By Christian Sahner

As a civil conflict shatters a rustic and consumes its humans, historian Christian C. Sahner bargains a poignant account of Syria, the place the previous profoundly shapes its dreadful current. one of the Ruins blends background, memoir and reportage, drawing at the author's wide wisdom of Syria in historic, medieval, and smooth occasions, in addition to his reviews dwelling within the Levant at the eve of the conflict and in the middle of the "Arab Spring". those plotlines converge in a wealthy narrative of a rustic in consistent flux - a spot renewed by way of the very shifts that, within the close to time period, are proving so damaging.

Sahner makes a speciality of 5 issues of curiosity to an individual intrigued and dismayed via Syria's fragmentation due to the fact that 2011: the position of Christianity in society; the coming of Islam; the increase of sectarianism and competing minorities; the emergence of the Ba'ath social gathering; and the present pitiless civil struggle.

Among the Ruins is a brisk and illuminating learn, an available creation to a rustic with an vastly wealthy previous and a sad current. For someone looking to comprehend Syria, this booklet may be their start line.

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Extra resources for Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present

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2 Whether for commercial or religious reasons, the Prophet Muhammad always showed a special interest in these lands. He died in 632â•–AD, four years before the fall of Damascus, but we know he harbored early ambitions to bring Bilad al-Sham into the Muslim fold, as evidenced by a string of campaigns he dispatched to southern Jordan at the end of his life. Under his immediate successors, the caliphs Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, the conquest of Syria proceeded in earnest. 3 â•… The attention of Muslim leaders was understandable.

This was in keeping with what we know about the man who built it. Medieval Arabic texts portray al-Walid II as a feckless and profligate character. He allegedly used the Quran for target practice; planned to build an open-air “cocktail deck” atop the Kaaba in Mecca, where he could sip wine and gossip about the passers-by; 30 Qusayr ‘Amra, Jordan, fresco of bathhouse attendant AMONG THE RUINS and once, upon hearing the call to prayer ring out from a nearby mosque, he withdrew from the singing girl lying beneath him and ordered her to lead the prayers in his stead.

Walking to the eastern end, I discovered a lavish domed shrine, sheathed in green glass and studded with metal grills. Pious men and women crowded around it. I took special note of a man visiting from the east of Syria, who struggled to stuff a wad of cash through the grate; rich tourists from the Gulf who peered warily at the shrine; and an old mystic rocking back and forth as he recited the Quran. This shrine contained the head of John the Baptist—known as Yahya to Muslims— the very same relic that had made the cathedral so famous in Byzantine times.

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