"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 -
"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 -
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
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 -
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
(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
In recognition of his bravery, Lt. O'Bannon was given a
(no, the other
) 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
of Tripoli, Yusef, with the rightful heir, his pro-American older brother
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.
posted by hob
on Jan 7, 2004 -
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 -