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Volume 64, Number 3May/June 2013

In This Issue

Classroom Guide

For students: We hope this 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.


Jump to If You Only Have 15 Minutes...

Jump to McRel Standards


Classroom Guide: The Role-Play Edition. This Classroom Guide focuses on developing your historical empathy skills. Historical empathy is the ability to understand the world as someone in the past experienced and understood it, to imagine how someone might have felt or what he or she might have done in a particular situation in a particular historical moment. The ability to empathize is an important part of our humanity. In terms of your studies, empathy can help you understand the past because it stretches you to see it as people at the time saw it. Role playing—although it sometimes makes people feel uncomfortable at first—is a fun and memorable way to develop historical empathy.

The first role-play activities build on “All the Lands Were Sea.” In them, you will use role playing to understand some of the customs that shaped the daily lives of the Ma’dan, the “Marsh Arabs” of Iraq, and to think about the often unstated customs that shape your own behavior. The second set of activities is based on “European Ceramics for the East.” In those role-plays, you will imagine yourselves in different roles in an economic and cultural exchange.

If you’ve only got 15 minutes, you won’t be doing a role-play, alas. Instead, you’ll be comparing past and present to see what’s changed and what’s remained the same in the world of coffee houses.

Theme: Etiquette

Etiquette might seem trivial or bothersome, but entertain the possibility that it might be more important than you think. In these activities, you’ll have a chance to see. Start by defining the word etiquette. Look up a few definitions, and then use them as the basis for writing your own definition. With definition in hand, and a group of your peers, identify some of the rules of etiquette that are part of your world. For example, if you have dinner at a friend’s house, you say “thank you” before you go home. And so on. List as many rules as you can come up with. Put a check mark next to any that you think are especially important, and explain to the people in your group why you think they are important.

When you’re done, read “All the Lands Were Sea.” Form a group of six to 10 people, and have each person take a role from the article. Roles include photographer Tor Eigeland, his guide, Ibrahim, the host shaykh, and a few of the men and women of the village. Finally, have two people take the roles of observers. With your group, act out a scene like one the article describes. Have your characters play their parts as the article describes what they did. For example, the guests waited in their boat while hosts prepared for their arrival. As the group acts out the scene, the observers will be on the lookout for the rules of etiquette that guide the behavior of the different participants, and they will write them down. (This shouldn’t be too hard, since the article explicitly identifies many of these expectations and behaviors.) When the role play is finished, have different actors share what it felt like to take on the role they took on. How did the customs make things easier or harder for you? Have observers share the “rules” that they saw in action in the role play. Actors can add to the list based on their experiences.

Now try the role play again, but this time, have the visitors be themselves—21st-century young people, people who have no knowledge of the customs of the Ma’dan. Have the hosts remain in character and respond the way you imagine they would. When the role play is finished, debrief by talking about how it felt to be a guest who didn’t know the customs, and how it felt to be a host to guests who didn’t understand and may even have behaved in a way that seemed rude.

The tricky thing about customs and etiquette is that when you look at other people’s, they may seem strange or quaint. But when you look at your own, they may seem, well, invisible. “We just do it that way,” you might say. But in the interests of improving understanding—of yourself and others—try the following activity to make your own invisible rules of custom and etiquette visible.

Working with your group, assign roles again. This time, you will be members of your own community. Have some people take on roles of those who live in a household, while others take the roles of visitors to that household. With the people on your “team” (hosts or guests), determine specific roles and plan what you would do—and not do—to prepare either for the arrival of guests or to be guests who are arriving. Then act out the scene.

Here’s an example of something that might happen: Maybe the household includes two long-haired cats (no, you don’t need to have anyone play their parts!), and there’s cat hair all over the furniture. Maybe the hosts prepare for guests by cleaning everything so that there won’t be cat hair to offend the guests. Or maybe they don’t clean the house, and guests arrive and start sneezing, appalled that people live with so much cat hair everywhere. You get the idea. Have some fun with it. When you’re done, debrief as you did before. What did you notice about your expectations, your behavior and how you responded to the other group? What happened when your customs did not match up with the other group’s customs?

Now imagine that you are going to a foreign country. Decide which country you would like to go to. Find out what some of the expectations are for how you should behave while you are there. How do the customs in that country differ from your own? How do you imagine you would feel going to that country, given the differences?


Read “[email protected].” Make a T chart. In one column, list the reasons why people liked coffee houses at the various points in time that the article describes. In the other column, list the controversies that arose about the coffee houses. Then make another T chart, with the same two columns about coffee houses today. Compare the two T charts. What similarities do you notice? What differences? Write a short comparison of then and now. Then write a tweet that sums up your main point. Make it interesting enough that people will want to read your comparison.

Theme: Motivations for Exchange

Read “European Ceramics for the East.” To help you focus on some key ideas, answer the following questions, either in writing or in conversation with another student. What prompted Joel Montague’s interest in the European-made ceramics that were exported to Muslim countries? During what time period was the export business thriving? What was going on politically during those years? What was the connection between the ceramics export business and the political situation? What became of the business during and after World War II? Why?

The shopkeeper to whom Joel Montague spoke in 1972 said this: “The French sent their missionaries, then their soldiers, and then their ceramics.” The following activities will help you explore what the shopkeeper meant. Here’s where the role play comes in. It will help you explore the ceramics trade further.

There are two key “players”: the European ceramics producers and the Muslim ceramics consumers. Why do you suppose each of them participated in the exchange? To find an answer, try putting yourself in their shoes. Work with a partner. Have each person choose one of the roles—either producer or consumer. It’s the 1880’s. Take some time alone to think about your character, and make some notes for the role play. If you’re the French manufacturer, why do you make pottery with Islamic designs? What do you hope to gain by doing so? What, if anything, do you have to lose? What incentives, if any, do you imagine that the French government might have established to encourage you to market your wares in Morocco? Why might it have done so? If you’re the Moroccan buyer, would you buy the French ceramics? If you say that you wouldn’t, explain your reasoning. Then answer this question: Why did so many Moroccans buy the French ceramics? Why did the European pottery become so popular in Morocco? What did Moroccans have to gain by buying French pottery? When you’re comfortable with your character’s position, role play a conversation with the other person in which each party explains his/her motivation.

Then come together as a class. Respond to these prompts as a way of discussing what your role plays revealed. The first set of statements might have come from the sellers, the second from the buyers. Which do you think are most believable? Least believable? Why?


  • “Morocco is a ready-made market. I can make a lot of money selling pottery there.”
  • “The French government says we don’t have to pay taxes when we send goods to Morocco, so that makes our profit margin bigger.”
  • “These designs are beautiful, and I’d like to know more about Islam and Muslim cultures.”
  • “I’d really rather not make pottery with these designs on it, but it’s too good an opportunity to pass up.”
  • “I’d really rather not make pottery with these designs on it, but it’s too good an opportunity to pass up.”


  • “The French pottery is less expensive than the locally made pottery.”
  • “The local market only sells the French pottery, so I can’t get Moroccan pottery anymore.”
  • “I think the French pottery is prettier than the locally made pottery.”
  • “The French pottery is the style now. Everyone has it, and I don’t want to be left out.”

Add your own additional comments if they occur to you.

Now return to the Moroccan shopkeeper’s quotation: “The French sent their missionaries, then their soldiers, and then their ceramics.” Take the role of this shopkeeper. Using what you’ve learned from the role play and discussion, write a paragraph that explains what this quotation means. For your answer, think about these questions, and incorporate answers to them as appropriate. How does the shopkeeper understand the relationship between France and Morocco? How does he seem to feel about the relationship? What does the pottery mean to him?

MA13 Standards Alignment
McRel Standards

From Rubble to Revival


Standard 10.Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 15.Understands how physical systems affect human systems

Visual Arts

Standard 4.Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

World History

Standard 37.Understand major global trends from 1750 to 1914


World History

Standard 26.Understands how the transoceanic interlinking of all major regions of the world between 1450 and 1600 led to global transformations

Standard 28.Understands how large territorial empires dominated much of Eurasia between the 16th and 18th centuries


Standard 9.Understands how the transoceanic interlinking of all major regions of the world between 1450 and 1600 led to global transformations

Standard 10.Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

The Forgotten Age of Lebanese Rocketry World History

World History

Standard 45.Understands major global trends since World War II


Standard 3.Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual

All the Lands Were Sea

World History

Standard 45.Understands major global trends since World War II


Standard 10.Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 15.Understands how physical systems affect human systems

Standard 16.Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources

Europe’s Ceramics for the East

World History

Standard 34.Understands how Eurasian societies were transformed in an era of global trade and the emergence of European power from 1750 to 1870

Standard 36.Understands patterns of global change in the era of Western military and economic dominance from 1800 to 1914

Standard 43.Understands how post-World War II reconstruction occurred, new international power relations took shape, and colonial empires broke up


Standard 10.Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 11.Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface

Eat and Drink

World History

Standard 23.Understands patterns of crisis and recovery in Afro-Eurasia between 1300 and 1450

Standard 25.Understands major global trends from 1000 to 1500 CE


Standard 10.Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Language Arts

Standard 6.Uses skills and strategies to read a variety of literary texts

Standard 7.Uses skills and strategies to read a variety of informational texts

Julie Weiss ([email protected]) is an education consultant based in Eliot, Maine. 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.