Tales of al-Andalus: Lecture Review

Last Thursday, I gave a lecture at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Library of Alexandria) for the second year in row. Coinciding with the anniversary of the surrender of Granada (the last Islamic Kingdom in al-Andalus) in 1492, this year’s lecture, titled ‘Tales of al-Andalus‘, offered a different perspective and some fascinating details:

A saint from the Orient is re-invented as the ‘Arab-Slayer’ (Santiago Matamoros)…
A man flees persecution in Baghdad only to revolutionize the cultural scene in Cordova (Ziryab)…
An Andalusi envoy to the Vikings enchants their queen (Yahia al-Ghazal)…
A group of 3,000 moriscos give up on farming and turn into pirates in Morocco (in Salé)…
Rebels exiled from Cordova found an Andalusi republic in Alexandria then another in Cyprus (9th century)…
A man from Toledo lays the foundations for the glory of Timbuktu (Ali ibn Ziyad)…
Ibn Khaldun sees the orange trees at the Alhambra and forsees the fall of al-Andalus (14th centrury)…
The stories told presented a potpourri of moments, events and encounters that define the ‘human condition’ in al-Andalus, a ‘paradise lost’ for some, a ‘poisoned paradise’ for others.

Among the questions asked following the lecture were the following two questions:

Why is it that the Arab World never witnessed anything similar to the Andalusi refinement again in history?
Why weren’t the Arabs of Andalusi origin granted the ‘right of return’ to Spain?

Questions and answers apart, lecturing at the Library is always a rewarding experience. Even more rewarding was the visit to some extraordinary places in Alexandria, but that’s another story. Many thanks to the BA team for the kind invitation and for making this event possible.