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Capital Cities of Arab Islam

Capital Cities of Arab Islam

Philip K. Hitti
Copyright Date: 1973
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Capital Cities of Arab Islam
    Book Description:

    Professor Hitti, the distinguished authority on the Islamic world, views the highlights of Arab history through the windows of the capital cities where those events occurred. The account focuses on six cities -- Mecca, the religious capital; Medina, the caliphal capital; Damascus, the imperial capital; Baghdad, the intellectual capital; Cairo, the dissident capital; and Cordova, the European capital. The approach is historical rather than geographical, and the book is addressed to the student and the cultured layman rather than the specialist. Tourists to the Middle East and Spain also will find the book especially interesting. The author describes the physical settings of the cities, the primary occupations of the people, and the significant monumental structures. He discusses such modern history of a city as is relevant to the story, but the emphasis is on the period of Arab ascendancy -- roughly, the seventh to the thirteenth century. In addition to Arabic sources, he quotes Europeans’ descriptions where appropriate (such descriptions are rare because Europeans were not allowed in such cities as Mecca and Medina). As he makes clear, the six cities were more than capitals; they left their indelible imprint not only on the subsequent history of the Arabs and other Moslems but on the development of civilization at large.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6295-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-v)
    P. K. H.
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  5. 1 Mecca: The Religious Capital
    (pp. 3-32)

    It all began with a well. The well lay in an uncultivated valley and the valley in a barren land. Zamzam was the well’s name, Hijaz the land’s name. The Zamzam water was briny but in the scorched throat of a Bedouin, no sweet water could have tasted sweeter.

    To the tribe which in remote antiquity settled around the Zamzam, the water which first supplied a vital need became in due course endowed with some mysterious, magical power. So it did in the experience of earlier Semitic and non-Semitic tribes. In many primitive cultures, East and West, water figured in...

  6. 2 Medina: The Caliphal Capital
    (pp. 33-60)

    South Arabians named it Yathrib. Pre-Islamic North Arabians had no other name for it. Ptolemy’s geography, written in the mid-second Christian century, makes the name Iathrippa. Stephen of Byzantium (flourished first half of sixth century) uses the same form in his geographical dictionary. Yathrib had no history. It had to wait until its name was changed to Madinat al-Nabi (the City of the Prophet, shortened to al-Madinah, anglicized Medina) — more specifically until that day of September 24, 622, when Muhammad set foot on its soil. Aramaic has the same term for city as the Arabic, and the Aramaic-speaking Jews...

  7. 3 Damascus: The Imperial Capital
    (pp. 61-84)

    Damascus is the gift of the Barada. The river gushes forth almost full grown immediately below Anti-Lebanon’s watershed, rushes twenty-three miles down the slope, fans out into six main streams to irrigate a desert area and convert it into “one of the three earthly paradises.” The sixteen by ten miles of gardens and orchards thus created, and named Ghutah, set the city like a pearl in an emerald girdle of green — a sight especially appreciated by peoples of barren lands. From the time of Naaman the Syrian general of the mid-ninth pre-Christian century, who raised the rhetorical question as...

  8. 4 Baghdad: The Intellectual Capital
    (pp. 85-109)

    Unlike its three predecessors Baghdad was a purely Arab creation. The name does not suggest Arabic etymology, but the pre-Islamic Persian or Aramaean settlement left no noteworthy political or commercial record. It was the ‘Abbasid-built Baghdad that figured in history.

    The region around Baghdad saw the rise and fall of more capital cities than perhaps any region of comparable size. Here flourished the earliest ones known to history, the Sumerian city states, such as Uruk, the Erech of Genesis 10:10. These were the cradle of our civilization. They were followed by Agade (Accad of Gen. 10:10), capital of Sargon, the...

  9. 5 Cairo: The Dissident Capital
    (pp. 110-134)

    Cairo like Baghdad was an Arab foundation. But its founder stood at the other extremity of the Arab spectrum from Baghdad’s founder. He was of Christian slave origin, whereas the other was a scion of the Prophet’s tribe and his successor. The name leaves no doubt: Jawhar (jewel) al-Siqilli (the Sicilian) al-Rumi (the Greek). Arab masters named their slaves, especially if freed, after precious stones. The name of Yaqut al-Rumi meant sapphire. “Rumi” in this connection means Greek speaking.

    Jawhar was an empire builder before he became city builder. The empire he built was the Shi’ite Fatimid, then based at...

  10. 6 Cordova: The European Capital
    (pp. 135-164)

    The Romans called it Corduba, the Spaniards Córdoba, and the Arabs Qurtubah. Earlier the Phoenicians conjecturally named it Qaryat-tub. Had any Semitists been in the company of the Arab conquerors they might have suspected the Semitic origin of the name and given the city its corresponding form in Arabic, Qaryah Tayyibah, rather than Arabicizing its Latin form.

    The conjectured original name meant the “good town,” and a good town Cordova was. Situated on the right bank of the Baetis River, at the foot of the Sierra Morena, the city had easy access southward through Seville to the Mediterranean and northward...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-168)
  12. Index
    (pp. 169-176)