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Volume 57, Number 2 March/April 2005

In This Issue

Click for the Table of Contents

Reader's Guide

For students: We hope this two-page guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles.

For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study.


Class Activities

Theme: Underground
“There’s more here than meets the eye.” That statement is true in lots of situations. For these activities, let’s focus on what goes on beneath the surface of the Earth. Read three stories in this issue: “Volcanic Arabia,” “Soufi from the River, Soufi from the Sand” and “A Tangerine in Delhi.” Then think about the underground by completing these activities.

What goes on beneath the surface of the Earth? How can people tell?
To get you started thinking about what’s underground, think about the ground you walk on. What do you suppose is really under there? What on the Earth’s surface provides clues? Make a drawing, starting at the surface and working your way down. You might try a few different kinds of places, such as a garden and a paved road. Think about both what’s naturally underground and also what people have put there, such as water pipes.

Now turn your attention to “Volcanic Arabia.” Highlight the physical features the article describes. Underline the parts of the article that explain what was going on beneath the Earth’s surface that led to the creation of each of the features. Based on what you’ve identified, write a one- or two-sentence statement that answers the following questions: “How does what happens beneath the Earth’s surface affect what’s visible on the Earth? How does what happens beneath the Earth’s surface affect people?”

“Soufi from the River, Soufi from the Sand” also describes what’s underground. Using a photocopy of the map on page 26, highlight what’s on the Earth’s surface south of the Atlas Mountains in Algeria. In a different color, highlight what’s beneath the surface. With your partner, discuss the differences. Can you think of other examples in which what’s on the surface is very different from what’s beneath?

How do people use and manage underground resources?
Beneath Saudi Arabia’s volcanic lands and Algeria’s deserts lie resources that people might find useful. Divide the class in half, assigning each half one of those regions to work on. Write down your region’s resources at the top of a piece of chart paper. Beneath it, make two other lists. In the first, name the uses to which each resource or combination of resources might be put. In the other list, identify potential problems with the resource, including how people will get access to it, and how they ensure that it doesn’t get used up.

Speaking of Saudi Arabia, Maher Idris says, “Our challenge is to effectively balance exploitation with the need for geo-conservation.” Discuss what he means. Then think about similar statements that have been made at different times in history. For example, in the United States since the late 1800’s, many conservationists would have said something similar. They want to use resources thoughtfully, neither destroying the natural environment nor using up the resources. Sometimes they are opposed by preservationists, who since the same time have had a different point of view: They have wanted to keep as much of the natural environment undisturbed, intact. Famous preservationists include John Muir, who helped found The Sierra Club. What do you think? Do you live in a place where people have debated whether to use something underground or to preserve the land above it? Do some research about this debate. You might start with a history textbook, then do an Internet search. As a class, prepare a debate on the issue.

How does “underground” serve as a metaphor?
You might have heard the phrase “gone underground.” It refers to something that disappears. For example, in 1918, there was a time between two outbreaks of influenza (flu) when it seemed the virus was gone, but it wasn’t: It had just “gone underground.” In other words, it was hidden. Then it “resurfaced,” and the second flu outbreak was more severe than the first. There are many other “underground” metaphors. Choose one of the following: a) the underworld in Greek mythology; b) the French “underground” during World War II that resisted the Nazi occupation; c) the Underground Railroad of the early 19th century that helped escaping slaves reach northern US cities. Do some research about the situation or group you chose. In what ways is “underground” a useful way to think about it, and how might it not be? Discuss your findings and thoughts with other students who chose the same topic you did. Then present to the rest of the class what you’ve come up with.

Sometimes a skilled writer can use a metaphor such as “underground” literally at the same time as he uses it metaphorically. “A Tangerine in Delhi,” for example, describes on page 22 “a…religious scholar who had gone underground—literally—in a subterranean house outside the city.” It appears that the shaykh was hiding from the sultan. The same article reports that when Ibn Battuta fell out of favor with the sultan, he, too, sought refuge underground by living for a short time with another religious scholar, this one called al-Ghari, “the Caveman.” Carefully read that section of the article, as well as writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s search for the cave. Describe the cave’s physical space. How was the cave also a metaphor? (Hint: Look at the confusion about the meaning of the Arabic word zawiyah.)

Theme: Movement
People move. Their movement can be of many different kinds. Some of it is routine—going to school in the morning and coming home in the afternoon. Some of it is more disruptive—moving to a new city or traveling to a foreign country. In the following activities, you’ll explore both the movement of people, and the movement of the planet.

Why do people move?
“A Tangerine in Delhi” chronicles the travels of writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith as he follows the trail of 14th-century writer-traveler Ibn Battuta. Start with Ibn Battuta. Based on what you’ve read about him, why do you think he traveled? Divide the class into pairs. Have one person in each pair take the role of a journalist, while the other takes the role of Ibn Battuta. Have journalists meet together first, and come up with questions to ask the world traveler. While the journalists prepare, the Ibn Battutas should prepare, too. Step into your role by writing a brief statement, in the first person, explaining why you traveled so much, and what the travels meant to you. Sit down with your journalist partner and conduct the interview. When you’re done, jot down some of the most interesting things that came out of it. Share them with other pairs. To extend this exercise, learn more about Ibn Battuta using the resources at the bottom of page 23.

Now think about Tim Mackintosh-Smith. Why was he traveling in India? What was he looking for? How did he decide where to go, particularly since he didn’t go to well-known tourist destinations?

Now think about yourself. Whose footsteps might you like to follow? Think about an explorer, an immigrant (maybe a relative of yours), an astronaut or any other traveler who interests you, and imagine that you are going to go on a trip to retrace a journey they once made. Write an itinerary for your trip: Where will you go, and how will you get there? With whom would you want to meet in order to learn about your traveler? This will take some research. If you’re trailing a historic figure, you’ll need to do some book or Internet research. If you’re trailing a relative, you’ll probably want to talk to that relative. Or, if the relative lived in the past, talk to family members who might have known him or her, or know stories about the travels. When you write your itinerary, number your destinations, and write an explanation of why you’re going to each place and what you hope to find there.

“Soufi from the River, Soufi from the Sand” mentions people who move for very different reasons than Ibn Battuta. The people who are hoping to turn this part of the desert of Algeria into farmland give three reasons for doing so. Write them down. What movement of people are they trying to slow down? Think about current events and history. As a class, come up with other examples of human migration. For each, discuss why the people moved. Were they fleeing something—drought, persecution, famine? Or were they attracted to something better in the new place? Is there somewhere you would like to move? What attracts you about that idea?

How does the Earth move? What happens when it moves?
“Volcanic Arabia” describes situations when the Earth’s crust moves. What caused the 1256 earthquake? What continental rifting activity have geologists recently discovered? What is causing the rifting?

What evidence do the Earth’s movements leave in their wake? Use both “Volcanic Arabia” and the photographs that accompany it to identify evidence of the Earth’s movement. Make a poster to present different evidence of the movements of the Earth’s crust.

Analyzing Visual Images

One of the first things photographers learn about taking pictures is that it’s often visually appealing to take a picture that has a “frame” within it. That’s why you’ll sometimes see a photographic scene shot through an archway. The archway serves as a frame for the scene, much as you might put a picture frame on a photograph you treasure. Framing helps tell your eye where to look, and the kind of framing helps set a mood.

Take a look at some “framed” pictures that accompany “A Tangerine in Delhi.” Start with the photos 4 and 10 of the sequence linked here. What element of each picture provides the frame? What is contained within the frame? How does each photo make you feel? Why do you think you feel that way?

Now look at photo number 7. Compare it to the two photos you just looked at. How is this photo framed? How does it differ from the other two? Does it make you feel different than the other two photos?

Photographers can also do the opposite of framing a photo. They can take a photo so that your eye focuses on something because it stands out against an open background. The photos numbered 12 and 13 fall into that category. What is pictured in each photo? Why do you think the photographer chose to record each the way he did?

Now try it yourself. With a partner, or in teams, try taking two pictures of the same view, one through a frame (such as a doorway), the other without the frame. Compare the two. Which do you like better? Why? Then try taking some pictures like the last two you looked at. What kind of objects do you see that you can photograph against an open background? What effects do the photos have on you?

Sum up what you’ve learned in these exercises by writing an explanation of the two different kinds of pictures. Include what you like and/or dislike about each.

Julie Weiss Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Lowell, Massachusetts. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social studies, media literacy and English as a Second Language curricula, and produces textbook materials.