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Markets and Merchants of the Islamic World
Sumptuously illustrated, this book is a journey through the bazaars in the old Islamic cities of the Orient. It reveals a fascinating empire of the senses where often little has changed since the Middle Ages, and in which time and space, life and death, have lost none of their old meanings.
Beginning with a general outline of the histroy of trade, Walter M. Weiss examines the origins of the bazaar, its roots in the markets of ancient times and the early Islamic fortresses and caravanserais. The path of goods, carried by the trader`s indispensable companion, the camel, is traced along legendary caravan routes like the Silk, Incense and Amber Roads.
After describing the everyday workings of the bazaar, the book focuses on traditional trades and crafts, including gold and sugar trader`s markets, the workshops of lute makers, fabric painters and mosaic carvers, glass-blowers and coppersmiths. We watch Persian carpet makeres, engravers and perfumers, miniature painters and calligraphers at work and meet people whose exotic trades are now dying out: sword, dagger and fire makers, water sellers, magicians, story tellers, silk weavers and foot ironers. In the final section, more than a dozen of the finest and most important bazaars - including Marrakesh, Fez, Damascus, Aleppo, Cairo, Istanbul, Isfahan, Sanaa and Samarkand - are described in full and illustrated in Kurt-Michael Westermann`s remarkable photographs.
With its detailed maps and plans, this book is an invaluable source of information for travellers to the Islamic world as well as for anyone intrigued by the `city within a city´, one of the most mysterious and enduring facets of Islamic life.
IN THE EMPIRE OF THE SENSES
Impressions from the Heart of the Medina
THE ENDLESS CARAVAN - A BRIEF HISTORY OF TRADE
The Major Routes: Incense, Amber, Silk and Gold
The Camel: God`s Greatest Gift
HOLY PLACE AND MARKET PLACE - HOW THE BAZAAR WORKS
Philosophy of Life: Rational Feeling
Society: Imams, Kadis and Market Overseers
Buildings and Layout: Mosques, Shops and Caravanserais
The Elixir of Life: The Importance and Use of Water
CRAFTSMEN AND SHOPKEEPERS - THEIR WORK AND GOODS
Carpets: From Loom to Living Room
Clothing: Chadors, Veils and Kaftans
Chechias: The Cap Makers of Tunis
Jewelry: Wealth and Protection
Perfume: Fragrances from the Thousand and One Nights
Coffee, Tobacco and Sweetmeats: Life`s Little Pleasures
Medicine and Magic: Healing through Faith
Calligraphy and Painting: Letters and Pictures
Wood: Turners and Carvers
Glass: The Last Glass-blowers
Metal: Smiths and Sword Makers
Ceramics: Potters and Tile Makers
Leather: The Tanners and Dyers of Fez
THE HEART OF THE CITY - PORTRAITS OF THE FINEST BAZAARS
Map: The World of the Bazaars
Cairo - Damascus - Aleppo - Istanbul - Sanaa - Dubai - Kairouan - Tunis - Marrakesh - Fez - Shiraz - Isfahan - Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva
EPILOGUE - THE LIGHT OF THE BAZAARS
Glossary - Chronological Table - Bibliography - Index
An encounter I had in Cairo`s City of the Dead outside made a deep impression on me. The khamsin, the notorious desert wind, had covered everything in a mantle of grey dust. The smoke from the smouldering rubbish tips stung the eyes. The air was burning hot. The alleyways between the densely populated graves and wooden shacks were deserted, littered with rubbish, utterly desolate. A young woman in a colorful threadbare galabiyya appeared, struggling along with two cans of water. As she passed, to my surprise she greeted me with a laugh - and what a laugh! She was telling me with her eyes that the grinding poverty all around us did not touch her deep inside. Daily life was not a burden for her because her strength came from elsewhere. You would never hear a laugh like that in a poor quarter of a European city.
Since that unforgettable meeting in the early eighties I have made some thirty trips to Islamic countries and seen their finest mosques, palaces and landscapes. But - and I am aware when I write this of the inherent contradictions in the conventional romanticized image of the `spiritual´ Orient - whereever I go I am charmed by the cheerful realism of the people and their unshakeable trust in God. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: `There are main road people and footpath people. The main road people bore me. I am bored on the asphalt road between the milestones. These people have set their sights on a particular goal: profit, success. Along the path there are hazel bushes instead of milestones and you can amble along and crack the hazelnuts. You are there for the sake of being there.´ In the bazaars there are no milestones.
The mass media tend to oversimplify; they see everything in black and white. In their search for `bogeymen´ they have found plenty of material in the Arab world in recent years. As so often since the time of the Crusades, East and West see each other, in different ways, as a threat. But in both East and West it is the aggressive propagandists and not the quiet thinkers who attract attention, and so in the collective imagination of the West every Muslim becomes a feared and unpredictable fanatic.
Fortunately for us all, a new generation of orientalists and Islamic experts is now emerging, replacing the tired old clichés with fresh ideas. Surprisingly, however, only a few writers have looked at the phenomenon of the bazaar (and even then from a purely academic point of view). Until now, it has been difficult to find a book that gave the interested layman a clear and coherent picture of all the aspects of this traditional and unique achievement of Islamic culture.
In this book we - author and photographer - had two objectives. Firstly, we have tried to explain and communicate - to show that a bazaar is much more than just a picturesque maze of workshops and shops in which tourists pick up souvenirs and get lost. It is a city within a city, with its own economy and way of life and a spiritual background from which western society has a great deal to learn, especially now when it is having to redefine concepts like work, time and solidarity.
Secondly, we have tried to take stock of the situation. However untouched many of the bazaars might seem at first sight, their traditional features - old buildings and trades, customs and values and aestetic perceptions - are increasingly threatened by western technology and industry.
As a sheikh from Tangier remarked when Europeans, having just occupied his home town, introduced electric lights: `If these people prayed five times a day, they would not worry about such childish things.´
"Vocative portraits of Middle Eastern centers through their labyrinthine traditional markets... Readers will find little here about the riven Islamic world of reality but much that is of undoubted fascination-lore, extraordinary pictures of everyday life, detailed maps of mazy souks that are a unique urban design form now giving way to more modern methods of retailing."
Wall Street Journal
"The Islamic bazaars, as veteran editor and traveler Weiss reveals, is more than a collection of flea market stalls. And his book, though illustrated with glorious photographs by Kurt-Michael Westermann is more than a decoration for the coffee table. Here, peripatetic readers and couch potatoes alike will discover the true romance of this area, learning about trade routes, the religious life, camels, and craftspeople, as well as 15 bazaars, ranging from Aleppo in Syria to Samarkand in Uzbekistan."
"With its knowledgeable text, the excellent photos, the detailed maps and plans, this book is an invaluable source of information for both armchair travellers and anyone planning a trip in the Islamic world."
"A truly spectacular tour through more than a dozen of the finest and most important bazaars."
"Walter M. Weiss`s investigation of the markets and merchants of the ancient Islamic cities of the Orient... This is a book for anybody, who has visited the bazaars of Marrakesh, Fez, Cairo, Istanbul or a dozen others and been overwhelmed by them. In learning how the markets came into being along the camel routes, how the spices arrived and the traditional crafts developed, the Westener is offered the most human possible introduction to Islam, its society and philosophy of life."
Daily Mail, London
"I checked this out of the library, and when I get back from Syria and Lebanon, am going to buy it. An entirely different perspective from anything I`ve ever seen. Even if it does omit anything about the ongoing conflicts of the region, we already know all of that. This tells us and shows us something we don`t know. When I`m walking through the bazaars in Damascus and Aleppo, I will be carrying this book in my head and seeing everything differently because of it."
(Robyn from Los Angeles, CA, USA; Amazon / Verified Purchase)
"I have traveled extensively in the Middle East and North Africa, and my favorite places are the suqs, or bazaars of each city. I have actually visited half of the bazaars featured in this book, and therefore I can attest to the accuracy of the information provided. This book captures the variety, texture, and atmosphere of the bazaar. The only aspects missing are the sounds and the aromas. Of special interest and value are the maps of each bazaar, for wandering through a suq can be an overpowering experience. Nowhere else have I come upon this type of information. The photos are well done, showing both the people and their surroundings accurately, but beautifully. This book makes me want to pay a return visit to a bazaar soon."
(a reader from San Mateo, California; Amazon / Verified Purchase)
I've shelves full of beautify books about the Middle East and the wider world of Islam. There is nothing like this out there. . .each double spread page, complete with maps. . . describes a bazaar and helps you find your way through labyrinthian alley ways. I just wish it was easy to carry around. Guess I will make copies of those maps and highlight on each, what makes that particular bazaar a "must experience"!
(Audrey from Berkeley; Amazon / Verified Purchase)
...I have not gone through the whole book yet, however what I have seen so far has been great and wonderful, highly recommended to anyone who loves travel or just for general interest, beautiful pictures, authors did an awsome job in writing this book, very knowledgeable, comprehensive worth every penny...
(a reader from Edmonton, Alberta; Amazon / Verified Purchase)