In the final few days of July 2012, conflict broke out between rebels and the Syrian regime in the ancient city of Aleppo. Sarkis Rshdouni’s father was driving him to the airport, opting for the longest route in order to avoid the fighting on the main road. But they couldn’t escape it entirely.
“It was my first time seeing a military helicopter firing,” Mr. Rshdouni said of the trip.
The threat of violence was not what compelled the now 26-year-old to leave. Rather, it was Syria’s political leanings after the death of former President Hafez Al-Assad and rise of his now-embattled son, Bashar. According to Mr. Rshdouni, a Syrian-Armenian, the country became more aligned with Turkey, and this affected his community.
“Syria still hasn’t recognized the Armenian genocide…so why should I live there?” said Mr. Rshdouni, who is studying for a B.A. in history at Yerevan State University and working in the tourism industry.
If you are a student of Arabic you have likely struggled to find quality resources to use outside of a classroom context. There are a myriad of online resources available, but many are either out of date or poorly organised (or grossly unaffordable).
I’ve been playing around with the recently revamped Foreigncy website to keep practicing my Arabic reading and vocabulary acquisition. The site describes itself as “a one-of-a-kind language training system for advanced level students and language professionals,” which “focuses on the practical aspects of language learning that are in demand by employers.”
Using Foreigncy is simple and helps provides users with a base with which to train their reading ability in the target language.
The forgotten woman of MENA history that we will be looking at is most commonly known as Lubna of Cordoba, although she is sometimes referred to as Labna or Labhana. A user of the forum at www.ummah.com gave their own insight into why she has been forgotten, by quite simply stating that: ‘she is a woman and has no “famous” husband’, which may very well be the case. Only very little is known about her mainly because there are very few sources about this remarkable woman, and the credibility of these sources can often be questioned. In spite of these setbacks it is still worth mentioning those things that are known, because it is important that people remember her name.
Lubna lived in the 10th century C.E. and was raised in Cordoba at the court of Sultan Abd Al-Rahman III, a descendant of Abd Al-Rahman I who is said to be the only member of the Umayyad dynasty to survive the Abbasid coup of 750. He subsequently fled to Al-Andalus and established his own Sultanate. Many different roles and talents have been attributed to Lubna, though it is not clear how much of this is actually true. A list of roles that have been ascribed to her include: poet, copyist, scribe, royal library’s acquisitions expert, private secretary, and mathematician. As mentioned earlier, it is not known which of these are true, and writer Kamila Shamsie argues there is reason to believe that Lubna could possibly be the embodiment of two or perhaps three women at the court of Cordoba who, combined, were all these things . But let’s first see what is generally said about this one woman known as Lubna of Cordoba before we descend into speculation.