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Travellers to and from the Middle East, full series

June 9, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - June 25, 2020 @ 5:00 pm

This series of six one-hour lectures by Dr Janet Starkey (ASTENE) and Paul Starkey, Professor Emeritus, Durham University, which will be delivered online, replaces the lectures which were cancelled earlier in the year. No previous knowledge is assumed and you do not need to have attended the earlier lectures. If you booked for the cancelled lectures and were not already refunded, please email berwickea@gmail.com and let us know whether you want to transfer your booking or to get a refund.

Lectures are at 4 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting 9 June.

Book tickets for the full series here.

You can also book for individual lectures (go to berwickea.eventbrite.com).

Egypt and the Middle East have enchanted many travellers over the centuries, and these lectures provide a fascinating array of accounts and perceptions. From the earliest epic of Gilgamesh, to early Christian, Jewish and Muslim pilgrims, to medieval merchants, missionaries and fictional travel narratives; artist-travellers who influenced European images of the Middle East; and travellers from the Middle East in Europe, they travelled in pursuit of knowledge, power, diplomacy and trade, for pleasure and adventure, on pilgrimage, and to discover and plunder the exotic.

A. Fictional travellers, creative writers or liars? Marco Polo, Odoric of Pordenone and John Mandeville (Janet). Marco Polo travelled in the Middle East in the thirteenth century, Odoric set off from Venice in 1318; Mandeville supposedly travelled in the region from 1322. They described impenetrable deserts, fabulous monsters and strange plants. But did they really travel there, or even exist? To be split as follows:

Tues 9 June Janet. An introduction to medieval travel writing with a case study about Marco Polo’s Travels as Natural History: deserts, strange plants — and monsters

Thurs 11 June Janet. A case study comparing the three authors’ accounts of legends about ‘The Old Man of the Mountains’ and ‘Gardens of Paradise’

B. Creative influences of artist-travellers in the Middle East: from Dürer to Vanmour and beyond (Janet). French-Flemish painter Jean-Baptiste Vanmour (1671–1737), illustrated everything from Ottoman court life and ambassador’s audiences to everyday events and costumes in Constantinople’s multi-national society and inspired many travellers, painters, engravers and even composers. To be split as follows:

Tues 16 June Janet. Sources of Inspiration: Jean-Baptise Vanmour and other artist-travellers in Ottoman lands

Thurs 18 June. Janet. A case study on paintings and drawings of Turkish costume, from Peter Mundy (1597–c.1667) to Vanmour and on to 19th-century Orientalist painters

C. The life and times of Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq (1804–1887) (Paul). Al-Shidyaq was a Lebanese Christian by birth who worked and travelled at various times during his life in Egypt, Malta, Tunisia, France and England, before dying in 1887 in Constantinople (Istanbul). His adventurous life — recorded in several works — provides a unique introduction to travel in the region and to contacts between Europe and the Middle East in the nineteenth century. To be split as follows:

Tues 23 June Paul. Al-Shidyaq in the service of the missionaries

Thurs 25 June Paul. Al-Shidyaq in the service of the Sultan

Lectures will be delivered via Zoom. If you haven’t used Zoom before, please go to www.zoom.us and look at the tutorials. An invitation to each lecture will be emailed to you.

If you book this course online, we will hold your personal data in accordance with our privacy policy. If you do not wish us to hold your personal data, please book by post (see www.berwickea.co.uk) and do not supply an email address.


June 9, 2020 @ 4:00 pm
June 25, 2020 @ 5:00 pm
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Online via Zoom