Abu l-Hasan (789–857), nicknamed Ziryab, was a Persian or Kurdish polymath: a poet, musician, courtesan, astronomer, botanist and geographer born in Baghdad and active in Córdoba, Spain. According to some sources, he was a former slave, possibly of East African descent. The name ‘Ziryab’ (Blackbird) was given to him for his dark complexion, eloquence, and melodious voice.

Ziryab introduced musical instruments to Iberia, notably the Persian lute that became the Spanish guitar, as well as passionate songs and dances of Persia and Mesopotamia that later, mixed with Gypsy influence, evolved into the famed Spanish flamenco. He is also credited with inventing and popularizing an early form of toothpaste.

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