Appendix 5 Chole—Juli

In: An Azanian Trio
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The Periplous of the Erythrian Sea from the first century A.D. gives in remarkable detail the features of the East African coast. One of the pieces of information it provides is that trade between the Middle East and the East African coast was in the hands of the “tribe which was first in Arabia”, and it connects the trade with a centre in the Yaman which it names Mouza, and is almost certain to be Mawzaʿa near Mucha. This means that the traders and the crews of the ships that plied between that centre and the East African coast would be speakers of Sabean, or Ancient South Arabian. In inscriptions found in the Yaman and written in what is known as the Musnad script there is a word with the root g-w-l, which means “land” or “ground”.

On the assumption that the jīm would be pronounced as anything between hard (g) and soft (j), it is easy to see that gwl could become jul or chul, with the African open syllable added at the end to make it juli or chole. To this day, the High Plateau of the Hadramawt is named the Jol.

We take this to be one of the small hints, remarked upon in several places in his works by G.S.P. Freeman-Grenville, as to the persistence of traditions from the earliest times down to the present day. The fact that Shaykh ʿUmar bin Fāḍil thinks it necessary to add the word “soil” or “ground” to his interpretation of the meaning of the place-name seems to me to be a mark of the reality of the connection.