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New Image Collections from the Middle East and Central Asia

June 13, 2012

Pictures From History has posted three new image collections from the Middle East and Central Asia. Of course, they’re not complete – and by definition never will be, as we expect to continue adding to them on a regular basis. Still, we feel that they are already sufficiently extensive to merit announcing, and we hope you will agree.


Minaret and fluted dome at Sher Dor Madrassa, The Registan, Samarkand / © David Henley / CPA Media

Timur’s Legacy – the Architecture of Samarkand and Bukhara

‘Let he who doubt Our Power and Our Munificence look upon Our Buildings’.

Amir Timur, 1379 AD

Timur, better known in the West as Tamerlane from his nickname Timur-i-leng or ‘Timur the Lame’, was the last of the great nomadic warriors to sweep out of Central Asia and shake the world. As befits a man styled ‘World Conqueror’, we know a lot about him – and not all of it good. In 1336, at Shakhrisabz in present-day Uzbekistan, the wife of a minor chief of the Mongol Barlas clan gave birth to a son with blood-filled palms, a sure omen that the infant was predestined to cause the death of thousands. He was given an appropriate name – Timur or demir means ‘iron’ in Turkish – and raised in the Turkic-Islamic tradition of the surrounding steppe as a rider, archer and swordsman... continued


Palestine: A young Palestinian woman of Bethlehem, early 20th century / ℗ Pictures From History

People of Palestine

From abroad, we are accustomed to believe that Eretz Israel is presently almost totally desolate, an uncultivated desert, and that anyone wishing to buy land there can come and buy all he wants. But in truth it is not so.

Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg), ‘A Truth from Eretz Israel’ (1891)

Ha’am was a prominent Zionist theoretician who devoted his life to the concept of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine, but he never attempted to deny the existence of a Palestinian people. On the contrary, he warned his fellow Jews against the ‘great error’ of treating Palestinians with contempt and of regarding Arabs as ‘savages of the desert’. Yet as recently as 2011 two Republican presidential candidates in the USA, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, both baldly denied the existence of a Palestinian people.

Such claims are clearly preposterous and irrational. Of course there are Palestinian people, just as there was once a united Palestine. And while the majority of Palestinians are Arab Muslims, there are also Arab Christians, as well as Jews, Samaritans, Armenians, Greeks, Circassians, Druze, Bedouin and others, still living side-by-side in the intertwined patchwork of territories that now comprise Israel and Palestine.

This seems axiomatic. But for those who continue seriously to doubt the present demographic evidence, or perhaps the written word, there remains an indisputable third source of proof – pictures of historic Palestine and its people, taken between the mid 19th century (the first known photograph of Palestine dates from as early as 1837) and the end of the British Mandate in 1948… continued


Iran: Sassanid Prince Bahram Gur in the Sandalwood Pavilion, c. 1540 / ℗ Pictures From History

The Arabian Incense Road

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine

John Masefield (1917)

Perhaps the oldest trade route known to history, preceding the Silk Road by at least five hundred years, the Incense Road – also known as the Incense Route or Incense Trail – comprised a complex network of overland and maritime trade routes connecting the Mediterranean World of Antiquity with Southern Arabia, the Horn of Africa and India’s Malabar Coast. These were the sources of fragrant resins and barks such as myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon and sandalwood used in the manufacture of incense, a product greatly desired and valued in the ancient civilisations of Egypt and Persia, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley… continued

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