IMC 2007: Sessions

Session 1527: Islamic Cities

Thursday 12 July 2007, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Hugh Kennedy, Department of Mediaeval History, University of St Andrews

Paper a: The article discusses the status of Karbala as a holy city for the Shi’ites, as well as how Karbala, upon whose soil the nephew of the Prophet Muhammad, Husayn Ibn Ali (d.680), was murdered in the battle of Karbala in 680 CE, became a city so sacred to the Shi’a. The paper will deliberate on the image of the city of Karbala in Shi’ite literature. It also deals with the land of Karbala, and how it became holy for the Shi’ites to the present day. The various usages by the Shi’ites of the soil of Karbala in their daily lives is also discussed.
The paper will address the ceremonies of the visit and the pilgrimage to the grave of Husayn b. Ali at Karbala, and also the kinds of visits (ziyarat) to the grave of Husayn, their characteristics, their virtues, and the praises of the visit to the grave according to the Shi’ite faith. It considers recurrent motifs in the (ziyara) literature.

Paper c: Acre is an ancient town, one of the oldest sea towns in the world. All the great conquerors fought on Acre, to gain control on the town, its harbour and fortifications. During half a millennium of the Ottoman Empire the town endured times of prosperity and decline.
At the first century of Ottoman rule, the town engulfed within the magnificent ruins of its crusaders glorious past, was almost deserted, as the country became a marginal semi deserted province. The town became no more than a small fishing village with population of 2,000 inhabitants. But, during the 16th century, and more so into the 17th century, under Fahir a-Din, (1586-1635) the town was somewhat revived, the population increased. However, the 17th century was unstable times in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean. And the instability affected Acre until the very end of the century, when the town was subjected to the district of Sida, instead of the district of Safad. The new arrangement returned the town’s status as a port, and its importance rose. Unlike the rest of the Ottoman Empire, Acre of the 18th century was characterized with economic and administrative stability, due to the development of the cotton trade. From the middle of the 18th century onwards, Acre became the capital of the Galilee, and the most important city in Israel, due to the semi-autonomous reign of the Bedouin house of Zaidan in the Galilee, and the establishment of the French colonies on the cost. Daher, of the Zaidan dynasty, brought the golden age of Acre. He brought new settlers to town, and used the vast crusaders remnants as source for building materials. The rebuilding and repopulation of a town was a renovation in a marginal semi-deserted country. After 500 years of neglect, the town became thriving prosperous port town, and the capital of the Sida district. Ahmed-Pasha El –Jazar, the governor of Acre, known for his cruelty and dictator rule, was also a great builder who built several public institutions and re-fortified the city. The town stood the siege of Napoleon in 1799 and still basks in the glory of defeating him and his armies. This prosperity did not last long, and at the beginning of the 19th century the town was again in decline. Jafa replaced it as the major harbour for Palestine, and the building of the big port in Haifa had closed its status as the leading sea port in the north. The Turkish rule, that forbade building outside the walls of the city, contrary of the ruling in Jafa & Jerusalem, where new suburbs were built, stopped chances of development and growth encouraging the decline of the city. Trade was limited to certain days of the week, and the town was stagnated and eventually deserted by some of the leading families who choose to move on to the new town of Haifa. This lecture will focus on the social, political and economical status of Acre during the Ottoman regime, its rise and decline and the causal factors for them.