Saturday 25 February 2012

Şeker Ahmed Pasha : The Works of a Military Artist

A portrait of Şeker Ahmed
We have another Ottoman joining the ranks of the posts (I'm biased as you might already know!), Şeker Ahmed Pasha (1841–1907) is a classic example. Born in Istanbul, and initially enrolled in Medical School, he switched to the local military academy where he would later develop his interest in art.

The Sultan( Sultan Abdulaziz) liked his work and sent him to Paris immediately, to study under Gustave Boulanger and Jean-Leon Gerome.

Many of his works were oil-paintings based on nature , such as forests, fruits, animals and others.

He would later go on to host many art exhibitions and continued to serve in the army. He died in 1907, of a heart attack. 

Here are some of his works:

Ayvali Naturmor

Forest path
Basket of fruits (my personal favourite)
Fruit table
Sheep herding

Books and nature
Sheep in the dark clouds
Another talented artist for the books! If this is not talent, then I do not know what is.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Book Review: Tears on an Island - A History of Disasters in the Kingdom of Bahrain

Available in local Bahrain bookstores

Another local book that caught my eye; this 219 page book deals with Bahrain's history with regards to disasters. In this book, disasters are classified as :

  1. Natural and Physical Disasters
  2. Biological Disasters
  3. Man-made Technological Disasters
  4. Man-made Non-Technological Disasters
  5. Environmental Disasters
  6. Disasters due to Gathering
The book is written by a man who is not new to disasters, having been at the helm of the Medical Response Team to the recent ill-fated Gulf Air  in August 2000, he is Dr. Abdul Aziz Yousif Hamza ; Undersecretary of Health in the Ministry of Health, a former Chief of Medical Staff at the local Salmaniya hospital and is now a Professor at the College of Medicine at the Arabian Gulf University.

Here is my feedback:


  • The book only deals with disasters in the 20th Century and onwards, with very little pertaining to previous centuries,
  • The book lists several facts after the other, with very little link between them (akin to just jumping from one point to another),
  • Bias is evident in the book, especially when pertaining to politics,
  • Grammatical mistakes (a pet peeve of mine) are rampant throughout the book,
  • Since the book is arranged by type of accidents, it is not arranged in chronological order of all the disasters,
  • Some paragraphs are too brief and vague, they do not portray the message effectively.

  • The book covers almost every single disaster that occurred in Bahrain in the 20th century and beyond (although not the same level of information is given),
  • Excellent use of pictures of disasters, from the early 1920s till the 2000s, pictures from the 'Year of the Locusts' to the year when Bahrain went sub-zero !
  • Most disasters are well-explained, with many paragraphs (an average of 2-3) explaining the disaster.
  • The book reports on medical disasters, such as disease outbreaks like the typhoid fever outbreak of 1969,
  • The book touches light on all types of disasters , from rainstorms to building fires (such as the Jashanmal building fire in Manama)
  • An interesting insight is provided about Bahrain during wartime, such as the failed (in the sense of missing the target) bombardment by Italian planes in WW2 and the landing of a SCUD missile in Bahrain, fired by Iraq during the first Gulf War,
  • The book starts off with an introduction into Bahrain's 20th century history , (surprisingly) featuring the local regional politics,
  • A key to how the disasters are classified is also present.
 What I particularly like is the huge amount of photos used (especially old photos, one would think they'd be lost !) to help explain disasters from the 2000s blackout to the Seistan ship disaster of 1958.

Overall, this book is not at all perfect but it is the closest thing to it. To an old Bahraini who lived through it all, this would be a pleasant stroll through memory lane. To others, this would open their eyes to what Bahrain has been through, from the Dana Dhow disaster of 2006 to the BAPCO (Bahrain Petroleum Company) Oil Refinery Fire in 1983.

If you got some money saved and don't know what to spend it on, why not on this ? It costs around 15 dinars, the last time I checked (a few months so go so the price might've gone down!).

This should be mandatory in all Bahrain history classes (I'm not in any place to say this but I can dream!). A must-have for Bahrain history enthusiasts.

Friday 17 February 2012

Freshen Up With Archaeology Friday: Post VI

Another week, another post of Archaeology findings!

Muslim Cemetery Discovered in Malta:

From the Times of Malta:

Roadwork excavations in Marsa have revealed the archaeological remains of a Muslim cemetery dating back to 1675, confirming historians’ belief of the existence of a Turkish slave cemetery in the area.
The find is being documented and excavated by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and an archaeologist specialising in documentation of human remains is closely following the investigation.
Bones uncovered on the site (courtesy of the Times of Malta)
The roadworks have been temporarily halted on the relevant sections until the preservation works are complete.

Sections likely to be impacted by ongoing roadworks will be scienti-fically extracted and taken to the superintendence for further testing, analysis and conservation.
The unaffected parts will be protected and left on site, undisturbed.
Two archaeologists were working hard at documenting the findings yesterday afternoon. Remains ran along the chiselled rock at various points, with the occasional bone jutting out.

We’re working along the cross section, cleaning up the debris surrounding the bones and noting everything we find,” Marvin Demicoli said.
Colleague and fellow archaeologist Michelle Padovani said that many of the remains were in good condition and that work was proceeding briskly, although she could not say how long they would last.
We’ve been working hand in hand with Transport Malta and everyone involved on the site to ensure things move as quickly as possible,” Ms Padovani noted.

The two archaeologists pointed to the trench’s north wall – a sheer face some five metres high with scree and other rock debris at its foot – and said they had been asked by health and safety authorities to avoid working on it for the time being.
Initial indications are that the remains are part of the burial ground granted to the Muslim slave community by Grand Master Niccolo Cotoner in 1675.
The cemetery replaced an older one that had been destroyed by the Knights to make way for the Floriana fortifications.

Slavery in Malta ended with Napoleon’s arrival in 1800 but the cemetery continued to serve as a Muslim burial place until the middle of that century, according to historian Godfrey Wettinger.
At the time, the British admiralty decided to extend the inlet available to Maltese boats,” he said, “but, unfortunately, in doing so they also buried the cemetery.
An agreement between the British and Turkish authorities soon rectified the situation.

In 1874, Malta’s Muslim cemetery was transferred to another Marsa site very close to existing one in the area commonly known as Iċ-Ċimiterju tat-Torok (The Turkish Cemetery).
Prof. Wettinger yesterday welcomed the archaeological discoveries as “very interesting”. They appear to confirm his long-held belief of a Turkish slave cemetery in the Marsa area, mentioned in his book, Slavery In The Islands Of Malta And Gozo.

The human remains are oriented south-eastwards, facing Mecca. As is customary in a Muslim burial place, those laid to rest appear to have been buried with no accompanying relics or artefacts.
Some historians had also floated the suggestion that the remains could be part of a makeshift cemetery built by the Ottomans during the Great Siege of 1565.

The Ottomans had chosen to situate their base camp at Marsa throughout the three months of the siege. But the two archaeologists working yesterday thought the hypothesis unlikely.
“In my opinion, these remains are too carefully laid out and spaced out to have been a war camp cemetery,” Mr Demicoli said.

Any remains extracted and taken to a laboratory for further analysis could be subjected to a number of tests.
Carbon dating will determine how old the remains are, confirming or rejecting the existing hypothesis that they belong to a Knight-era cemetery.
DNA tests, which archaeology professor Anthony Bonanno described as “a very complex and complicated process”, could be used to help determine the remains’ origin.

German Soldiers Preserved in World War 1 Trench discovered:

From the Telegraph:

Photo of the trench
The men were part of a larger group of 34 who were buried alive when an Allied shell exploded above the tunnel in 1918 causing it to cave in.
Thirteen bodies were recovered from the underground shelter but the remaining men had to be left under a mountain of mud as it was too dangerous to retrieve them. Nearly a century later French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front during excavation work for a road building project.
Many of the skeletal remains were found in the same positions the men had been in at the time of the collapse, prompting experts to liken the scene to Pompeii. A number of the soldiers were discovered sitting upright on a bench, one was lying in his bed and another was in the foetal position having been thrown down a flight of stairs.
As well as the bodies, poignant personal effects such as boots, helmets, weapons, wine bottles, spectacles, wallets, pipes, cigarette cases and pocket books were also found. Even the skeleton of a goat was found, assumed to be a source of fresh milk for the soldiers.
Archaeologists believe the items were so well preserved because hardly any air, water or lights had penetrated the trench. The 300ft long tunnel was located 18ft beneath the surface near the small town of Carspach in the Alsace region in France.
Michael Landolt, the archaeologist leading the dig, said: "It's a bit like Pompeii.
"Everything collapsed in seconds and is just the way it was at the time.
"Here, as in Pompeii, we found the bodies as they were at the moment of their death.
"Some of the men were found in sitting positions on a bench, others lying down. One was projected down a flight of wooden stairs and was found in a foetal position.
"The collapsed shelter was filled with soil. The items were very well preserved because of the absence of air and light and water.
"Metal objects were rusty, wood was in good condition and we found some pages of newspapers that were still readable.
"Leather was in good condition as well, still supple.
"The items will be taken to a laboratory, cleaned and examined."
Archaeologists also uncovered the wooden sides, floors and stairways of the shelter that
The dead soldiers were part of the 6th Company, 94th Reserve Infantry Regiment.
Their names are all known. They include Musketeer Martin Heidrich, 20, Private Harry Bierkamp, 22, and Lieutenant August Hutten, 37.

Their names are inscribed on a memorial in the nearby German war cemetery of Illfurth.
The bodies have been handed over to the German War Graves Commission but unless relatives can be found and they request the remains to be repatriated, it is planned that the men will be buried at Illfurth.
The underground tunnel was big enough to shelter 500 men and had 16 exits.

It would have been equipped with heating, telephone connections, electricity, beds and a pipe to pump out water.The French attacked the shelter on March 18, 1918 with aerial mines that penetrated the ground and blasted in the side wall of the shelter in two points.
It is estimated that over 165,000 Commonwealth soldiers are still unaccounted for on the Western Front.

Archaeologists Uncovering Legendary Lost City of Poseidon:

A team of scholars and students will return to explore and investigate the site now thought to be the remains of the lost city of Helike, the legendary city that was for centuries the stuff of ancient writers and a tantalizing mystery for explorers and scientists for over 2,000 years.

Led by Dr. Dora Katsonopoulou, Director of the Helike Society, researchers have uncovered a wealth of artifacts and structural remains dating from the Bronze Age through the Roman and Byzantine periods at sites near the southwest shore of the Gulf of Corinth in northern Peloponnesos. In 2000 and 2001, the research team located in this area what is now thought to be the remains of ancient Helike, on the coastal plain between the Selinous and Kerynites Rivers.

A view of the excavations at Helike. Drekis, Wikimedia Commons
Excavation of trenches revealed the architectural remains of Classical period buildings located at a depth of 3 m, likely destroyed by an earthquake and subsequently buried under the deposits of a shallow inland lagoon. "Thus the city did not sink into the depths of the Corinthian Gulf, as previously believed", reported the researchers, "but was submerged by an inland lagoon, which later silted over". The excavations also uncovered a rich array of artifacts.

Also nearby, researchers uncovered evidence of an extensive and remarkably well-preserved Early Helladic coastal settlement (ca. 2600-2300 BC). This site is about 1 kilometer from the present shore, with remains at a depth of 3 to 5 meters below the surface. Finds included the foundations of a corridor house and other buildings that lined cobbled streets, along with abundant pottery.

 Luxury items found at the site, which included small gold and silver ornaments, have given clues about the apparent wealth of this earlier period city. Additionally, sediments covering the Early Bronze Age city contained marine and lagoon microfauna, indicating that the ancient city was submerged in seawater for a period of time. A wall of one building was clearly offset in a way that strongly suggests the result of seismic activity, indicating that this early settlement may have also been destroyed and submerged by an earthquake, about 2,000 years before the famous earthquake that destroyed classical Helike in 373/372 B.C.

It was this massive 4th century earthquake that struck the southwest shore of the Gulf of Corinth and destroyed the Classical city of Helike, purportedly submerging it into the sea. According to the literature, Helike, which became the principal city of Achaea, was founded in the Mycenaean period by Ion, the leader of the Ionian race.

A coin, believed to originate from the city
Helike subsequently became the capital of the Twelve Cities of ancient Achaea. The city area was anciently considered the location of the sanctuary of Poseidon, god of the sea and earthquakes. It was widely discussed in literature by many ancient Greek and Roman writers and visitors such as Strabo, Pausanias, Diodoris, Aelian and Ovid, and has been suggested by some scholars to be the inspiration for the story of Atlantis. But, like Atlantis, the actual whereabouts and evidence of Helike's remains have eluded scholars and explorers for 2,000 years.

It was not until 1988 that efforts began to bear fruit, when Greek archaeologist Dora Katsonopoulou launched the Helike Project to locate the site of the lost city. In 1994 a magnetometer survey was carried out in collaboration with the University of Patras in the delta region near the Corinthian Gulf coast where Helike was suspected to be located, revealing the outlines of a buried building. Excavations followed, unearthing a large Roman building with standing walls.

But the Classical remains of the city of Helike itself were rediscovered in 2001, buried under vestiges of an ancient lagoon. Since then, excavations have been conducted in the Helike delta area every summer. These excavations have uncovered significant archeological finds dating from the time of Helike's founding to the time of its revival during Hellenistic and Roman times.

Individuals interested in participating in the excavations may find out more by going to the project website at

 The Scandalous History of Valentines Day:

This is a good one!

From the Discovery Website:

A painting of Valentines Day (Wikimedia Commons)

Forget roses, chocolates and candlelight dinners. On Valentine's Day, that's rather boring stuff -- at least according to ancient Roman standards.

Imagine half-naked men running through the streets, whipping young women with bloodied thongs made from freshly cut goat skins. Although it might sound like some sort of perverted sadomasochistic ritual, this is what the Romans did until A.D. 496.

Mid-February was Lupercalia (Wolf Festival) time. Celebrated on Feb. 15 at the foot of the Palatine Hill beside the cave where, according to tradition, the she-wolf had suckled Romulus and Remus, the festival was essentially a purification and fertility rite.

Directed by the Luperci, or "brothers of the wolf," the festival began with the sacrifice of two male goats and a dog, their blood smeared on the faces of Luperci initiates and then wiped off with wool dipped in milk.
As thongs were cut from the sacrificed goats, the initiates would run around in the streets flagellating women to promote fertility.

Finally, in 496, Pope Gelasius I banned the wild feast and declared Feb. 14 as St. Valentine's Day.
But who was St. Valentine? Mystery surrounds the identity of the patron saint of lovers.
Indeed, such was the confusion that the Vatican dropped St. Valentine's Day from the Catholic Church calendar of saints in the 1960s.

There were at least three men by the name Valentine in the A.D. 200s, and all died horrible deaths.
One was a priest in the Roman Empire who helped persecuted Christians during the reign of Claudius II. As he was imprisoned, he restored the sight of a blind girl, who fell in love with him. He was beheaded on Feb. 14.
Another was the pious bishop of Terni, also tortured and beheaded during Claudius II's reign.
A third Valentine secretly married couples, ignoring Claudius II's ban of marriage. When the priest of love was eventually arrested, legend has it that he fell deeply in love with his jailer's daughter.
Before his death by beating and decapitation, he signed a farewell note to her: “From your Valentine.”
Apart from legend, the first connection between romance and Feb. 14 goes back to Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400), the English poet and author of The Canterbury Tales.

In his poem "Parliament of Fowls" (1382), Chaucer suggested that St. Valentine's Day was the time when birds chose their mates.
"For this was Seynt Valentyne's Day. When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate," he wrote.

Some 33 years later, Duke Charles of Orleans wrote what is considered the oldest known valentine in existence.
Imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured by the English, in 1415 the French nobleman wrote his wife, Bonne d’Armagnac, a rhyming love letter, which is now part of the manuscript collection in the British Library in London.
The first two lines of the poem were:
"Je suis déjà d'amour tanné. Ma très douce Valentinée." (I am already sick with love, My very gentle Valentine).
It was an intense but unfortunate love: Bonne d’Armagnac may never have seen him again. She died before Charles' return to France in 1440.
 And making the other news headlines...

Tuesday 14 February 2012

History of the Fez

Continuing with the recent trend of Ottoman history and culture (I'm biased, I know!), in this post we shall find out about the history of the Fez, a classical example of Ottoman culture. And one more thing... this post won't be a fashion post !

A simple Fez.
The Fez is, in essence, a hat. It's called fez in Turkish ( plural fezzes or fezes), or tarboosh in Arabic          
Mahmut II was the first Sultan to sport the Fez
 ( طربوش‎). They usually come in the shape of a red truncated cone or in the shape of a short cylinder made of kilim fabric.

Both usually have tassels.

The Fez was originally a Greek headgear that the Ottomans adopted in the early 19th Century as part of their efforts to modernize with their European counterparts.

There was thought to have been a myth regarding the choice of headgear.

The Ottomans rejected the Western 'European hats' (probably referring to top-hats and the sort) because it was not very 'user friendly' during the act of praying (I'd assume it kept falling off but feel free to speculate!)

The fez was made a part of the official Ottoman uniforms in the 1840's or so, after the Jannisaries (elite unit in the Ottoman army) were disbanded . Before, a turban was worn by Ottomans.

It's also used in North Africa (I believe that's where the name of the city 'Fez', in Morocco ,comes from ?) The use of the Fez in Anatolia died out with the Turkish Revolution.

The Fez in Greece and Turkey:

Let's focus on this geographic location.

A drawing of Turkish (L) and Greek (R) clothing
The fez-fesi in Greek-originate from the Greek islands and at first it was popular among the Greeks.

The Ottomans gradually abandoned turban and started using the fez.  Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish revolutionary,  condemned the fez as "the headcovering of Greeks" (this anti-Greek feeling was due to the recent Greco-Turkish war, as part of the Turkish War of Independence ) and banned it (this ban was part of a campaign by Ataturk to get rid of anything Ottoman ) in order to modernize Turkey.

Back to the origin, though the Fez is stated to have been Greek, we can precisely say that it was the Ionians in the Ionian and Aegaen sea (the Islanders of Greece) who made the hat.

 The Fez Nowadays:

It is safe to assume that the Fez is no longer banned in Turkey (much to the relief of Turkish TV shows!)

The Fez hat is also deeply significant in other parts of the world such as South Asia, where a large number of the followers and leaders of the Muslim League (The party that created Pakistan) adopted the Fez hat, primarily due to its links with the Ottomans. (The fall of the Ottomans saw a rise in Muslim nationalism and sympathy with the Turks, and created greater animosity towards the ruling British)

Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan, a Pakistani politician of the 90s is famous for his Fez.

The Fez has made an impact in popular culture as well, appearing in a wide range of television shows from Doctor Who to movies like Indiana Jones. It still remains an icon of Ottoman culture.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Who were the Ottomans ? A Brief Introduction

Yes, apparently I'm that much annoyed by the survey's results. So I thought it's time for a real and proper introduction to the Ottomans (and hopefully, I might slim down the margin!), so let's get started !

The Ottoman insignia (they had style , no ?)
The Ottomans were, in essence, Turks. The Turks are an ethnic group that originated from Central Asia. The Ottoman Empire, in particular, started in 1299. At the time, Anatolia (which is present-day Turkey, excluding the European part) was carved up into several minor (and often warring) independent states called 'Ghazi Emirates' (or Anadolu Beylikleri in Turkish). 

The founder Osman I and his Dream:

A map showing Osman I's conquests
One of these emirates was controlled by a man named Osman I (from which the word "Ottoman" is derived from), who controlled a region in western Anatolia. A popular myth about Osman was the famous "Osman's Dream" myth, in which he had dreamed of a tree which symbolized his future empire.

 According to his dream the tree, which was Osman's Empire, issued four rivers from its roots, the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Nile and the Danube.Additionally, the tree shaded four mountain ranges, the Caucasus, the Taurus, the Atlas and the Balkan ranges.

Osman set about conquering nearby areas of Anatolia and with this, the Ottomans have begun their first-minimal wave of expansion.

Expansion , Civil War and Fall of the Byzantine Empire:

The Ottomans continued to expand, non-stop, for another 200 years.

An Ottoman conquest of Thessaloniki from the Venetians secured Hellenic Thrace while a decisive battle against the Serbs at the Battle of Kosovo (1389) effectively ended Serbian influence and supremacy in the Balkan region.

The seemingly invincible Ottoman army dealt a severe blow to the Europeans at the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 , which was known as the Last Major Crusade of the Middle Ages. The victory of the Ottomans over a pan-European army (comprising of Hungarian,Wallachian, French, Burgundian, German forces) marked the end of the Second Bulgarian Empire and lead to Bulgaria being absorbed into the Ottoman empire.

The Ottoman ,3 years before the capture of Constantinople
In 1402, the Ottomans, having now secured all former Byzantine lands around the capital Constantinople , were poised to besiege the city.

However, it was not meant to happen, yet.

At around the same time, Tamerlane's horde invaded the Ottoman territories, temporarily relieving the Byzantines.

The Ottomans suffered a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Ankara (1402) when the Sultan (Bayezid I) himself was captured (and later killed).

This led to a power-vacuum and a civil war in the Ottoman empire (imagine the relief of the Byzantines!) and it took more than a decade for the problem to be sorted when Mehmed I took power and emerged as Sultan in 1413.

During the civil war, the Balkan holdings of the Ottomans (including Thessaloniki and others) were lost. Mehmed I effectively reconquered them, Murad II (another Sultan) fended off a Hungarian-Polish alliance to drive the Ottomans out of Europe, defeating them at the Battle of Varna in 1444.
The painting shows the Fall of Constantinople

It was Murad's son, Mehmed II , who would be the greatest Ottoman leader yet. He had reorganized the state and military and proved his military ingenuity by conquering Constantinople in 1453 at the mere age of 21, effectively putting to an end, thousands of years of Roman power.

After this, the Ottomans relocated their capital to Constantinople and appropriately, Mehmed II now bears the title "محمد الفاتح‎" which means, Mehmed the Conqueror.

 Constantinople fell in 57 days. The reason was thought to have been because Mehmed had focused on strengthening the Ottoman Navy, which was to have an important role in preventing naval aid from reaching the Byzantines.

It was commonly believed that, 10 years after the siege, Mehmed II visited the site of the ruined city of Troy and boasted about how he had avenged the Trojans in their war against the Greeks.

Mehmed II also placed the title "Caesar" on himself, claiming to be descendant from the Romans (his mother was believed to have been a Byzantine princess). He had tried to conquer Rome, sending an invasion fleet to invade South Eastern Italy. This caused the Pope to panic and called for a crusade. Before reaching the invasion site, Mehmed died and the invasion failed.(In fact, he was the Sultan who had fought off Prince Vlad III the Impaler, otherwise popularly known as Count Dracula!)

Peak of Ottoman Power:

This map explains the extent of Ottoman Expansionism
It would be obvious what the Ottomans had achieved now. By capturing Constantinople, they've consolidated their role as being a Mediterranean power. Anatolia was finally conquered by Beyezid II in 1482. His successor, Selim I, conquered modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt as well as securing Baghdad (temporarily) from the Safavids in the 1510s. After the conquest of Cairo, the Sultan took up the title "Caliph".

Suleiman the Magnificent 's reign followed, in which he expanded the Balkan frontier ; capturing Belgrade and most of Hungary as well as Rhodes. He had also annexed huge parts of Northern Africa (see Libya and Algeria), and had granted the Barbary pirate states of Tripolitania , Tunisia and Algeria, autonomy.

He had also expanded into the Persian Gulf region, turning the local states into Vassal states and maintaining an Ottoman naval presence there until the Portuguese expelled them in 1554. A siege on Vienna (Austria) was laid in 1529 but failed.

By the end of Suleiman's reign, the Ottoman Empire housed 15 million people.

The Ottomans, since they controlled major overland trade routes, had a monopoly over trade products in Europe. However, with the advent of the discovery of the new world and subsequent findings of raw materials and gold, this caused severe inflation in the Ottoman economy. The Ottomans retaliated against aggressive European expansionism , primarily in the form of the Portuguese and Spanish navies.


The Ottoman Navy suffered their most humiliating defeat, beaten at the Battle of Lepanto against the Holy League (a confederation of Catholic States). Though, this had little tactical significance, this victory symbolized that the Ottoman Navy was not invincible. The Ottomans could be beaten.

As times changed, reliance on firearms grew more and cavalry importance became less. Though the Ottomans were slightly behind the arms race, the Ottomans replaced their secret weapon , the Sepahi cavalry, with an even more frightening corps that striked fear into the Europeans; the Jannisaries.

The Ottomans faced the onslaught of the Holy League once again, in the Balkan frontier. Fifteen (15) continuous years of war culminated in the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) which lead to the Ottoman Empire to surrender Hungary permanently to the Holy League.
Battle of Lepanto painting

Besides a constant changing of hands in the city of Baghdad and Yerevan, very little happened on the eastern front with the Safavids.

As the 18th century arrived, the Ottomans gave more land to the Austrians as a result of war. Soon, Algeria and Egypt were independent in all but name (but came under the influence of France and UK respectively). The Ottomans had to face a new growing challenge - The Russian Empire. Sweden's ruler Charles XII, managed to convince the Ottoman Sultan to declare war on the Russians (in order to help the Swedes). The Ottomans were largely successful and ended in an Ottoman victory.

During the Tulip Era (1718–1730), named for Sultan Ahmed III's love of the tulip flower and its use to symbolize his peaceful reign, the Empire's policy towards Europe underwent a shift. The Empire began to improve the fortifications of its cities in the Balkan peninsula to act as a defence against European expansionism.

Cultural works, fine arts and architecture flourished, with more elaborate styles that were influenced by the Baroque and Rococo movements in Europe. A classic example is the Fountain of Ahmed III in front of the Topkapı Palace. The famous Flemish-French painter Jean-Baptiste van Mour visited the Ottoman Empire during the Tulip Era and crafted some of the most renowned works of art depicting scenes from daily life in the Ottoman society and the imperial court

After the Crimean War (fought in the Crimea region of Ukraine, and involving the Ottomans), the Ottomans were inevitably going to fall.

The spread of Nationalism, secessionism (particularly in the Balkans) and the Reform movement (ie, the Tanzimat era) led to the downfall of the Ottomans. The Ottomans were a multi-ethnic empire where differences were bound to be obvious ; the government had tried to impose Ottomanism, where all Ottoman subjects were viewed as equals (perhaps a response to the French Revolution as well ?).

The Empire is Dead. Long Live the Republic:

World War One was the killing blow. The Ottomans, having aligned with the Central Powers, faced a double frontier; one in the Caucuses against the Russians, and one in the Sinai frontier against the British (and briefly, a front in Gallipoli and in Iraq, both of which failed). The Russian theater was particularly a bloody one.

The Mesopotamian Theater
The Great Arab Revolt of 1916 (the brainchild of British negotiations with the Sharif of Mecca) was the turning point in the Middle Eastern theater. Jordan, Palestine, Iraq and Syria was lost by 1918. In 1919, under the Treaty of Sèvres, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire was solidified. For the first time in 600 years, foreign soldiers of an enemy army occupied Constantinople in 1918.

The Turks were furious , guess why ?

The Turks were furious, their land was being carved up by foreign powers and there was one Turk who didn't stand for this. Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk was a later title), a soldier of the former Ottoman Army who served in Gallipoli, he had lead the Turkish War of Independence against the foreigners.

First, the revolutionary army went to war against the newly-founded Armenian state which culminated to the Treaty of Alexandropol (December 2, 1920) which nullified the state. Attention was turned to the Greeks and their land was won again.

The Greek campaign was launched because the western Allies, particularly British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, had promised Greece territorial gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. It ended with Greece giving up all territory gained during the war, returning to its pre-war borders, and engaging in a population exchange with the newly established state of Turkey under provisions in the Treaty of Lausanne.

The collective failure of the Greek military campaign against the Turkish revolutionaries, coupled with the expulsion of the French military from the region of Cilicia, forced the Allies to abandon the Treaty of Sèvres. Instead, they negotiated a new treaty at Lausanne. This new treaty recognised the independence of the Republic of Turkey and its sovereignty over East Thrace and Anatolia.

Painting showing the capture of Ismir
As one Turkish poet said  ;

The war was over. 
The Empire was dead.
The Republic lived on.
If the above article is unclear, I direct you to this colourful map!

Understood now ? :)

Thursday 9 February 2012

Survey: Do you know who the Ottomans are ?

Another month, another survey. As the title suggests, it's a fairly simple question. 82 participants were asked the question:

"Do you know who the Ottomans are?"

And the results are in :

An overwhelming majority!
 As you can see, 90.24 % of respondents (that is 74 people) answered yes while 9.76% of respondents (that is 8 people) answered no.

What is interesting is, that I had asked this question in two different areas. One was in a history forum and the other was in a local area. Surprisingly (and ironically), respondents here (in my local area) , a greater number of people have not heard of the Ottomans.  

The survey of the local area
 While it is good to see that the average person seems to know the Ottomans, I am , however, slightly disturbed by the fact that almost 40% of respondents didn't know who the Ottomans were (considering that they live in a Middle Eastern country that was a stone throw away from the old empire). 

I'm curious to know what my readers think of this gap ? What's the reason behind this ? 

Tuesday 7 February 2012

A Glimple of Local Art in Bahrain

Continuing with the theme of Art & Culture Month (and while we're still in the Mid-East culture part), I decided it would be a fitting tribute to give a shout-out to my country. Here are just some of the local paintings:


Made by Amina Al Abbasi
2. Susan:

Made by Amina Al Abbasi
3. Unity:

Made by Amina Al Abbasi
4. Couple under Umbrella:

Made by Ashwathy Shyam kumar

5. Fashion:

Made by Ashwathy Shyam kumar

6. Gahwa (Coffee):

Made by Ebrahim Sharif
7. Manama:

Made by unknown artist (help ?)
8. Bahraini House:

Made by unknown artist (help ?)
9. Bahraini Woman:

Made by unknown artist (help ?)
10. Muharraq Harbour: 

Made by unknown artist (help ?)
11. Bahrain Dhow:

Made by Ella Prakash
 12. Flowers:

Made by Areej Rajab
13.Abstract Art:

Made by Areej Rajab

There are many more local paintings and I'd like to direct readers to this local website, Bahrain Artistic Frames Center, which hosts a heck of a lot of paintings.

I hope you've enjoyed this post. What culture would you like me to post about next ?

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