Thursday, October 16, 2008

Saladin's hummus?


A couple of weeks ago, a correspondent on MEDIEV-L sent the rest of us a link to this article from the Guardian, which discusses the efforts of the state of Lebanon to prevent Israel from claiming hummus and tabouleh as its own, when by all rights they should be knowledge this traditional dishes of Lebanon. Does this mean that they only want Lebanese produced hummus to be labeled as such? Where would that leave Canadian hummus? (Which is likely produced from Lebanese recipes.)

The article also mentions a legend that Saladin, the famous Muslim leader of the 12th century, invented hummus. Now that's what I call ridiculous. Some man invented hummus? I assert with complete confidence that the dish was invented by two women working together, probably grandmother and granddaughter, some time well before the first wall was raised around Jericho. Where they were when they did it, I'm not saying.

Image: A Greek version of hummus with tahini, just to complicate things.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

More on Saladin and the Arab view of the Crusades

About a year and a half ago, I reproduced an interesting short discussion by Andrew Larsen of Saladin's modern reputation as a hero of anti-crusade resistance. What Andrew said, and he accurately reproduced the scholarly consensus, is that Saladin became an Islamic hero only in recent times. Insofar as there was a popular hero of the Crusades in the Middle East before the 19th or 20th century, it was Baibars, a Mamluk Sultan.

That post has become one of the most popular attractions on this blog, in large part because of the nifty picture I pasted into it. How many read the post, I don't know. At least one person did -- he/she was incensed by the idea that Saladin could ever have been forgotten by the Arabs. Even if he was a Kurd.

Just recently a friend of mine sent me his masters thesis for his degree in Middle Eastern studies. John Chamberlain, a skilled Arab linguist, wrote on the evolution of Arab historiography of the Crusades, with emphasis on printed books written since 1800 (or rather, since about 1850). (In other words, he didn't investigate newspapers or journal articles.) Even with my recent reading on the Islamic views of the Crusades, past and present, I was amazed at how recent most of the Arabic writing on the Crusades has been. The real upswing began in 1947, when Palestine was first slated for partition.

If you want to look for yourself, Chamberlain's conclusions are available in two different forms on the Web. A short version appears in the journal Strategic Insights here.
If you want the whole thing, that's here.

Update: Links now work.

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