All posts in Pax Islamica


By Islam El Shazly

I have always been told that nostalgia is a seductive mistress, which is very much true, too much dwelling on what has been, and what might have become had it stayed the same, can lead to a lot of misery, frustration, and a bit of stagnation in creativity.

However, it is one of the very few things that we share as humans, and we don’t share much really. Reminiscing about the glory of the past, the architecture and the arts, the culture and the might. There’s a certain romance to it, and that’s not too bad, because if used properly, it can fuel future grand designs in all aspects of life. Read more…


By Islam El Shazly

Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi, not a lot is known about his life as a whole, well, except the little fact that he founded Algebra, and introduced the Zero and the Arabic numerals to the world. But he was more than that; he was a mathematician, an astronomer, a geographer, and a cartographer, and he has done a lot more than solve quadratic equations.

Al-Khwarizmi, was born in Khwarizm – Khiva – around 780 CE (164 AH) in modern day Uzbekistan, back then it was part of Greater Khorasan within Persia. He moved with his family to Baghdad, the centre of knowledge and learning in an age that is now known as the Golden Age of Islam, there he would rise in the ranks and eventually be at the head of the House of Wisdom. Read more…


By Islam El Shazly

Conservation in Egypt is a sketchy thing; back when Mohamed Ali Pasha was in charge, it was reported that he wanted to use stones from the Pyramids to build his Nile barrages! He was trying to be thrifty: why go through the trouble of quarrying when you have some perfectly pre-cut stones right there! Thank God he was dissuaded by his accountant on the account that it would actually be more expensive to do so.

For all we know this might be an urban legend, but this very kind of indifferent attitude towards our nature and heritage is very rampant in Egypt, but only really became apparent over the last 60 years; and a phenomenon over the last 30. Read more…


By Islam El Shazly

The Grand Street of Historic Islamic Cairo, the heart of the once capital of the Fatimid Empire; as old as Cairo, it saw its fair share of kings and vagabonds. Walking through it amidst the ancient villas and the architectural marvels left behind by four dynasties, is like being transported into the world of the Prince of Persia – without all the of the sand demons.

Taking a turn into one of the little alleys that spring out throughout the length of the street on a quiet day, stop for a moment and close your eyes, you can almost feel the ghosts of all the people who walked through here over the ages. There are shadows here. The time of the Fatimid also gave rise to their cousins, the Assassins. They lurked in the shadows.

But there is light here too, the whole length of the street is full of Masajid (Mosques), Madrasas (Schools), Bimaristans (Hospitals), Baths, and Sabeel/Kuttabs. Knowledge was available for all, and trade flourished here. It still does. Going inside one of the Kuttabs you can almost hear the walls still echoing the thousands of children who came to learn Quran. Read more…


By Islam El Shazly

Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad Al-Wazzan Al-Fasi, An elusive figure in history, just as he exploded onto the scene of Renaissance Europe, he vanished without a trace; his Cosmographia & Geographia de Affrica was Europe’s essential window into North and Sub-Saharan Africa for over 300 years.

“… I am now called the African, but I am not from Africa, nor from Europe, nor from Arabia. I am also called the Granadan, the Fassi, the Zayyati, but I come from no country, from no city, no tribe. I am the son of the road; my country is the caravan, my life the most unexpected of voyages.” Prologue, Leo the African, by Amin Maalouf. Read more…


By Islam El Shazly

There has been lots of talk recently in Egypt about tourism, now that the Islamists have come to power in the parliament. Are they going to ban tourism? What’s to become of the 5 million people employed in the industry? What about the alcohol and the gambling and the bikinis?

As with everything in life there are etiquettes to travel and tourism within Islam, these etiquettes are there not to govern or dictate the way we should enjoy ourselves, but rather to temper it. Away from home and being among strangers gives a false sense of freedom to people, and makes them do things that they would otherwise never think of doing in their homeland; non-smokers become smokers, non-drinkers might indulge in a beer or two, and even if they make a different country their own, they are likely to take on jobs that they would normally sneer at home, like driving a taxi. Read more…


By Islam El Shazly

It has been a little over 11 months since the January 25, 2011, ignited to culminate into the ouster of one of the worst rulers in the Arab world in modern history, Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, right on the heels of his brother-in-arms Bin Ali from Tunisia.

A lot has changed since then, some to the better, and some to the worst. We’re not going to get into either of them; they both have long lists.

What we’re going to be talking about is something that has managed somehow to divide the people, mostly triggered by a media that still plays by the pre-Mubarak days of divide and conquer for the sake of the person who is in charge at the time, SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) at the moment. That something is “Tourism”. Read more…


By Islam El Shazly

In 1260 CE the Mongol horde under Hulagu ravaged Syria, The Great Mosque and the Citadel of Aleppo were razed and most of the inhabitants were killed or sold into slavery.

In 1400 CE Timur, also known as Tamerlane or Timūr-e Lang, the Turco-Mongol conqueror, invaded Syria, sacked Aleppo then besieged and captured Damascus. The Umayyad Mosque was razed and most of the inhabitants were massacred, the rest were sold into slavery. The lucky ones were the artisans; they were spared and sent to Samarqand, the capital of the Timurid Empire. The unlucky ones had their heads piled up in a field outside the north-east corner of the walls, where a city square still bears the name burj al-ru’us, literally “the tower of heads”. Read more…

PIRI REIS (15th / 16th Century CE – 9th / 10th Century AH): CAPTAIN OF THE SEA

By Islam El Shazly

Myth, legend and fact mix together for the tale of Piri Reis. His world maps have caused controversy since their discovery back in 1929. They have been the topic of debate for amateurs, historians and researchers, and the debate is still in full swing till now; space aliens and ancient extinct civilisations are a normal occurrence in these debates! Read more…

AHMAD IBN MAJID (15th Century CE – 9th Century AH): THE LION OF THE SEAS

Determing Latitude using "Fingers".

by Islam El Shazly

Ahmad ibn Majid ibn Muhammad ibn Omar ibn Fadl ibn Dwaik ibn Youssef ibn Hassan ibn Hussein ibn Abi Mo’alaq ibn Abi Al-Raka’eb Al-Najdey.

The Shooting Star.

The Lion of the Seas.

His books, charts, and maps guided sailors for years, and his improvements on nautical tools and nautical inventions transformed how sailors navigated the seven seas forever.

He was a Muslim Arab, navigator, cartographer, and author; born to a famous family of seafarers around 824 AH/1421 CE, in Julphar, Sharjah, one of the emirates of the UAE. Back then it was part of the coast of Oman. Read more…