“Mafqud wa-Mawjud” (مفقود وموجود) is Arabic for “Lost and Found.”
Many things have been lost in the Middle East. The sands of time have buried millennia of human habitation and culture. Empires and smaller states, world religions, and language families have arisen and have fallen across the broad geography from Libya to Iran and from Turkey to Yemen. The Middle East today is not as it was. But things have also been found in the Middle East, surprising things, delightful things, terrifying things. From the archaeological remains of ancient civilization to the surprisingly persistent social diversity in a region widely thought to be mono-cultural, from astonishingly resilient pockets of peaceful coexistence to dangerously violent conflicts that play out on the world stage, there is much to be found in the Middle East.
Many things are often lost in discussions of the Middle East as well, whether conducted by Middle Easterners themselves or by Western (or other) outside observers. The unity of the region culturally, religiously, linguistically, and even politically (not in terms of states but in terms of alliances, blocs, agendas, and cultures) are often presumed not due to but in spite of the evidence for deep diversity. Sometimes even experts who know the nuances do not feel the distinctions are sufficiently significant to merit complicating the statement. Hence many things found in discussions of the Middle East are erroneous, and the simplifications or abstractions employed often obscure more than they reveal.
As a historian of the medieval Middle East, I use this blog to remind people that the Middle East has not always been as it is today. As a humanities researcher, I use this blog to bring nuanced distinctions into facile generalizations or misleading abstractions dominating discussions of the Middle East. As a citizen of the world, I use this blog to voice concerns and raise issues regarding a region whose fate affects us all.