A merchant from Baghdad, described the quarters of the city, their palaces and above all their hundreds of mosques: "The mosques of the city and of the quarters round it outside the walls exceed the number of three hundred."
Quoted from Islam And the Medieval West; A Loan Exhibition at the University Art Gallery April 6 - May 4, 1975; Compiled and Edited By Stanley Ferber:
Volume 1 Catalogue and Papers of the Ninth Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, State University of New York at Binghamton. May 2-4, 1975; pp 43-4:
The ascendancy of Palermo is a significant result of the Arab conquest: at long last the political and cultural importance of Syracuse (which only fell in 878) was replaced, and its Greek culture became less dominant. The monk Theodosius, brought thence from Syracuse with Archbishop Sophronius in 883, acknowledged the grandeur of the new capital, describing it as "full of citizens and strangers, so that there seems to be collected there all the Saracen folk from East to West and from North to South . . . blended with the Sicilians, the Greeks, the Lombards and the Jews, there are Arabs, Berbers, Persians, Tartars, Negroes, some wrapped in long robes and turbans, some clad in skins and some half naked; faces oval, square, or round, of every complexion and profile, beards and hair of every variety of color or cut."
A century later, in 972-973, Ibn Hauqal, a merchant from Baghdad, described the quarters of the city, their palaces and above all their hundreds of mosques: "The mosques of the city and of the quarters round it outside the walls exceed the number of three hundred." He had never seen an equal number of mosques, even in cities twice as large. Of course these buildings, even more than as places of worship, served as schools each with its own schoolmaster: "To hear them talk, they are God's own men, the worthiest and most virtuous of all. Notwithstanding that every one knows their lack of capacity and their flightiness, they are employed as witnesses. Yet, in sooth, they have only taken up this trade so as to escape the Sacred War and avoid every kind of military service." This was the basis, nevertheless, of the University of Balerm, which though it scarcely rivaled that of Cordoba, nevertheless had its share of capable scholars, and produced several generations of gifted poets, culminating in ibn Hamdis, the noble Syracusan who left the court of Count Roger at Palermo for Saracen Spain, where he wrote elegiac reminiscences of his youth.