Published: The Andalusi Legacy in Alexandria – I (Intro)

Few cities in the world can rival the glory of Alexandria’s radiant past. Throughout its history, Alexandria was always a cosmopolitan city (things changed in the 1950s). Much can be said about the city’s Ptolemaic rulers, its Hellenistic refinement, its Roman importance and its Coptic splendor. Nevertheless, one the most interesting chapters of the city’s history remains to be largely ignored: the Andalusi presence and culture in Alexandria, brought by medieval travelers, intellectuals, scholars and saints from al-Andalus (the name given to the territory governed by Muslims in present-day Spain and Portugal between 711 AD and 1492 AD).

My new series examines this ‘chapter’ as it tracks the footsteps of three of the most important and iconic Andalusi figures that left a lasting legacy in Alexandria and the Delta. Here is the link to the introductory article of the series, published 3 days ago:
http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/59252.aspx

Alexandria, the perfect destination for many Andalusi scholars and refugees

My 10th Article in El Legado Andalusí: al-Mahdiya, under the sign of the Lion

Another article of mine was published by El Legado Andalusí, this time about a marvelous little city in the Tunisian coast, called al-Mahdiya.
The city, once a Fatimid capital, is dotted with monuments and archaeological sites from the tenth century. Apart from being a picturesque Mediterranean port, it was once home for such figures as the poets Ibn Hani’ al-Andalusi and Ibn Rashiq al-Kairuani. Following a brief period under the rule of the Norman kings of Sicily, the city fell to the Almohads in the twelfth century, signed peace treaties with Sicily, and flourished economically and culturally. Ibn Khaldun would refer to it in the thirteenth century as the richest Berber city of the era.

You can read the original article in Spanish at:
http://revista.legadoandalusi.es/n45/ciudades/mahdiya_tunez.html

You can read the English translation for excerpts from the article below:

Mahdiya, the first Fatimid capital

Better said, the first capital founded by the Fatimids, who had lived in Raqqada (some 8 km from Qayrawan) before moving to Mahdiya.
The city bears the name of the caliph al-Mahdi who ordered its construction in 916. It’s a Mediterranean city that occupies a rocky peninsula whose isolation allowed for defending it by land, while the solidity of the Fatimid float guaranteed the security of the port against possible attacks form the sea. Moreover, Mahdiya was far enough from Qayrawan, whose religious scholars and people were known for their religious rigor and their rejection of the Shiite doctrine of the Fatimids.

The Fatimids, famous for their obsession with astrology and astronomy, waited till the lion (the Zodiac sign of Leo) dominated the constellations to start building the city, according to the astrologers’ instructions. Historians mention a very similar story that would take place later in Egypt with the founding of Cairo by the Fatimids in 969: only this time it was the sign of Aries that dominated, and the city was called ‘al-Qahira’ (the conqueror or invincible), the feminine form of ‘al-Qahir’, the ancient Arabic name of planet Mars which controls Aries.

Is this for real or is it just one more example of what we can call ‘the magical realism of the medieval chroniclers’? What we know for sure is that the lion (a symbol of power in Islamic iconography) became the city symbol, according to the travel accounts and the symbols seen in the walls.

With the exception of Cairo, one cannot compare Mahdiya to other Islamic capitals like Fez, Damascus or Baghdad. A typical medina of the Islamic World would have the great mosque more or less at its heart, surrounded by markets, caravanserais, hamams, etc. The Fatimid model is distinct because of the Shiite doctrine: In Mahdiya like in Cairo, the heart of the city is occupied by the palace of the Fatimid caliph, who represents the shadow of God on Earth.

My 8th Article in El Legado Andalusí: Tetuan, the Sister of Granada

Today, my eighth article for the El Legado Andalusí (the Andalusi Legacy) has been published in the Foundation’s magazine. It’s about Tetuan, a UNESCO World Heritage medina founded in Morocco by Andalusi immigrants from Granada and bearing the imprint of al-Andalus.

You can read the whole magazine (including my article) in Spanish at: http://www.legadoandalusi.es/revista/rev44/pd/rev44ela.pdf

You can read an Arabic translation for some parts of the article at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pen_Temple_Pilots/message/25356

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.