“This is the story of a calligraphic script which is almost extinct, yet which was once a crucial part of the most extraordinary cultural flourishing of the Middle Ages. We trace its journey from its origins in Madinah to its pinnacle in Al-Andalus, where we look at the rich context it evolved in. How did this once ubiquitous style fall into disuse, and what remains of it today?”
A fundraiser for what promises to be a fascinating and beautiful documentary! The Maghrebi-Andalusi style of Arabic is my favourite style of calligraphy and I’m glad to see it getting some airtime.
I was tagged by whosjuliet to post my six favorite albums which is probably the hardest decision I had to make this year but this is kind of like the Arab version.
1-Andaloussiyat by Fairuz.
2-Concerto Al Andalus by Marcel Khalife.
3-Shamat by Lena Chamamyan.
4-La B'ahlamak by Julia Boutros.
5-The best of Zaki Nassif by Zaki Nassif.
6-A Recorded live concert by jiddo Sabah Fakhri.
Granada Pomegranate in the hand of God by Steven Nightingale
A wonderful, poetic book by an American who lived to Granada (Spain) in 2002 and fell in love with the ancient neighborhood called the Albayzin. Starting with the story of his family’s arrival there, and their trials and tribulations in getting their traditional house fitted for occupancy by a 21st century family, the book then takes off in a sweeping overview of the story of Spain, Andalucia, and more specifically, El-Andalus, a period lasting several hundred years during which Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in a rare form of harmony. This convivencia was characterized by an explosion of culture in all its form, whether agricultural (irrigation, varied plantations), theological (attempts to reconcile the three faiths), literary, or, of course, architectural. The author takes us on a tour that introduces us not only to the Albayzin and the Alhambra, but also to various philosophers, writers and mystics who flourished during El-Andalus. His indictment of Los Reyes Catholicos, Ferdinand and Isabella, is brief but pointed, and his argument that the Reconquista and the influx of gold from the American colonies spelled the beginning of a long social and economic decline, was interesting to me - it sounded paradoxical, but I was intrigued by it, nevertheless. The author dedicates a chapter to the connections between the Pythagorean belief in the spiritual values of numbers and the tile patterns in the Alhambra, and finishes up with a chapter about flamenco, cante jondo and Federico Garcia Lorca.
The book is a fantastic example of “destination literature” for travelers. Its first strength is the wide-ranging coverage of topics. The second strength is the beautiful writing. I read on the back cover that Steven Nightingale is also a novelist, and it shows in his polished language, which can veer from purely descriptive to deeply poetic, with often some dry humor thrown in. I often found myself chuckling.
I have to say that I found the book a little slow in taking off. I was only moderately interested in the author’s experiences when first arriving in Granada, or the cute doings of his daughter, or even his expansion on the metaphor of the walled garden. But once I got into the meat of the book, I was hooked and I finished it in a few days.
Final note : the name of Spain’s most famous composer appears in 3 different ways in the book : Manual Falla, Manuel Falla and Manuel de Falla.