We Need to Nurture Hope

The Golden Age of Arab Spain:

I love reading the opinions of others. It is through this that I get motivated to think and write about ideas that are new to me.

I read a piece recently claiming that Spain’s Catholics somehow lied about, or wildly exaggerated, the “Moslem Invasion” of 711. The author called it a “myth.” The purpose of the myth, according to the writer, was for the Church to blame an embarrassingly dark period in its history on something foreign that “She” could not have stopped. An interesting point of view that I cannot, at this point, share.

In my opinion there is overwhelming evidence (linguistic, artistic and architectural) that much of Spain south of Toledo and possibly north as far as Zaragoza was occupied by a liberal Arabic dynasty centred in Cordoba for close to three centuries.

Yes, Liberal Arabs:

I used the adjective, liberal, because openness to new ideas and tolerance of Christians and Jews was emblematic of the threatened  Umayyad dynasty that entered Spain in 711 after fleeing Damascus, the Umayyad capital based in Syria. Umayyads had put together the fifth largest empire in history. Continue reading “We Need to Nurture Hope”

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Istanbul – Day One

Entrance to the Sacred Trusts - Topkapı Palace
Entrance to the Sacred Trusts in the Topkapı Palace showing the tughra of Sultan Mehmet II, Conqueror of Constantinople
 Hippodrome and Blue Mosque:
We began our tour of Istanbul on October 14th, 2011. Collected from the Elite World Hotel by our guide, Omür, our tour bus first took us to Istanbul’s ancient Hippodrome, once the site of chariot races and games. Several landmarks, such as the Blue Mosque, are nearby. A major feature of the Hippodrome is the obelisk of Thutmose III of 15th Century BC Egypt, taken by the Romans from Karnak in 357 AD to Alexandria, then moved in 390 to Istanbul and tragically modified by Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I. Reduced, that is, to an inglorious one third its original height and plonked onto a base glorifying Theodosius:
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 Hagia Sofia:
Our next stop was the Hagia Sophia, once the largest cathedral in the Byzantine Empire, then converted to a mosque after Constaninople was captured by the Ottomans and later made into a museum by Mustafa Kamel Atatürk, who changed Turkey into a modern republic in 1923.
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Then we visited the Istanbul Handicrafts Centre where the special types of Turkish carpet were explained and demonstrated. Anita and I bought a small, 3′ by 5′ wool carpet. Walking over it in (clean) bare feet feels like gentle, foot-massage heaven. We found a bite to eat and then took a quick tour of the Grand bazaar before busing to the Topkapı Palace.
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Topkapı Palace:
This palace was used by the sultans before they decided it was nicer to live on the water by the Bosphorus. It has many buildings and hugely valuable items that a powerful empire captures or is given in tribute by solicitous allies. The size of the emeralds and rubies blew my mind. Many were uncut. In the building that held the treasures was the famous Topkapı Dagger. Photos were not allowed here but I took one with my camcorder casually held closed in my hand. Not worth it, as you can see below, but OK as a memento. Photos were forbidden in the sacred trusts (relics) building and I respected those rules. The sacred trusts include hair from the beard of Muhammad (peace be upon him), his mantle and, rather less credibly, relics from major biblical patriarchs like Abraham’s pot, Joseph’s turban, and even the staff of Moses. Pretty classy, civilized and modern items as relics go, however.  Not the lurid sort to which I was exposed during my Catholic upbringing. Please also examine the photo of the Sacred Trust doorway. The blue Iznik tiles on this exquisite facade are especially beautiful, as is the tughra, or imperial signature of Sultan Mehmet II, revered as the conqueror of Constantinople in the spring of 1453. Impressive stuff.
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The last thing we did was to go to an included dinner as a group. It was good to get to know some of the great people with whom we were touring a little. We would be with them here and on a ship in the Aegean for another eight days.
That’s days three and one of our trip finally done. Day two – the archaeological museum and our Bosphorus cruise – is next.  Thanks for checking in.