Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sousse و في أهلها دهقنة

I just like reading Ibn Hawqal (writing in the 2nd half of the 10th century); it's like reading a 19th century anthropolgue. Here is for instance how he describes the 'people of Sousse' (a Tunisian coastal city), which he visited sometime around 950:

و في أهلها دهقنة و الغالب عليهم السلامة

I like especially the use of the word 'dahqana', which is rarely used in Islamic sources. It's originally persan (comes from 'Dahaqina' plural for 'Dihhqan': a social class in Fars composed of villages' bosses) but when it was arabized it got a new meaning (as Ibn Manzur mentions) in the sense of 'takayyus' or 'kiyasa' meaning something like smartness and delicacy at the same time: attributes strongly linked in the mind of the early Muslim authors with urbanity...

The second part (والغالب عليهم السلامة) goes in the same sense; urbanity necessitates longing for peacefulness...

Other authors might use stronger and bolder words... but Ibn Hawqal is usually far more delicate...

My article in Al-Hayat on the relation between art and mathematics

I'm beginning a series of articles in the London-based arab newspapaer Al-Hayat on Islamic art (in their Saturday's appendix 'Turath'). It's great that they agreed to have a contributor who is writing mainly on Islamic art, which is really unusual in mainstream arab media. I'm not sure, however, how many articles I'll be able to write with all the work I'll have to do in relation to my dissertation.

The first article appeared today and it deals with the new article written mainly by Peter Lu dealing with the manifestation of highly complicated mathematecal forms in ornamental designs.

Monday, March 05, 2007

New "Byzantine Paintings" in Bethlehem's Nativity Church?

A new report (Marsh 5) in the Arabic website Elaph from its correspondant in Bethlehem Usama Issa has revealed new stunning "Byzantine paintings" found in a newly discovered room annexed to Bethlehem's Church of Nativity. The reporter published what he described as "inedit" pictures of these paintings.... The reason that this discovery is still unannounced is unknown though the reporter says that this is done by the Latin Patriarchat, which is not ready to create some conflict among the Christian community at Bethlehem (?!)... Anyhow the paintings feature Christ Pantocrator (in Majesty), a very common Byzantine icon, along with standing Figures... though not mosaics (as many Byzantine "Christ Pantocrator" church images)...