400

The White Olives of Malta

In the Middle Ages, bajda olives—from the Arabic for “white”—were prized on this Mediterranean archipelago, but by the late 20th century they were nearly gone. It took a retired expert in gems and jewels to revive the olives knights once called “Maltese pearls.”
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400

FirstLook: Cairo Cat

In any town or city, there are always plenty of reminders that we humans are not the only inhabitants. This is particularly true in Cairo, thanks in great part to cats, who seem to pad and paw their way everywhere. And they have been doing this in Egypt since Pharaonic times, when they were mummified and solemnly interred by the thousands, and the goddess Bastet was depicted first as a lioness and, later, as a domestic cat. Cats have appeared in Egyptian iconography, poetry and literature for millennia, up to modern times.
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400

Ambassadors of Art

When the Museum of Art at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, hosted “Phantom Punch,” it marked the fourth show in a multi-year, multi-city exhibition tour of the United States by an eclectic group of some two dozen artists from Saudi Arabia, where over the past decade, a once-marginal contemporary art scene has become one of the world’s fastest-growing creative movements. Thought-provoking, socially engaged and at times whimsical and even satirical, the works vary from painting and rubber stamps to sculpture, assemblage, photography, video, calligraphy, performance and installation pieces. All share what one curator calls as “an honest need for explanation, an exploration of the world we live in and a desire to understand.”
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400

The Silent Silk Road Rendezvous of Konye Urgench

Abandoned for more than 300 years following its eclipse by competing cities, the remnants of a once-flourishing capital of a once-powerful Silk Roads realm remind us of centuries of craftsmanship and scholarship in one of Central Asia’s most intact historical sites.
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400

Iftar Potluck Baltimore

In a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, 15 families with origins across the world gather in the author’s backyard for iftar, the evening meal breaking the day-long fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It’s an American-style potluck, and each family brings not only food from homelands and traditions, but also stories and recipes. “Iftars are to me very much a party,” says Francesca Pagan, who has prepared an Italian stew of escarole and beans. “Food is one of those things that you do without during the day so you can get spiritually closer to God, but the reward of enjoying it after the sunset takes it to a whole new level.”
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400

FirstLook: Galata Bridge, circa 1890

“Constantinople: Kara-Keui et vue de Péra” reads the caption for this skillfully colorized view of late-Ottoman Istanbul, a city connecting East and West and driven by global commerce and trade, at a time when the advances of the Industrial Revolution in fields including photographic processes were connecting people as never before.
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