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Capital Cities of Arab Islam
by Philip Hitti
University of Minnesota Press, 1973
Paper: 978-0-8166-6878-6

Professor Hitti, the distinguished authority on the Islamic world, views the highlights of Arab history through the windows of the capital cities where those events occurred. The account focuses on six cities -- Mecca, the religious capital; Medina, the caliphal capital; Damascus, the imperial capital; Baghdad, the intellectual capital; Cairo, the dissident capital; and Cordova, the European capital. The approach is historical rather than geographical, and the book is addressed to the student and the cultured layman rather than the specialist. Tourists to the Middle East and Spain also will find the book especially interesting.The author describes the physical settings of the cities, the primary occupations of the people, and the significant monumental structures. He discusses such modern history of a city as is relevant to the story, but the emphasis is on the period of Arab ascendancy -- roughly, the seventh to the thirteenth century. In addition to Arabic sources, he quotes Europeans’ descriptions where appropriate (such descriptions are rare because Europeans were not allowed in such cities as Mecca and Medina). As he makes clear, the six cities were more than capitals; they left their indelible imprint not only on the subsequent history of the Arabs and other Moslems but on the development of civilization at large.

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