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The authors translate and comment a digression from the Kitāb al-āṯār al-bāqiya on several hydraulic and hydrological subjects. The passage reveals al-Bīrūnī’s understanding of fluvial regimes, water physical behaviour, and of a handful of peculiar natural phenomena. Al-Bīrūnī departs from a discussion of weather forecast and seasonal fluvial regimes of the Tigris, Euphrates, Oxus, and Nile. The main concern of al-Bīrūnī is to defend the principle that water moves only downwards in absence of external forces. In doing so, the Khwarazmian scientist touches on the origin of salinity of the seas, the functioning of syphons related hydraulic machines, and relates a report of an artificial phenomenon, that he dismisses as result of faulty observations, that could be recognised as a hydraulic jump. In addition, the passage contains much relevant information on al-Bīrūnī’s understanding of the inhabitability of subequatorial regions, the possibility of the void, and the water cycle.
Literary sources from the Abbasid period record few descriptions of courtly masquerades and plays called samāǧa, which closely resemble sumozhe plays from eighth-century China. On the basis of these samāǧa descriptions, the present paper argues that it is possible to understand how samāǧa plays were carried out. Moreover, I argue that samāǧa performances were a Central Asian custom imported to the Abbasid court with the establishment of the Turkish corps, and that its disappearance after the caliphate of al-Muʿtaḍid signals a substantial shift in the nature of the Turkish presence in the Abbasid heartland, marked by the establishment of the mamlūk system.
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