Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition

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al-Ṣaḥrāʾ
(5,269 words)

(a.), in English the Sahara, the name given to the desert in the northern part of Africa. Ṣaḥrāʾ is the feminine of the adjective aṣḥar “fawn, tawny coloured”. It is applied by certain authors to an ensemble of stony terrain, steppelands and sands (cf. al-Idrīsī, éd. de Goeje, 37 n.), whilst the term mud̲j̲diba designates more particularly terrain covered with moving sands and totally waterless (see Abu ’l-Fidāʾ, 137, tr. Reinaud, ii/2, 190). Leo Africanus uses it as a synonym for “desert” in general, see Schefer’s ed., i/1, 5.

1. History of the term.

The Arabic authors provide only fra…

Cite this page
Callot, Y., Vernet, R. and Bisson, J., “al-Ṣaḥrāʾ”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Consulted online on 25 November 2020 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0974>
First published online: 2012
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004161214, 1960-2007



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