With the word ‚Orient‘ we connect something mysterious and mystical: magically lively cities, colorful souks, wonderful mosques decorated with arabesques, desert landscapes, veiled Bedouins…. All this sounds like a fairy tale from 1001 Arabian Nights. The Orient seems so different from Europe and America.
But where does the Orient start and where does it end? What is the Orient? The word Orient comes from Latin and means ‚rising sun‘ or ‚east‘. It is often simply said that the Orient is where Arabic is spoken. Others see the religion of Islam as the connecting one.
Orient and Occident – many similarities
For our occidental culture, there is much more that connects us with the Orient than separates us. Many advanced civilizations were early developed in the Orient. Not only Islam, but also Christianity and Judaism originated in this region, even much earlier. The Orient is thus the cradle of the three monotheistic world religions. Many do not know that our current knowledge is based on many achievements of Muslim scholars, physicians, mathematicians, chemists, geographers and astronomers. Our numerical and decimal system was developed in the Orient. One of the first great physicians Ibn Sina (lat. Avicenna) came from Persia and was doctor, philosopher, physicist, mathematician, poet and alchemist. He worked, taught and lived in Isfahan in present-day Iran. Islamic scholars cultivated ancient cultural heritage long before the Renaissance era began in Europe.
Golden Age in Al-Andalus
Already 1300 years ago, Islam also wrote history on European soil. At that time, the Berber army leader Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed the sea gate of Gibraltar with his troops in the year 711 and moved to the Iberian Peninsula. He defeated the Visigoth King Rodrigo. From that moment on nothing stood in the way of Muslim rule. Islam was now a political, religious and cultural power in this region of Europe. The Arabs gave the peninsula the name Al-Andalus and created a culture in which Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together peacefully. The result was a cultural symbiosis of Orient and Occident. For more than 700 years, Andalusia had been multicultural. The library of Cordoba comprised more books than the rest of Western Europe combined at that time. The Alhambra in Granada, the Alcazar in Seville and the Mosque of Córdoba are still reminiscent of this golden age.
The consequences of the Arab Spring
Unfortunately, such a peaceful coexistence of monotheistic religions could not be realized again until today. It dismays us when we think about the political situation in the Orient today. Unfortunately, this has been very depressing and worrying for many decades. The Israel-Palestine conflict seems unsolvable. The Arab Spring, at the beginning a great ray of hope, unfortunately evolved into smoke and sound in hindsight. Since then, the situation has worsened in many Arab countries, especially Syria. The civil war in Syria has been going on for more than eight years. As a result, many hundreds of thousands of refugees from these countries came to Europe. I think it’s important that we give these people a chance and help them integrate with us.
This blog does not want to be political. Nevertheless, I would like to say that armed conflicts are often the result of intolerance and ignorance of foreign cultures. Politicians, who put their country first and see only their own advantage, are unfortunately not helpful at all. It is precisely the different cultures that make our world so diverse and special. Identities exist only through differences, but one must respect diversity. Find common ground and respect differences. With this blog I would like to do my part to awaken your interest in the Orient, to reduce prejudices and to create more understanding for these foreign cultures. I mainly look at the countries from Morocco to Oman; occasionally I will also touch European countries regarding the Orient.
Note: Please be informed that countries like Iran, Irak, Afghanistan and Pakistan are not described at my blog yet, since I did not travel to these countries until now.