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Arab Social Life in the Middle Ages: An Illustrated Study
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Arab Social Life in the Middle Ages: An Illustrated Study (Hardback)

Currently unavailable. Foyles can order for despatch to customer when the publisher is re-supplied on 14/02/2001.
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A portrait of everyday life in the medieval Arab world, this study draws on 13th-century miniatures from collections as far afield as St Petersburg and Istanbul. The wide range of topics covers every aspect of contemporary society in the Abbasid period, from life at court to the pomp and ceremony of the military, from the dispensing of justice in the law courts to the bustle of the suq and slave market. The routine of village life is contrasted with the pleasures of urban society, and the reader is also introduced to the world of musicians and professional mourners. Women are shown not only as virtuous wives and in childbirth, but as spirited and articulate individuals. The traditions of Arab hospitality are described, with scenes of drinking, feasting and etiquette. The book is illustrated with contemporary miniatures, principally those of al-Wasiti which accompany the celebrated Maqamat of al-Hariri. In his text, al-Hariri made no attempt to conceal his admiration for his unprincipled and thoroughly disreputable protagonist, Abu Zayd - who represents the voice of the common man, and possibly provides a prototype for the popular picaresque heroes of later European literature.

Al-Hariri frequently used the tales as a subtle and indirect way of satirizing the prevailing social order, yet he was insistent that his work had an underlying moral purpose.

Shirley Guthrie was educated at the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh and has travelled widely in the Middle East. Since receiving her doctorate in Islamic painting in 1992, she has continued her research into illustrated Arabic manuscripts.

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