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  • During these times of blasts, blood and violence it gives hope to think that people with different cultures, religions and languages can actually sometimes live together without killing each other all the time.

    One of these golden eras was experienced in medieval Sicily where Arabs, Christians and Jews and several other cultures & religions lived side by side. Because of this fertile basis Sicily was great place to do arts and sciences during two hundred years. Another treasure chest of inventions and cultural highlights was southern Spain where same harmonious and creative symbiosis between cultures and religions lasted over 600 years.

    In fact the golden age ended the same year when America was “discovered” by Columbus in 1492.

    We tend to forget that three of the greatest Western thinkers of the Middle Ages – Averroes, Maimonides and Ibn al-Arabi – were all Arabs. Without libraries of Middle East 99 percent of Antique literature would have been lost permanently. We wouldn’t know anything about Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Homer, Aeschylus, Eurypides, Sophocles, Sapho… Their texts survived only in Middle Eastern libraries and were translated hundreds of years later from Arabic back to European languages in big translator communities in Spain and Sicily.

    The first modern geographer was Muhammad Al-Idrisi who lived in Spain and Sicily in twelfth century. In Sicily he drew and wrote Tabula Rogeriana, world map with commentaries par excellence which accuracy would be surpassed only after 500 years. Same Mister Columbus used it later as guide book during his sea voyages.

    Palermo’s churches are one testimony of this possible symbiosis between different cultures and religions. Martorana’s biblical mosaics are made in 12th century by Eastern artisan masters and all around the church in the middle of saints and apostles and biblical stories there are Arabic texts praising Allah and glimmering with excerpts of suras from Quran.

    Martorana is nowadays Palermo’s most popular wedding church, a place where new alliances are made every day. We still have hope.
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