Two Arab Centers of Learning and Culture

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Two Arab Centers of Learning and Culture

When people think of the cultural and intellectual center of Europe, they often think of Paris. But, in the Middle Ages, the greatest city of Europe was in fact in Cordoba, which was an Arab city in Spain.
In fact, most Arab scholars considered Europe to be a dirty and unimportant place. They thought Cordoba was a much more cultured city.
At around the tenth century, Paris had a population of about 40,000, whereas about half a million people lived in Cordoba.
A typical library in European cities would contain a few hundred books, but the libraries of Cordoba contained over 400,000 works.
Cordoba was a very tolerant city, where Christians, Muslims, and Jews all lived together. It also, had some of the greatest architecture in Europe. Cordoba was famous for its mosques and public baths.
But Cordoba is not an Arab city today. In 1236, Cordoba was captured by the Christian Kings of Spain. And to this day it remains a Spanish city.

Perhaps, you know that the European Renaissance was a time of great learning. But do you know how Arab civilization helped the Renaissance to begin.
Before 1100 A.D., Arab civilization, which was situated in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean, was a place of great learning. There were many libraries, writers and scholars.
The center of this great civilization was the city of Baghdad. In the 800s A.D., the great Caliph Al-Mamun created a school of translation in Baghdad.
This school translated most of the Ancient Greek books on philosophy, medicine, and mathematics. This was very fortunate for Europeans because most of these books were destroyed in Europe. When the Europeans got these books from Arabs, a new age of learning began in Europe.
But the Arabs did not just translate; they also created many great works themselves. In fact, algebra, which is a very important part of math, was founded by an Arab scientist called Al-Khwarizmi.

What do people usually think is the intellectual center of Europe?
What was the greatest city in Europe in the Middle Ages?
Where is Cordoba located?
What did Arab scholars think of Europe in the Middle Ages?
How many people lived in Paris?
How many people lived in Cordoba?
How many books did a typical library have in Europe?
How many books were in the libraries of Cordoba?
Who lived in Cordoba?
What architecture is famous in Cordoba?
When was Cordoba captured?
Who captured Cordoba?

What was the time of great learning in Europe called?
Where was Arab civilization located?
What was it like before 1100 A.D.?
What was the center of Arab civilization?
When did the great Caliph Al-Mamun live?
What did he create?
What did the school translate?
Why was this fortunate for the Europeans?
What did the Arab scholars do besides translating?
Who founded algebra?

In Western minds, the city Timbuktu is synonymous with ‘far away’ and ‘mysterious’. This comes from the time when Timbuktu was a thriving trade city in the middle of Africa.
During its golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries, Timbuktu controlled the trade between East and West Africa and North and South Africa. Many things were traded in Timbuktu but the gold-salt trade was the most important. Slaves were also traded heavily in Timbuktu.
There were also an important place of learning in Timbuktu, including the Sankore mosque, which is still standing today. The great families of Timbuktu kept over 100,000 manuscripts, some of which dated back to the 12th century.
Timbuktu was also important for spreading Islamic culture. There is an African proverb that says, “Salt comes from the north, gold from the south, but the word of God and the treasures of wisdom come from Timbuktu.”
However, as the Portuguese explored West Africa, new trade routes opened going over the ocean and the importance of Timbuktu declined. Today, Timbuktu is an impoverished town and is being threatened by the advancing desert.

What is Timbuktu synonymous with in Western minds?
What was Timbuktu in the past?
When was the golden age of Timbuktu?
What trade routes did Timbuktu control?
What was the most important trade route?
What else was traded there?
Why else was Timbuktu important?
What famous mosque still stands today?
How many manuscripts have the great families kept?
How old are some of the manuscripts?
What is another reason why Timbuktu was important?
What proverb do West Africans have about God?
Why id Timbuktu decline in importance?
What is Timbuktu like today?

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