Friday, February 26, 2016

Weekly Report 3: Musicians of the Arab World

Asmahan was an actress and singer of Syrian descent believed to have been born in 1918. Her name by birth was Amal El Atrach before she changed it for the stage later in life. Her father was a member of the famous Druze family of Al-Atrash and her mother- who helped introduce her to singing was a princess. After her father’s death when she was six, her family moved to Cairo where her mother helped her and her brother develop their talents of performing. Her brother, Farid El-Atrash, also became a famous performer. She married several times and had a child; however she divorced her husbands because she enjoyed having her career.

Her debut was at the Cairo Opera house at while she was still in her teens.When she became famous, she mainly sang in classical Arabic or Arabic with Egyptian Influences.  She performed in many musicals such as “Gharam Wa Intiqam”.  Due to her interest in European music, many of Asmahan’s songs had a European influence.  

Asmahan was believed to have been a spy for the British during World War II. She acted on behalf of the British to speak with the Druze to convince them to allow the British to march through their territory without any opposition so that they could go on to oppose the Nazis. The Druze complied, and Asmahan was paid 40,000 British Pounds for this service.  The British made a promise to the Druze concerning the freedom of Lebanon which they did not follow through on, so Asmahan tried to contact the Nazis in Turkey, however she was caught and deported to Lebanon.

Asmahan died in her early thirties due to a car crash that many believe to have mysterious or even suspicious circumstances and as a result, there were many rumors concerning the situation and possible reasons behind her death.


Asmahan. n.d. Web. 26 February 2016. <>.

Lemon, Jason. Google honors mysterious Arab singer Asmahan on 103rd birthday. 25 November 2015. Web. 26 February 2016.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reflection 2: Guest Lecture by Dr. Deveny

I found Dr. Deveny’s lecture to be very interesting and enlightening about the period of time when Spain was under Islamic control. This is a period of time that was not really covered in other history classes I have taken before college so it was very interesting to learn about what happened during that time and that there was such a period of advancement during the Dark Ages of Europe.  I found it slightly ironic that the most important and enlightened city in the world at the time- Cordova-was on the other side of a mountain range from the rest of Europe and its era of extreme ignorance and regression in terms of science, art and architecture.

I did not realize how many Islamic contributions to Spain and Spanish culture that can still be seen today which I found to be very intriguing. For example, I had no idea that Arabic had such a large influence on the Spanish language. I also thought it was interesting how the song he played for us during the lecture had code switching in it from Spanish to Arabic, showing that the Spanish people and the Muslims once lived and got along well together. There were also contributions of architecture, such as Giraldat and Alhambra with the Generalife which are still able to be seen today.  
Unfortunately, even with all the advancements in art, science, math and architecture as well as the many new crops and agricultural improvements that the Muslims brought with them and the relative peace that was experienced under their rule, the Christians in the north violated the peace treaty both parties held and kicked the Muslims out.  I can slightly see what the monarchy of the time was trying to accomplish by causing the Muslims and the Jewish people to convert or leave, however they did end up “shooting themselves in the foot” as Dr. Deveny said in reference to one third of the population of Valencia leaving.

Overall, I found the lecture to be very informative about the time of Islamic rule in Spain or Al-Andalus and I enjoyed it a lot.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Weekly Report 2: Arab and Muslim Contributions to World Civilizations

The article I found was put out by the Muslim Heritage Awareness Group and the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation about the Millennium anniversary of the death of Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi. He is considered to be one of the Muslim World’s greatest doctors and has made huge contributions toward medical science, especially surgery. He lived between 903 and 1013 and became an extremely talented and skilled doctor and surgeon in his lifetime.
Many people traveled great distances to be taught by him and his book  Al-Tasrif Li-man ‘Ajaza ‘An al-Ta’alif , the 30th volume, was used as a medical resource well into the late 18th century. Al-Tasrif Li-man ‘Ajaza ‘An al-Ta’alif volume 30 was a comprehensive volume on the many aspects of surgery, it was illustrated and had detailed images and descriptions of the many different procedures and tools that could be used for surgery. It contained information on many kinds of surgery including pediatrics and gynecology as well as details on what could happen after the surgery-specifically complications- and how best to deal with those aftereffects. This book became a vital resource to European practitioners of medicine when Gerard of Cremona translated it into Latin in 1150.

Although there were other volumes of Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi’s al-Tasrif, they were never edited and did not become widespread in the way the 30th did and remained unusable by the general population. At the end of the 1200’s, a Latin translation of the 28th volume on simple drugs was done. In 1963, two men named Sami Khalaf Hamarneh and Glen Sannedecker worked to translate the 25th volume of the al-Tasrif, the contents of which discuss how to make as well as the use of ointments in medicine. In 2004, the first two volumes of al-Tastrif were edited and published by Dr Sobhi Mahmoud Hamami and there was a lot of excitement concernin the possibility of learning more about Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi and his medical ideas and practices. Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi was a huge contributor to the modern world of medicine, especially surgery as his book was used long after his death and influenced the way surgery was performed and is performed today.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Weekly Report 1: Syria

The article I found was concerning President Assad’s army taking two cities near the border of Turkey back from the rebels. The rebels had held the towns of Nabul and Zahraa since 2012 and the loss of these two cities is blow as it takes away a supply route for the rebels from Turkey. Turkey has been supporting the rebels and this victory was one that the Syrian Government had been working toward for three years; now their goal is to reach Turkey’s border in an attempt to cut off all aid that Turkey might provide the rebel forces. Government forces broke the rebels’ siege on the two towns after three days of intense fighting and resistance. Russia has been aiding the Syrian government in their fight against the rebels since September 2015 and provided 500 air raids in this fight alone. Syrian news reported that the government’s army was met with gratitude and rejoicing for defeating the rebels and driving them away.

At the same time this was happening, the peace talks, held in Geneva Switzerland, were paused until February 25. The US Secretary of State –John Kerry- said that the halt in the peace talks along with this fight show that the intent is to look for a military solution and not a political or diplomatic one and blamed the Syrian government as well as Russia for helping them as the cause of the pause in the talks. The Russian foreign minister,- Sergei Lavrov- announced Russia’s intention to continue to provide help to the Syrian government in the form of air strikes to defeat the rebels that he referred to as terrorists.

The Syrian war has been going on for five years and has killed more than a quarter of a million Syrians and has caused millions more to be displaced or to leave the country as refugees. After this victory for the government, there is likely to be an increase in fighting and just continue to cause the war to escalate as each side and their allies increase the violence.

With the help of Russia and other allies such as Iranian-backed militias and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, the war has gone in favor of the Assad regime and taking back these two cities may be the start or the government being able to take back massive amounts of territory.