William Dalrymple, internationally acclaimed British
writer, historian and broadcaster was in Cairo to give 2 lectures.
Islam and Christianity: Clash or Clasp of Civilizations - at the American University
of Cairo (AUC) in the Oriental Hall at 5 PM on Thursday, November 16, 2006.
talk on the demise of Christianity in its Middle Eastern homeland. Held at St. John's Church/Maadi at 7 PM on Saturday,
November 18, 2006.
I attended the first Lecture today. Sole intention initially was to hear someone speak in English for an hour. (I'm a little tired of
hearing Arabic & Hindi all the time, also tired of people telling me "Oh you were in the US, that's why you speak English so
well"... these people should talk to my Nana who has never left Dakshina Kannada - ok end of rant)
William Dalrymple speaks the way he writes. Loaded with facts. There was so many
interesting facts that he mentioned & questions that he posed & similarities that he underlined. I'll just outline a few here.
1. The first University in the world was the Al Azhar university in Egypt - quite a well known fact in Egypt but not elsewhere in
2. In the initial days there was an easy camaraderie between Christians & Muslims. Muslims revered certain Christian saints
& prophets (they believe that Jesus Christ is also a prophet) & made gifts to monasteries. Even today the keys to 1 of the
famous churches in Jerusalem are entrusted to a muslim family (I couldn't catch the name of the church)
3. In India (William so loves the country he now spends 6 months a year living in India) Akbar (muslim ruler) held joint
conferences for all faiths to understand them all.
4. Lent is a 40 day period. The Lent followed by the Coptic Christians (who follow an older, less modernised form of Christianity)
is much more gruelling than among the Western Christians. Ramadan too lasts 40 days.
I do not want to get into a debate here, so I'm not posting more of the points he mentioned. I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture.
Picked up a copy of Will post a review on the book sometime soon. I've just read
the 1st couple of pages & I'm thoroughly hooked. It talks about the areas that I'm hoping to visit on a more adventurous
scale. Wait for the review :)