Kitab al Kanuz

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Kitab al Kanuz (sometimes called The Book of Hidden Pearls) is a lost medieval Arabic manuscript from the 15th century, supposedly a treasure hunter's guide noted for its mention of the Zerzura oasis.[1] The author is unknown as well as the exact date of the manuscript's existence, but it is certain that it first appeared in the 15th century.


The Kitab al Kanuz is a collection of mystic fables and lists over four hundred sites in Egypt that hold hidden treasure. It also details the many spells and incantations needed to ward off supposed evil spirits who guard the treasures.[2] However, the manuscript is known mostly for its mention of the Zerzura oasis actually being a white city full of treasure with a sleeping king and queen and which was threatened by black giants who would emerge from the desert and attack oases in Egypt,[citation needed] The guide instructs the treasure hunter to take the key to the city from the mouth of a bird carved into the wall above the gates, unlock them, and take the king's and queen's riches without approaching them.[3]

The Egyptian Gazette, An English newspaper published in Cairo, published in 1904, a purported translation of a fragment of the manuscript relating to the Sphinx of Giza. They mis-transcribed the name, referring to it as the "Kitab el Kanoor" instead. They stated that the manuscript was highly valued among Maghrabi treasure seekers, only a few copies existed and was at least a few centuries old. The translation went as follows:

"Go to the Sphinx and measure from its face south-east twelve Maliki cubits, that is to say, each a cubit and a half of the greatest cubit. Search there and you will find two mastabas of stone and stones scattered around them. Dig between the two mastabas about a man's height, and you will find a plate (? flagstone). Clear it from sand well, and raise it and pass to the door which is the door of the Great Pyramid. Cross the threshold of the door and beware of the wells on the right and left, which are closed wells. Pass straight on and take no notice of the wells, and you will find in the breast (front) of the wall a great stone (? turning). Open it and pass on, and you will see many cells on the right and left, and before your face a great cell with the (great) king of the former kings of Egypt, and kings with him and his son, around him, wearing their kingly robes adorned with gold and silver, and you will see their treasures and their emeralds, and pearls and ornaments of gold and silver...."[4]

It is difficult to know if the Kitab al Kanuz still exists or whether it has become an antiquity in a museum or not, though archaeologists and explorers seem to be well-acquainted with it. E.A. Johnson Pasha, a member of the Royal Geographical Society in the 20th century, claimed to have had the manuscript in his possession for several years in the 19th century through 20th century.[5] Austrian count Ladislaus Almasy also read the manuscript and became enchanted by its Zerzura tale,[6] which inspired him to help British explorers make expeditions into the Sahara desert for the Zerzura oasis in the 1930s.[6]


  1. ^ Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Sussman, Paul The Hidden Oasis pg.483
  3. ^ Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ The Egyptian Gazette 1904 -
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Kelly, Saul The Lost Oasis pg.53

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