Muḥammad al-Tūnisī (d. 1274/1857) belonged to a family of Tunisian merchants trading with Egypt and what is now Sudan. Al-Tūnisī was raised in Cairo and a graduate of al-Azhar. In 1803, at the age of fourteen, al-Tūnisī set off for the Sultanate of Darfur, where his father had decamped ten years earlier. He followed the Forty Days Road, was reunited with his father, and eventually took over the management of the considerable estates granted to his father by the sultan of Darfur.
In Darfur is a rare example of an Arab description of an African society on the eve of Western colonization and vividly evokes a world in which travel was untrammeled by bureaucracy, borders were fluid, and startling coincidences appear almost mundane.