Monthly Archives: September 2012


My first alphabet in Arabic. Fun but humbling.

The Hall of Seven Images

I am particularly compelled by the tile radiating from the void-like black center.

Prince Bahram Gur enters The Hall of Seven Images from the Anthology of Iskandar Sultan, Iran, 1410.
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Museum, Lisbon. via Islamic Art in Context by Robert Irwin.

Urban planning with fire

In my readings for class this week we came across this awesome (and likely apocryphal) anecdote about the planning of the great walled city of Madinat al-Salam (Baghdad) in 762. I think I’ll use this technique the next time we have a spatially challenged director at work.

“When al-Mansu decided to build it he wanted to behold it with his own eyes, so he ordered that it be delineated with ashes. Then he began to enter from each gate and to walk through its passageways, its arcades, and its courtyards, which were a diagram in ashes… Having done that he ordered that cotton seeds be placed on those lines, and naphtha be poured on them; and he gazed at it as the fire was blazing up, and he comprehended it, and came to know its design; and he commanded that the foundation thereof be excavated according to the design. Then the work on it was begun.”

Six kings from Qasr Amra

Drawing of six kings. Fresco, 705–15. West wall, hall, Qusayr ‘Amra, Jordan. Reproduced from Alois Musil. Kusejr ‘Amra und Schlösser östlich von Moab. Vol. 2, pl. XXVI. Vienna, 1907.
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art


The lion attacks a gazelle in a private chambers within Khirbat al-Mafjar (Hisham’s Palace).

One could draw own’s conclusions or read this article by Doris Behrens-Abouseif.

The Lion-Gazelle mosaic. Khirbat al-Mafjar, Jericho. c. 743.

Quotation: Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

“Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.”

quoted in Boswell’s Life of Johnson

Quotation: H. G. Wells (1866 – 1946)

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

from The Outline of History, vol.2, chapter 41, 1921