Leo Africanus

Ambassador at Sultan

Wrong Leo Africanus?

Last Updated 6/27/2012

General Information

Employment History

Arabic Teacher  - Bologna

Web References  


Leo Africanus: A Man Between Worlds
Leo Africanus: A Man Between Worlds Born a Muslim called Hasan al-Wazzan in the 1480s, he became a christian called Leo Africanus. He was a 16th century historian, diplomat, author and a prolific adventurer. Along the way he travelled the breadth of North African and the Arabian peninsula, was an ambassador for the Sultan of Fes, was captured by pirates and presented to the Pope in Rome and was even the inspiration for Shakespeare's Othello. His most startling achievement was "The Description of Africa" - a geography of the continent that inspired generations of explorers and adventurers and remains one of the most widely published of all travel authors.

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* As for Leo Africanus (real name al-Hasan al-Wazzan): He was a 16th century African diplomat (he worked for the Sultan of Fez, the former capital of Morocco), kidnapped in 1518 by pirates in the Mediterranean.
They brought him to Rome where he managed to become an adviser to Pope Leo X. Over a nine year period in the Vatican City, he compiled his Description of Africa, "... a collection of learning, hearsay, and personal anecdote that shaped European ideas about Africa for centuries."

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Ceramics Today - Zillij in Fez

As Arab historian Leo Africanus noted, the eventual expulsion of the Muslims from Spain in 1492 benefited Fez: It provided the city with an influx not only of great craftsmen, but also a new class of patrons.

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