Culture

Meet Me at the Mudhif

Meet Me at the Mudhif

Dozens of volunteers joined together in Houston, Texas, to construct a mudhif, a reed structure dating back 5,000 years to the Mesopotamian marshes of southern Iraq. To this day the hut serves as a town hall for Marsh Arabs to meet with their sheikh. In Houston, it also served as a meeting place—for some of the city’s 4,000 Iraqis and their fellow Houstonians to share insights into an ancient society and gain a sense of community.
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A Vocal Appeal To Safeguard Albania’s Iso-Polyphony

A Vocal Appeal To Safeguard Albania’s Iso-Polyphony

For centuries iso-polyphony, a style of folk singing, has chronicled Albanian life. The songs are part of a rich tradition, vital to weddings, funerals, harvests, festivals and other social events. Indeed, a Ministry of Culture official dubs it “the autobiography of a nation,” a means for the preservation and transmission of different stories.  Recently, crowds gathered for the National Folklore Festival in the  “stone city” of Gjirokastër, demonstrating that interest in iso-polyphony remains high. The challenge is getting younger generations to engage. But some are taking up the call.
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Creating Harmony Through Tradition in Japan

Creating Harmony Through Tradition in Japan

In the Yoyogi district of Tokyo, Japan, stands the ornate Camii Mosque, in a location where there is a blend of cultures—educating locals and creating a harmony among traditions. Islam’s history in Japan is almost entirely recent, with estimates putting the number of Muslims in Japan close to 200,000 amid a national population of 125 million. “The point is to help people acquire the power of interpretation, the intellectual muscles of critical thinking and critical understanding of this world,” says Qayyim Naoki Yamamoto, professor of Islamic studies at Marmara University.
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Escher + Alhambra = Infinity

Escher + Alhambra = Infinity

Visits to Spain in 1922 and 1936 led Dutch artist M.C. Escher to discover the world of designs in Granada’s 13th-century Alhambra palace, where interlocking patterns in tiles and stucco on its walls and ceilings became springboards to ideas that shaped his art for the rest of his life.

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Hijrah: A Journey That Changed the World

Hijrah: A Journey That Changed the World

Avoiding main roads due to threats to his life, in 622 CE the Prophet Muhammad and his followers escaped north from Makkah to Madinah by riding through the rugged western Arabian Peninsula along path whose precise contours have been traced only recently. Known as the Hijrah, or migration, their eight-day journey became the beginning of the Islamic calendar, and this spring, the exhibition "Hijrah: In the Footsteps of the Prophet," at Ithra in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, explored the journey itself and its memories-as-story to expand understandings of what the Hijrah has meant both for Muslims and the rest of a the world. "This is a story that addresses universal human themes," says co-curator Idries Trevathan.
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In The Marshes Of Iraq

In The Marshes Of Iraq

Amidst "the stillness of a world that never knew an engine... he found at last a life he longed to know and share.
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Reviving Eden

Reviving Eden

Until the 1990s, the reed marshes of Iraq were Eurasia's most extensive wetlands, with a unique ecology that supported the Marsh Arabs' distinctive way of life. Then the marshes were drained and the people scattered. Azzam of Alwash, the emigré son of an Iraqi hydrologist, now works with international aid groups and Iraqi authorities to restore the desiccated marshlands. Reeds are sprouting, birds and fish are returning-and so are people. "A 7000-year-old culture doesn't die in a decade, he says.
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All the Lands Were Sea

All the Lands Were Sea

In late 1967, photographer Tor Eigoland traveled for more than: a month, mostly by canoe, among the countless villages of southern Iraq's vast marshes. Now, 45 years later, writer Anthony Sattin calls his photographs a "rare and ethnographic record of a lost world. They bring us back to a time and place where people lived in harmony with their environment and respected the balance the natural world needs to thrive.'
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America's Music of the Nile

America's Music of the Nile

The Nile river has been used as motif, a metaphor or both in popular culture, most prolifically in music in the United States for more than 125 years. The most notable uses of the Nile arose during the jazz period, which peaked in the second half of the 20th century and continues to this day.
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