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Aftertaste

"In peace or war, the ultimate refuge—the sanctuary of all that is humane—lies distilled within the warmth of the kitchen." Journalist Paul Salopek pauses in the middle of his 21,000-mile Out of Eden Walk from Africa to South America -- Ethiopia to Tierra del Fuego -- to reflect on the food shared with him during his time in Israel and Palestine. "Watching the women of Nablus move briskly, efficiently, purposefully about their tasks, chatting, often joking (about men, politics, life), I am reminded of all the meals that admitted me briefly into the conflicted lives of Israelis and Palestinians." [more inside]
posted by Celsius1414 on Jul 26, 2014 - 1 comment

Isis declares caliphate in Iraq and Syria

The militant Sunni group Isis has said it is establishing a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the territories it controls in Iraq and Syria. This is not the first border we will break, we will break other borders," its spokesman warns. Standing on a border sign he threatens to "break the borders" of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. [more inside]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Jun 30, 2014 - 161 comments

40 Maps of the Middle East

Forty maps that explain the Middle East. Includes sections on Middle East history, the region today, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and oil, Iraq and Libya, and "points of light." [more inside]
posted by Halloween Jack on May 6, 2014 - 8 comments

Spy satellite images reveal Middle Eastern archaelogical sites

The Corona Atlas of the Middle East uses spy satellite imagery to reveal as many as 10,000 previously unknown archaeological sites.
posted by MoonOrb on May 3, 2014 - 8 comments

Bulldozers poised to target Mecca birthplace of Muhammad

Saudi Arabia's royal family are planning to demolish a library sitting on the remains of Prophet Muhammad's birth home to make way for the imam's residence and a presidential palace. The Saudi royal family are adherents of Wahhabism, a radical branch of Islam; by their beliefs, they have destroyed many Islamic heritage sites as they consider the preservation of relics of Muhammad's life to be akin to idolatry.
posted by divabat on Feb 22, 2014 - 62 comments

July 30, 762 to February 13, 1258

In two weeks of blood and fire, one of the greatest intellectual and cultural legacies the world had ever seen came to an end. Crushed under the hooves of a mighty foe (in one case literally), a dynasty, an empire, a city, and a library all disappeared. It was perhaps the swiftest and most complete collapse of a civilization ever, still felt to this day. Now, how about for some context? [more inside]
posted by cthuljew on Dec 13, 2013 - 39 comments

TP-AJAX

In 2011, the CIA declassified documents admitting its involvement in the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran's elected government and installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, details of which were first first disclosed by the New York Times in 2000. Timeline. However, they refused to release them to the public. Today, the National Security Archive research institute has (after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit) obtained and made the 21 documents public. "Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States' role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq's ouster has long been public knowledge, but today's posting includes what is believed to be the CIA's first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Aug 19, 2013 - 33 comments

Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354

"To the world of today the men of medieval Christendom already seem remote and unfamiliar. Their names and deeds are recorded in our history-books, their monuments still adorn our cities, but our kinship with them is a thing unreal, which costs an effort of imagination. How much more must this apply to the great Islamic civilization, that stood over against medieval Europe, menacing its existence and yet linked to it by a hundred ties that even war and fear could not sever. Its monuments too abide, for those who may have the fortunate to visit them, but its men and manners are to most of us utterly unknown, or dimly conceived in the romantic image of the Arabian Nights. Even for the specialist it is difficult to reconstruct their lives and see them as they were. Histories and biographies there are in quantity, but the historians for all their picturesque details, seldom show the ability to select the essential and to give their figures that touch of the intimate which makes them live again for the reader. It is in this faculty that Ibn Battuta excels." Thus begins the book, "Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354" published by Routledge and Kegan Paul. Step into the world of "the first tourist" who made his mark as the world's greatest traveler before the age of steam. [more inside]
posted by infini on Jan 12, 2013 - 21 comments

"An Uncovered Woman and Beatle-Haired Men Will Never Liberate Our Holy Places."

From the BBC blog of documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis: "Save Your Kisses For Me: How the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and the Israeli Right became co-dependents in an abusive relationship." Includes images / film clips from the BBC news archive. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Dec 3, 2012 - 37 comments

Photographs of Palmyra

Photographs and more photographs of the ancient city of Palmyra, seat of the Palmyrene Empire and home to Queen Zenobia.
posted by Rumple on Dec 15, 2011 - 13 comments

"I felt like I'd been catapulted from one end of the universe to the other"

This weekend marks the time of the Hajj, a core pillar of Islam in which great tides of humanity venture to the ancient city of Mecca to honor God. Predating Mohammed's birth by centuries, the pilgrimage comprises several days of rites, from congregation like snow on Mount Arafat and the ritual stoning of Shaitan to the circling of the sacred Kaaba (the shrouded cubical monolith Muslims pray toward daily) and kissing the Black Stone (colored by the absorption of myriad sins, and believed by some to be a fallen meteorite). While the city has modernized to handle this largest of annual gatherings -- building highway-scale ramps, gaudy skyscrapers for the ultra-rich, and tent cities the size of Seattle -- it remains mysterious, as unbelievers are forbidden from entering its borders. Richard Francis Burton became famous for touring the city in disguise to write a rare travelogue, but contemporary viewers have a more immediate guide: Vice Magazine journalist Suroosh Alvi, who smuggled a minicam into the city to record The Mecca Diaries [alt], a 14-minute documentary of his own Hajj journey. Browse the manual to see what goes into a Hajj trip, or watch the YouTube livestream to see the Grand Mosque crowds in real time.
posted by Rhaomi on Nov 4, 2011 - 31 comments

The first attempt at organizing all the world's information

Knowledge and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire may sound like a dry website, but its subject and content is fascinating. In the 7th Century BC King Assurbanipal of Assyria built a library that was to contain all the world's knowledge. Destroyed by the Medes in 612 BC, the library was not rediscovered until the 1840s. 28000 clay tablets written in Akkadian have been found. 1600 can be read online, all translated into English. It's a somewhat overwhelming amount, but there's a lovely highlights section, which even includes pictures of the pillow-shaped writing tablets. For a thorough overview, you can listen to the In Our Time episode about the Library of Nineveh. The most famous text to have been found in Nineveh is undoubtedly the Epic of Gilgamesh. The story of its decipherment and the controversies that ensued, is interesting in its own right.
posted by Kattullus on Mar 25, 2010 - 24 comments

Bonaparte and Bush on Deck

Lessons from Past Western Incursions in the Middle East. A speech by Juan Cole at the New America Foundation in which he discusses his new book, Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East, and the relevance and lessons of Napoleon's expedition in Egypt to the current American occupation of Iraq. A shorter version, covering many of the same points, is in this article: Pitching the Imperial Republic.
posted by homunculus on Aug 26, 2007 - 17 comments

Jiroft, a lost ancient civilization

What was Jiroft? An ancient civilization in what is now southern Iran that was lost to history until very recently. Many beautiful artifacts have been dug up. It is claimed that writing originated with the Jiroft civilization and that this is the legendary kingdom of Aratta, subject of one of the world's oldest works of literature, Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta. There is dispute over both. Either way, it certainly was a commercial hub as early as 3000 B.C. The site has been extensively plundered in recent years, but is so rich in artifacts that excavations can go on for decades.
posted by Kattullus on Aug 9, 2007 - 17 comments

Doing our homework on the Middle East

22 basic suggested readings on the Middle East from history professor and informed commenter on Middle Eastern affairs Juan Cole.
posted by LobsterMitten on Mar 7, 2007 - 37 comments

That was then...

A Report on Mesopotamia by T.E. Lawrence, August 2nd, 1920.
posted by homunculus on May 9, 2004 - 13 comments

US Sponsored Regime Change in the Middle East: Episode One

On the night of April 27th, 1805, US Marine Lt. Presley O'Bannon led a ragtag army of Greek, Arab and Berber mercenaries in a desperate charge into the teeth of the fortifications of Derna, Tripoli (now Libya). The defenders inexplicably turned and ran, leaving behind loaded cannons which, turned around, secured victory for the US in its first land battle in the old world.

In recognition of his bravery, Lt. O'Bannon was given a sword by Hamet Karamanli. William Eaton (no, the other William Eaton ) had led O'Bannon, six other US Marines, and the five hundred odd mercenaries across six hundred miles of North African desert in order to replace the usurping Pasha of Tripoli, Yusef, with the rightful heir, his pro-American older brother Hamet.

Shortly after the battle, Yusef reached a peace with Col. Tobias Lear, the American Consul to Tripoli, and hostilities between the US and Tripoli ceased. Eaton, O'Bannon, and Hamet Karamanli, along with the Marines and most of the Greeks, departed aboard American warships, leaving the Muslim mercenaries behind in Derna. Unpaid.
posted by hob on Jan 7, 2004 - 11 comments

Who started the crusades?

Who started the crusades? Catholic historian Thomas Madden argues that the crusades "were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world." Given all the talk about the crusades in the wake of 9-11, an accurate understanding of the history seems important. But is this accurate or just Catholic revisionism?
posted by boltman on Apr 6, 2002 - 21 comments

A survey of the political climate surrounding President Clinton's strike against bin Laden.

A survey of the political climate surrounding President Clinton's strike against bin Laden. Warning: ancient history (1998). Was he really "wagging the dog", or did he have a valid objective after all?
posted by Jack Torrance on Sep 23, 2001 - 6 comments

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