Monkey Stories

‘Those natives are monkeys!’ – this equation was often heard in the European colonies. In their hearts the speakers knew better than that; they just felt like saying something unfriendly. But the idea that the ‘natives’ were nearly animals, a lesser species, was generally accepted.1 Often enough, they were said to have no soul— which for … Continue reading Monkey Stories

The Pubic Hairdresser

The Syrian knight Usāma ibn Munqidh (1095-1188) experienced the Crusader states in Palestine and parts of Syria and was personally in contact with a number of Christian knights. He had no high opinion of Europeans: although their courage was admirable, he found their culture and civilisation primitive. No wonder, for in his days Arab-Islamic civilisation … Continue reading The Pubic Hairdresser

The Arabisation of the Christian Bible

In paintings, children's Bibles and Hollywood films, the Palestinians of biblical times often walk around in Arabian-style clothing. The Arabisation of the Bible was a process that took centuries. In older paintings the biblical figures still wear European or fantasy clothes. Rembrandt already had a chest with Turkish clothes at hand to dress his Abraham, … Continue reading The Arabisation of the Christian Bible

Orientalist Painting

Before I continue to discuss orientalism, I will quickly show you some pictures by orientalist painters, so that you get an impression. In the period from roughly 1820–1914, the East was supposed to be picturesque, colourful, exotic, beautiful, rich, and above all sensual. The fabrics were expensive, the architecture was impressive. The supposed arbitrariness and … Continue reading Orientalist Painting

The Orientalist Mosque of Abu Dhabi

The photograph in the header of this blog shows the courtyard of the Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi. That is a huge structure, with a 75-meter dome, 107-meter minarets, room for 40,000 believers and far too much of everything. On the one hand, the building has the dullness of computer-generated and repetitive mass ware, … Continue reading The Orientalist Mosque of Abu Dhabi

Sindbad the Seaman

Seven times Sindbad (Sindibād) embarks in Iraq to the east. Seven times he suffers shipwrecks, unknown seas, dangerous animals and monsters, and the bizarre or cruel habits of indigenous populations. And all seven times he is more courageous than his companions and he knows how to survive — albeit of course with the help of … Continue reading Sindbad the Seaman