My New Book: The Mediterranean – a shared heritage

Last week, I presented my new book, The Mediterranean: a shared heritage, at a ceremony held in Piran, Slovenia, marking the tenth anniversary of the EMUNI University. More than just a book, it is the culmination of a long Mediterranean Odyssey that took me to 20 Mediterranean countries, and to places in the mind that I never knew existed. From the Phoenician coastline to the Pillars of Hercules, may the passion be contagious, may the journey begin.

Brief: The book is centred around the history, culture and heritage of the Mediterranean region, with a focus on common heritage values, bridges of intercultural and interfaith dialogue, and the role of the butterfly effect in shaping our collective history in this part of the world. It also showcases Mediterranean personalities from the past and offers alternative cultural itineraries in various Mediterranean cities.

Index:
Forward Note

Preface

I. Distant Memories: Birth Pangs of a Mediterranean Legacy
Once Upon a Time in a Cave
The Neolithic Revolution
Pharaohs, Purple Traders and Thalassocracies
Democracy and Other Gifts from Greece
Mare Nostrum and the Pax Romana
The Early Medieval Rollercoaster: Renovatio Imperii?
The Crusades: Deus vult
Renaissance at Last: Humanism Triumphant
Discoveries and Revolutions: Eppur es muove
Constantinople to Vienna: Ottomans at the Gate

II. Unlikely Encounters: The Butterfly Effect
Carthage must be destroyed
Metamorphosis of the Written Text: Papyrus to Paper
Barbarians in the Land of Berbers
Andalusi Diasporas and Accidental Heroes
The Rise and Fall of the Mamluks
By the Walls of Damascus
Captives in Barbary and Beyond
Madrasas of Splendour and Scandal
The Old Masters: Artistic Encounters and Rivalries
Ottoman Blood Tax and Turkish Delights

III. Cultural Bridges: Enlightened Minds and Civilizing Agents
Hypatia: Greek Fire in Alexandria
Ziryab: A Bird from the East
Maimonides: Guide of the Perplexed
Ibn Arabi and Other Andalusi Mystics in the Orient
Ramon Llull: Christianus Arabicus
The Translators of Baghdad, Toledo and Sicily
The Troubadours: Alchemists of Love
Epic Travels, Images of the Other
Women at the Forefront of Cultural Promotion
Byzantine Ambassadors of the Greek Tradition
Le Siècle des Lumières

IV. Living Heritage: Icons of Identity
Epic Poems and Oral Traditions
The Divine Gift of the Mediterranean Diet
Fascinating Crafts: The Story of Glass
Sacred Bulls, Immortal Bison
Urban Fabric: A Mediterranean Legacy
An Ode to the Sea Deity
Circle Dance: From Prehistory to Matisse
Ancestral Knowledge: The Memory of Trees
Cultural Routes, Landscapes and Natural Wonders
Fishing East and West
Healers, Exorcists, Mourners and Puppeteers
More than just Tangible Heritage

V. Sun-Bathed Cities: Cultural Itineraries
Barcelona: What has become of Barcino
Dubrovnik: Ragusan Splendour
Tétouan: The White Dove
Tunis: White and Mediterranean Blue
Valletta: The Real Club Med
Acre: Beyond the Sea Walls
Alexandria: The Winepress of Love
Athens: I came, I saw, I was conquered
Beirut: The Vibrant Capital of the Levant
Marseille: A Taste of Provence

The Final Encore: Where do we go from here?

Photo Gallery
Reference Notes

Quotes
“Throughout its history, the Mediterranean has been both a civilizing sea and a ‎corrupting sea. It has almost always been what we have made out of it: a meeting point, a ‎melting pot, or a hostile frontier. It is, in short, a genuine epitome of the human ‎condition of its people.”

“The Mediterranean that gave birth to the alphabet, to democracy, to the republic, to philosophy and ‎drama, and to the world’s first great libraries and academies, has always taught ‎us that beyond the imagined communities and the clichéd perceptions, there is a ‎common Mediterranean culture that is omnipresent in the lives of people around ‎its shores. Whether in Sicily or in Byblos, the essence is one: people celebrating life and rejoicing in a ‎variety of expressions and a pluralism of sentiments.”

“More than ever, we need to understand that the ‎moment we see our diversity as a threat rather than a resource, ‎we are no longer Mediterranean. One of the core parameters of our Mediterranean ‎culture is our ability to absorb so many differences without losing our essence, without giving up on what makes us individually unique in a context of pluralism.”

Book Cover

الأندلس وتاريخ الشتات

 

شرفت خلال الأعوام الماضية بإلقاء العديد من المحاضرات حول تاريخ الأندلس في مكتبة الإسكندرية: الأندلسيون في الشرق، حكايات الأندلس، الأندلس كمعبر حضاري، إلخ. هذا العام سيكون لنا لقاء من جديد في مكتبة الإسكندرية في شهر أغسطس أو سبتمبر للحديث عن تفاصيل مذهلة حول الأندلس. أنصحكم باقتناء وقراءة كتابي “الأندلس تاريخ الشتات” الصادر عن دار الربيع العربي والمشارك في معرض الإسكندرية للكتاب استعداداً للقائنا القادم. إليكم عناوين بعض الفصول التي وردت في الكتاب:

صقر قريش، عاقل الأندلس، الإخوة الأعداء، زرياب عصفور من الشرق، القديس قاتل العرب، الزهراء وأخواتها، قصة مدينتين، ألفونسو الحكيم، زمردة الموحدين،  حلم ابن الأحمر، أرباب المثلثات، برتقالة ابن خلدون، سان كريستوبال، في تاريخ المدجنين والموريسكيين، رسول الأجراس، فتنة كتب الرصاص، الخراف ومحاكم التفتيش، ما لم يعرفه كولومبوس، تطوان ابنة غرناطة، في ضيافة الموريسكيين، قراصنة هورناتشوس، تمبكتو عاصمة السراب، أندلسيو حوض النيجر، وهران سيدي هواري، تلمسان وأشباح وهران، بربروس كابوس اللحية الحمراء، تستور حفرية أندلسية، عروس الفقراء، الإسكندرية عاصمة الذاكرة، في خطى وإرث المقام، الأندلسيون في الشرق.

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صور لبعض المدن والآثار المذكورة في كتابي عن الأندلس

بمناسبة مشاركة كتابي “الأندلس: تاريخ الشتات” والصادر عن دار الربيع العربي في معرض القاهرة الدولي للكتاب الذي يبدأ اليوم، يسعدني أن أشارك معكم بعض الصور التي التقطتها في المدن المذكورة في كتابي، بهدف مساعدتكم على تخيل أجواء تلك المدن وتشجيعكم على اقتناء الكتاب. الصور خاضعة لقانون الملكية الفكرية ، وبإمكانكم استخدامها لأغراض غير تجارية شريطة ذكر اسم صاحب حقوق الملكية الفكرية (محمد الرزاز). أرجو أن تنال الصور إعجابكم، مع العلم بأنني سأقوم برفع المزيد من الصور لاحقاً

My First Book Published on al-Andalus

This week my first book was finally published after years of travelling, researching, writing and editing. The book is a study of a very important Mediterranean diaspora that took place in the early 17th century and left an extraordinary imprint on the Mediterranean culture, especially in North Africa, namely the diaspora of the Moriscos (Arabs and Berbers forced to convert into Christianity under the pressure of the Inquisition Courts in the Iberian Peninsula, mostly in Spain).

In the year 711 AD, Muslims conquered the Iberian Peninsula, calling it al-Andalus and sowing the seeds of a fascinating renaissance characterised -mostly- by tolerance, coexistence and an appreciation for the arts and the sciences. With the fall of the last Andalusi Kingdom in Granada to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492 AD, the Muslim rule in al-Andalus came to an end. Faced with discrimination and persecution, the Muslims there (first called mudejars, then moriscos after they converted to Christianity) survived one tragedy after another until the Spanish King Felipe III approved a decree calling for the final expulsion of all the Moriscos between 1609 and 1614 AD. It is estimated that some 350,000 Moriscos were forced to leave, accused -among other things- of practising Islam in secret, failing to integrate in the Spanish community and conspiring with the Ottomans against the Spanish Crown.

All the material in my work is based on research, interviews and accredited historical sources, presented in my book in a storytelling format. The title is ‘al-Andalus: History of the Diaspora’. It’s in Arabic, but for my friends/followers who cannot speak Arabic, below is an English translation of the back cover:

Al-Andalus was once a glorious chapter in the history of the Islamic Civilization (and humanity in general), before it finally turned into an epitome of the Paradise Lost as the Muslims succumbed to their internal conflicts and ignored the civilizing foundations that the Umayyads had lain centuries earlier. The tragedy of the diaspora that followed the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Moriscos in the seventeenth century is rich in incredible details about how these groups adapted to their new realities in North Africa and the Orient. The Moriscos left an exceptional imprint in all fields from architecture and urbanism to poetry and music. This book chronicles the memory of the diaspora through a selection of tales that trace the footsteps of the Andalusi migrants and celebrate their cultural legacy in the Mediterranean basin.

Mohammed Elrazzaz An Egyptian academic researcher and professor (Cairo, 1976). He studied History at the University of Granada and Cultural Management in Barcelona. He is Professor of Culture, Art History and Mediterranean Heritage at the International University of Catalonia where he obtained his MA back in 2010. Since 2013, he works for the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean in Barcelona.

cover

Published: The World’s Oldest Paved Road (Widan al-Faras)

Yesterday, an article of mine about the world’s oldest surviving paved road was published by Ahram Online.

A couple of months ago, I ventured into the desert with a friend in search of this road, namely a quarry road called Widan al-Faras in Egypt’s Lake Qarun area. The road, some 4500 years old, is around 11 Km long. It was built by the Ancient Egyptians during the Old Kingdom era, and more specifically, during the reign of the Pyramid Builders. Here is the full article: http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/94839.aspx

The Quarry Road 2

Published: Andalusi Masterpieces in Madrid

A new article of mine about Medieval Islamic Art has been published by Ahram Online. The article focuses on three masterpieces of Andalusi art at the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid, namely the Casket of Palencia, the Pyxis of Zamora and a fountain spout from Medina Azahra.

The three objects reflect the refinement of taste, the sophistication of technique and the marvelous craftsmanship in cities like Cordova, Cuenca and others. The article also touches on the Arab origins of Madrid (originally known as Majrit), founded by Emir Mohamed I in the 9th century. You can read the full article at:
http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/70733.aspx

Casket of Palencia

Pyxis of Zamora

The Gazelle Fountain Spout

Published: Article on Analusi Intellectuals in AL-RAWI Magazine

A few months ago, an article of mine about prominent intellectuals of al-Andalus in Egypt was published in Al-Rawi (Egypt’s Heritage Review), a wonderful quarterly magazine concerned with Egypt’s heritage in its different forms.

You can read the full article in the images attached, and I strongly recommend my friends in Egypt to follow the magazine and actually buy it in order to support this great initiative and to keep it running.

Magazine Cover
Pages 1&2
Pages 3&4
Pages 5&6