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“On a calm winter morning, on 4th January, 1761, a company of five men, clad for a journey, were rowed out from the Tollbooth into the shipping roads of Copenhagen. […] They were bound for “Happy Arabia”, but none of them seemed particularly happy at the thought”.
This is how Thorkild Hansen starts his book , Arabia Felix. The Danish expedition of 1761-1767. Hansen’s work was published in 1962, roughly two centuries after the Danish expedition took place, and by then, the adventures of the five men, the first European scholars to embark on a scientific expedition to Yemen, was well forgotten. Hansen compiled the book starting from the original documents concerning the expedition – articles, journals, letters, drawings – and combining them with a touch of gentle imagination. The result is an exquisite account. Of a failure.
Map of Taiz, drawn by Niebhur.
The Danish expedition that left…
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I’ve taken one for the team. I’ve read it so you don’t have to. Yep. That book.
The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise is a self-proclaimed corrective to a “wide-spread belief that it was a wonderful place of tolerance and convivencia of three cultures under the benevolent supervision of enlightened Muslim rulers” (2). The book’s author, Darío Fernández-Morera is an associate professor at Northwestern, a critic of Cervantes and other early modern Spanish literati who positions himself as a “Machiavellian” (nope, not kidding, 3) interpreter of the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, the book is even more politicizing than the work it discusses and tilts, appropriately for a volume written by a Cervantes scholar, at giants that turn out to be nothing more than badly misperceived windmills.
The Myth consists of over 350 pages of what a colleague poetically calls “convivencia sneering,” a resentful drive to first misconstrue nearly 80 years of…
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Following a truly bizarre exchange on Twitter a few months ago, the racial animus that inheres in the term moor has been on my mind. It’s not just social media, either: I’m teaching a Muslim Spain course this fall and using Richard Fletcher’s Moorish Spain as the main text, which meant that I had to devote part of my lecture on race in the Middle Ages to why we don’t use that term even though Fletcher does, and what it means for us to live with the book this semester and to try to do better than its author does when we write and talk about questions of race. It’s been percolating in the back of my head, then, and so it is perhaps not surprising that the role of moor in Spanish historiography and popular perception made its way into the talk I gave at the University of Minnesota…
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The following biographies of medieval Andalusi women are drawn from the Kitāb al-Ṣilah of Ibn Bashkuwal (d. 1183), the Takmilat Kitāb al-Ṣilah by Ibn al-Abbar (d. 1260), and the Kitāb Ṣilat al-Ṣila by Ibn al-Zubayr (d. 1308). They include women from various classes of society and different regions of al-Andalus who participated in scholarship and learning between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. These biographical works and accounts provide important insight into the social and intellectual history of al-Andalus and allow modern scholars to better understand the role of Andalusi women in the transmission of knowledge during the Middle Ages.
El-Mo’izz de la dynastie Ziride reconnaît la suzeraineté d’El-K’â’im bi-amr Allah l’Abbasside rejetant officiellement les Fatimides en 1043 et l’entrée des Arabes des Banu Hilal et des Banu Sulaym en Ifrikiyya en 1050 par ibn al-Athir de son ” Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh “
An excellent French translation of the sections of Izz al-Din ibn al-Athir’s historical chronicle dealing with the reign of Zirid emir al-Mu’izz ibn Badis (r. 1016-1062)
[P. 356] El-Mo’izz de la dynastie Ziride reconnaît la suzeraineté d’El-K’â’im bi-amr Allah l’Abbasside rejetant officiellement les Fatimides en 1043 et l’entrée des Arabes des Banu Hilal et des Banu Sulaym en Ifrikiyya en 1050 par ibn al-Athir de son ” Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh “
En 435 (9 août 1043), El-Mo’izz d’Ifrîkiyya fit publiquement faire la prière au nom de la dynastie Abbaside et prononcer dans la khotba le nom de l’imam et prince des croyants El-K’â’im bi-amr Allah. Il reçut alors des robes d’honneur et l’investiture des diverses régions d’Ifrîkiyya ainsi que des conquêtes qu’il pourrait faire ultérieurement.
La lettre confiée aux porteurs de ces présents débutait ainsi :
« De là part du serviteur et ami de Dieu Aboû Dja’far el-K’â’im bi-amr Allah, Prince des croyants, au roi unique [P. 357] confiance de l’Islam, gloire de l’époque, soutien des créatures, protecteur de la religion de Dieu…
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Just as the world will mark the 400th year since the death of Shakespeare, so we also mark the same the number of years since the death of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra:
By Shadi Rohana
Not only did the two authors mark world literature forever, but they also died on the same day in 1616, if on different calendars. Shakespeare died on “April 23rd” before Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar. For the Catholic world, which adopted the Gregorian calendar immediately in 1582, Shakespeare died on May 3rd — that is, 10 days after the death of Cervantes.
While it’s uncertain whether Cervantes knew of Shakespeare, Shakespeare certainly knew him. The title of one of Shakespeare’s lost plays — The History of Cardenio — clearly shows it. But what of Cervantes in Arabic?
Cervantes is the author of many novels, stories, poems and plays. However, in the Arabic language, Cervantes’ name is almost a synonym for that…
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The entrance to New York’s Rockefeller Center, with an Art Deco-style frieze depicting God from William Blake’s “Book of Urizen” and a quote from Isaiah 33:6: “Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.”
George Santayana famously wrote that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But is the opposite also true? Will those who cherish their political, intellectual and cultural heritage ultimately be saved by it? For Arab intellectuals a century ago, the answer is a resounding yes. In our current era of the liberal arts as a favorite whipping boy among public officials, it’s hard to imagine that only a few years after Santayana relinquished his post at Harvard, a small group of impassioned Arab educators, thinkers and poets were staking the future of a war-torn Middle East on how well it could remember its past.
For these “Neoclassical” authors as they’re…
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