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Volume 64, Number 1January/February 2013

In This Issue

This is the first of the author’s six collections of eclectic, occasionally irreverent, excerpts from the vast treasure-house of Arabic literature. In each, he samples and comments thematically, seeking that which is insightful, prescient or poignant, as well as the curious, mischievous or wisely satirical. Like the original authors, his goal, and ours, is to entertain, educate and enlighten.

—The Editors

Even the best efforts at translation often entail some loss. However, the pleasing sound of the original Arabic title of this series, Tarjuman al-Kunuz, makes up for some of the literary shortfall when it becomes the syntactically accurate but less euphonious english “interpreter of treasures.” Tarjuman is the root of the English word “dragoman,” which refers to an interpreter serving in an official capacity. The full title echoes Ibn al-’Arabi’s early-13th-century collection of poems, Tarjuman al-Ashwaq (Interpreter of Desires).

Graham Chandler

Tim Mackintosh-Smith ([email protected]) recently appeared in Newsweek’s list of the top dozen travel writers of the last 100 years. Following his award-winning trilogy of travels in the footsteps of Ibn Battutah, he is working on a history, a thriller set in 14th-century Spain and the translation from Arabic of an early collection of travelers’ accounts from around the Indian Ocean.


Soraya Syed (www.artofthepen.com) is a calligrapher and graphic designer in London.

This article appeared on page 10 of the print edition of Saudi Aramco World.

Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for January/February 2013 images.