely and active man, and mixes it without violently disturbing or scattering it. Then he leaves it before it is well kneaded. After a while he mixes it thoroughly with milk, more or less diluted with water. He next proceeds to work it up and then leaves it around the pan 4 till it is leavened without becoming dry; then he betakes himself to the ghaḍa 5 wood and kindles it. Then, when the fire subsides, he spreads it over his oven, 6 goes to his dough, flattens it out, after he has well kneaded it, lays it upon the hot ashes and then covers it up.'

'Then, when it has dried and risen, 7 he places on it hot stones sufficient to unite the two heats. 8 He covers them up over the bread, in the form of a round plate, until it cracks and splits and its crust resembles that of a circular cake, and its

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brownness 1 looks like that of the Ḥijáz date, 2 famous as Umm al-Jirdhán 3 or ‘Idq ibn Ṭáb. 4 Wild honey, white as snow, is then poured over it till it penetrates the brown crust 5 and the pith absorbs all it has upon it. It is then brought before you, and you gobble it with the gobbling of Juwain, 6 or Zankal. 7 Young men, do you desire it?' He related: 'Each one of us stretched his neck towards what he had described, his mouth watered and he licked his lips and smacked them,' and we answered: 'Yes, by Heavens! we like it.' 'Ha! ha!' laughed the old man, and said: 'And your uncle, by Heavens! does not hate it.' Then he said: 'What is your opinion, O young men, of a wild she-kid of Nejd and Aliya 8 which has fed upon the artemisia Judaica of Nejd, the artemisia abrotanum and hashim, 9 nibbled at the thick herbage and is filled with tender grass? Her marrow is abundant, her inner membrane is covered with fat 10 and she has been slaughtered without blemish. Next it is suspended head downwards in an oven till it is perfectly baked without being either burnt or underdone, and then it is placed before you with its skin cracked, exposing white fat, on a table with thin cakes disposed thereon, as though they were unfolded Egyptian linen, or fine cloth of Kohistán coloured with red clay. It is surrounded with vessels containing mustard

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and raisin sauce 1 and divers kinds of fluid seasonings. 2 Then it is served to you exuding fat and dripping with gravy. O young men, do you like it?' We replied: 'Yes, by Heavens! we like it.' He said: 'And your uncle, by Heavens! will dance for it.' Then one of us sprang towards him with a sword and said: 'Does not our hunger suffice thee that thou mockest us?' Then his daughter brought us a tray upon which were a piece of dry bread, scraps and leavings, and she entertained us well. So we departed, praising her and blaming him.


135:2 A few (Individuals): A number of persons from three to nine.

135:3 A portly little man: Literally, large-bellied and short, short in step, or a niggard. I think Hamadhání had both meanings in his mind; the man's appearance would justify the former and his behaviour the latter, e.g. he began by coughing and on p. 187 of the text we find that coughing is indicative of a disinclination to give. Cf. also Text, p. 218: 'O coughing of the host when the bread is broken.'

135:4 Khaibar: A well-known town in the district of Ḥijáz and four days' journey, or about fifty-four miles north-west of the city of Madína, In the time of Muḥammad the name Khaibar was borne by a whole province which was inhabited by various Jewish tribes. It comprised seven fortresses, meadows, and numerous groves of palm-trees. It was noted for the abundance and excellence of its dates. Cf. the line of Ḥassan ibn Thábit quoted by Yaqút, ii, 505.

'Verily as for us, he who presents qasídas to us,
Is like him who exports dates to the land of Khaibar.'

In A.H., 6 or 7, Muḥammad made himself master of the place and all its castles and strongholds, and took spoils to a great value. Yaqút, ii, 504. Jewish Encyclopædia, vii, 480.

135:5 Five days without water: An allusion to the drinking of camels on the fifth day counting the day of the next preceding as the first; their p. 136 drinking one, then pasturing three days, then coming to the water on the fifth day, the first and last days on which they drink being thus reckoned. Lane, p. 810.

136:1 Haram: The name of a plant whose leaves are intensely acid, a t  species of sorrel.

136:2 Rabl: The name applied to certain sorts of trees that break forth with leaves in the end of the hot season. They are intensely green.

136:3 Qaraz̤: A species of mimosa the leaves and fruit of which are used for tanning.

136:4 The pan: Literally, a stone cooking-pot.

136:5 Al-Ghaḍa: A wood proverbial for making a powerful and lasting fire. This shrub, which is of the genus Euphorbia, is said to be peculiar to the Arabian Peninsula. See Palgrave in his Travels, i, 38; cf. De Sacy, Ḥarírí, i, 60 and ii, 632.

136:6 Oven: Literally, a hollow which a man digs wherein to sit to protect himself from the cold.

136:7 Risen: Literally, became domelike.

136:8 The two heats: That is, the heat above and the heat below,

137:1 Its brownness: Literally, its redness.

137:2 Date: The term applied to dates that have become coloured but have not become ripe. Cf. Heb. ‏בֹּסֶר‎ unripe dates.

137:3 Umm al-Jirdhán: Literally, mother of the field mice. A large kind of date and the last to ripen. It is cultivated in Ḥijáz. It is said that, before the fruit is cut from the tree, the field mice collect beneath.

137:4 ‘Idq ibn Ṭáb: The name of a species of palm-tree in Madína.

137:5 Brown crust: Literally, red leather. For the use of this word to describe red colour, see Qur’án, lv, 37.

137:6 Juwain: Diminutive of Juwán, is the name of a man who was notorious for making free with other people's property. Fara’id Al-La’ál, i, 134.

137:7 Zankal: Ibn ‘Alí ibn Abú Fazára is mentioned on page 362 of the Taj al-‘Arús, but there is nothing to connect him with greedy feeding.

137:8 Aliya: Belonging to the region above Nejd.

137:9 Hashím: A plant that is dry and brittle.

For in the text read from it became much or abundant.

137:10 Her inner membrane is covered with fat: That is, from tail to throat.

138:1 Raisin sauce: Made of mustard and raisins.

138:2 Fluid seasonings: See Qur’án, xxiii, 20.

Cf. Maqáma twenty-five of the Text, p. 125; the themes are identical.

This maqáma is remarkable for its collection of recondite words and technical terms; the disquisition on Bedawín baking being extremely difficult to render into English. The conventional concluding lines of poetry are wanting.

Next: XXXV. The Maqama of Iblís