An introduction to the Arab world through the arts and sciences developed in the many countries of the Middle East and North Africa and other regions where Arab culture flourished.
One-to-four–page introductions to many topics brim busily with excellent color photographs and provide readers with background information on education, astronomy, weaponry, architecture, food, medical discoveries, arts and crafts, religion, and everyday inventions such as mattresses and hard soap. Arab women get a little specific attention near the end, and the last few pages are devoted to contemporary life, but there is no focus on political issues. This positive celebration of learning, ingenuity and culture seeks to highlight the contributions of Arabs from earlier centuries and to make contemporary connections, occasionally with a little too much emphasis. For example, Ammar al-Mawsili is mentioned as being the inventor of “a special syringe and a hollow needle that he used to suck the cataract out of the eye,” and the author avers that today’s surgeons use similar techniques and equipment. While that may be true, earlier Indian, Greek, Roman and Egyptian developments are omitted, giving readers a simplistic view of the history of ophthalmology. Despite weaknesses, this survey definitely fills a niche.
Tidbits of information and crisp, engaging photographs will entice browsers, while students needing information for substantive research projects will need additional resources on many topics. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-14)