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Volume 55, Number 1January/February 2004

In This Issue

Reader's Guide

By Julie Weiss

This one-page guide offers springboards, arranged thematically, that will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles. We especially encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers from late elementary school through early university courses, whether they are working in a classroom or through home study.


Class Activities

This month’s activities revolve around concepts of Maps and Journeys.

Theme: Maps

How much fun is a map? More fun than you might think!

What is a map?

You might say a map is a symbolic picture of a place. To think what that means, let’s compare a photograph and a map of a small town. A photograph of Main Street shows a row of stores, the sidewalk and some people walking by. A map, on the other hand, shows Main Street as if you were looking down from above, and
it uses a line as a symbol for Main Street to show the relationships among Main Street and other things and places in the town.

What different types of maps exist?

More than you can count! Some show boundaries; others show climate, topography, population or natural resources. In some supermarkets you can find maps that identify locations of the supermarket’s branch stores. Banks give away maps that show ATM locations.

Collect five maps of your own. Start with the most challenging: Draw your own map of your school or neighborhood. You can do this from memory or, as a more advanced assignment, use compass readings and your own steps for measurements. How hard is it? Then get a local map from an Internet map site by putting in your address. Third, find a road map of your town or city. Your fourth map is a historic map of your area that is at least 50 years old—your library probably has some. Finally, locate a scientific map such as a weather map, trade map, natural resources map or aviation map that shows your state, region or country. Share your maps with your classmates. How different are they? What do they have in common? As a class, name at least 15 different kinds of maps and, for each one, name the people for whom each is useful.

With this background in mind, turn to “Mapping Arabia.”
Who makes maps, and why do they make them?

Until recently, the people of the Arabian Peninsula had little need for maps on paper, while Europeans created many of them. In a group of three, list reasons why, at different times, Europeans wanted to map the Peninsula and why the people of the Peninsula did not do so. Don’t forget political, economic and military reasons.

Discuss with your group what set the maps of Charles Doughty apart from those that preceded them. What are possible reasons why, for centuries, no one did what Doughty did?

When did the people of the Peninsula become interested in mapping their own region? Do you think their maps differed much from Europeans’ maps? To explore the question, write a three-way discussion among John Speed (1627), Charles Doughty (1870’s) and an imaginary cartographer from the Saudi Geological Survey (2004). Have each of the three discuss his reasons for making maps. Include what was happening in the world at his time, how he gathered data, the best traits of his maps and the obstacles and limitations he faced. Present your conversations to the class.

Now turn to “Lebanon, Pasadena—Mars.”

You can probably find a map of any place you want to see—on Earth. It’s hard to imagine a time when large areas of the world were not mapped. But there’s a modern-day mapping effort that parallels the mapping of Arabia. Imagine you are Charles Elachi. Write a letter to your class explaining why you are interested in mapping Mars. What do you hope to learn? Then compare Elachi’s motives with those of the explorers and cartographers who have mapped the Arabian Peninsula. Make a Venn diagram showing what the Mars and Arabia mapping projects have in common and how they differ. What conclusions, if any, can you draw about what inspires people to make maps?

How do function and form unite in the Arabian maps?

Maps are symbolic visual representations of places, but because they are primarily useful, most of us don’t think of them in the same category as art, such as photographs, paintings or films in which beauty or design is often more important than utility. But the maps that accompany “Mapping Arabia” are both useful and beautiful. Let’s take a closer look at John Speed’s 1627 map, and compare it to a modern map.

  • First, notice the ornate decorations. Why is this map so much fancier than today’s maps? How useful is an ornate map? Who would be most likely to use it? For what purpose?
  • Do the colors make the map easier or more difficult to read? Why? How do the colors compare to the modern maps you and your classmates collected?
  • The map’s top border displays images of eight cities located in the Turkish Empire, while each side shows clothing worn in different places included on the map. Why might they be there? How do they relate to the map itself?
  • Compare this map with a 2004 road map or tourism guidebook map. What is today’s equivalent of the pictures of the eight cities and the clothing of the men and women who live there? Add to your own map of your neighborhood that you made (above) modern-day versions of Speed’s insets. Evaluate how well your map’s form suits its function by asking the same questions you asked about Speed’s map.

What do maps reveal?

In the final paragraph of “Mapping Arabia,” James Parry writes that “the historic maps of the Peninsula show more vividly than words how Arabia unfolded in the European consciousness.” Find three examples in the article that support Parry’s conclusion. Now return to the five maps you gathered before, only this time pretend you have come to
the Earth from Mars and you want to learn about how Earthlings map their world in 2004. Some questions to get you started: What types of places do these people care about? What is important to them? How can you tell? How do they organize their towns, cities, farmlands and regions? Present your conclusions to your fellow Martians.

Theme: Journeys

People use maps to guide travels, so now that we’ve looked at maps, it makes sense to turn to journeys.

Why do roads develop where they do?

It’s not always what you think. For example, did you know that the us Department of Defense funded much of the construction of America’s interstate highway system during the Cold War? The highways that people now use to get to and from work and to go on vacation were built in part for the military to use in case of a national emergency.

What about the historic network of roads connecting parts of the Muslim world? Who built them and why? Refer back to “Journeys of Faith, Roads of Civilization.” Make a web or sequence chain. Start by writing, “Islam requires all Muslims who can to make the Hajj.” Brainstorm as many consequences of that one fact as you can think of. Of course, roads developed to accommodate the pilgrims. Now, what changes did the roads inspire? And what further changes come from those? (If you get stuck, ask yourself if you have thought about political, economic, social, intellectual, religious and military changes as well as all else that might have traveled the roads besides pilgrims.)

How is the world different today now that we can make “virtual journeys” along both an electronic information superhighway and along the more traditional “book highway” in the library?

The maps and roads we’ve been looking at are all real. They exist physically. A map shows a place on Earth (or Mars!). A road is a path along which people transport themselves and their stuff. Let’s make a jump now from physical journeys to ones through words and pictures. Books, magazines, videos and the Internet can all take you on a kind of “journey.” Compare your virtual journeys with the physical journeys of the Muslim pilgrims you have read about. What can you do that the pilgrims could not do?

What could the pilgrims do that you cannot do? Now write two letters. The first is yours to a Muslim pilgrim traveling to Makkah 500 years ago, in which you explain the idea of an “information superhighway” with full libraries and a global Internet. Tell him or her about three “virtual journeys” you have made recently. Try to explain how how your life differs as a result. Then have your pilgrim respond to you. What is your pilgrim learning? How does his or her life differ as a result of the journey? (Don’t forget that your pilgrim might have some “virtual journeys” to share too: Stories heard from others or from books.)

Understanding What You Read

Pre-Reading Activities

An easy way to improve reading comprehension is to do something you probably already do: Flip through the magazine. Start with the Table of Contents. Look at the pictures and read about the four articles. What intrigues you? Go to the first article. Read the headline. Look at the pictures. Read the captions. Jot down a few notes about what the article seems to be about and a question or two you hope it will answer.

Reading-Comprehension Questions

The following activities are here to sharpen your reading by pointing you toward the most important parts of the articles. Complete them as written or in another way if it will work better for you.

“Journeys of Faith, Roads of Civilization”

Write the following questions at the top of a piece of paper. As you read, make notes that answer the questions. Add two other questions of your own and answer them in the same way. Who, in addition to pilgrims, used the roads? What roles did governments play? What services sprang up along the roads? What, in addition to people and goods, traveled along the roads? What kinds of events took place along the roads that lead the author to compare the roads to a university?

“Mapping Arabia”

This article presents a 2000-year history of maps of the Arabian Peninsula. That’s a long time and a lot of information to keep straight. A timeline can help. Make a timeline that starts with Ptolemy and continues to 2003, when the Saudi Geological Survey took over full responsibility for mapping Saudi Arabia. Include the key events in mapping the Peninsula as the article reports them. Photocopy the maps in the article and place each map at the correct time.

Julie Weiss Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Eliot, Maine. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies and develops curricula and assessments in social studies, media literacy and English as a Second Language.