Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Islamic graveyards

Don Milstead, my high school teacher in American history, used to explain how he always visited graveyards when travelling; now, I do the same—on my way to Maryland's eastern shore, or in Los Angeles, or Paris, and in the Muslim world, too.

Süleymaniye cemetery
Old Ottoman cemeteries—the grounds of the Süleymaniye mosque in Istanbul—have headstones decorated with headgear that the man wore during his life on earth (in premodern times, at least): one frequently sees fezzes or turbans atop the tall, vertical pillars that mark the gravesite, or flowers and sea shells for the graves of women.

City of the Dead Cairo

The graveyards I have visited in north Africa and the middle east are exotic and often beautiful to my Western eyes, but none are as striking as the medieval cemetery in downtown Cairo known throughout the West as the City of the Dead. When I first laid eyes on the CotD, its monochromatic duskiness piqued my interest immediately; the "northern cemeteries"—once outside the city (as is traditional in Islamic societies) but long ago overtaken by nearly 20m residents—is a shantytown where living Cairenes coexist with the interred. It's a fascinating place with a culture all its own, and is as important to visit as the pyramids.

Excerpted images from two slide shows (here and here) on the City of the Dead may be found here (0 1 2) and here (0 1 2 3 4).

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6 Comments:

Anonymous John said...

Are you referring to Don Milstead from Dulaney Senior High?

11:43 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Yep.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Milstead was a cool guy.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote from Don Milstead, circa 1970: "You should try everything once. That way, if you like it, you can do it again!"

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another quote from Milstead in an unofficial student produced "yearbook" circa 1974:

"You've probably heard an awful lot of terrible things about me and things that I've done. I want you to know that it's all true and I loved every minute of it."

11:35 AM  
Blogger Laura Steves said...

Mil stead was a maniac.i hope he is no longer teaching.i was afraid I'd him.he had loud and physical outbursts.no way his behavior would be tolerated today.i did not hear bad things,I saw bad things in living color

10:31 AM  

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