the arabian peninsula


Stone steps winding down a narrow lane lead to Misfah Old House, a small inn located in the mountainous village of Misfat Al Abryeen, Oman. To welcome his guests, Haitham Al-Abri offers sweet, sticky dates and a tiny cup of cardamom-scented coffee.

At Misfah, as in all Omani homes, dates are intrinsic to the culture of this Arabian Peninsula country. They are a sign of hospitality, served both in greeting and after every meal.

“Dates and coffee are served at all events — whether that be a funeral or a wedding or just a family meeting,” Al-Abri says. “They are something essential.”

Dates are a popular food across the Middle East, but in Oman they hold a place of honor in the national culture and cuisine. Palm orchards form lush oases in an otherwise harshly dry environment; their fruit provides daily sustenance. Both the National Museum in the capital city of Muscat and the museum at the Nizwa Fort, a 17th-century citadel and popular tourist attraction, have exhibits dedicated to the majestic date palm.

A Love Affair With Dates, The Fruit At The Cultural Heart Of Oman

Photos: Amy E. Robertson for NPR


Portrait Of A Woman With Painted Eyebrows And Wearing A Straw Hat, Jebel Saber, Taiz, Yemen by Eric Lafforgue Photography
Via Flickr:
Around Sanaa; Yemen;

anonymous asked:

hi! i was wondering, does the islamic religion really teach that you should hurt or kill people that arent muslims in order to glorify Allah? im interested in the religion but everyone keeps telling me that and it worries me a bit. thank u! sorry if this is a repetitive question!

To sum it up.

Western nations keep funding states that promote the oppression of minorities. These minorities include Shias, Christians and etc. These states are controlled by a government that seeks to establish a puritan version of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism established by Muhammed ibn Abd-l Wahab (la) whose teachings are based on the classical scholar Ibn Taymiyyah who established an aggressive fatwa/policy against Non-Sunni minorities, this doctrine was particularly popular in the Arabian Peninsula, which led to the House of Saud getting power with the help of the Brits. The Brits took this as an opportunity because both the Brits and Wahabis saw the Othman empire as their enemy. When the western nations keep funding these states (consequently contributing to the oppression of minorities), the latter later funds them to militant/terrorist/activist groups who hold the same beliefs as them, which helps them gain a foothold in the MENA region and an influence among many Islamic communities around the world. Now, these terrorist groups hold the same fundamental view as these Gulf States; they’re both influenced by Wahabi doctrines. So why are these terrorists everywhere, well, that is because of western influence in the MENA region since the beginning of the 18th century, as a result of anger and corruption in that region due to western colonial and interventionist policies, so a lot of groups have been formed to combat these “crusaders” as they purport them to be. But that’s not all, there is a nation with a predominate group of people who adhere to a different type of Islam, Shia Islam. Because this group of Muslims are considered heretics by the Wahabis and have been considered as such for 1400 years by their ancestors, the gulf states, especially, do not like them and have a history of persecuting Shias in the Gulf states. This also goes hand in hand with the interest of the western states, because the aforementioned nation, that is predominately Shia, doesn’t really like the State of Israel, so because of that, the western nations, especially the U.S see it as a threat, it is for reason they keep throwing money at the Gulf states, for they all share a common enemy – Iran. Ultimately, we’ve seen the rise of groups such as Daesh, Al-Qaeda, Fatah al-Sham, Jayish-al Islam, Tahrir al-Sham, Al-jabaat al-Islamiyyah and etc who wants to wipe the “Crusaders” or “Rawafidhs” (a slur commonly used by some Sunnis to describe Shia Muslims as apostates/rejector/s.) off of the face of the Earth.

This is why you see the Battle against DAESH in Iraq being mainly fought against by predominately Shia militias, why? because they had enough of being continuously and systematically oppressed and seeing other minorities dying by their hands, and after 1700 Shias were murdered by DAESH militants at Camp Spechier and who later threw their bodies into the Tigris river, you can see that there is a political root to this problem, not theological roots, theology is just used as a tool to boost the moral of these terrorist groups. 


As a scientist who studies blacktip sharks, I feel like it is my duty to inform others about this common case of misidentification.

The first picture is of one of my sharks, and the second picture is another species within its genus for which my shark is mistaken. Many people do not know that the blacktip (Carcharhinus limbatus) and blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) are two completely different species. First, the blacktip reef is found in the Indian and Pacific oceans, and they have limited ranges as they stay extremely close to their sites for many years. Conversely, the blacktip is worldwide along coastlines and migrates seasonally. As for visual differences, the black fin markings on the blacktip reef are much more prominant. The blacktips nearly always lack black tips on their anal fins, and their black markings fade significantly with age. Another notable distinction is coloring, as blacktips tend to have a gray/bronze coloring while blacktips are a paler, cream based color. A behavioral difference is that blacktips have been known to jump out of the water like a spinner shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna) in the presence of prey or when caught on a line (I have witnessed this first-hand when I caught my first juvenile). Genetically, the blacktip is actually thought to be most closely related to the blacknose (Carcharhinus acronotus) based on DNA studies. However, resolution of phylogenies for both species is far from happening.

There are two lesser known species (Australian blacktip and smoothtooth blacktip) that are not as easily distinguished. The Australian blacktip (Carcharhinus tilstoni) looks exactly like the blacktip and was only found to be a separate species due to genetic analysis and vertebral differences; it is found along the northern half of Australia’s coastline. The smoothtooth blacktip (Carcharhinus leiodon) looks like the blacktip reef shark and is exclusively found along the Arabian Peninsula coastline.

Rashaida woman dances during a wedding ceremony in Sudan

The Rashaida are closely related to the Saudi Arabia Bedouin, who migrated to Sudan from the Arabian Peninsula about 150 years ago. Many Rashaida also live in the neighboring country of Eritrea; in fact, they make up five percent of the population of Eritrea (3.75 million people). In Sudan, they number around 68,000, and live mostly in the northeast part of the country on the outskirts of the city of Kassala, one of the most frequently visited spots in Sudan.  

The Rashaida are a nomadic people who live in tents made of goatskins. They are herdsmen, breeding primarily goats and sheep. Since they are largely illiterate, they memorize in great detail the pedigree of their animals, keeping mental records of their herds over seven or eight preceding generations of the flock, although they usually only emphasize the female lines.

anonymous asked:

Do you have any images of the henna designs used and how they vary across different ethnic groups? I'm familiar with henna and my Indian neighbour taught me her traditions around it and applied some designs to me when I was a curious child and she was getting ready for a wedding, but I would assume designs very considerably between cultures as well as the context in which they are used. Would you be able to direct me to info on this? Thanks :)

You’re absolutely right — henna designs vary considerably from region to region… I often post pictures about it if you look through my henna tag. Here are some examples of different styles:

This is the style traditionally done in much of Morocco, known today simply as “bildi” (’rustic’ or ‘old-fashioned’)… Commonly associated with the “Imperial Cities” of Fes, Meknes, and Marrakech, it shares many similarities with the traditional embroidery (terz) of that region — note the division of space into diamonds and triangles, the use of parallel lines, and the toothed edging. Photo taken by me in Fes, 2014:

This is another style seen in Morocco, in the southern regions and Sahara. This “Sahrawi” style shares some elements with the henna of central and northern Morocco, but is similar in layout to the henna done in Mauritania. Photo from Flickr:

The henna of Mauritania is breathtakingly unique and immediately recognizable. In my opinion the henna artists of Mauritania are among the most talented and technically accomplished in the world; designs were traditionally done in reverse with a tape resist, and today they are also drawn (there’s actually a whole book about it!). Photo from Flickr:

And West Africa has its own style as well, commonly seen in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and other places in the region — done in reverse with tape, like in Mauritania, but with longer lines and different layouts. Photo by Casey McMenemy, from my article on henna in West Africa:

There is also a unique and recognizable style in East Africa, on the Swahili Coast (Kenya, Tanzania, etc.). Unfortunately today they often use the dangerous “black henna” chemical dye, but as you can see it can be easily replicated with natural henna (from this article on henna on the Swahili Coast):

The countries of the Arabian Peninsula have their own set of styles too, known as khaleeji (“Gulf”), which are today immensely popular around the world (even in places like Morocco and India which have their own longstanding traditions of henna design). In the Khaleej itself there are many henna salons with local and international artists, and so the designs are constantly evolving; the constant, for me, is the open layout and the contrast between thick and thin. Here’s an example of some contemporary khaleeji-style work (from Instagram):

Of course, Persia was once the heartland of henna, and in the Safavid period we have many depictions of beautiful, elaborate henna patterns in illustrated manuscripts. While the tradition died out during the Qajar period under the influence of Western fashion, it is clear that there was once a “Persian style” of henna, which some artists have attempted to continue or revive. This is a (very zoomed-in) detail from Mir Sayyid Ali’s 1540 masterpiece “A Nomadic Encampment” (and for more on Persian henna, see this article):

And while India came rather late to the henna-pattern game, developing traditions of henna art only in the 18th-19th century, by the 20th century South Asia had become one of the centres of henna art worldwide, and the henna styles from the region are probably the most common and recognizable today. That’s not to say that they were always what we think of today as “Indian-style” henna — here’s an example of Rajasthani designs from the 1950s recorded by Jogendra Saksena, which are quite different than the style of henna common in India today:

Not to mention the fact that within the Indian subcontinent, there are (or have been, historically) distinct regional styles: Pakistani, Marwari, Rajasthani, and more… And of course, henna designs are constantly changing! What was popular and stylish twenty years ago is not the same as what was popular ten years ago, or what is popular now. Especially with the interconnectedness of the internet, artists around the world are able to learn from each other, spread innovations, and merge styles in new and exciting ways.

Compare this old-fashioned, recognizably Pakistani-style design (from Flickr):

To the contemporary work of Pakistani-American artist (and dear friend of mine) Sabreena Haque, who combines motifs and layouts from Indian, Pakistani, Gulf, and Moroccan patterns, along with inspiration from many other areas of art and nature (from her Instagram):

And there’s so much more to explore! There seems to be a unique style of henna patterns in the Balkans, similar to their tattooing and embroidery. What were henna designs like in medieval Spain? Yemenite Jews had their own unique patterns and techniques as well, which still need more research. And there’s more to say about the evolution of henna designs in Morocco too!

I could go on and on, but perhaps that’s enough for now. Let me know if I can answer any other questions!


Teenage Girl Standing On The Mountain, Hababa, Yemen by Eric Lafforgue Photography
Via Flickr:
Yemenis are mainly of Arab origin; Arabic is the official language, although English is increasingly understood by citizens in major cities; In the Mahra area (the extreme east) and the island Soqotra, several ancient south-Arabic Semitic languages are spoken; When the former states of north and south Yemen were established, most resident minority groups departed; Yemen is still a largely tribal society; Hababa is a fortified villages built around a water cistern ; Yemen;

Old arabian architecture is so amazing the houses are basically huge sandcastles! 

architects back then were nothing but professional sandcastle builders!

i mean look at this prototype of al Masmak!

and then the real thing


and don’t even get me started on the inside!

 i’m so emotional right now!

And the best part is the roof! if it gets super hot and they can’t handle sleeping inside they would sleep on the roofs !!!!

can you imagine all the star gazing!!


Two Amran Girls Smiling, Yemen by Eric Lafforgue Photography
Via Flickr:
Amran is a very old city and it was originally encircled by a clay wall, most of which still exist today together with the old eastern gates ; The features of the old market are still apparent ; The stone inscriptions at the entrance of the city and on the facades of houses suggest that Amran was one of the important sites in Yemen’s ancient history ; Amran is not only known for its distinctive architectural style, which heavily uses adobe blocks, but also for the variety of crops, that are grown there ; Many archaeological sites are located in the surroundings ; The city is considered to be one of the main centers of traditional crafts, particularly leather works, and a market day where theses crafts can be viewed takes place every Friday ;