World Donkey Day (May 8)


Donkeys are very important in parts of Africa as well as all over the Middle East, and I shall be blogging about them to celebrate International Donkey Day. This is a great post.

Originally posted on Camel, food security and climate change :

Donkey is very useful, important and precious animal genetic resource for food and agriculture. Donkey plays pivotal role in the livelihood earning of the million people of the world. Donkey is widely use for pastoral movement, carting, agricultural operations and recreation purposes. There is wide intra and in breed diversity. Such diversity is based on habitat, purpose, selection etc. Donkey is well adapted to all climatic conditions and ecosystem. It ranges from cold temperate region, cold deserts, dry and hot deserts, plain lands, high Alps and coastal ecosystems of the globe.

In some countries, the products, especially milk and meat of donkey is also use. Milk is use as medicine among the pastoral communities for the treatment of respiratory diseases since long time. The meat products are use in many countries of the world and Salami is the famous dish of donkey meat.

Donkey is now introduced in many EU countries as…

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Wheat rises to a symbol of equality and opportunity


Notes from a recent talk  at CIMMYT, by Rachel Laudan, on the history of wheat that will soon be Published.  Here are some notes from the talk and another link to the conference – interesting –

– As a greater range of foods began to be made from wheat, the grain became a status symbol for those who consumed it. The color of bread was a symbol of power and material wealth, with the rich consuming lighter breads and the poor eating darker breads made from grains besides wheat, Laudan said.

A recent article from the Global Development Professionals Network has this to say about the CIMMYT event –

Meeting the growing demand for wheat, as one of the world’s most important staple crops, would significantly boost food security in developing countries across the world.

Developing improved wheat breeds, species and technologies will also make wheat production easier and cheaper for farmers in the developing world – and so give them better access to markets…

See this link for more details.



Originally posted on MU Earth:

By Meghan Eldridge

CIUDAD OBREGON, Mexico — A grain commonly found on today’s grocery store shelves has risen throughout history as a sign of equality and opportunity for those who eat it.

Rachel Laudan, a food historian and author of the book “Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History” from the U.K., discussed the role of wheat across history at a presentation on March 27 during the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security.

Rachel Laudan, historian and author, discusses research findings about the role of wheat in civilizations during a presentation on March 27, 2014. Laudan's research assesses the past, present and future importance of grains.

Rachel Laudan, historian and author, discusses research findings about the role of wheat in civilizations during a presentation on March 27, 2014. Laudan’s research assesses the past, present and future importance of grains. Photo by Meghan Eldridge

Beginning 20,000 years ago, grains had a major influence on the development of ancient cities as a source of food for populations, Laudan noted.

Wheat touched every facet of life, from the work of grinding the grain to the worship…

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Darwin in Arabia – The Introduction of Evolution into the 19th Century Middle East

This is a book I cannot obtain here, but have found a detailed review, from which I quote below and provide references and other links.  The topic is indeed fascinating, in considering the multiple ways in which concepts move from one region to another – involving political, religious, and linguistic dimensions, among others – are treated.  As well, the concept of  *science* as being of European origin and implications of this fact in the Middle East.

READING DARWIN IN ARABIC, 1860–1950 by Marwa Elshakry
448pp. University of Chicago Press. $45.
978 0 226 00130 2
The Book of Animals of al-Jahiz, Syria, fourteenth century Irwin_Darwin in Arabia

In reviewing the above-referneced book, Robert Irwin points out some of the difficulties of translocating both concept and vocabulary of Darwinism from Victorian England into the Middle East as well as into Arabic >

For a long time, the reception of Darwinism was bedevilled by the need to find either neologisms or new twists to old words. As Marwa Elshakry points out, there was at first no specific word in Arabic for “species”, distinct from “variety” or “kind”.“Natural selection” might appear in Arabic with the sense “nature’s elect”.

When Hasan Husayn published a translation of Haeckel, he found no word for evolution and so he invented one. Tawra means to advance or develop further. Extrapolating from this verbal root, he created altatawwur, to mean “evolution”. Darwiniya entered the Arabic language.

Even ‘ilm, the word for “knowledge” acquired the new meaning, “science”. With the rise of scientific materialism came agnosticism, al-la’adriya, a compound word, literally “the-not-knowing”.

The word al-tatawwur has further migrated from meaning evolution in the 19th century (above) into the language of development in modern standard arabic.  I learned this some years ago when asking a professor at a regional university in Egypt what he thought I should call an upcoming talk I was giving at the university.  He responded, al-tatawwur fil-aryaaf wal-alaqaatuhu bi-dawlah (Development in the countryside and connections (of the countryside) with the State).

Regarding Darwinism itself, Irwin goes on to say -

Reading Darwin in Arabic deals primarily with the works of popularization and polemic produced by a small elite of bookmen during the heyday of the Nahda (Awakening, Rennisance) …

Elshakry’s densely argued and fascinating book casts the net wider than that and gives extensive coverage to such matters as missionary ambitions and strategies in the Middle East, Muhammad Abduh’s attempts to reform al-Azhar as a teaching institution, the rise of Pharaonism as a cultural movement, the growing sense of an Islamic civilization with a history, the eleventh-century Sufi al-Ghazali’s overweening presence in philosophical debates, and Arab interest in Atatürk’s reforms.

As Elshakry notes, enthusiasm for Darwin and his followers fell away after the Second World War and that enthusiasm turned to outright hostility from around 1970 onwards. The reasons for this lie beyond the scope of Reading Darwin in Arabic. Perhaps the intellectual prestige of the British declined as their empire was dismembered. Perhaps Muslim scholars took their lead from American creationists. The rise of a militant political Islam may also have been a factor.

This appears to be a most worthwhile read and I plan to obtain a Kindle addition. Reference to the article in the Times Literary Supplement from which I quote is -

Darwin in Arabia, by ROBERT IRWIN

A couple of other links to presentations by  Dr Marwa Elshakry are given bleow -

Translating Knowledge

Historians have begun to explore the paradox of the identification of a would-be universal form of rational knowledge known as science with the particular historical experience of Europe.

This begs the question: how have new forms of scientific knowledge been translated, received, assimilated, and engaged outside of the cultural contexts within which they were produced?

In this episode, Marwa Elshakry examines the case of Arab engagement with and translation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is the subject of her recently published book entitled Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950.


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Two Sentenced to Death for Throwing Children off a Rooftop in Alexandria, Egypt


Given the months of unrest in Egypt, it is indeed hopeful to learn that the persons responsible for this act have been punished. I remember seeing the original video last year and being horrified. The video was taken by a person in a neighbouring building, as I remember. It is graphic.

Originally posted on Egyptian Streets:

The Alexandria Criminal Court has sentenced Mahmoud Hassan Ramadan and Mohamed Al-Ahmady to death for throwing three teenagers off the roof of an apartment block. The papers for the approval of the capital punishment have been sent to the Mufti.

The court has also ruled that 61 others arrested at the time of the incident will remain in detention until the next court hearing which will be held on May 19, 2014.

Two of the boys thrown off the roof in the incident that ocurred in July 2013 during pro-Morsi demonstrations suffered serious injuries. A third boy, who had just turned 19, was announced dead three hours later while in hospital.

The boys were attacked by the group of men, including a bearded man waving the black Al-Qaeda flag, for ‘celebrating the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.’ Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters had gathered in Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber to call…

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The Roman Tower of Centum Cellas, Belmonte (Portugal)


This is an amazing Roman site in Portugal, built by a Roman tin trader. As the author of the blog says –

The IPPAR‘s excavations at the Centum Cellas Tower, undertaken between 1993 and 1998, revealed that it was not a single isolated building but part of a larger and more complex group of structures, including rooms, corridors, staircases, cellars and courtyards.

The tower appears to be the best-preserved part of what was the villa of Lucius Caecilius (according to a dedicatory altar found on the site), a wealthy Roman citizen and tin trader who built his villa here at the beginning of the first century AD, under the supervision of a qualified architect who knew Vitruvius‘ building techniques…

Originally posted on FOLLOWING HADRIAN:

The Tower of Centum Cellas (also known as the “Tower of St. Cornelius”), located in the municipality of Belmonte in Portugal, is one of the most enigmatic monuments from the Roman period to be found in the country. These majestic ruins were part of a large Roman villa from the first century AD, situated on the road that linked Augusta Emerita (Mérida) to Bracara Augusta (Braga).

Roman tower of Centum Cellas, Belmonte, Portugal © Carole Raddato

Roman tower of Centum Cellas, Belmonte, Portugal
© Carole Raddato

This rectangular building, made of pink granite blocks, appears to have had three levels with openings of various dimensions. It was thought that it was once a temple, a prison with a hundred cells (hence the name), or possibly a praetorium (the headquarters of a Roman camp), and a building part of Roman villa.

Roman tower of Centum Cellas, Belmonte, Portugal © Carole Raddato

Roman tower of Centum Cellas, Belmonte, Portugal
© Carole Raddato

The IPPAR‘s excavations at the Centum Cellas Tower, undertaken between 1993…

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The girl with the Christian tattoo: Religious-magical practices in late antique Egypt


Very interesting blog.

- This reminded me how much a ritual, bodily practice Christianity was in antiquity, and how biased is the general, common view of it as all centred on spiritual and intellectual activities. In fact, religion in practice is well attested by some of my favourite pieces in our papyrus collection and others: written amulets from Egypt, dating from the pharaonic to the late antique period…

Originally posted on Faces&Voices:

Images of the tattoo. The British Museum Trustees via The Telegraph

Images of the tattoo. © The British Museum Trustees via The Telegraph

The British Museum will host soon an exhibition of Egyptian mummies, Ancient lives, new discoveries, that is destined to become a blockbuster. Press releases have revealed some details: the exhibition will be a new look at mummies covering a long time span, from the pharaonic to the late antique period, and will show to the public what scan imaging and other technologies can reveal about the mummified person’s terrestrial life. I am usually not so attracted by mummies, the study of diseases and human physical features because it is so depressing to see how boring we are in these matters: we loose teeth, get cancer, eat badly and inexorably die, and have been doing so for millennia now. Besides this, ancient human facial reconstructions remind me of Madame Tussauds’ wax horrors of the kind that I hope…

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Structurally Reinforced Meatloaf and WMD Spaghetti, from Simon Bao

Last night I was thinking about my old e.friend Simon Bao and his hilarious posts celebrating Vietnamese/American cuisine mixups.

Waiting for lunch at the Hotel Club du Lac, Lake Tanganyika Burundi

Waiting for lunch at the Hotel Club du Lac, Lake Tanganyika Burundi

While I have lost the original tale, this morning I did find a reposting of one of Simon/s tales! Although this one is not about Structurally Reinforced Meatloaf and WMD Spaghetti; but about thanksgiving misunderstandings. Simon-s turkey tale can be found on  Viet World Kitchen, and I hope you can take the time to read it.  Very hilarious. Here is the beginning -

Some VietnAmerican Thanksgivings

by Simon Bao (aka ‘Baowow’)

I thought I’d share a few anecdotes about Thanksgiving in VietnAmerican households.  It may turn out to be a long read, so save it for when you’ve got time.

I’ll have to use dates and go through events chronologically, so you have a sense of how things progressed.

The first of these involves the family of Diep, the intimidating big-boned woman who invented the Structurally Reinforced Meatloaf and the WMD Spaghetti.  They all involve my godbrother.  He uses the American name “Pete” and for many years we destroyed and misprounced that, and called him things like “Anh Peach” and “Anh Bitch.”  I will use his polite name and call him Anh Phero.

THANKSGIVING 1989 / continued here.

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