Al-Nuwairi, Shihab Al-Din

Born on 1279

Died on 1333


full name Shihāb al-Dīn Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhāb al-Nuwayri (Arabic: شهاب الدين أحمد بن عبد الوهاب النويري‎, born April 5, 1279 in Akhmim, present-day Egypt – died June 5, 1333 in Cairo) was an Egyptian Muslim historian and civil servant of the Bahri Mamluk dynasty. He is most notable for his compilation of a 9,000-page encyclopedia of the Mamluk era, titled The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition (نهاية الأرب في فنون الأدبNihāyat al-arab fī funūn al-adab), which pertained to zoology, anatomy, history, chronology, amongst others. He is also known for his extensive work regarding the Mongols’ conquest of Syria. Al-Nuwayri started his encyclopedia around the year 1314 and completed it in 1333.

The name Al-Nuwayri is a nisba referring to the village of Al-Nuwayra in present-day Beni Suef Governorate. Al-Nuwayri was born April 5, 1279 in Akhmim, Egypt. For most of his childhood, he lived in Qus in Upper Egypt, where he studied with Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id. He later studied at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, specializing in the study of the hadith and the sira, in addition to history. Skilled in calligraphy, he reportedly made a copy of Sahih al-Bukhari which he sold for 1000 dinars. He worked as a civil servant in the administration of Sultan An-Nasir Muhammad starting at age of 23, serving in various roles including property manager for the Sultan and superintendent of army finances in Tripoli. At some point after 1312, he retired from government service and took a job copying manuscripts in order to support himself while compiling his encyclopedia. He died on June 5, 1333 in Cairo.