The Odyssey of Ibn Battuta: Uncommon Tales of a Medieval Adventurer
Professor David Waines
IB Tauris (2012)
Ibn Battuta was, without doubt, one of the world’s truly great travellers. Born in 14th century Morocco, and a contemporary of Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta has left us an account in his own words of his remarkable journeys throughout the Islamic world and beyond: journeys punctuated by adventure and peril, and stretching from his home in Tangiers to Zaytun in faraway China. Whether sojourning in Delhi and the Maldives, wandering through the mazy streets of Cairo and Damascus, or contesting with pirates and shipwreck, the indefatigable Ibn Battuta brings to vivid life a medieval world brimming with marvel and mystery. Carefully observing the great diversity of civilizations which he encountered, Ibn Battuta exhibits an omnivorous interest in such matters as food and drink, religious differences (between Christians, Hindus and Shi’a Muslims), ideas about purity and impurity, disease, women and sex. Recounting the many miracles which its author claims to have experienced personally, his al-rihla or ‘Travelogue’ is a fascinating mosaic of mysticism and reportage offering a prototype magic realism.
Waines discusses the subtleties of the al-rihla, revealing all the wonders of Ibn Battuta’s world to the modern reader. This is a gripping treatment of the life and times of one of history’s most daring, and at the same time most human, discoverers.
David Waines is a Senior Lecturer in Isl?mic Studies, University of Lancaster, England and the author of ‘An Introduction to Islam’.
The Ottomans in Syria: A History of Justice and Oppression
IB Tauris (2000)
This work examines the Syrian interior under Ottoman rule during the period from 1785 to 1841 and shows how the empire established independent local power bases and how their rule over the peasantry was based on oppression. It covers subjects such as local administration and fiscal policies.
Though the Ottoman state administered vast and complex territories, its capabilities were limited and resources and manpower scarce. The resort of coercion became a vital policy. Dick Douwes examines the Syrian interior during the period from 1785 to 1841 and shows how the empire established independent local power bases and how their rule over the peasantry was based on oppression and extortion. This reached its apogee under the reformist governor of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha, who rebelled against the Sultan and occupied all Syria.
Dick Douwes teaches at the University of Leiden and at the International Institute for the Study of Islam.
Home Fire: A Novel
Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker prize.
The suspenseful and heartbreaking story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences. Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.
Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to—or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined, in this searing novel that asks: What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?
Kamila Shamsie was born in 1973 in Karachi, where she grew up. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
The Red-Haired Woman
From the Nobel Prize winner and best-selling author of ‘Snow’ and ‘My Name Is Red’, a fable of fathers and sons and the desires that come between them.
On the outskirts of a town thirty miles from Istanbul, a master well digger and his young apprentice are hired to find water on a barren plain. As they struggle in the summer heat, excavating without luck meter by meter, the two will develop a filial bond neither has known before–not the poor middle-aged bachelor nor the middle-class boy whose father disappeared after being arrested for politically subversive activities. The pair will come to depend on each other and exchange stories reflecting disparate views of the world. But in the nearby town, where they buy provisions and take their evening break, the boy will find an irresistible diversion. The Red-Haired Woman, an alluring member of a travelling theatre company, catches his eye and seems as fascinated by him as he is by her. The young man’s wildest dream will be realized, but, when in his distraction a horrible accident befalls the well digger, the boy will flee, returning to Istanbul. Only years later will he discover whether he was in fact responsible for his master’s death and who the redheaded enchantress was.
A beguiling mystery tale of family and romance, of east and west, tradition and modernity, by one of the great storytellers of our time.
Translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap.
Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. His novel My Name Is Red won the 2003 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His work has been translated into more than sixty languages. He lives in Istanbul.
Year of the Sword: The Assyrian Christian Genocide, A History
Hurst (2014), Rs4,004.50
The Armenian genocide of 1915 has been well documented. Much less known is the Turkish genocide of the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac peoples, which occurred simultaneously in their ancient homelands in and around ancient Mesopotamia — now Turkey, Iran and Iraq. The advent of the First World War gave the Young Turks and the Ottoman government the opportunity to exterminate the Assyrians in a series of massacres and atrocities inflicted on a people whose culture dates back millennia and whose language, Aramaic, was spoken by Jesus. Systematic killings, looting, rape, kidnapping and deportations destroyed countless communities and created a vast refugee diaspora. As many as 300,000 Assyro-Chaldean- Syriac people were murdered and a larger number forced into exile.
The ‘Year of the Sword’ (Seyfo) in 1915 was preceded over millennia by other attacks on the Assyrians and has been mirrored by recent events, not least the abuses committed by Islamic State.
Joseph Yacoub, whose family was murdered and dispersed, has gathered together a compelling range of eye-witness accounts and reports which cast light on this ‘hidden genocide.’ Passionate and yet authoritative in its research, his book reveals a little-known human and cultural tragedy. A century after the Assyrian genocide, the fate of this Christian minority hangs in the balance.
Reviews: “This important and revelatory book tells of the biblical race which has suffered genocide twice within a century: over half were destroyed by the Ottoman atrocities of 1915, and now their descendants in Mosul and elsewhere are being put to the sword by ISIS. The Assyrians today deserve more than our pity – they need our protection,” writes Geoffrey Robertson QC, human rights barrister, and author of ‘An Inconvenient Genocide’.
Christian Sahner, Research Fellow in History, St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, and author of ‘Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present’, says: “Meticulous and moving, Year of the Sword documents the forgotten horrors that befell the Syriac-speaking Christians of the Ottoman Empire. This is a book for all times, but especially our own, when the Middle East’s distinctive ethno-religious diversity is again under threat from violence and forced migration. Readers will be sobered and better informed thanks to Yacoub’s efforts.”
“Yacoub’s work is essential reading and sheds light on a dark chapter of twentieth century Middle Eastern history that has been deliberately silenced,” says Vicken Cheterian, author of ‘Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks and a Century of Genocide.’
Joseph Yacoub is Emeritus Professor at the Catholic University of Lyon and the author of several books on minorities and Christians in the Middle East.