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Volume 50, Number 6 November/December 1999

In This Issue

November/December 1999
Among the Norse Tribes: The Remarkable Account of Ibn Fadlan
Written by Judith Gabriel
Photographed by Eirik Irgens Johnsen

The Vikings' network of arduous riverine trade routes connected settlements from Scandinavia and the Baltic right across European Russia to the Muslim Abbasid and Samanid Empires. Silver was the goal of commerce and the fuel that powered the Viking expansion of the ninth and 10th centuries. The only records of this little-known cultural synapse were penned by Arabs, and among them, the meticulous account of Ibn Fadlan is peerless.

Aramco World Turns 50
Written by William Tracy

Once a company newsletter that included news from "the field," then an internal magazine meant to increase employee understanding of an unfamiliar land and culture, Aramco World is now a bimonthly window on the Arab and Muslim worlds, a magazine read and referred to in classrooms, libraries and homes in 130 countries. Aramco World has its own history, one that colorfully reflects the constancies and changes in relations among the cultures of East and West.

Correspondence in Clay
Written by Barbara Ross
Photographs courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

More than three millennia ago, the language of international diplomacy was Akkadian, a Babylonian tongue written in cuneiform script, and long-distance couriers circulated inscribed tablets among kings and chieftains. A remarkable collection of surviving tablets is made up of letters received by Egypt's iconoclastic pharaoh Akhenaten, who moved his capital from Thebes to Amarna.

A Counterpoint of Cloth and Stone
Written by Arthur Clark

A "daring confrontation" of tradition, landscape and high technology, said the jury of the 1998 Aga Khan Awards for Architecture, and bestowed a prize on the Tuwaiq Palace, a dramatic architectural highlight of Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter. The issue of a "forced marriage" of two competing architectural firms, the palace fuses the desert archetypes of tent, fortress and oasis.