en zh es ja ko pt

Volume 54, Number 1 January/February 2003

In This Issue

January/February 2003
Agadez: Sultanate of the Sahara
Written by Louis Werner
Photographed by Kevin Bubriski

The town of Agadez, today in central Niger, was from the 15th century a crossroads for pastoralists, caravaneers and artisans. From the north came Tuaregs and Berbers; from the east, Arabs; from the south and west came Hausa, Songhai and Fulani. Security for trade and passage lay with the elected Sultan of Aïr, named for the highlands to the north. Today, the 126th sultan is an honorary official who still adjudicates affairs in a city that remains an ethnic crossroads.

The Arts of the Mongols
Written by Shelia S. Blair

The legacy of the Mongols is far from being entirely apocalyptic. In addition to the hemispheric Silk Roads trade made possible by stable Mongol rule, some of the finest arts and architecture of the Middle Ages flourished when Persian, Turkic, Arab and Chinese styles met under the Mongol ilkhans, who embraced Islam and patronized the arts from present-day Iran.

The New Push for Middle East Studies
Written by Arthur Clark
Photographed by Susana Raab
Responding to what the US Congress in late 2001 called "an urgent need...to enhance the nation's in-depth knowledge of world areas and transnational issues," US federal funding last year rose 26 percent for the 40 university-based centers devoted to the relationships among cultures, histories, politics and languages in major world regions. Among them are 15 centers that focus on the Middle East and the Islamic world—the nation's most extensive network of expert knowl­edge on the region—now reaching out more than ever to an increasingly curious public.
Tales of a Thaler
Written by Peter Harrigan

Minted first in the Habsburg capital of Vienna, the silver Maria Theresa thaler—the word rhymes with "dollar" and is the origin of the modern American term—was one of the world's most widely used currencies in the late 18th and much of the 19th century. It could be found from the Americas to China, often adapted, and sometimes counterfeited. One of the places it was hugely popular was the Arabian Peninsula, where its reliably high silver content made it valuable both for commerce and for silversmithing.