My 7th Article in El Legado Andalusí: The Almatà Plain of Balaguer

Today, my seventh article for the El Legado Andalusí (the Andalusi Legacy) has been published by the Foundation’s magazine. It’s about the relics of an ancient Islamic medina / military camp in Catalonia, one of the oldest from the Andalusi era in all the Iberian Peninsula (VIII c.).

You can read the whole magazine (including my article) in Spanish at: http://www.legadoandalusi.es/revista/rev43/rev_pdf/Revista43pdf.pdf

You can read an Arabic translation for some parts of the article at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pen_Temple_Pilots/message/24971

Lecture on al-Andalus in Cairo: Andalusi Intellectuals in the Orient (Sep 14th)

From the austerity of al-Sustari to the encyclopedic mind of Ibn Maymoun (Maimonides), and from the dedication of Ibn al-Baitar to the bravery of al-Tutrusi and all the way through the magnificence of Ibn Arabi and the piety of Abu l-Abbas al-Mursi, we set on a journey of passion, tracing the footsteps of these great figures that left al-Andalus and settled in Egypt and Syria.

You can read or download the entire presentation (pdf) in Arabic at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pen_Temple_Pilots/message/23621

Course on Medieval History in Cairo: The Mediterranean Islands

Today I start the course that I teach about the Islamic Civilization in the Mediterranean Islands.

The Course consists of 4 sessions addressing the following topics:
1- al-Andalus
From the conquest to the fall, between Spain, Portugal & southern France
2- The Balearic Islands
Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza
3- Sicily
The Fatimids and the Kalbids in southern Italy
4- Other Mediterranean Islands
Cyprus, Crete, Malta and other islands of the northern Mediterranean

My Lecture on Granada in Alexandria: The Journey (Aug 29th)

Today I had the honor of being invited by the Journey Group in Alexandria as guest speaker to give a lecture about my ‘journey’ as an Egyptian living in Andalusia (Granada). After quitting the corporate life for good, I dedicated my life for what I really like: I headed to Spain where I did cultural studies and studied history.

Following an introduction about the turn that my life took, I gave a presentation about the history of al-Andalus and its relation to Mediterranean cities like Alexandria.

I would like to thank Marwa Medhat, Heba El Cheikh, Eman Ashmawy, Mohamed Nada, Radwa El Barouny and others for their hospitality.

Lecture on al-Andalus in Cairo: The Fall of al-Andalus, Memory of the Diaspora (Aug 4th)

Today I gave a lecture at El Sawy Culturewheel about the fall of al-Andalus and the dispora of the moriscos.

The fall of Granada in 1492 marked the fall of the last Islamic kingdom in the Iberian Peninsual, bringing the rule of Islam over al-Andalus to an end. The Muslims living there initially enjoyed a peaceful period under the Christian rule as mudejars, before being eventually forced to convert into Christianity, becoming moriscos.

These moriscos suffered the horrors of the Inquisition, as well as several attempts to erase their cultural identity, forbidding them to use the Arabic language and names, and preventing them from listening to their music, wear their traditional clothes, celebrate their festivals, or even posses books in Arabic. Finally, they were subject to expulsion by Felipe III between 1609 and 1614.

This expulsion marked the diaspora of 300,000 to 500,000 moriscos that had to leave and spread in every direction, from Italy to the Niger Basin, and from Morocco to Turkey. Wherever they went, they left a clear mark that can still be noticed in art and architecture, in music, in gastronomy, in traditions and in almost every other aspect of life.

We are still reminded by these forced migrations through family names like Torres, Salas, Blanco and Medina in Morocco, Lorca, Cordoba and Qastali in Tunisia, and Qutri, Shatibi and Mursi in Egypt.

Timbuktu, Fez, Tetouan, Rabat, Algiers, Oran, Tlemcen, Tunis, Kairauan, Tripoli, Alexandria, Cairo, Istanbul…these are some of the cities that offered refuge for the moriscos, whose fate varied according to the destination that they ended up heading to, suffering in Algeria, privileged in Tunisia, risking in Mali, etc.

This diapora is absolutely one of the greatest collective tragedies in human history, and it deserves further study and research. It comes as no surprise that there appeared a whole discipline titled Moriscology; considered with the study of this tragedy.

Course on Medieval History in Cairo: The History of al-Andalus

Today I start teaching a course about the History of al-Andalus, consisting of 4 sessions addressing the following topics:

1- History and Geography of al-Andalus
From the conquest to the fall, history over eight centuries
2- Art and Science in al-Andalus
The contributions of Ziryab, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Arabi, al-Majriti and others
3- The Fall and the Expulsion of the Moriscos
Reasons and consequences of the fall
4- The Legacy in Cordoba, Seville and Granada
Umayyad Cordoba, Seville of the Almohads and Nasrid Granada

Charla en la Universidad de Granada: El Cairo Fatimí y Granada Zirí (May 21)

Today I gave a lecture at the University of Granada (Faculty of Translation) on the historical and cultural relationships between Cairo and Granada, two cities that –at first glance- would seem like worlds apart. Historically however, they were founded only 44 years apart by the Fatimids (Cairo, 969 AD) and their agents in Ifriqiyya, the Zirids (Granada, 1031 AD).

An offshoot of the Zirid rulers in central Maghreb crossed to al-Andalus to take part in the Umayyad civil war that resulted in the disintegration of the Umayyad Caliphate around 1030 AD. During the civil war, several taifa kingdoms started to appear, including the Zirids (Banu Ziri) who founded Granada in 1013 on the ruins of an ancient Roman city.

Their rule (1013-1090) corresponds to part of the Fatimid rule in Egypt, and their art is influenced by the Fatimid style that they once marveled at in Mahdiya and other Fatimid cities in present-day Tunisia. Upon visiting the Archaeological Museum of Granada, the Museum of al-Monastir, the Bardo Musuem and the Raqqada Museum of Islamic Art, one can easily establish the cultural and artistic links.

Charla en Palacio de Abrantes, Granada: El Legado de El Cairo Islámico (Feb 5)

Today I gave the first of two lectures about Islamic Cairo at one of the halls of the Abrantes Palace of Granada, a beautiful 16th century palace restored and managed by Nueva Acropolis Cultural Association.
Islamic Cairo is like an open book, the pages of which are carved in the memory of stone in hundreds of monuments and in the features of one generation after another over more than ten centuries of evolution. The conference introduced several ‘chapters’ of this legacy.

Many thanks to Antonio and Rita from Nueva Acrópolis for their hospitality.

Lecture on al-Andalus in Cairo: Tales of the Kingdom of Granada (Jan 20th)

Today I gave a presentation about the last Islamic kingdom of al-Andalus: the splendid Granada.

Following the fall of the Almohad dynasty under the pressure of the Reconquista, Muhammad ibn Nasr managed to fill the power vacuum through a set of alliances, compromises and balances of power, yielding a new dynasty that bore his name: the Nasrids (better known as Banu al-Ahmar). From its foundation in the 1230s and until its fall in 1492, the kings of this dynasty adorned their tiny kingdom with many marvels, the most spectacular of which is the Alhambra and its gardens (the Generalife).

Granada, their capital, was home for a flourishing cultural life. The city’s Maristan, its Madrasa al-Yusufiyya and its al-Jadida Caravanserai bear witness to the ‘modernity’ of the city, while the verses of Ibn al-Khatib and Ibn al-Jayyab that adorn the walls of the Alhambra are testimonies of the luxury of the court life. The Vase of the Gazelles is probably the most iconic artwork of that period.

It all came to an end with the surrender of Boabdil (Abu Abdallah al-Saghir) and the fall of the city to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492.

My Lecture on Historic Cairo in Granada: The Legacy of Islamic Cairo (Dec 11th)

Today I gave my first lecture in Spain, taking place at the Centre of Modern Languages of the University of Granada.
Apart from being a student there, this university means a lot to me, because it was first founded by the Nasrid King Yusuf I of Granada in 1349 before being officially re-inaugurated by Carlos V of Spain in 1531.

The lecture focused on the historic centre of Cairo and the diversity of Islamic Art styles that could be admired in it, from Fatimid and Ayyubid to Mamluk and Ottoman.

I would like to thank all those who attended, and I was thrilled to see some of my professors among the audience.