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Safi (Asfi)

(1,055 words)

Author(s): Thomas Park
The town of Safi (Ar. Asfī) on the west coast of Morocco is said to have been settled originally by Canaanites, named by Carthaginians, and settled by Romans, Goths, and Jews from Palestine before the Muslim conquest. It is also said that in 1174 its patron saint, Shaykh Abū Muḥammed Ṣāliḥ, built a ribāṭ (fortress retreat) for members of the Sufi military orders who guarded the borders of the Dār al-Islām and engaged in religious exercises there. Safi attracted Portuguese attention at the beginning of the sixteenth century. A Portuguese fort was built in 1508 after a commercial conc…


(839 words)

Author(s): Thomas Park
In the Islamic world, Jews who made their living by peddling sold both to Jews and to Muslims. In dealing with the latter, the Jewish peddler (known as a dewwās in Morocco, ṭawwāf in Libya, and dore-gard in Iran) relied upon the protection of local Muslim notables who would be dishonored if the peddler was harmed. Jewish peddlers had certain advantages over Muslim competitors intrinsic to their lowly status in the Islamic world. Their presence in Muslim homes posed little threat to family honor, because an affair or elopement with a Muslim woman was unthin…

Long-Distance Trade

(4,465 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman | Thomas Park
1.   Medieval Even before the rise of Islam, Jewish merchants were involved in long-distance trade.Early sixth-century sources record that the Jewish king of Ḥimyar killed Byzantine traders who passed through his country on their way back from India. Jewish merchants in this period specialized in importing raw silk from Persia and India, and often manufactured clothing in Beirut and Tyre. Notwithstanding Pirenne’s 1937 thesis that the Islamic conquest led to the collapse of long-distance economic ties, chronicles and documentary evidence establish thatRādhānite merchants pl…