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Volume 65, Number 6November/December 2014

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 furthe permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classrorom or through home study.


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Class Activities

This edition of Saudi Aramco World provides two excellent opportunities. First, with “Crossroads and Diasporas,” you can learn and practice some tricks to help improve your reading comprehension skills. Then, using that article and “The Back-road Historic Mosques of China,” you can explore the question: What happens when two cultures meet?

Improving Your Reading

“Crossroads and Diasporas” examines the globalization of Islamic cuisine—during more than 1000 years of history! How does an author organize information on such a huge topic? This article is a great example of one way to do so.   

1. The Introduction

Where’s the best place to begin your reading? How about the introduction? (No surprise there.) Nor is there any surprise about where it’s located: at the beginning of the article. Of course. But how far does it go? Where does the introduction end and the body of the article begin? In this case, the editors at Saudi Aramco World have made it easy for you: The introduction is written in a different font, and it has a page all its own. 

Although you might be tempted to bolt ahead, skimming over the introduction to get at the “real” substance of the article, resist that urge! Spending a little extra time on an introduction—just about any introduction, not just this one—can save you loads of time and energy later on, and it can help you understand what you’re about to read. In this case, you’ll find that author Rachel Laudan gives you a key—like a key on a map—that tells you how to make sense of the article that follows.

The Main Idea: Within the introduction, find the main point of the article. It’s one sentence in the middle of the introductory paragraph. Underline it, or write it on a piece of paper. Everything that appears in the article will serve the purpose of elaborating on that main idea. If, as you’re reading, you find that you’re wondering why some piece of information is in the article, go back to the main idea and ask yourself how the information connects to it.

Define Your Terms: Are there important words in the introduction that you don’t know? If so, you’ll need to find out what they mean, or the rest of the article won’t make much sense to you. In this article, challenging words might include diaspora, high cuisine, homogeneous and culinary. (You can find the definition of high cuisine in the sidebar on page 29.) 

The Themes: In this introduction, you will see that the author has stated several important themes that she will discuss in the rest of the article. Working on your own or with a partner, highlight these themes. Use a different color for each one. 

The Outline: Finally, Laudan tells you how she will deal with the fact that the article covers 1000 years of history. There will be four parts to the article; you can identify them by finding the subhead before each one. How is each part defined? Based on what you know so far, how do you think the four parts of the article will fit together to give you a picture of the cultural change Laudan chronicles? 

2. The Themes Play Out

Read each of the four segments of the article, one by one. Keep your highlighters with you. As you find parts of the first segment that relate to each of the themes, highlight them in the appropriate color. When you’re done, compare your highlights with another student’s. Continue with the next three segments in the same way. By the time you’re done, you should have a brightly colored version of the article, with the key themes identified in each of the four sections.

3. Owning What You’ve Read

Once you’ve read the article, how can you make sure you really know what it says, that you “own” the content? One way is to write a summary of it. Your summary should include the main idea, the four time periods and a brief statement about how the themes play out over time. 

Another way to own the material in the article is to reorganize it, to be sure you would understand it even if it were presented in a different way. If you can talk about the content from more than one perspective, you really must know it! Choose one of the article’s themes—say, the connection between high cuisine, religious belief, and political and dietary theory—and write it on a sheet of paper. Then go through the article and re-read what you’ve highlighted for that theme, making notes about it on the page where you’ve written the theme. What does each segment include on that theme? Looking over your notes, write a one-sentence summary of the material related to the theme. You can try this with the other themes—and then you’ve got another tool you can use to get more from other things you read.

Global and Local 

Saudi Aramco World often has articles about cultural migration and diffusion. These articles examine how elements of a culture—for example, language or religion—spread from one part of the world to another. How, for example, did Islam spread from the Arabian Peninsula to other parts of the world? What happens when that cultural element “goes global”? What happens as it reaches different locales? Both “Crossroads and Diasporas” and “The Back-road Historic Mosques of China” look at how elements of culture—in these cases, food and architecture—spread. Read the articles, or if you prefer, you can focus on just one article, or have half the class read one article and the other half read the other.

“The Back-road Historic Mosques of China” is based on three writers’ search for little-known mosques. What did they find? As you read the article, make two lists. In one, write down what the authors found that was similar to mosques in other parts of the world. In the other, list what they found that was unique to China’s mosques. What do you notice about the similarities and differences between Chinese mosques and mosques elsewhere in the world? Write a brief answer to the question.

If you haven’t already read “Crossroads and Diasporas,” do so now. For each of the four “snapshots,” make notes about Islamic cuisine. Your notes can take whatever form you find most useful. You might want to make lists, as you did regarding China’s mosques, only in this case you might list different versions of some common food and the places with which they are associated. Or you might make your notes on a map so that you can see the locations that the article identifies and how the foods changed as they entered the cuisine in each different place. Or you might prefer to make a flow chart that shows the acceptance of different types of food from place to place. Whatever method you choose, use your notes to make a statement about high Islamic cuisine over the past 1000 years. Compare your statement with those of other students. Have you understood the article in similar ways? If not, discuss discrepancies and be sure you’ve got a good understanding of what you’ve read.

Looking at your statements about architecture and food, what general statement can you make about what happens to a locality’s food or architecture when it is touched by food or architecture from another part of the world? And what happens to food or architecture when it leaves the place it originated? What do you understand about cultural migration now that you didn’t understand before?

Visual Analysis

The photographs that accompany “The Back-road Historic Mosques of China” serve the purpose of illustrating the main point of the article: The historic mosques blended elements of Chinese architecture with the needs of a Muslim religious community. You or you and your partner will be assigned one or two photos. Don’t read the caption of your assigned photo. Instead, use what you have learned from reading the article to describe what the photo shows. Write a caption for your photo. Display the photos and captions in the classroom, and view each others’ work. 



1. One of the questions you probably ask a lot at school is why a certain topic or piece of information is important. To put it bluntly, you’ve probably asked, more than once, “So what?” The question may sound insolent, but it’s really an excellent question—and if you can answer it, it makes whatever you’re studying become meaningful. If you only have 15 minutes, read “Jordan, Long Before Petra.” Archeologists have uncovered evidence at Wadi Faynan that suggests that ancient history may be very different than they had thought before. In what two ways might it be different? Locate and underline the sentences in the article that state what the two ways are. Then ask the “so what” question. Talk with other students, or write your own thoughts about why these two insights are important. Share your thoughts with the rest of the class.

2. Read the sidebar article on page 29, “High, Low and Middling Cuisines.” Make sure you understand what constitutes each type of cuisine. Think about your own culture’s foods. Come up with examples of each type of cuisine that are part of your locale’s foodways. Share your examples with the class. Be prepared to explain why you have identified each food item as part of the cuisine with which you have associated it. Make a menu based on one level of your cuisine, and compare it with menus that other students have made. Do you agree about what constitutes high, middling and low cuisines?


Curriculum Alignments

Record-Breaking Record-Breaking


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


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

The Backroad Historic Mosques of China

World History

Standard 13. Understands the causes and consequences of the development of Islamic civilization between the 7th and 10th centuries

Standard 30. Understands transformations in Asian societies in the era of European expansion

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

Visual Arts

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


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

Jordan Long Before Petra

World History

Standard 2. Understands the processes that contributed to the emergence of agricultural societies around the world


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

Standard 15. Understands how physical systems affect human systems

Crossroads and Diaspora

World History

Standard 13. Understands the causes and consequences of the development of Islamic civilization between the 7th and 10th centuries

Standard 18. Understands major global trends from 300 to 1000 CE

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

Standard 31. Understands major global trends from 1450 to 1770


Standard 9. Understands the nature, distribution and migration of human populations on Earth's surface 

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


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.