World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Travel to and from North Africa (291) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 9.00-11.00 am

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Department of Arabic, Durham University and council member of BRISMES

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Professor Paul Starkey

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Paul Starkey, Durham University

The session, entitled 'Travel to and from North Africa' explores the many contacts between East and West and explores travel writing in a range of languages, especially English and Arabic.

Paper presenter: Janet Starkey, Durham University and Edinburgh University, “Exploring the Sahara: The Rennell Rodds and Ahmad Mohammed Hassanein”
Ahmad Mohammed Hassanein was born in Cairo in 1889. His father, Shaykh Muhammad Hassanein el-Boulaki, was a distinguished scholar at al-Azhar and his grandfather was Ahmad Mazhar Hassanein Pasha, the last Admiral of the Egyptian Navy before Egypt was occupied by the British in 1882. Ahmad Mohammed Hassanein was a diplomat and one of the most influential figures in Egyptian politics. Educated at Oxford, he became Chief of the Diwan and Chamberlain to King Farouk (r. 1936–1952). As an explorer, he was the first person to cross the Libyan Desert. His journey in 1923 from Sollum to Siwa and Kufra and southwards to Sudan took 8 months and he covered over 2200 miles. His expedition also led to his discovery of the lost oases of Arkenu and Uweinat in the southwest of Egypt.
Sir Francis James Rennell Rodd was son of Sir James Rennell Rodd, 1st Baron Rennell (1858–1941), the grandson of the great geographer James Rennell (d. 1830), an expert on India, comparative geographies and North African maps. Sir James Rennell Rodd was a diplomat, poet and author, ambassador at Rome and Britain’s representative at the League of Nations. Francis was a friend of Hassanein from the time they were both at Balliol before the First World War. Francis wrote the introduction to Hassanein’s The Lost Oases (1925) and was also an explorer in the Sahara himself. Francis travelled to Aïr in the central Sahara with the Tuareg and as a result wrote The People of the Veil published in 1926. He later served as President of the Royal Geographical Society.
This paper explores their extraordinary expeditions in and expertise on the Sahara within the framework of their friendship and other various complex associations. The intertwining of their various interests is explored in this paper with an attempt to shake off Oriental and Occidental stereotypes.

Paper presenter: Paul Starkey, Durham University, “Arab travellers in North Africa: between East and West”
‘Alī al-Du‘ājī’s Mediterranean Tour: The role of travel in shaping the course of the nineteenth-century Arabic nahda in Egypt and Greater Syria is well-established: on the one hand, a succession of travelers including al-Tahtāwī, al-Shidyāq and al-Muwaylihī travelled to Europe from the Middle East and recorded their impressions in Arabic in often mould-breaking literary form; on the other, an increasing flow of European travelers to the Middle East, with a variety of motives, was an important factor in radically changing the relationship between the two areas in the modern world. In the English-speaking world at least, however, both the process of cultural revival itself, and the role of travel in it, have received comparatively little attention in the context of North Africa. The present paper focuses on the Tunisian writer ‘Alī al-Du‘ājī (1909–49), whose Jawla bayna hānāt al-bahr al-mutawassit [‘Trip around the bars of the Mediterranean’, 1935] — often cited, but probably little read today — has been described both as exhibiting a ‘bold, modern style’ and as showing ‘signs of the influence of the classical or neo-classical maqāmah tradition’. The paper will attempt a re-reading and re-evaluation of al-Du‘ājī’s work in the Tunisian and wider literary context of the time, with a view to establishing whether or not parallels can be drawn with the course of the earlier Arabic nahda centred on Egypt and Greater Syria.

Paper presenter: Jennifer Scarce, University of Dundee, “Moroccan dress through the eyes of Western travellers of the 18th to 20th century”
Dress has always transmitted powerful visual messages about the wearer’s role in both family and community. In Morocco a remarkable dress tradition is distinguished for the richness and sophistication of the garments worn in the great urban centres of Fes and Marrakech and the many local variations of the clothing and accessories of the rural village and nomad settlements of Berber and Tuareg tribal groups. Clothing had to satisfy practical needs and the requirements of modesty and status. In Morocco’s varied climate of coast, plain and mountain leather leggings and strong shoes offered protection in rough stony ground, while wool scarves and shawls shielded the head and body in extremes of heat and cold. A range of headcoverings conformed to cultural and religious standards of modesty. The combination of elaborate jewellery with richly embroidered garments was an important signal of wealth, social status and within limits of personal taste.
Moroccan dress had a great impact on the Western travellers who observed and recorded its many forms in ways which reflect their own attitudes and experiences. William Lempriere, a doctor in the Army Medical Service stationed at Gibralter, in 1789 attended the harem of Sultan Muhammad III at Marrakech which gave him a unique opportunity to see the women whose clothing he described in meticulous and orderly detail. Emily Keene in 1873 went to Tangiers as governess to an English family and met and later married the Shareef of Wazan. As Shareefa for fourteen years she was involved in women’s lives which is shown by the way in which occasion, ritual and dress are combined in her memoirs. The writer Edith Wharton in contrast travelled only for a month in Morocco in 1917 with the help of Resident General Lyautey and the transport resources of the French administration. She had, however, read widely to prepare for her visit and used her writer’s skills to capture the essentials of the colourful clothes which she saw in sharp and vivid prose.
All the travellers contributed precious information to the as yet incomplete record of Moroccan dress. My illustrated presentation will aim to discuss and analyse a selection of interpretations.

Paper presenter: Professor Ian Netton, University of Exeter and Editor in Chief of the BRISMES Journal, “Ibn Jubayr: The Psycho-Pathology of a Guilty Traveller”
Ibn Battuta ( AD 1304-1368/9 or 1377) is very well known as Islam’s Marco Polo. He produced a famous Travelogue (Rihla) which, along with that of the twelfth century Hispano-Arab traveller Ibn Jubayr, became a model for all future Arabic travelogues. Yet how much of what Ibn Battuta related was actually true. Was he so in love with the exotic and the ‘aja’ib (wonders) that he claims to have seen on his travels that truth became a major casualty in his writings as he, and/or his scribe Ibn Juzayy, embellished those writings for the sake of prestige and a popular audience. Was Ibn Battuta a proto-orientalist, moulding all that he saw to an internal agenda of his own. This paper examines three distinct episodes in his Rihla which scholars have found problematic and makes comparisons with other medieval travel literatures such as the famous narrative of the Venetian Marco Polo.

Paper presenter: Daniel Newman, Durham University, "An Algerian Visitor To The 1878 World Exhibition In Paris: Si Ahmed Ould Qadi"
An important feature of the 19th-century World Exhibitions was the inclusion of the exotic, which tended to be synonymous with the Orient, in particular the Arab world, whose culture and customs were put on prominent display. However, these events also attracted a number of Arab visitors, often at the instigation of the organizers for PR purposes, or at that of their rulers who wished to associate themselves with these quintessential venues of modernity and advance. Indeed, in some cases this resulted in the sending of veritable delegations. Fifteen travellers, hailing from various parts of the Arab world, left accounts of their visits. One of them is that by Si Ahmed Ould Qadi, a little-known Algerian traveller (one of only two in the 19th century to have written a rihla of a journey to Europe), who attended the 1878 Paris Exposition Universelle and recorded his impressions in al-Rihla al-Qdiyya f Madh Faransa wa Tabsr Ahl al-Bdiyya (Qadis Journey in Praise of France and for The Enlightenment of The Bedouin People). Published in the year of the Exhibition, the rihla is an odd mix of description and propaganda, with numerous references to major contemporaneous events within Occupied Algeria, such as the land redistribution question. The result is often an unashamed apologia for the French presence and policy in the country. The paper will discuss the author, the historical and political background to the visit, its purpose, the travelogue, and place it within the broader context of Arab travel literature on Europe in the 19th century, in general, and those works that dealt with the Exhibitions, in particular.