10 November 2013

Fatimid Pectoral Decoration?



Fatimid Pectoral Decorations?
November 2013, revised July 2016

Recently I gathered several extant images of Fatimid people into one folder. Reviewing them side by side, I was intrigued to find an unexpected theme in them. There frequently appears to be a pectoral decoration on tunics. It is apparently worn by both men and women however, in many of the images the decoration is not clearly defined.


Please share links to images you might have with this detail.





Name of Object: Large dish
Holding Museum: Museum of Islamic Art Cairo, Egypt
Museum Inventory Number: 14923
Dimensions: Diameter 40 cm
Material(s) / Technique(s): Ceramic with metallic lustre decoration over a glazed surface.
Date of the object: Hegira 5th century / AD 11th century
Period / Dynasty Fatimid

Samia's note: This one is interesting because there appears to be a bare belly as well. The figure is likely masculine because of the turban, the wide-set eyebrows, the lack of curls at the temples.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/horemachet/375913187/


ICM-36 Fatimid 28cm 11th cent. CE SVI270107 web

 "All the Fatimid ceramics are from the Islamic Ceramics Museum (ICM) in Cairo, a beautifully kept collection in a beautiful palace. We photographed all the Fatimid objects and shall post them as they are edited. By the way, this is one of the very few museums where photography is allowed without SCA permission." http://www.flickr.com/photos/horemachet/375913301/

Samia's note: This one is interesting because there appears to be a bare belly as well. The figure is not gender-defined. There is a typically-male turban; typically female grown-together eyebrows; something like a sideburn, but not the typically-female curl; apparently long hair. It is possible this person is a eunuch. 


http://www.qantara-med.org/qantara4/public/show_document.php?do_id=1225
accessed 1/23/11

    * Title/name : Bowl with female dancer
    * Production place : Fatimid Egypt
    * Date / period : First half of the eleventh century
    * Materials and techniques : Ceramic with lustred decoration on opaque glaze
    * Dimensions : Height 6.7cm; Diameter 26.1 cm
    * Conservation town : Washington D. C
    * Conservation place : Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery of Art
    * Inventory number : 46.30

Samia's note: Likely a female dancer. Typically-female grown-together eyebrows; typically-female curls at the temple; some scholars believe the scarf-dance pose seen here is typically-female.

Plate Purchase F1941.12
12th century, Fatimid period

Earthenware painted over glaze with luster
H: 7.0 W: 9.2 cm
Egypt

Samia's note: Probably male. Hunting scenes (with birds of prey) do not appear to include women in this period. Typically-male turban; typically-male wide-set eyebrows.


ICM-13 27,5cm 12th cent. CE SVI270107 web

 "All the Fatimid ceramics are from the Islamic Ceramics Museum (ICM) in Cairo, a beautifully kept collection in a beautiful palace. We photographed all the Fatimid objects and shall post them as they are edited. By the way, this is one of the very few museums where photography is allowed without SCA permission." http://www.flickr.com/photos/horemachet/375913301/

Samia's note: Probably male. Hunting scenes (with birds of prey) do not appear to include women in this period. Probably a beard, does not cover the nose like a veil would; typically-male wide-set eyebrows; indeterminate head wear.


accessed 1/23/11

   * Title/name : Dish with giraffe
    * Author : Attributed to ‘Muslim’
    * Production place : Egypt
    * Date / period : End of the tenth to the beginning of the eleventh century
    * Materials and techniques : Clay-paste ceramics; lustred decoration over opaque glaze
    * Dimensions : Diameter 24cm
    * Conservation town : Athens
    * Conservation place : The Benaki Museum
    * Inventory number : 749

Samia's note: Probably male. Other work scenes from near this period show that men will hike up the tunic when working while women will not; typically-male wide-set eyebrows; indeterminate head wear.

04 November 2013

Naming conventions of the Medieval Middle East



What’s up with your names?
Sayyeda al-Kaslaania
November 2013

In the Medieval Middle East, names were treated differently than they were in Europe. While everyone is given a name at birth, that name is reserved for close friends and family in adulthood. It was even considered rude to use a given name. Unfortunately for us that means that few first names were recorded in historical records.

If not called by their names, how are people addressed?

People are called by where they’re from. al-Baghdadi is the man from Baghdad.

People are called by what they do. Maryam al-Astrulabyya is the astrolabe-maker of the 10th century.

People are called by whom they birthed. umm Ayyub is the mother of Ayyub. abu Nasir is the father of Nasir.

People are called by who birthed them. ibn Sina is the son of Sina. bint ‘Isa is the daughter of ‘Isa.  

Knowing who you fathered or who fathered you helps us to know men’s names. Tradition does not typically invite the honorific of who your mother or daughters are, however. We therefore learn fewer names of women than men.

People are called by their titles. Sayyid and Sayyeda are used in place of Lord and Lady in the SCA. You might read about Sitt al-Mulk, a woman in the Fatimid Caliphal palace. “Sitt” means “great lady” and al-Mulk mean “the sovereign”. Sitt al-Mulk served as the regent for her minor child, thus earning the title Great Lady of the Sovereign.

The tricky part about women’s names is that many of the women whom people were writing about were slaves (people did not normally presume to write about honorable women. If they did write about honorable women for some reason the appropriate titles are used). These women took on assigned or assumed names which were often what we might think of as stage names. For example, Sukkar for the woman called “Sugar”, and Ziryab for the man called “the Blackbird”.  Without knowing Arabic, it can be difficult to discern what names are real and what nicknames are Honey or Silk.

Seeing some of the examples, we now understand that a person can reasonably go from being “the son of X” to “the man from Y” to “the father of Z” in a lifetime.

Therefore, Sayyeda al-Kaslaania, born Samia bint ‘Isa, is called by her title “Lady” and nickname “the woman with idle time”. When she is in direct service to the Queen she can be Muqima al-Kaslaania, taking the title “woman of the palace staff”. When she’s with her friends she is simply called Samia.

03 November 2013

Beef with quince and jujubes: Food item Eighteen: A&S50 Challenge



Zirbaj with quince
Beef with quince and jujubes: Food item Eighteen: A&S50 Challenge
Sayyeda al-Kaslaania
March 2010

Take some cooked meat, and some coarsely crushed chickpeas, and cook [some more]; then add the broth of the meat, vinegar, honey or sugar, some saffron, some quinces [cut] into pieces, and some new apples, also cut into pieces. If you like, [put in] some peeled almonds and some jujubes, or else pistachios and mint. Let thicken over the fire and serve.

Another version: follow the same procedure, with a little starch to thicken [the sauce]; the color remains yellow.

The recipe is translated from a thirteenth century Syrian text called Wusla ila al-habib fi wasf al-tayyibat wa-l-tib, "The Book of Relation with the Beloved in the Description of the Best Dishes and Spices". The original author is unknown to us now. As it appears in Zaouali, Lilia, and M.B. DeBevoise (trans). Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World: A concise history with 174 recipes.  University of California Press:Berkley, 2007.


Beef with quince and jujubes

1.25 lb beef roast
olive oil
8 ounces beef broth
1 can chickpeas, coarsely crushed
1 quince, cored, peeled and cubed
1 apple, cored, peeled and cubed
2 T honey
3 T white vinegar
pinch saffron
6 jujubes, pitted and chopped


Cut the beef into stir-fry sized pieces and brown with olive oil in a large skillet. While it browns, use a potato masher to crush the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas, broth and vinegar to the pot and cook for about 20 minutes before adding remaining ingredients. Peel and core/pit the fruit. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 40 minutes.

Serve over pita bread.



Notes:
    * "Meat" is always red meat, and usually not lamb in historical Middle Eastern cookbooks (lamb and poultry are specified in recipes). Goat, beef and camel are also acceptable “meats”. 

    * New apples would be opposed to apples with russeting (before we started genetically engineering apples, they used to get dull and "russet" colored after week in the pantry-- still being edible).

    * Since both corn and potato starch are new world, I'm curious what sort of starch would have been used to thicken this. Bread crumbs are clearly spelled out in other recipes from this collection, so I doubt that's it.

    * I browned my beef in sesame oil, which worked fine for the temperature but gave the meat an unexpected flavor. I think I would stick with olive oil for red meat in the future.

    * Jujubes, also called Chinese dates, have long been known in the old world. 

    * The jujubes were an unknown quantity for my family, so I kept the volume low. They’re difficult to pit once they’re dried (dried jujubes can be ordered over the Internet from Texas). The flavor is near a date or a plum before cooking, although less flavor overall, and sweet.

    * I would try to get fresh jujubes next time. The skin toughens up on the dried pieces and provides a texture in the dish like dried chili peppers in a stir-fry. 

    * Quince are a fruit related to apples, but they’re inedible in their uncooked state. They can be obtained from Middle Eastern markets most of the year, and many regular groceries will be able to order a box of them for you during apple season.