Sahel: a reading list

A reading list of books on Islam in Africa and in particular in the Sahel. From history, to literature, to art and architecture developed in Africa and inspired by Islam.

Changing the scripts: from Kufic to round scripts in Qur’anic manuscripts

Around the 10th century, Qur’anic manuscripts went through a radical transformation: while for centuries copies of the Qur’an had quite consistently displayed angular scripts, commonly referred to as Kufic, starting from the 10th century, manuscripts of the Qur’an began to be written in round scripts. Of course, this shift did not go unnoticed and scholars have tried to determine the reason for the change.

Gertrude Bell: a reflection on her legacy as a Person

The remarkable life of Gertrude Bell and her successes have been largely written out of history. A reflection on her role in the Middle Eastern history as an archaeologist, a nation builder, an explorer, and what her legacy can tell us about how women are perceived.

The biography of a city: Jerusalem

S. Sebag Monefiore, Jerusalem: the biography, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 2011. Jerusalem: The biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore was one of those books that had been in my reading list for months, literally months, before I decided to read it. This has much to do with the material size of the book: 406 pages with…

Byron’s taste in The Road to Oxiana

Byron is known for writing everything he wanted: he had strong opinions and was not afraid to say anything. He was “opposed”, his friends will remember: opposed to authority, against norms, provocative in his style and manners. In The Road to Oxiana, his political incorrectness emerges in many ways: Byron, for instance, makes fun of…

“One thinks of…” Robert Byron describing monuments

As I have already written, the Road to Oxiana can be seen as an artistic  Bildungsroman, where the author, while traveling, becomes more and more aware of Islamic art. This awareness changes Byron’s perspectives and point of view: the more Byron travels, the more knowledge of Islamic art and architecture he builds. This background change…

Forgotten monuments Byron revives

Do people travel blind? ‘Do people travel blind?’ asks Byron on the 20th of March 1934, in front of the portal of the Friday Mosque of Yazd. Byron, on this occasion, is upset that no other traveler has described the mosque, that he considers magnificent. From the travelogue, it is clear that Byron relies on…

A description of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by Robert Byron

In early June 1934, on the 8th and the 9th of June to be precise, Robert Byron visited the Bamiyan valley and the two Buddhas. This post will be kind off-topic for my blog since it will not deal with Islamic art. Nonetheless, I have decided to include the Bamiyan Buddhas in the Road to…

Epilogue: the end of a long journey

I began to feel dazed, dazed at the prospect of coming to a stop The last entry of Robert Byron’s travelogue is dated to the 8th of July 1934. His journey started on the 20th of August the previous years. Considering he spent 11 months traveling (but probably more, since in the first entry he…