The biographical details of al-Hamdani's life are scant, despite his extensive scientific work. He was held in high repute as a grammarian, wrote much poetry, compiled astronomical tables and is said to have devoted most of his life to the study of the ancient history and geography of Arabia.
Before he was born his family had lived in al-Marashi (المراشي). Then they moved to Sana'a (صنعاء), where al-Hamdani was born in the year 893. His father had been a traveller and had visited Kufa, Baghdad, Basra, Oman and Egypt. At around the age of seven, al-Marashi started to talk about his desire to travel. Somewhat later he left for Mecca, where he remained and studied for more than six years, after which he departed for Sa'dah (صعدة). There he gathered information on Khawlaan (خولان). Later, he went back to Sanaa and became interested in the land that was Himyar (حمْير), but was imprisoned for two years due to his political views. After his release from prison, he went to Raydah (ريدة) to live under the protection of his own tribe. He compiled most of his books while there and stayed on until his death in 945.