"This is an impressive piece of work. It deals with a grossly neglected and misunderstood subject--the interest and knowledge of Ancient Egypt on the part of Arabic/Moslem writers in the Medieval period--and it covers this subject from many aspects". Professor Charles Burnett, The Warburg Institute. In this monograph, Dr Okasha El Daly ably presents a wholly original aspect of the rediscovery of Ancient Egypt clearly and attractively. When the medieval and later West still knew almost nothing at first hand about Egypt's archaeology "on the ground", and indulged in fruitless theories of supposed symbolism of the hieroglyphs, a handful of Arabic scholars in Egypt had already begun to study and record antiquities, and to try and establish values for some of the hieroglyphs, with the many resources including Coptic-Arabic material at their disposal. While limited by later circumstances, this was a pioneering achievement, a "first light" before the full dawn, and thus in due course to understanding the full splendour of Egypt's brilliant civilisation. Professor Kenneth Kitchen, University of Liverpool. This book marks a turning-point in the relation between East and West on the territory considered by the West its own, the territory of science. European and North American Egyptology has long comforted itself with the myth of an Ancient World Lost and Found, in which a strong male (northwestern) Europe rescued a weak and slothful Orient: here Dr El Daly exposes that foundation of the modern West as a narrative running counter to the historical sources. Dismantling the image of an uninterested and illiberal Arab/Moslem World, El Daly restores to us the culture of fascination and enquiry that probed the questions posed by ancient Egyptian monuments and manuscripts centuries before the birth of Thomas Young and Jean-Francois Champollion. In this work, El Daly brings us new lines of descent from antiquity to modernity, multiplying our access to the past, and enriching our understanding of the complexities and variety of each century linking modern Egypt and its ancient history. Dr Stephen Quirke, University College London. 'Cleopatra seduced the Romans with her irresistible mind... and if she looked like these beauties they didn't mention it, writes Ben Hoyle. Long before Shakespeare portrayed her a history's most exotic femme fatale, Cleopatra was revered throughout the Arab world - for her brain. Medieval Arab scholars never referred to the appearance, and they made no mention of the dangerous sensuality which supposedly corrupted Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. In stead they marvelled at her intellectual accomplishments; from alchemy and medicine to philosophy, mathematics and town planning, a new book has clamed. Even Elizabeth Taylor, who famously portrayed the title role in the 1963 epic Cleopatra, would have struggles to inject sex appeal into this queen. Arab writers depict Cleopatra's court as a place of intellectual seminars and scholarship rather than the more rational vision of khol-rimmed eyes and hedonistic intrigue. "They admired her scientific knowledge and her administrative ability," the book's author Okasha El Daly, who is based at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London, said. In Egyptology: The Missing Millennium he writes that "Arabic sources often refer to Cleopatra as 'the virtuous scholar' and cite scientific books written by her as the definitive works in their field". She was also regarded as a great builder, he claims, responsible among other things for a canal to supply Alexandria with Nile water. Cleopatra was born in 69BC, the last of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty that rules Egypt after Alexander the Great's invasion in 332BC. The few images of her that survive suggest that she was not a great beauty by modern standards. Despite this she succeeded in seducing Mark Anthony, who left his Roman wife Octavia for her. European scholars finally learned to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics in 1822 with the help of the Rosetta stone. But Dr El Daly believes that a ninth-century Arabian alchemist, Ibn Wahshiyah, got there first, opening up original Egyptian sources to medieval Arab writers. "There has always been a snobbery which suggested that medieval Arab scholars only cared about science and engineering," he said. "They wrote about everything they found interesting. I found one medieval scholar who had written a book on sex." Kate Spence, a lecturer in Egyptology at Cambridge University's Faculty of Oriental Studies. Describes Dr El-Daly's work as very important. "Everybody has known that theses Arab sources were around for ages. "She said, "but most of us working in this field don't know enough Arabic to use them properly".' Ben Hoyle, The Times, Monday March 14, 2005.
About the Author
Okasha El Daly is a graduate of the Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University and gained his PhD in Egyptology from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London where he is currently based at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.