Arab Cities

زيادة، نقولا. مدن عربية. بیروت: منشورات دار الطلیعة، ١٩٦٥، ٢۳٠ص.


Ziadeh, Nicola. Mudun ʻArabiyyah. Beirut: Dar al-Taliʻah, 1965, 230pp.




Arab Cities


مدن عربية


Mudun ‘Arabiyyah is a compendium of Arabic historical and literary texts about twenty-four cities in the Arab world, dating mainly from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries. The author Nicola Ziadeh was at the time of the publication a professor of Arab history at the American University of Beirut. This abstract is based on the first edition which was published in 1965 by Dar al- Tali‘ah (Beirut).


The author summarises the purpose of the book as follows “These are twenty-four depictions of twenty-four Arab cities across a region that spreads from Morocco to Baghdad, and covers many centuries of bounty and wealth.” The book consists of a one-page introduction followed by twenty-four chapters on the following cities: Marrakesh, Fas, Miknas, Tatwan, Ishbiliyyah (Seville), Telemsan, al-Jazaer, al-Kirawan, Tunis, al-Mahdiyyah, Tripoli, Cairo, Mecca, Medina, Sana‘a, ‘Ukaz, Damascus, al-Quds (Jerusalem), Beirut, Tyre and Sidon, Aleppo, Hamah and Ma‘arrah, Mosul, and Bagdad.


The volume also includes an impressive bibliography of seventy-one manuscripts and books published between 1877 and 1963. The collected material is mainly from geographers, great explorers/travellers, historians, poets and literary men who travelled to these cities between the ninth and sixteenth centuries; some descriptions, such as that of the pre-Islamic market Souk ‘Ukaz even go back to the eighth century.


Each chapter consists of generous quotations ranging from single paragraphs to longer sections, collected by Ziadeh from historical texts. He connects these excerpts and organises them under different tropes. Some of the frequently used tropes include various quoted passages on the origin of the city, architectural description of the city, lists of the city founders and rulers, and schools and educational/religious institutions, including mosques. In the chapter on Marrakesh, a detailed description is even given of a hospital built by the Berber Almohads (1121-1269). Selections from classical Arabic poems describing these cities and the views of the poet-traveller are also included in most chapters.


Overall, the book will be a useful tool for architects and art historians, students of classical Arabic poetry and literature, culture, folklore, and geography.


Bilal Maanaki


Maanakil, Bilal. “English abstract of 'of Arab Cities'". Translated by Bilal Maanaki. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 87. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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