Medieval Arab World Links

This week Aoife (Lis) shares links for all manner of information about the Medieval Arab World.

Aoife writes:

Hallo everyone. This week's Links are about Islam, Byzantium, and the Medieval Arab World. From food to heraldry, costume to culture, history, illumination, calligraphy, medicine and mathematics, there are links here. Please feel free to forward this links list wherever it will find an interested audience, and to use it to update your own Links list.


Muslim Women in History
(Site Excerpt) Despite the stereotypes, Muslim women have always played a vital role in the Muslim community, and not only in traditional roles. Early Muslim women served the community through scholarship, teaching, nursing, and other important activities.

Growing Up Muslim - Rites of Passage in Medieval Islam
(Site Excerpt) Their concern with childbearing and children is justified by using Islamic texts. Verses from the Qur'an stating "wealth and children are the ornaments (decorations) of the life of this world" are repeated to those postponing parenthood. The Prophet's saying about how "an ugly wife who's fertile (able to have children) is better than a beautiful one who is barren (can't have children)" is repeated to men of marrying age. Having children was especially important for the care of the parents as they grew old.

1000 years of missing Astronomy (Book Review)
(Site Excerpt) `It is a common misconception that astronomical research fell into a dazed slumber following Ptolemy (the Greek scientist who lived long before Islam), not to reawaken until the time of Copernicus. I have briefly sketched in the previous chapter the efforts on the part of various Greeks in preserving their astronomical science. These efforts continued up to the time of the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs, who were not the book burning fanatics that some have made them out to be. Those who think that these Arabs made no contributions of their own have not investigated the subject.'

The Cairo Genizah: a Medieval Mediterranean deposit and a modern Cambridge Archive by Stefan C. Reif
(Site Excerpt) For almost 2,000 years, it has been customary in Rabbinic Judaism to set aside a depository (genizah) into which could be consigned Hebrew texts that had to be removed from circulation. The famous Cairo Genizah was amassed mainly between the tenth and thirteenth centuries and sheds light on all aspects of medieval oriental life. Most of its fragmentary manuscripts are preserved at Cambridge University Library and they provide unique information about relations between Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Crusader period. The history of the Cambridge Genizah collection, since its acquisition over 100 years ago, is almost as remarkable as its contents.

Muslim Advancements in Alchemy
(Site Excerpt) Firstly, the Muslim alchemists introduced a novel criteria for distinguishing between substances. They classified the substances into three categories : spirits, metals and bodies. Though these definitions were not concrete and adjusted by various alchemists to suit their individual needs, the importance in the alchemical classification is the fact that nature was no longer divided by such perceptible qualities as hot,cold, dry and wet, but by operational qualities like evaporation,fusion, malleability, and pulverization. In short, physical qualities were now being used, a major advancement.

The Mughal Empire
(Site Excerpt) The great grandson of Tamerlane, Babar, who on his mother's side was descended from the famous Genghiz Khan, came to India in 1526 at the request of an Indian governor who sought Babar's help in his fight against Ibrahim Lodi, the last head of the Delhi Sultanate. Babar defeated Lodi at Panipat, not far from Delhi, and so came to establish the Mughal Empire in India.

Middle Eastern Heraldry
(Site Excerpt) This is my precis of Ernst Mayer's Saracenic Heraldry. Heraldry was not used in the Islamic world as it was in Western Europe. It still existed in a form that makes it compatable with SCA heraldic practice. In the Islamic world, the use of a device was restricted to those presons who held the rank of Emir or higher.

Internet Islamic History Sourcebook
(Site Excerpt) This page is a subset of texts derived from the three major online Sourcebooks listed below (ed. note: see the page for those links), along with added texts and web site indicators. For more contextual information, for instance about Western imperialism, or the history of a given period, check out these web sites.

Muslim Heraldry
(Site Excerpt) The scope of this article is the heraldry the Muslims in the Middle Ages -- that is to say, it concerns the heraldry of the Ayyubids and Mamluks in Egypt and Syria from roughly the late 12th Century A.D. through the very early 16th Century. While it is true that Muslims in other places and times used proto-heraldic devices, only the Ayyubids (including the Rasulids and Rasids) and the Mamluks had what we have come to term heraldry.

Traditional Dress: Turkey and the Ottoman Empire
A series of graphics based on Turkish costume.

Levantia: Knitting and Braid from the Byzantine and Arab World
Knitting: Some of the earliest examples of true knitting, that is with two or more needles, are a group of cotton socks which were found in Cairo and are dated to the twelfth century. They are held in the Textile Museum in Washington. See also the cookware section, tableware (pottery), lighting, architecture, etc...

Cariadoc's Miscellany: A Medieval Islamic Dinner (Copyright (c) by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook)
(Site Excerpt) There are a number of recipes for relishes or dips in the period Islamic cookbooks. The feast started with one of these, Badinjan Muhassa, served with bread. Unfortunately, I know very little about medieval Islamic bread other than the fact that it existed, but I assumed that modern pita bread would be a reasonable guess. Badinjan Muhassa is based on eggplant, ground and toasted walnut, and raw onion; eggplant is probably the most common vegetable in medieval Islamic cookbooks. This version of the recipe is from a 10th century collection; another version is in the 13th-century cookbook of al-Bagdadi.

A Useful Guide to Ingredients used in Arabic Cooking

An anonymous Andalusion Cookbook of the 13th Century---Trans. Charles Perry (Miscellany)
The table of Contents with links to recipes. Beware wrapped text and use copy-paste to get the whole url.

Some Recipes of Al-Andalus (Stephen Block)
(Site Excerpt) [ This article first appeared in Tournaments Illuminated number 96 (Fall 1990). It has been updated in a few minor areas since. The author, Stephen Block, is on the net at . This version is dated February 12, 1996. ] It is to the glory of God that He who created us all hath provided us with a rich variety of good things to eat. But the memory of man is short, and already many of the dishes made of old are no longer stylish, and people have forgotten them, which is a great ill, since they are both healthful and pleasant to the taste.

Notes on Islamic Clothing (Copyright (c) by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook)
(Site Excerpt) Persia eventually became (and still is) a predominantly Shia area. If you have a late Persian persona, you should find it fairly easy to get information on clothing. Simply find a book containing reproductions of lots of period Persian art. One particularly good source is the Houghton Shah-Nama, reproduced by the Metropolitan Museum under the title A King's Book of Kings.

The Basics of Byzantine Dress
(Site Excerpt) The Basics of Byzantine c. 1000 A.D.By Dawn Vukson-Van Beek The essential articles of Byzantine dress are simple and easy to construct. The primary article of dress was called a tunica. The tunica served as the basic undergarment of both men and women, or the only garment for the working class and poor. The main over-garment worn both by men and women is called the dalmatica. This garment began a t-tunic, but became more tailored in eighth century.

Horace Mann's Webpage on: Muslim Clothing, Jewelry, Make-up y.html
(Site Excerpt) Clothing for Muslim men and women vary with the culture they are from. There is no one style of clothing today, nor was there in the Middle Ages. Today some women wear veils, others do not. Traditional costumes may be very different from modern clothing. Look at some of these images to make some generalizations about clothing of the Middle Ages in the Islamic Empires.

Maghribi Women's Costume From al-Andalus to Ifriqya that is, from Spain to Tunisia
(Site Excerpt) There are few, if any, actual Maghribi garments remaining from the 7th through 16th centuries, the 1,000 year period covered by the SCA. We must compare images from art, written descriptions, and garments from the recent past which have survived to try to reconstruct what a "typical" Maghribi woman would have worn.

Near and Middle Eastern Costume Bibliography
(Site Excerpt) This is not an extensive bibliography, nor are they all entirely "SCA period" - that is, many of these books cover recent costume, from the 19th and 20th centuries. But it's just where I'm starting, and may help to give you a start.

Palace attire and garments: The costumes of the Sultans
A series of photos of extant garments.

Medieval Islam
(Site Excerpt) From its dramatic rise in the seventh century A. D. to the present, Islamic civilization has covered a large part of the globe, incorporating many subcultures and languages into its orbit, and vigorously engaging the peoples around it.

Medieval Gallery: Islamic Writing
A sample Islamic text with illumination.

Bobliography of Mathematics in Medieval Islamic Civilization
(Site Excerpt) This bibliography is a revised, enlarged and updated version of the bibliography on Islamic mathematics by Richard Lorch on pp. 65-86 of Joseph W. Dauben's The History of Mathematics from Antiquity to the Present: A Selective Bibliography, New York and London: Garland, 1985.

Islamic Art--Early Medieval Art
(Site Excerpt) The wealth and material prosperity enjoyed by Fatimid Egypt and Syria during this period are reflected in the opulence of the art. The Fatimids evidently had a taste for meticulously fabricated goldwork and intricately carved vessels of rock crystal, a type of transparent, colorless quartz whose surface can be brilliantly burnished. One such rock crystal vessel in the museum's collection is decorated with abstract vegetal ornament that harks back to the Abbasid period; its diminutive scale is remarkable given the complexities of carving and polishing this hard stone.

The Medieval Islamic World through the eyes of two travellers (Requires Adobe Acrobat)
(Site Excerpt) The cultures of Islamic regions drew many travellers during the Middle Ages, such as Benjamin of Tudela and Ibn Battuta, for a variety of reasons. Scholars travelled long distances to participate in "the shining prestige of the great centers of the Middle East, notably Cairo and Damascus," which contained the most substantial intellectual resources.

The Art of Arabic Calligraphy
Four styles are represented with samples.

Islamic Arts and Architecture Association
Site contains a down-loadable font of arabic characters for use on PC. Also includes alist of world-wide museums with islamic art displays.

Arabic Calligraphy
Click on one of the countries listed above the text to see historic examples of Arabic Calligraphy. For Instance: "Bukhara and Meshed, 16th century, Album page, Ink, gouache and gold on paper, Five fragments mounted on cardboard." Thumbnails can be clicked for a larger image. Examples from 879 onwards and a variety of media (wood, marble, and parchment including colored paper and gold ink from 10th century).

Playing a Middle Eastern Percussion Instrument
(Site Excerpt) Historically the most common percussion instrument of the Middle East is probably the "Tar". A Tar is a frame drum similar to the Bodhran or many Native American drums. These frame drums are easy to make, and transport -- which is important if you are a nomad. A version of this drum with cymbals is called a Riq. The Riq (what we often call a tambourine) at many points in history was the "glory" instrument - more prestigious than any other percussion instrument in the band. In the modern day, the goblet shaped hand drum often called a Dumbek or Darabuka (sometimes "tabla") has become the drum of choice among many Middle Eastern percussionists.

Drum Speak: Middle Eastern Drumming
(Site Excerpt) Doumbek sounds
Doum - Deep center sound, tonal and with some sustain tek - High rim sound, Lead hand, ringy, exhibits the characteristic tones of the shell of the drum.
ka - High inner sound, off hand ( traditionally left ), this is a sound made by the skin just inside the rim higher than doum and without the sound of the drum shell that the tek has.
ba - Simmilar to ka but with the lead hand

"The Original Arab, The Bedouin" by Philip K. Hitti
(Site Excerpt) The Bedouin is no gypsy roaming aimlessly for the sake of roaming. He represents the best adaptation of human life to desert conditions. Wherever grass grows, there he goes seeking pasture. Nomadism is as much a scientific mode of living in the Nufud as industrialism is in Detroit or Manchester.

Ancient Accounts of Arabia
(Site Excerpt) Herodotus: The Histories, Book III, c. 430 BCE: The Arabs keep such pledges more religiously than almost any other people. They plight faith with the forms following. When two men would swear a friendship, they stand on each side of a third: he with a sharp stone makes a cut on the inside of the hand of each near the middle finger, and, taking a piece from their dress, dips it in the blood of each, and moistens therewith seven stones lying in the midst, calling the while on Bacchus and Urania.

Byzantium and the Arabs in the Fifth Century
(Site Excerpt) Christianity presented the Arabs with new human types unknown to them from their pagan and Peninsular life -- the priest, the bishop, the martyr, the saint, and the monk -- and the Arab community in Oriens, both Rhomaic and federate, counted all of them among its members.

Tales of the Caliphs
(Site Excerpt) Among the early chronicles of the Arabs, by far the most celebrated is the many-volumed work of Masoudi, called the "Book of Golden Meadows." It is a collection of interesting and sometimes scandalous anecdotes about anything and everything in the past, but chiefly about the earlier caliphs.

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Islamic Art
(Site Excerpt) The Metropolitan Museum's collection of Islamic art, which ranges in date from the seventh to the nineteenth century, reflects the great diversity and range of Islamic culture and offers perhaps the most comprehensive permanent installation of Islamic art on view anywhere. Nearly 12,000 objects created in the cultural tradition of the world's youngest monotheistic religion (Islam, founded in A.D. 622, means "submission to God") have been assembled at the Metropolitan from as far westward as Spain and Morocco and as far eastward as Central Asia and India.

Medieval Islamic Art (Thumbnail photos of architecture)

Islamic Culture and the Medical Arts: Art as a Profession
(Site Excerpt) It has been estimated that in Baghdad in 931 (319 H) there was a ratio of about one physician per 300 inhabitants. Doubtless there were areas, particularly rural ones, where there was no formally trained physician at all, for there were many self-help guides to basic medical care intended for use in traveling and when no physician was available.

Historic Events in the Islamic World
Beware wrapped text when hitting this link
This site has a menu of important Islamic events. See the scrollingmenu to read an article on each event.

Internet Islam History Source Book
(Site Excerpt) This page is a subset of texts derived from the three major online Sourcebooks listed below, along with added texts and web site indicators. For more contextual information, for instance about Western imperialism, or the history of a given period, check out these web sites.

Basic Reference Tools in Islamic Art & Architecture
(Site Excerpt) This guide presents a selection of the most useful reference tools for the study of the art and architecture of the Islamic world. All entries include Harvard library call numbers and/or links to on-line resources; most are annotated. For specialized reference assistance, please contact the appropriate subject specialists in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies in the Harvard libraries.

Earthly Art - Heavenly Beauty. The Art of Islam
(Site Excerpt) The exhibition located in the Nicholas Hall of the Winter Palace represents nearly 350 works of art from different parts of Islamic world - from Spain to the Northern India - enveloping thirteen centuries - from the 7th to 19th centuries. The State Hermitage Museum possesses one of the world richest collections of Moslem Oriental art ....

Silver and Gold Jewellry from the Arabic/Islamic World
(Site Excerpt) There is a small gold collection that dates from the pre and early Islamic period thru' to nineteenth century Indian jewellery of the Hindus and Moslems.One outstanding piece is a gold Islamic necklace from Oman with Quranic inscriptions engraved on it .Another neckpiece is a beautiful example of Yemeni work of silver and coral and gold-washed silver.

A GUIDE TO THE ANTIQUITIES OF KYRENIA by William Dreghorn , B.Sc., Ph. D. (Lond.)
(Site Excerpt) Inside the Venetian castle can be seen the remains of the Crusader castle which belongs to the Middle Ages period in history. It was in use between 1200 AD. and 1479 AD. and in those days attacks were made with bows and arrows, swords, spears and various stone-throwing machines. Hence, to recognise a mediaeval castle, one looks for embattlements, loopholes for arrow slits and usually the square type of tower. Some watch towers were of the horseshoe pattern and the north east tower is a good example.