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Tag: Europe

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Timbuctoo Holiday Sales

Timbuctoo book cover straight on 600pxSeveral people have emailed me lately requesting bulk pricing for Timbuctoo so they can purchase multiple copies for the holidays. I’ve spoken with my warehouse people, and they said that orders need to be in by tomorrow, 18th of December at the latest in order to reach you by the holidays. Because we’ll be selling these directly, we can offer a huge discount on the books.

Regular UK pricing of Timbuctoo is £29.99, currently available on Amazon at a discount of £25.49. We can offer you the bulk price of £20 for 5, 10, or more books (in multiples of 5).

Regular USA pricing of Timbuctoo is $49.99, currently available on Amazon at the same price. We can offer you the bulk price of $33 for 5, 10, or more books (in multiples of 5).

If you’re in the UK, and would like to order 5 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




If you’re in the UK, and would like to order 10 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




If you’re in the USA, and would like to order 5 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




If you’re in the USA, and would like to order 10 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




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Timbuctoo Update: hardcover, ebook, Q&A, and upcoming events

This is a limited edition hardcover of Timbuctoo by Tahir Shah, with non-wood paper, marbled end-papers, a pouch at the back with extra goodies, and silk bookmark.

Timbuctoo limited edition hardcover

Hello! I wanted to share a quick recap of news and coming events…

Hardcover

As you may already know, the Timbuctoo hardcover will be out next month. This is a very special edition, with six fold-out maps, marbled end-papers, a pouch at the back with goodies, a silk bookmark, and non-wood paper. It’s now available for pre-order on Amazon, or (if you’re in the US) you can enter for a chance to win one of six copies on Goodreads.

Once the book has been released, I will be holding pop-up sales in London, where you can get a signed copy. I’ll be sharing more details on this early next month.

Ebook

The Timbuctoo e-book launch was initially set for August. However, the date has been changed, and Timbuctoo is NOW available on Kindle and other e-readers. Click on one of the links below to get your copy:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/MNdUyI
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/MQH0Kg

If you’d like a preview before you buy, you can download the first chapter in PDF. Hope you enjoy it!

Q&A

In other news, I held my first AMA on Reddit yesterday afternoon. You can still access the questions and answers on Reddit, where the conversation will be archived. If you have any other questions for me, I will be holding an Author Q&A on Goodreads from July 1-15. Several conversation threads have already been set up, so please introduce yourself and feel free to get started asking questions at any time. I will begin answering them on July 1.

Meetup

If you’re in the UK, get ready for a Timbuctoo picnic, which will be held in London in mid-July. More details on that early next month. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather, as it will be held rain or shine.

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Medicine

During the Abbasids’ Golden Age, the first true hospitals were created, including free public ones in Baghdad and elsewhere in the region. The main difference from the ‘sleep temples’ and asylums of the Classical era was that these hospitals were designed to treat and heal, rather than merely to isolate the infected and the sick. The idea was something of a revolution within itself, and later spread to Europe, along with pharmacology, taken back West by the Crusaders.

         These hospitals featured competency tests for doctors and surgeons, grading for purity and strength of pharmaceuticals, and separate wards for people with similar contagious diseases, as well as the first real autopsies. Patients from different religions were treated, and the surgical staff were Christians and Jews as well as Muslims. There were female doctors and nurses for the first time as well.

         The rise in cheap paper and literacy meant that everything could be written down and passed to other cities along the pilgrimage routes, for others to master. Great books were amassed from all the new knowledge. These eventually found their way into Europe and were translated into Latin… although only the Latin-speaking elite could understand them. They included pioneering works like the 30-volume medical encyclopaedia, the ‘Kitab al-Tasrif’, (The Book of Concessions), written by al-Zahrawi, and published in the year 1000 AD. It was used for centuries in both East and West.

And Ibn Sina’s The Canon of Medicine (c. 1020 AD), is still regarded as one of the most important medical textbooks of all time. It was used at the University of Montpellier’s medical department as late as 1650 AD, and was even used across until even later China.

         Dozens of Renaissance and later medical breakthroughs had already been accurately described by the Arab polymaths. Blood circulation, for instance, usually credited to the 17th century English physician, had been published by Ibn al-Nafis  in the 13th century.


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Vast Libraries

Magnificent libraries were made possible by the price of cheap paper, and by the growing literacy because people were required to read and write the Qur’an. An example was the Royal library in 10th century Cordoba, assembled under the patronage of Caliph al-Hakim II, which boasted 400,000 books. The library’s directory stretched to 44 huge ledgers. Caliph al-Hakim II sent scholars across the East to buy and have copied important books, and in so doing, added to the expansion of knowledge. The library at Cairo supposedly had two million volumes; and the one at Tripoli had three million, before it was destroyed by Crusaders. We can only imagine the extent of the House of Wisdom’s great library before it was sacked. It must have run into the millions of documents as well. It is said that when it was sacked in 1258 by the Mongol Horde, that the Tigris ran black with ink for six entire months.



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March 13, 2009 Posted by tahir in Books

Nasrudin

A very good way of understanding a culture is through its folklore and the stories people tell. Rather in the same way that language contains clues to the way people of a certain place think, folklore does as well. It’s a kind of treasury of fragments, linked to everyone who has ever lived in the society. An excellent way of understanding how the Oriental world thinks, is by reading — or listening to — the tales. And there is perhaps no collection better than the teaching stories of Mulla Nasrudin. He’s found across the East, from Casablanca to Kabul, and can even be seen in Islamic China. He’s known in Greece as well, and in Albania, Kosovo, Sicily and in Andalucian Spain. In Afghanistan and Iran he’s known as Nasrudin, while in Morocco, Turkey and elsewhere he’s simply ‘Joha’. Whatever the name he goes by is insignificant, for Nasrudin is a towering giant of human folklore. My father wrote four books on the whacky and wonderful episodes of his life. Over the next few days I’m going to present some here. If you have the time, read the story once, and then a second time, and allow it to turn around your mind. You’ll find that, given the chance, it’ll take on a life of its own.



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March 12, 2009 Posted by tahir in Books

Proverbs

Proverbs and sayings are very common in the Arab world, as they are in the West. Since living here in Morocco, I’ve noticed that there are dozens of proverbs which are found in different forms in both Occident and Orient, and many more that are directly translated. This may suggest a transmission from East to West and vice versa, or it may just be coincidence.


Here are some examples (the Arabic proverb is in capitals, the European one in lower case):


BIRDS ALIGHT AMONG THEIR LIKE
Birds of a feather flock together

HE MADE A DOME FROM A SEED
Making a mountain out of a molehill

HIS LUCK SPLITS A STONE
He has the Devil’s luck

A DOG’S TAIL IS CROOKED EVEN IF HE STRUCK BY A BLACKSMITH’S HAMMER
A leopard can’t change its spots

THE CAMEL CAN’T SEE HIS OWN HUMP
The pot calls the kettle black

TWO WATER MELONS CAN’T BE CARRIED IN A SINGLE HAND
Don’t try the impossible

HE WHO GROWS WITH A HABIT GREYS WITH IT
Old habits die hard

CLEANLINESS IS AKIN TO FAITH
Cleanliness is next to Godliness


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March 11, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

Arab and Islamic Titles

The Arab and Islamic worlds hold titles very dear, and it’s a subject that’s almost always misunderstood in the West. The first thing to know is that in Islam all men are equal. There are, therefore, technically no provisions for absolute rulers, such as kings, although a number of Arab countries now have monarchs on along Occidental lines (such as Morocco, Jordan and Bahrain). The highest title has traditionally been ‘Amir al-Mu’minin’, the Commander of the Faithful, that is the one selected for leading the prayer and acting as spiritual figurehead. This is sometimes truncated to Amir, or Emir. Other honorific titles indicate that a person is of the Prophet’s family, a lineage that is held in extremely high regard within the Islamic world. Depending on the country, the title given to the Prophet’s descendants alters. In Afghanistan for example where our family is from, descendants are known as Sayed (also spelt Sayyid). Note that ‘Sayed’ and Seyeda’ are used by people whose ancestry is passed on through the paternal line. Where it is through the mother, the title ‘Mirza’ is used. Elsewhere Sayeds are permitted to use other titles such as Sharif (noble) . There are yet more titles local to a particular region, such as ‘Nawab’ (‘deputy’), a form of Muslim Maharajah, found in south Asia, and Nizam (‘administrator of the realm’). The last name ‘Shah’ as used by Muslims in Central Asia denotes a direct lineage to the prophet, and is used in place of a family name which, in our family’s case is ‘al-Hashemi’.



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March 10, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

Arab and Islamic Names

This is a subject which catches people out in the West, and one that just about everyone with an interest in the East would do well to spend a moment thinking about. The first thing to remember is that Arab society has traditionally been tribal. You come from a clan and a tribe and a community, before you do a country. Rather like names of old told you a lot in the West, they continue to do so in the East. From a name you can often tell a great deal about the person’s background, his family, tribe and so forth. The first thing to look at is the first name. These names are so important in the Arab world, rather as they used to be in the West. My name, Tahir, is more than a name — it’s part of my identity. It was actually chosen for me at birth through the Abjad alphanumerical system, so that it protects me, the user, through my life. In the same way, names are given not because they sound nice, but because they are linked to values and ideals. For instance, ‘Tahir’, means ‘pure’, a value especially important to my parents, who hoped I’d be pure. Many Arab names are more complex. There are a great number for instance formed with ‘Abdul’, such as Abdul Latif, Abdul Malik, Abdul Razak, and so on. These names are linked to the names of God, and are formed from ‘Abdul’ which means ‘servant’, or ‘slave’, and the quality itself. So Abdul Aziz, is the ‘Servant of the Almighty’. So it is actually incorrect to call person simply ‘Abdul’, as you are calling him ‘Servant’. Then you come to the second part of a name. There may be the word ‘Ibn’, shortened in some countries to ‘Bin’. This is simply a link which means, ‘the son of.’ It’s followed by the father’s name, and sometimes by Ibn again and then the grandfather’s name. In the same way, you can have ‘Abu’, which means ‘the father of,’ which is followed by the name of the person’s son. There may also be the name of the family, such as Qureshi, which is actually the name of the clan or tribe, as family names are not used in the East as they are in the West. Remember that the whole business of family names has altered greatly in the West, and were never so concrete or meaningless as they are now.




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March 9, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

The Favour Network

Living in the Arab world, or blustering through, you find yourself faced with a system that can be disconcerting or even bewildering: the business of favours. It’s a subject that is sometimes hard for Western society to grasp, because it’s a system that’s perfectly balanced, with pitfalls awaiting the unsuspecting. I can’t tell you how often we receive unsolicited gifts. Someone will send a platter of pastries or candy for the kids… and we’ll be very pleased, naturally, and thankful. But then, often, you get a request a few days later. That same person asks if they could make use of a contact of yours, or borrow something. I’m not trying to make this system sound dodgy or bad in any way. Because it isn’t, really. But you have to watch out. For example, if someone sends over a huge bouquet of flowers for no reason at all, send a platter of pastries over to them, of about the same monetary cost. This instantly negates their action and prevents them from asking the favour, and chances are they won’t try it again. It’s far, far better to be owed a favour. So, it does make sense to do a favour, and never ask if back. I promise you that it’s chalked up somewhere, in your friendship with that person, and he won’t forget. I promise you, too, that he’s desperate for you ask it, so he can clear the debt and move on.



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March 3, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

Transitions

Something I find tremendously interesting is the way icons and ideas pass from one culture to another. And, as they do so, the society in which they arrive believes quite ardently that it has originated them. Let me give you a couple of examples. To the French there is nothing more, well, French, than the Croissant. There are various lines of history on these puff pastry crescents, but the most likely is that they arrived in France from Constantinople, where the pastry is a much-loved favourite. And, of course, the crescent is a known symbol of Turkey as well as Islam. But the star and crescent symbol was not originally Islamic. It was adopted by the Turks when they conquered Byzantium, from the Christians (i.e. the same people who now claim the crescent croissant as their own… so it’s come full circle in a way). The Christians didn’t create the crescent form as an icon though, they merely borrowed it from their Near-Western pagan ancestors. Another wonderful example of such a transition that lives in the Madre de Dios jungle in Peru, and elsewhere in South America. I have been warned by tribesmen there to watch out for the so-called ‘Mal de Ojo’, the ‘Evil Eye’. The superstition was actually taken to the New World by the Spanish Conquistadores, whom in turn acquired it from Morocco.



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