Islamic Art from Mosques of Islamic Cairo

Islamic art has focused on the depiction of patterns, whether purely geometric or floral, and Arabic calligraphy, rather than on figures, because it is feared by many Muslims that the depiction of the human form is idolatry”. The Islamic artist has a palette that is more restricted than artists from most cultures; this art can be beautiful. This post shows examples of Islamic art from three mosques of Islamic Cairo, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Above, the Citadel and Mosque of Mohammed Ali are on the hill above Islamic Cairo. Compare the pencil minarets of the Ottoman Mosque of Mohammed Ali with the stubbier minarets of the Mamluk-style mosques on the left. It doesn’t rain much in Cairo, so the predominant color is the sand of the surrounding deserts. After the Citadel, we visited Islamic Cairo and the two mosques on the left and a third mosque where I took this photo from a minaret.

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Cliff Palace

On our first evening in Mesa Verde National Park, we took the twilight photography tour of the Cliff Palace, one of the largest cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. “Recent studies reveal that the Cliff Palace contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas and had a population of approximately 100 people.”

Shown above, a tour group is gathering on the upper left while another group prepares to exit to the right.

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Mesa Verde National Park

On our southwest parks road trip, we drove from Moab, Utah, to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado to see cliff dwellings and learn about the people who built them in the 1200s.

Above, the Spruce Tree House, the best preserved cliff dwelling in the park, was closed to the public in 2015 after a rock fall and subsequent investigation.

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The Self-Driving Cars Are Coming

On March 10, California released proposed rules for self-driving cars to be tested and operated on public streets and highways without a driver.

Google set up an independent company, Waymo, to develop a self-driving car. Waymo says “We’ve self-driven more than 2 million miles mostly on city streets.” Waymo cars have driven through our city streets for several years. Shown above, a Waymo car with a driver is in front of our home.

We may soon see cars without drivers. According to Waymo, “94% of crashes involve human choice or error in the US”. Self-driving cars promise to reduce these accidents and the resulting damage and injury. Self-driving cars will increase the independence of senior citizens who no longer drive.

But self-driving cars will mean changing some habits. I recall coming to an intersection with cars waiting on three streets while a person walked a dog. Drivers used hand signals to communicate who should go first. How do we signal to a self-driving car with no driver, and get acknowledgement?

As a pedestrian, I catch the driver’s eye before crossing in front of the car. To cross in front of a self-driving car, do I assume that the car sensed me and won’t proceed unless it knows I’m safe?

With time, we’ll figure this out. We always do.

It’s All Greek to Me

When we visited Russia and Greece this fall, we struggled with signs, since both languages use letters unfamiliar to many English speakers. Consider this street sign for Nevsky Prospekt, a major street in Saint Petersburg. The top two lines show the street name in Russian Cyrillic, while the third line shows the street name in latin alphabet based on the corresponding sounds.

In ΠΡOCΠEKT from the sign, the Π is a capital pi, and the P is a capital rho, where both letters are from the Greek language. Substituting the sound for each letter yields PROSPEKT. Happily for us, Russian incorporates some French words spelled out in Cyrillic — Hermitage, cafe, restaurant, for example.

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From the Dutch Golden Age

In Amsterdam we visited the Museum Van Loon, a mansion built during the Dutch Golden Age, held by the same family, and preserved intact with the furnishings. The above peacock decorates a mantle in the house.

In the 17th century, the Netherlands dominated world trade, including the spice trade with Indonesia. The Dutch East India Company made enormous profits importing spices. Willem van Loon, who built this house in 1672, co-founded the Dutch East India Company.

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