Unlike Christian countries in Central Europe, the medieval Caliphate of Córdoba showed great interest in other cultures. One of many Muslim travellers was Ibrāhīm ibn Yaʿqūb al-Isrāʾīlī aṭ-Ṭurṭūšī. During his trip through the lands of the Franks, Italians and Slavs, Ibrāhīm visited famous cities, trade markets and even attended an imperial coronation. While historians have discussed the experiences of those travellers or merchants, they have not considered how they were received by the local population in the lands they visited. In which social contexts did foreigners come in contact with the local people? Where did cultural contact take place? These interactions reveal Ibrāhīm’s journeys as a transcultural experience, important not only for him but also for those he visited.
The Shu’ubiya was an internal movement of the medieval Islamic society, struggling against any kind of Arab primacy. During the 9th and 10th centuries this conflict between Shu’ubites (mainly Persians) and the anti-shu’ubites (defending Arab primacy) became an important topic of the Arab literature and produced famous anti-shu’ubite literature. These works propound a definition of the Self (Arab) and the Other (Persian) and so a cultural, social, and moral portrait of the Arabs and the Persians. Food and foodways were one of the criteria which distinguished the Arabs from the Persians according to these authors. We can therefore study the making of otherness through their work. What were the distinctive type of food or foodways among Arabs and Persians? Can foodways be a relevant subject of research for identity construction?
Hindî Mahmud was a 60-year-old man when he attended the war of Lepanto in 1571. In the course of the war, he was enslaved and spent next four years in the prisons of Vatican. During those years of imprisonment, he wrote Sergüzeştnâme (adventure) revealing his experiences in the lands of Kafirs. His ideas about the Papacy, religious life of the ‘infidel’, as well as the conditions of the prisoners can give us a chance to understand how he – as a war captive – envisaged himself and the ‘other’. Such works, ultimately, reveal the cultural assumptions of their era, they also elucidate common experiences of engagement with the Occident.