Letter: DK 311 (alt: 3, 6)

Letter DK 311 (alt: 3, 6)


Input date

In PGP since 2017


Business letter from Shelomo b. Avraham [. . .] Ruqqī to Abū l-Faraj Nissim b. Shelomo Ruqqī. "Abū l-Faraj Nissim, the recipient of this letter, was an India trader, against whom, while in India selling precious Western textiles and mercury, a power of attorney was issued in Fustat. The date of that document is not preserved, but the names of the signatories, known from other sources, put it around 1090. [Goitein notes elsewhere, Med Soc I, 379, that the names of the sender and recipient also both occur in a document dated 1079.] The sender of the letter shared with him the family name, and since he writes in a style possible only among close relatives, he was most probably his nephew. Both clearly were Maghrebis; therefore, their family name must be read as al-Ruqql, derived from a little town in Tunisia named Ruqqa, and not al-Raqqi, from Raqqa, the ancient city on the Euphrates in northern Mesopotamia. The letter was sent from Fustat to Alexandria, for the writer refers to goods brought by him from North Africa ("the West"), but still remaining in the town of the receiver of the letter (sec. D). Many other details in this letter tally with this assumption. The writer most probably left Alexandria on a Thursday and passed the Sabbath in Fuwwa, where he embarked on a Nile boat; or he could have made the whole journey on a boat, using the KhalIj canal, which connected Alexandria with the Nile. See Med. Soc., i, 298-299." Goitein, Letters, 239–40. “People occasionally explain why they had not done something that was expected of them by their frame of mind, their mood, or their lack of nahda, energy, verve, bounce, pep.” Cf. the word ruḥiyya in this letter, and Med Soc V, x, B, 2, no. 111. From the letter: "Business here is slow and practically at a standstill. For there is much confusion in the rate of exchange and, at the present time, 50 dirhems are to be had for 1 dinar, more [or less]. An epidemic is raging in the environs of the town, and because of this, the flow of good dirhems has been cut off so that everyone is having difficulties with his business." Med Soc I, 379, no. 41. The word for epidemic here is بئة, a derivative of وباء, see Lane and Blau.