Leo Africanus (originally Al-Hassan ibn Mohammed), a Moorish traveller, born in Granada, Spain, about 1485, died about 1526. While he was a child, his parents removed to Africa, and settled at Fez, then a magnificent Mohammedan city. At the age of 16 he accompanied his uncle on a mission to Timbuctoo, and remained there four years. Afterward he explored various parts of the kingdoms of Fez and Morocco, and journeyed among the wild Arab tribes of the desert. In 1513 he visited the kingdoms of Tlemcen and Algiers. On his return from this journey, which extended to Tunis and the desert of Barca, he went to Timbuctoo for the second time, and thence proceeded 400 miles southward as far as the city of Gago. Thence turning to the eastward, he traversed Bornoo and Nubia, and visited the ruins of Thebes. From Egypt he travelled into Turkey, Persia, and other oriental countries, but we have no narrative of his adventures there. Returning by sea from Constantinople, he was captured by Christian corsairs and carried to Rome in 1517. Here he was presented to Pope Leo X., who bestowed upon him a handsome pension, had him instructed in the principles of Christianity, and gave him his own name.
From this time he resided chiefly at Rome, and having mastered the Italian language was made professor of Arabic. Here he wrote his famous description of Africa, composed in Arabic, and after his death published in Italian. Ramusio, who issued this version in his Raccolta, asserts that he died at Rome; but Widmanstadt, a German orientalist of the 16th century, states that after the death of his patron he returned to Tunis, where he again embraced the Mohammedan faith. The merit of his great work on Africa has been universally acknowledged, and Ramusio remarks that no previous writer has given so accurate a description of that part of the world. The best Latin version is that of the Elzevirs (1632).