When north was not up

A few days ago, I was having a chat with a friend about how we often depict the motions of the planets following an anticlockwise rotation around the sun. We saw that it is a matter of arbitrary bias and perspective where north is often depicted as being in the direction of the topmost part of the map. Thus if you took spacecraft and flew above the north pool, and from a highly elevated vantage point looked down upon the solar system, you would see Earth, and the planets rotate in an anticlockwise direction. You would, however, perceive things in the opposite sense if you where  to fly southward above the south pole and look down up our solar system.

Dr. Fathi brought to my attention such view of the world,where the north is at the topmost part of the map, is a but a rather recent development. The pioneering Arab cartographer, al-Idrisi depicted the south in the direction of the topmost part of his maps. In that view, upper-Egypt is indeed “higher” than lower Egypt, Europe is “below” northern Africa. I am very curious as when the flip to north being “up” can about and why?

al-Idrisi’s life is a complex and fascinating one. He compiled his major works while at the court of the Norman King, Roger II of Sicily.

Al-Idrisi's_world_map

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