Islamic Empires: The Cities That Shaped Civilization: From Mecca to Dubai

Justin Marozzi. Pegasus, $35 (464p) ISBN 978-1-64-313306-5
Marozzi (Tamerlane), a former foreign correspondent for the BBC and the Economist, combines travel writing and history in this fluid, enriching series of vignettes about the great cities of Islamic civilization. Focusing on one city to represent each century since Islam’s founding in the early seventh century CE, the work starts with Mecca and ends with Doha, with stops including Fez and Cordoba in the west, and Samarkand and Kabul in the east. The range and detail of Marozzi’s research brings a welcome variation on the standard view of Islamic history. Marozzi doesn’t skimp on historical details (sometimes at the narrative’s expense) but the travel writing is fresh, with first-person accounts of the author’s peregrinations and stories of contemporary inhabitants interwoven into the recitation of names and dates. Most importantly, Marozzi provides a contrast to one-sided narratives of the Islamic world, as it showcases 15 centuries of sophisticated and cosmopolitan cities full of intellectual, artistic, and economic power. While the work can feel aimless, it is nonetheless enjoyable and deeply informative, and will appeal to anyone interested in the diversity of Islamic culture. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/01/2019
Release date: 02/04/2020
Genre: Religion
Hardcover - 464 pages - 978-0-241-19904-6
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