1. Today marks Quds day, or Jerusalem day.  Today, thousands of people throughout the world will march to express solidarity with the Palestinian people. Quds day takes place every year on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.

    Quds Day demonstrations will be held in around 80 countries, including the United States, Iraq, Gaza Strip, Syria, India, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Sweden, France, as well as many countries in East Asia.

    The video above is by the legendary Lebanese singer Fairouz. The song, commonly translated as Flowers Among Cities (زهرة المدائن) is fitting for today as she sings about freeing Jerusalem from all the violence and atrocities and returning peace to the holy city. Video contains lyrics in English.



    National Geographic has put together some photos showing Ramadan celebrations throughout the world.

    A Bosnian man talks to a visitor before setting off a firework cannon to mark the end of the day’s Ramadan fast in Sarajevo. About 40 percent of Bosnia’s 3.8 million residents are Muslim. (Photograph by Amel Emric, AP Photo.)

    In Java, Indonesia, a young Muslim man jumps through a flaming rope during the celebration marking the end of Ramadan. The capital of East Java will mark the beginning of Eid al-Fitr with the Surabaya Carnival Night Market. (Photograph by Gembong Nusantara, AP Photo.)

    On the evening of the first day of Ramadan, Muslim women at a mosque in East Java attend Tarawih. Tarawih are special evening prayers done during Ramadan, when long passages of the Koran are recited or read aloud. (Photograph by Sigit Pamungkas, Reuters.)

    Click here to see the rest of the pictures:



    From The New York Times: “Ramadan Poses Test to Muslim Players at World Cup

    RIO DE JANEIRO — Down the quiet, tree-lined Rua Gonzaga Bastos, less than half a mile from Estádio do Maracanã, the custodian of this city’s only mosque was preparing for the busiest time of the year.

    Mohamed Zeinhom Abdien, the custodian, was sitting at a desk opposite messy piles of boxes containing thousands of leaflets about Islam written in Portuguese, English and Arabic.

    The observance of Ramadan, one of Islam’s five pillars, is a religious obligation in which Muslims fast and forgo any liquids from dawn until dusk over the course of a month. The month begins Saturday night, and Abdien’s usually quiet mosque has been inundated with newcomers.

    “Normally we have 100, maybe 150 people here every Friday to pray, after the imam gives the call to prayer in Portuguese,” said Abdien, an Egyptian-born tour guide who moved to Rio 21 years ago.

    “But the World Cup,” he said, spreading his arms at the dozens of boxes, “it means there have been many Algerian fans, TV presenters, even a few players.”

    This World Cup in Brazil has drawn thousands of Muslim fans — from Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria and beyond — and Ramadan, which is pegged to a lunar calendar and begins a bit earlier in the Gregorian calendar each year, is due to start just as the second round opens.

    Read the rest of the article here.



    From The Guardian.com: “Morocco Reshapes its Image-Through Music Festivals”:

    (PHOTO: Mehdi Nassouli playing at Morocco’s Timitar festival. Photograph: Rachid Bourhim/PR)

    You may not have noticed, but Morocco has become one of the leading destinations for music festivals in the world. There’s the Fes festival, a leading world music festival, and the snappily named Jazzablanca in Casablanca. But the biggest ones are the funkier Gnaoua festival in Essaouira on the coast, the massive pop Festival Mawazine in Rabat – which has starred the likes of Rihanna and Stevie Wonder – and Timitar in Agadir. Each attracts crowds of up to 500,000 people (that’s three times the size of Glastonbury). All of them, too, are not just music festivals – they have specific social and political agendas as well.

    Read the rest of the article here.



    (Picture above: Ramadan fanous or latern. Learn more about the history of the special Ramadan famous here.)

    Ramadan is once again here! Muslims throughout the world will fast from dawn to sunset throughout the special month of Ramadan. At sunset, Muslims break their fast and eat dinner or iftar, which is usually shared with family or community members.

    For more information, check out the the Time photo blog “Iftar: Breaking Ramadan’s Fast



    From The Wall Street Journal:

    "Just a few kilometers from the ancient Pyramids of Giza, another unusual structure is rising in the hot desert dunes: a 102-foot-high ski slope.

    The artificial snow complex is being built alongside Mall of Egypt, a 4.9 billion Egyptian pound ($686 million) mega shopping center that epitomizes a boom in retail development sweeping Cairo. The ancient city is importing a hallmark of American culture that already has been highly successful in the countries of the Arabian peninsula.

    (Photo: A rendering of a ski slope being built alongside Mall of Egypt, part of a shopping-center boom in Cairo.Majid Al Futtaim Properties)

    About 1.8 million square meters of mall retail space is forecast to be completed in Cairo by the end of 2015, double the level at the end of last year, property consultants at JLL forecast. The planned pipeline is potentially much bigger if developers break ground on more than 10 other major projects that are on the drawing board.”

    Read the rest of the article, “Food Courts, Fake Snow Take Over Cairo Mall Retail Space Is Sprouting Up All Over the Ancient City”, here.



    Policy Mic has a brief yet informative article titled “How the British Screwed Up the Middle East, in 10 Classic Cartoons”:

    "The sun never sets on the British Empire."

    This phrase was often used to describe the British Empire at the peak of its power as the largest empire in history. Covering 13.01 million square miles of land, almost one-fourth of the world, the empire encompassed about 458 million people in 1938 through overseas colonies, dominions, protectorates, trading posts and mandates. 

    Despite its numerous accomplishments, the imperial empire was also responsible for sowing the seeds of global tension, conflict and wars, many of which still continue to rage on. 

    When asked how Britain could help end the conflict over Kashmir during a visit to Pakistan in 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron said, “I don’t want to try to insert Britain in some leading role where, as with so many of the world’s problems, we are responsible for the issue in the first place.”

    Read the rest of the article here.



    From Global Voices:

    "Over the past two years, Jordan has passed a series of laws that stifle rights to free expression and access to information and undermine government goals of making Jordan a regional hub for the startups and the ICT industry. While updates to the Press and Publication Law in 2012 weren’t the country’s first legal restrictions on online speech, they have presented an immediate threat to the open internet and human rights.”

    Read More: http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2014/06/10/icing-the-virtual-cake-jordans-draft-telecom-law/




    I recently added two new websites to the Arabic Language Study Tools section:

    NEW! The Edinburgh Arabic Initiative: http://edinburgharabicinitiative.wordpress.com/learning-resources/

    How it helps: According to their website: “The Edinburgh Arabic Initiative was launched by a group of Masters candidates from the University of Edinburgh’s Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Department, and Centre for Advanced Study of the Arab World (CASAW). It is a method of allowing participants to improve their translation skills and develop a deeper understanding of the Middle East and the relevant political, social, economic and cultural developments.”


    NEW! Arabic Tongue Twisters:  https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/19U3MZJeifk7oz-pf-dPfDye8_ntlmMVk3U8EWNRbyMs/edit?pli=1#slide=id.g1791d5efd_052

    How it helps: Created by Virginia Vassar Aggrey from Saint Anselm’s Abbey School (Washington, DC), these Arabic tongue twisters help practice reading, pronunciation and distinguishing between various challenging sounds in Arabic. This is an ongoing collaborative project, so feel free to add your own, add comments or help translate some new ones.




    Check out The University of Utah’s online collection of historical artifacts from the Middle East titled “MESSENGER OF THOUGHT: TREASURES FROM THE RARE MIDDLE EAST COLLECTION”:

    "The written word records man’s intellectual and spiritual journey. Words, whether written on clay, papyrus, parchment, or paper, are a lasting memorial of humankind. If words are the essence of books, the materials used and the technologies developed to write those words are the building blocks of a captured culture. In books, verbal collaborates with visual, textual with textural. This collaboration enhances meaning and invites intimacy between writer and reader.

    The arts of the book – papermaking and decorating, calligraphy, illumination, binding, were highly developed in Middle Eastern culture early in its history – in the ancient lands in which the written word was first developed, where papyrus and pen were first used and artwork was first added to elucidate the text. The elegant Arabic alphabet lent itself to numerous decorative forms and abstract patterns, entrancing the eye even when direct images could not. From ancient times to the present, the written word and the craft of Middle Eastern bookmakers has established law, recorded history and myth, inspired faith, stimulated intellectual exploration, and created bonds between cultures both east and west.”

    Al Quran, Uzbekistan, ca. 1780. “The pages with text panels are framed in gold leaf and lapis lazuli (an expensive deep blue pigment found only in Afghanistan) and placed within larger panels bordered with gold leaf vine scrolls.

    Learn more and see the treasures online: