This week begins the month of Ramadán for Muslims, another good excuse for us to remember our Muslim era in Granada.

This is why we want to talk about Abu Haq Es Saheli, the poet from Granada who, according the legend, built the mosque of Timbuktu, and who inspired the writing of a book that we recommend: The architect of Timbuktu.


La leyenda de Abu Haq Es Saheli - Arquitecto y poeta granadino


The alamín’ son

Abu Haq Es Saheli was born in the Nasrid Granada in the XIII century. Since he was a child he showed his interest in the arts, especially poetry, in which he stood out greatly. He was the son of the alamín of perfurmers.

The alamín was a civil figure who dedicated himself to the market. He was in charge of putting the right price on the products they sold, as well as checking those that were not suitable for the trade. An idea of medieval-style market planning that takes us away from the western view of the current market.

The escape of Al Andalus

The poet’s liking for the Granada night of the time, very famous in that period, was known.

Es Saheli’s father abandoned him, along with his family, for a second wife who guaranteed him a better life. Paradoxically, Es Saheli’s life was marked by multiple polemics as his prestige extended to the city thanks to his works.

One of these controversies was caused by a close friend, Abdalá, who fell in love with him. Es Saheli not only did not feel the same way back, but was very much in love with his first wife, Afiya.

She left him due to his infidelity and his abuse of cashew. This was the fashionable drug in Granada during that time, because it was said that under its influence the most beautiful poems could be written. They did not think so the authorities of Granada, who condemned Es Saheli to exile accused of writing texts against his dogma of faith.

I am a poet

From Almuñécar, together with another of his great friends, Jawdar, he left for the other side of the Mediterranean where he through countless parts of the Islamic world in search of inspiration. Syria, Iraq and the most inhospitable corners of Arabia were the scene of some of their adventures. However, his residence was established in Cairo, where he had a son with his second wife, a slave named Kohl who would end up leaving for reasons similar to those of the first wife.

Upon arriving as a pilgrim to Mecca he found spiritual peace. It is there where he met the one who was known as King of the Blacks, the Emperor of Mali, Kanku Musa. With him he established good friendship and, according to his old words, he became an architect:

I am a poet, and architecture is the poetry of mud and stone. Therefore, just as I sing and recite, someday I will build palaces and mosques

This is how it happened. He built a mosque in Timbuktu that is a work of art. The clay of the earth of the city was used for this, in oreder to associate it to the humility of the spirit of the kingdom that Kanku Musa wanted to create.

Coming back

The longing for Granada persecuted the artist throughout his life. Whether he got it or not, we left it open. To learn more about this story and to continue falling in love with Granada, you can read the book from which the information has been taken, The architect of Timbuktu, by Manuel Pimentel, which tells the life of this man from Granada, so well known in the Islamic world, and so little in its own land.