Earnest Pleas in Early Muslim Poetry

Khalifa ibn Khayyat was an Arab historian and religious scholar active in the 800s A.D. His history of the Umayyad and early Abbasid caliphates is one of the oldest to have survived. It records a lot more poetry than you see in Western histories. Most of these poems are put in the mouths of people […]

The Fall of Caliph Uthman

Uthman was the third caliph: the third religious and political successor to the Prophet Muhammad. Uthman’s rule was contentious, his downfall ugly. It’s a fascinating case study and a terrible tragedy. The last months of his reign saw at least three factions battling for control of his empire, but all the politics was done on […]

Ibn Battuta’s Maldivian Coup Plot

We’ve talked twice before about Ibn Battuta, the medieval Moroccan traveler. This time, we’re going to talk about his adventures in the Maldives, a paradisiacal tropical archipelago south of India. In the Maldives, Ibn Battuta got pressed into service as an Islamic judge, let his bad attitude get him into political trouble, and plotted a […]

Wild Adventures Mapping the Khorasan Border

An 1880s joint expedition to map the border between Russia and Iran provides an amazing template for a surveying adventure. “Surveying?” you say. “How dull!” But hear me out! This joint expedition is full of smuggling, religious confrontations, international incidents, small-scale domestic politics, pride, feuds, and maybe even a secret villain operating from the shadows. […]

The Ruins of Ungwana

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The Capitalist Cannibal Butthole Bird

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 Djenné

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David Alroy, the Wizard-Messiah

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Palace Intrigue in the Mansa’s Mali

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Shrine of the Cloak

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The Wall Against Gog and Magog

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Mali’s Real-Life Adventurers’ Guilds

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Help! My roommate is a genie!

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