Culture

Milestones to Makkah and Madinah

Milestones to Makkah and Madinah

In 622 CE the Prophet Muhammad and his first followers rode some 450 kilometers from Makkah to Madinah along a segment of the caravan route that had long linked the Arabian Peninsula to North Africa and the Levant. In 2005 the discovery of an isolated monolith led to a 15-year archeological quest that has identified 55 similar and regularly spaced stones that appear to predate the ninth century CE. The discoveries are now helping locate with precision historic sites, thanks to the measure of distance between the milestones: 1,609 meters, give or take a few. Whether intact or broken; standing, fallen or partially buried, each stone is now being studied, and together they tell stories of history, faith and science.
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Pakistani Art Trucks on a Bridge of Culture

Pakistani Art Trucks on a Bridge of Culture

Colorfully painted trucks are everywhere in Pakistan, but in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a single truck by a renowned artist is helping an arts nonprofit jump-start international cultural appreciation in schools.
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2022 Calendar: Muqarnas

2022 Calendar: Muqarnas

Dazzling, prismatic and intricately symmetrical, muqarnas is a stunning three-dimensional decoration unique to Islamic architecture.

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Streaming Ramadan TV to the World

Streaming Ramadan TV to the World

New platforms, new stories and more subtitles are making the comedies, thrillers, biopics and dramas of what has long been TV’s peak season in Muslim majority countries into a year-round, binge-ready global window on popular cultures.
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Spice Migrations: Cloves

Spice Migrations: Cloves

Stems like tacks, buds like gems and scented so richly that their sweet redolence wafted far out to sea, cloves have come to the kitchen from the island of Ambon, the archipelago of Zanzibar, and many places between and beyond.
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Mesopotamia’s Art of the Seal

Mesopotamia’s Art of the Seal

Compact in size yet complex in the scenes they depict, stone cylinders—many no larger than your thumb—were a popular medium for Mesopotamian artisans talented enough to reverse-carve semiprecious stones and produce unique, often mythological tableaux in astonishingly sensitive, naturalistic detail. Their craft gave each seal’s owner a personalized graphic signature for use with the most popular media channel of the third millennium BCE: damp clay. Seal impressions certified ownership, validated origins, attested to debts, secured against theft and more. Many seal cylinders were drilled so they could be strung and carried as amulets and status symbols—uses that may find echoes among today’s compact, personalized communication devices.
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Could Phoenicians Have Crossed the Atlantic?

Could Phoenicians Have Crossed the Atlantic?

Two thousand years before Columbus and 1,500 before Erikson, the Phoenician maritime empire covered the Mediterranean and west to the Canary Islands. In 2019 a replica Phoenician ship set its sail to find out if they could have gone farther.

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Preserving Arabia’s Bedouin Poetry

Preserving Arabia’s Bedouin Poetry

Throughout central Saudi Arabia, Bedouin tribal histories and folklore lie largely in oral poetry known as Nabati. In 1989, diplomat and linguist Marcel Kurpershoek set out to meet poets and record their verses. It became a lifetime project that continues to illuminate roots of the Arabic language and Arabian Peninsula cultures.

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Pinisi Boats Sail into the Future

Pinisi Boats Sail into the Future

Masterpieces of a wooden-boat tradition from the center of the 5,200-kilometer-wide Indonesian archipelago, pinisi schooners are both unique and related to the Arab dhows and European sailing ships that preceded them on the waters that link the region’s thousands of islands. Using memory, 
not blueprints, pinisi shipwrights build each boat by hand.
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