When the first Ottoman ambassador to France, Mehmet Effendi, arrived in Paris in March of 1721, citizens poured into the streets to watch the stately passage of the envoy and his colorful entourage. The event was described by the official French gazette, Le Nouveau Mercure:
"Forty Turks [appeared,] dressed in different colors, 16 carrying pikes with horse-tails tied to the ends, the others with muskets over their shoulders. Twenty other Turks, mounted on horseback, followed, one carrying a turban, another a vase, a third a pipe and so on. A similar number were on foot.... The ambassador was on horseback, dressed in a simple green robe and a fur coat of the same color."
The ambassador and his suite, which included his son Sa'id, made their way from the suburb of Saint-Antoine to the rue de Tournon, where they were to lodge. The streets were lined with French troops, all issued new uniforms for the occasion.
The official account gives little hint of the excitement Mehmet's arrival had aroused in Parisians of all ages and classes. "Although the streets of Paris are wide enough to allow six carriages to pass abreast," Mehmet later wrote, "in some places there were so many people that it was difficult for even three horsemen to make their way through the crowd."
"The houses of Paris are four or five stories high and the windows look out on the street. These were all filled with men, women and children who, never having seen a Turk, wished to know what manner of men we were. The king himself, his uncle and tutor the duc d'Orléans, all the people of the court and the great lords had taken houses to watch my entry. Although I ... could not bring an equipage worthy of such an occasion, by the help of God we were nevertheless assured that no one in Paris had ever seen so superb an entry as ours."
The idea of an Ottoman embassy to Paris was first suggested by the grand vizier Ibrahim Pasha to the French ambassador in Constantinople, the Marquis de Bonnac. Bonnac was so incredulous that he did not even bother to relay the conversation to the French minister of foreign affairs, Guillaume Dubois.
Bonnac's incredulity was understandable: Although many European nations had had ambassadors resident in Constantinople for years, the Ottomans had always considered it beneath their dignity to send their own ambassadors abroad. When important issues required an Ottoman representative, a very low-echelon envoy had always been sent.
The most recent Ottoman mission to France, to Louis XIV in 1669, had been a disaster. The envoy, Süleyman Ağa, had claimed the status of ambassador and demanded, violating court protocol, that the king rise to take the sultan's letter. Louis did so with good humor, but when the document was examined, it was found that Süleyman was not an ambassador at all, but a humble envoy. The French were furious; Süleyman was discredited and even satirized by Molière in one of the scenes of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.
So it is not surprising that Bonnac did not take Ibrahim Pasha's words seriously. Then, early in 1720, he learned to his horror that the sultan was proceeding, and hurriedly wrote to Paris for instructions. In August, he learned that the man finally selected for the post was Mehmet Effendi.
Mehmet's full title was Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmet Effendi. His father had held a high military post and he himself had been educated in the palace school. He belonged to the 28th corps of Janissaries—"Yirmisekiz" means "twenty-eight"—and had risen through the ranks to become inspector of the arsenal. He had attended the peace negotiations at Passarowitz in 1718, when a treaty had finally been negotiated with the Austro-Hungarian empire. Not only was he skilled in diplomacy and military affairs, but he was also a poet, writing under the pen name "Faizi."
Ibrahim Pasha told Bonnac that the embassy's purpose was to negotiate the release of Turkish prisoners of war in French hands, in exchange for granting the French crown permission to repair the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. But Bonnac suspected that the real aim of the mission was to gather information about the political situation in France and above all about John Law's financial scheme.
John Law was a Scottish banker brought to France by Philippe II, the duc d'Orléans, in a lastditch attempt to save the French economy, which lay in shambles. Named comptroller general, Law established a central bank, issued paper money—for the first time—and shares in the French East India Company and in his famous Compagnie d'Occident (Company of the West), which he created to develop the lower Mississippi Valley. Speculation fever ensued, and suddenly the economy was booming. The very population of Paris increased by 300,000 in less than three years, as people flocked to the capital with dreams of overnight wealth. Many succeeded; many more were ruined. News of all this had reached the Ottoman court, perpetually short of money like the French, and Bonnac thought Mehmet's real purpose was to discover Law's secret.
Whether or not Bonnac's suspicion was justified, there was a less ephemeral reason for the embassy. Mehmet had specific instructions from the sultan "to make a deep study of French civilization and the system of education and report on those aspects that might be of use." To comply, Mehmet wrote a detailed account of his trip to France, known by its abbreviated title, The Relation—one of the very few surviving descriptions of European society seen through Muslim eyes before the present century.
The Ottoman Turks took Constantinople from the Byzantines in 1453, launching their attacks from the Balkans. They made use of the most modern armanents in their siege of the city; Western observers were very impressed with their cannon and mortars. For a hundred years after this victory the Ottoman empire expanded relentlessly, east and west, reaching from the walls of Vienna to the Indian Ocean.
Intelligent European observers had nothing but praise for the Ottoman system of government and the efficiency of its army, contrasting both with the lamentable state of the European powers. European writers of the 16th century warned that unless the Christian powers united and put an end to the dynastic quarrels that stood in the way of unity, Europe would be unable to resist the might of the expanding Ottoman empire. Some noted that the success of the Ottoman system lay in the fact that it was a meritocracy of whatever national origin, could rise as far as his talents would take him. There was no hereditary aristocracy: high positions were granted at the sultan's discretion. The great unifying principles behind the empire were only adherence to Islam and loyalty to the sultan.
By the early 18th century, however, the system that had so impressed Europeans 200 years before no longer looked so formidable. The Turks had lost ground in Europe. The territorial concessions of the treaty of Passarowitz were a case in point, and many Ottoman provinces were either in revolt or rendered only nominal allegiance to the sultan.
The great discoveries of the European Renaissance had been virtually ignored in Constantinople and, by the end of the 16th century, the Turks found themselves unable to oppose the new European maritime powers like England, France and Holland. Intellectually, the Ottomans had turned in upon themselves. Accustomed to rule, they had little curiosity and less knowledge about what went on beyond their borders.
Intelligent Turks, however, could no longer deny that something was seriously wrong. By 1720, a series of military and diplomatic defeats had made it obvious they were losing ground to the West. Mehmet's trip to Paris was a first tentative attempt to gain first-hand knowledge of a major European power, and perhaps find expiations of its success.
Despite France's technological lead over the Ottoman empire in the early 18th century, the two societies were in many respects comparable. Both countries were overwhelmingly agricultural, and most people still lived on the land, "The major non-agricultural industry in both lands was textiles. Trades were organized into guilds in both societies. In both, religion played an important role in the state, and both recognized the authority of a single ruler—although the ways in which this authority was delegated were very different.
Regency Paris and the Constantinople of Ahmet III—whose reign is called "The Tulip Era"—in many ways delighted in the same things. Both cities shared a passion for flowers, gardens and fountains, public spectacles, fireworks, ceremonies and architecture.
Mehmet Effendi spoke no French at the time of his embassy, but rarely found himself unable to understand what he saw in France, and at no time appeared at a cultural disadvantage, even when witnessing things as alien to Turkish tradition as theatrical performances.
Some things, though, were depressingly familiar. Travel was difficult, the roads appalling. The French winter was bitter. And when Mehmet arrived in Toulon after 45 days at sea, he discovered that southern France was being ravaged by the plague. Mehmet described the novel European method of containing it:
"When a contagious disease breaks out in France, they isolate those coming from abroad, and if communication with them is unavoidable, it must be done without physical contact. Now at the time I arrived in France, God willed that the city of Marseilles should be infected with a cruel plague.... Fearing contagion, the authorities would not allow free access to foreigners until they had spent 20, 30 or even 40 days in quarantine."
French authorities arranged for Mehmet and his suite to travel by sea to the town of Sete, 240 kilometers (150 miles) away, there to pass the quarantine.
Mehmet's party numbered 80. His miniature court included a chief administrative officer or kahya, an imam to lead prayers, a treasurer, a keeper of the seal, a master of the wardrobe, a master of ceremony, a maitre d'hotel or head steward, a chief translator, a doctor, a number of valets, a cook and his assistants, a coffee-maker and a water-carrier.
Every day the party consumed some 36 chickens, eight dozen eggs, six sheep, a whole heifer, eight pigeons, one quintal of rice, 40 pounds of sugar, 10 pounds of chickpeas, 12 pounds of butter, three pounds of candles, 10 pounds of tapers, 10 pounds of cheese from the Auvergne, three pounds of Roquefort, a dozen oranges, a dozen lemons, 26 pounds of salt and 100 pounds of bread. Since the quarantine lasted 40 days, the expense was prodigious.
The actual quarantine site was Maguelone—now joined to the mainland, but then a small, uninhabited island. In his Relation, Mehmet makes no complaint about what must have been an extremely irksome and cold isolation. "I found," he says, "that the best thing to do was to kiss the hem of the robe of patience."
At last the 40 days were up. Since bad weather had made the roads virtually impassable, they proceeded north by boat on the Canal du Midi, completed some 40 years before. One of the great engineering feats of the 17th century, this canal joins the Mediterranean to the Atlantic by way of the Garonne River. Some 239 kilometers (149 miles) long, the canal in Mehmet's time featured 100 locks, 38 bridges and four aqueducts, and at one point even pierced a mountain.
Fascinated by his first glimpse of French technology, Mehmet asked for detailed plans of the entire canal and posed innumerable questions. He describes the canal in detail, including the hydraulic principles involved, and calls it one of the wonders of the world.
During his first days on the waterway, Mehmet became aware in turn of the insatiable curiosity of the French people. "The French were g so eager to see me that ... they came four or five leagues to see me pass. They pushed one another so much, seeking to get in front of the crowd, that they sometimes fell in the water. At one place, named Mirepoix, there was such a crowd on the banks that a soldier, trying to clear a way, had to bayonet a man. The victim's brother then threw himself forward, crying out, and the same soldier bayonetted him. He died of his wounds that night." Another first impression was of the relative freedom of French women: "In France, men have great respect for women. The greatest lords are incredibly courteous even to women of the lowest station. The result is that women do as they like and go wherever they wish." In about a week, they reached Bordeaux. Outside the city walls, Mehmet and Sa'id switched from boat to horse-drawn carriage to make a state entry into Bordeaux.
"Of all the cities I saw in France, there is none which can be compared with Bordeaux. Its buildings are very beautiful, its situation charming, its appearance agreeable.... The Garonne is so wide by the city that it resembles the port of Constantinople and as the Atlantic is only 20 leagues away, ships of 40 cannon can come there to anchor. When I was there, five or six ocean-going ships were moored.... In summer, there are as many as 2000 sail in the harbor. As this city does so much trade, there is a large merchant community and most of the inhabitants are very rich."
After three days in Bordeaux, they continued on by river to Blaye, where they met the horses and carriages sent to convey them to Paris. At first, Mehmet was glad to leave the cramped river boats and climb into the saddle, but he soon regretted the switch. The roads were seas of mud, accommodation at local inns was exiguous, and the weather bitingly cold.
As he drew closer to Paris, Mehmet saw more and more fine palaces and chateaux. He found it difficult to describe them, so foreign were they to Turkish taste. The facades were often adorned with sculpture and, since Islamic teachings forbade the depiction of the human or animal form, the whole concept was alien.
Mehmet and his suite finally reached the gates of Paris on March 8, 1721. They lodged in Saint-Antoine for a week while preparations were made for their official entry into the city. Then, on March 16, Mehmet donned his ceremonial turban and an ermine coat and the procession set off with great pomp through the crowded streets of Paris.
Once the party had settled in at its new residence, visitors began to pour in, mostly to watch the Turks eat. Throughout their stay in France, Mehmet and his suite followed Islamic dietary laws and prepared their own food. This fascinated the French. Although it was Lent and his fasting French visitors could not partake of the meals, Mehmet found they were quite content to stand and stare.
There was no concept of privacy in 18th-century France and, as Mehmet pointed out with astonishment, even the king's meals were taken publicly. Anyone, he wrote, was free to wander into the palace and watch the king eat—not only that, but people could also watch the monarch get out of bed in the morning! This seemed particularly odd to Mehmet, for the Turkish sultan was a remote figure who rarely appeared in public and was protected by elaborate ceremonial from contact even with visiting dignitaries.
Nowadays there seems nothing very extraordinary about the daily life of Mehmet and his entourage, but in 1720 such simple things as differences in cuisine, sitting on the floor and eating with the right hand from a common dish, or shunning wine and spirits seemed strange and outlandish. A high-ranking French foreign ministry official named Le Dran wrote a long memoir on the daily life of the Turkish embassy, and particularly noted their eating habits:
"They make many different kinds of stews and even more kinds of flaky pastry.... They never eat roast meat, except for brochettes of lamb. They eat a lot of rice and in almost all their dishes they put spices and saffron in addition to honey and butter. They eat a wide variety of salads made of different kinds of greens. Only one dish at a time is placed on the table; it is then replaced by another and so on, up to the number of 40 or 50 in the same meal. This is not the case with the salads, which are served at the beginning and remain on the table till the end."
Le Dran told how each meal ended with washing one's hands and anointing them with scent, and how each guest was given coffee in a small cup without a saucer. No detail was too trivial, for it was all new.
The simplicity of Mehmet's meals astounded his hosts. Although the French court under the regent was less formal than during the reign of Louis XIV, no Frenchman of Mehmet's rank would have been content with a meal of only 40 or 50 dishes. Here is a typical menu, served in 1718 by the Duchesse de Berry at the Luxembourg Palace: First Course, 31 different soups, 60 entrees, 132 hors d'oeuvres; Second and Third Courses, 132 different hot meat dishes, 60 cold meats, 72 side dishes. The meal ended with fruit: 100 baskets of fresh, 94 of dried, 50 of glacé, and 106 bowls of compote.
A week after his arrival, Mehmet was received by Louis XV at the Tuileries Palace. The crowd in the throne room was great and Mehmet had trouble passing through it. Tiers of benches had been erected on either side for the ladies of the court, whose dresses sparkled with precious stones.
Louis, who had just celebrated his 11th birthday, rose as Mehmet approached with the sultan's letter. Mehmet said: "Here is the magnificent Imperial letter of His Majesty, the Very Generous, Very Great and Very Powerful Emperor of the Faith, my Benefactor, my Lord and my Master, Sultan Ahmet Khan, son of Sultan Mehmet Khan." He then handed the letter to the foreign minister.
"I then added," says Mehmet, "that I had been sent as ambassador in order to reaffirm the close and ancient friendship between the two empires and to declare the benevolence, love, esteem and consideration the Sultan bears to the very magnificent emperor of France."
A suitable reply was made on behalf of the king, who Mehmet says was too shy to reply himself, but whose "beauty was unequalled and whose clothes covered with gold and diamonds shot rays of light into the assembled company." The audience was over. Mehmet withdrew and returned to his lodgings in the rue de Tournon.
The next day he sent the king the presents he had brought—a fine horse from the isle of Lesbos with royal harness and saddle-cloth embroidered with gold and colored flowers; a gold-embroidered quiver of arrows and a little bow; nine pieces of Greek cloth of gold; three pieces of cloth from India; and nine bottles of balm from the holy city of Makkah.
The following day, he paid an official visit to the regent, the duc d'Orleans, at the Palais-Royal; the day after, he met with Dubois, the foreign minister, who was also archbishop of Cambrai and after the regent the most powerful man—and one of the richest and most reviled—in France. The memoirist Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon, also met Mehmet Effendi, and liked him: "He was above average in height, heavy, and about 60 years old. His face was handsome and majestic, his attitude fierce, his gaze proud and piercing. He entered a room as if he were the master of the world. He was polite, but more than that had a kind of grandeur, taking the first place in any gathering as if by right. He well knew how to amuse the ladies, with no sign of embarrassment and an air of being entirely at his ease."
The ambassador's days were full. He attended a hunt, with falcons and other birds of prey, at which the king was present. A drive in the Cours la Reine was arranged so that Louis could meet Mehmet informally, for the child-king was very curious about his guest. "As no one in Paris had ever seen Turks or Turkish dress, we were much admired and the more we were talked of to the king, the more eager he became to see us." Such meetings, not provided for in court protocol, had to be contrived as accidents.
With state visits behind them, Mehmet and Sa'id, who was taking French lessons and a course in woodworking, were free to explore Paris. All their excursions, however, were still state occasions and they were constantly surrounded by a crowd.
Mehmet was very impressed with the Hôtel des Invalides, where 3000 disabled and retired soldiers were cared for. Five or six soldiers slept to a ward, and each ward had a number of permanent attendants and nurses. Everything was scrupulously clean. Mehmet admired the ranks of glass bottles and the mortars for grinding medicines in the pharmacy; he inspected the ovens and the kitchens and watched the soldiers take a meal.
Soon after Mehmet's visit to Les Invalides, the maréchal de Villeroi invited him to dine at the palace. Before dinner, he asked if Mehmet would like to see the king. "We found the king in the same ceremonial room where I had presented the Imperial letter at my audience. He was walking with some young noblemen. As soon as he saw me with the maréchal, he turned towards us and I approached him. We chatted in a friendly fashion. He was charmed to be able to examine our garments one after the other."
Mehmet then toured the royal apartments, and the maréchal explained the paintings and a series of Gobelin tapestries portraying the life of Louis XIV. He was shown the king's bed and the desk where he studied. Then he was taken to the treasury, where he saw all the crown jewels on display. The king was present, and the maréchal, indicating the jewels, asked him to whom they belonged. "To me, who else?" replied Louis. To which the maréchal gravely replied, "They do not belong to you, Sire, they belong to the Crown."
When Mehmet's love of gardens became known, he was taken to Saint-Cloud, the chateau of the Princess Palatine, mother of the duc d'Orléans, and Mehmet was very impressed with the fountains there. He then traveled to Versailles, stopping on the way for lunch at the Château de Meudon, which then looked out over all of Paris.
Versailles and its gardens made a profound impression on Mehmet, as they did on all visitors. He describes fountain after fountain, but finally gives up and says: "I swear that it is absolutely impossible to give a description which gives a proper idea of all this; it can only be comprehended by seeing it." Mehmet loved the Grand Trianon and the zoo, in particular the concealed jets of water, which could be triggered to douse the crowd as they stared at the animals in their cages. "I could not resist playing this joke on those of my entourage who were not in on the secret.... It was the funniest thing in the world." Mehmet concludes by telling the sultan that everything they had heard about Versailles was true; it was the most splendid palace in Europe. He was quite impressed by the fabulous stables, built by Mansart entirely of cut stone with vaults and arcades. "Surprised to see such magnificence bestowed on stables, ... I was told it was done so that it could be said that the stables of the emperor of France were more magnificent than the palace of the emperor of Germany."
Three days later, Mehmet returned to Paris. He visited the Jardin du Roi—now the Jardin des Plantes—one of the principal botanical gardens in Europe, with a number of attached scientific institutes. One of the first he toured was devoted to anatomy. "They showed me a dissected elephant which they had hung by chains in such a way that it seemed to be standing. As the flesh had been removed, they had joined the various members to each other with wire, so that they could be seen very distinctly. They had done the same thing with other animals.... They have even carried exactitude further, for in order to represent flesh, veins and nerves, they have formed the members of wax, and used colors to indicate the veins and nerves. The physicians show these models to their students during lessons."
Mehmet then came to the garden of medicinal plants: "They have applied themselves so assiduously to collecting simples mentioned in medical books, that they have even brought those that grow in Persia and in the land of the Uzbeks and transplanted them to France. And how many trees, flowers and herbs from China and above all from the New World there were!"
The more Mehmet discovered, the more he realized he had only seen a fraction of what Paris had to offer. Like any modern tourist who suddenly finds his holiday drawing to a close, Mehmet began frantically visiting sights he had missed.
He had been very interested in the tapestries the French hung on the walls of their chateaux, so the next place he visited was Les Gobelins, where they were woven. "As they had been told I was coming, they had hung the walls with completed tapestries. There must have been at least a hundred of them, for the workshops are huge. To see them and to put the finger of admiration in one's mouth were one and the same thing. The flowers are worked with such art that you cannot tell them from the real thing."
On July 18th, Mehmet visited the Royal Library—one of Europe's finest—and was surprised to see Turkish and Arabic manuscripts in the collection, including a number of fine copies of the Qur'an. He was also shown illuminated Christian manuscripts and early printed books. As he left, he was given the complete works of Aristotle in a printed edition of the old Latin translation, which he had admired.
The examination of printed books in the Royal Library may have led to Mehmet's and his son Sa'id's interest in printing. They visited the national printing works and were extremely interested in the process. Although small Armenian and Hebrew presses existed in Constantinople, these were devoted to printing limited editions of liturgical works. It was through the efforts of Mehmet and Sa'id, once they had returned to Constantinople, that this crucial Renaissance discovery made its first significant appearance in Islamic lands (See Aramco World, March-April 1981). They were able to convince Ibrahim Pasha of the utility of printing secular works, including translations from European languages. Although the press they founded in 1727 operated for just two decades, it marked an important stage in the modernization of the Ottoman empire—and one of the books printed was Mehmet's account of his embassy.
Almost equally important was Mehmet's visit to the Paris Observatory, where he viewed a fine collection of experimental machines and astronomical instruments. Mehmet saw sophisticated pumps, machines for lifting heavy weights, and concave mirrors which focused the sun's heat to ignite wood and melt lead. "Burning mirrors," as they were called, had been described by Arab writers as early as the ninth century, but by Mehmet's time all memory of them had faded.
At the observatory, founded by Louis XIV in 1667, astronomer Jean Dominique Cassini had used a large reflecting telescope to carry out systematic mapping of the surface of the moon. Mehmet himself was allowed use of a telescope to observe the moon and some of the planets. More astonishing than the moon's pitted surface were the five known satellites Saturn, four of them discovered by Cassini between 1671 and 1684. "I also looked at Saturn," Mehmet said. "Around this planet are five stars which continually circle it. They were unknown to the ancients, and it is only by means of the telescope that they have been discovered."
Mehmet, realizing the importance of what he had seen, asked Cassini's son Jacques, who had taken over the Observatory on his father's death in 1712, for Cassini pere's corrections to Ptolemy's tables of star positions. These were as yet unpublished, but the younger Cassini kindly supplied them in manuscript.
Mehmet and his party left Paris on July 25, just after the end of the Ramadan fast. They spent three days at Chantilly as guests of the duc de Bourbon, and on August 3,1721 set out for southern France. This time the weather was fine, and they all reached Sète a month later.
During their months in Paris, the plague had ravaged the south; Mehmet was appalled to learn as they passed through Toulon that the population there had been reduced from 38,000 to 6000. He was also angered to discover, on reaching Sète, that the Muslim prisoners of war whose release he had been tirelessly negotiating in Paris were nowhere to be seen. He had been betrayed by Dubois.
They set sail for Constantinople on September 7, arriving home a month later. Mehmet finished the account of his embassy at sea, and on arrival he was ordered by the grand vizier to prepare an abridgement of it for the court. This he did, meanwhile working on a fuller version for the sultan.
The reverberations of Mehmet's visit to France continued for years after his return. In 1722, Ibrahim Pasha sent another emissary to Paris to procure some of the Western marvels Mehmet had spoken of so enthusiastically. He wanted telescopes, "burning mirrors," microscopes, tapestries, a wax anatomical model of a man's head, ten pocket watches, fabrics from Carcassonne, and above all a large selection of prints and plans of gardens, chateaux and towns. A thousand of these last were sent to Constantinople. He also ordered some parrots, of the kind Mehmet saw in the zoo at Chantilly. And lastly, flowers: jonquils, hyacinths, anemones and double ranunculus, which Mehmet had admired in Bordeaux.
Mehmet's trip even affected court ceremonial; some of the ceremonies Mehmet described in Paris were instituted in 1722 when the Persian ambassador came to Constantinople. More lasting was the influence of French garden design. Mehmet had been very impressed with the canals he had seen in the gardens of Fontainebleau and Versailles, and one was soon dug in the gardens of one of the sultan's villas at Kagithane.
This brief occidentaliste period came to an end with the revolution of 1730, when the sultan was deposed. Mehmet was sent to govern Cyprus—a sort of exile—and died there in 1732. His son Sa'id had a brilliant career, becoming ambassador to Sweden.
Mehmet's visit had a more durable effect on France, however, whose taste for exotic things has never entirely died, although it has taken many different forms, from turqueries to chinoiserie. More important, the ambassador's personality confirmed a concept dear to the age of Voltaire and Rousseau: that beneath local variations of religion and custom the rational man from any culture was essentially the same. Men were united by their capacity for reason, which transcended national and religious boundaries.
Mehmet, representing a culture as different as could be from the France of the Enlightenment, had been found to be intelligent, courteous and dignified and to share most of the interests of an educated Frenchman. This perception of the "other" as a person basically no different from oneself was reassuring to men of that reasonable age.
Historian Paul Lunde, a frequent contributor to Aramco World, makes his home in Seville.