The rare map by Muhammad Al-Idrisi Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: A 12th century map of the world that took 15 years to make – but shows the world upside-down – is on show at the ‘Tales from the East’ exhibition in Sharjah.

The map, Tabula Rogeriana (The Map of Roger), was commissioned by King Roger II, the greatest of the Norman kings of Sicily, to renowned Muslim scholar and traveller Mohammad Al Idrisi.

King Roger II wanted Al Idrisi to create a map for him of the entire known world at the time. Depicting the world from Iceland to China and Africa, and a host of countries in between, the strikingly detailed Tabula Rogeriana remained among the world’s most accurate maps for nearly 300 years.

The cordiform or heart-shaped world map Image Credit: Supplied

It featured mountains, lakes, rivers, and towns, as well as roads and distances. However, in the tradition of Islamic cartographers, Al Idrisi drew it with south positioned at the top.

The map has some areas missing (such as south Africa) because Al Idrisi only wanted to include details that explorers agreed on.

The exhibition, being held at Sharjah Book Authority from April 28 till Monday , also shows maps produced for the kings of Spain and Portugal, among other rare writings and artefacts. The exhibits shed light on the evolution of the science of cartography.

‘Tales from the East’ also features an example of the achievements of early modern cartography with Tunisian Hajji Ahmed’s ‘Fully Illustrated Exposition of the World in Its Entirety,’ created in an unknown workshop in Venice in 1559. A landmark of contemporary geographical knowledge, this map is among the most extensive original Turkish-language geographical treatises to have survived from the 16th century.

Heart-shaped world

This cordiform or heart-shaped world map features copious text, intricately and painstakingly inscribed along its outer margins. The text describes the four continents, the 12 great countries of the world paired with signs of the zodiac, as well as the seven greatest rulers in the world paired with planets. Three smaller maps at the bottom depict the celestial world.