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Young Reader's World

Each Young Reader’s World selection is abridged from an original article previously published in Aramco World or Saudi Aramco World, with activities, writing and discussion topics added especially for readers ages 8 to 15.

Adapted from a story by Annemarie Schimmel
Photographed by Lorraine Chittock

Egyptian cats come in practically all colors, and have been beloved for some 4000 years. Ancient Egyptians created feline deities and built temples in their honor, and cats are still held in high esteem today. In Cairo, you'll finds cats on many corners and cafes and alleyways, doing odd jobs (like catching mice) and keeping up good relations with humans. The next time you pet a cat, think about its pedigree—which might just go back to the Pharaohs!

Adapted from a story by Peter Harrigan

Would you like to be remembered for a coin bearing your portrait? Empress Maria Theresa, who ruled the Hapsburg Empire in Europe from 1740 to 1780, took special care to make sure her likeness was refined on her silver coin—the Maria Theresa thaler—and that the coin itself was minted to the highest standards. It became not only the copin of her realm but also the leading global currency, and was still circulating as late as 1980 in part of the Arabian Peninsula.

Adapted from a story by Larry Luxner and photographed by Larry Luxner

The Maldives, a nation of small islands strung like pearls on the crystalline Indian Ocean, risks being drowned by rising seas. Among the steps the government has taken is the construction of a new island some two meters above today's waterline. Will that measure, combined with other steps, keep the Maldives from sinking?

Who Invented the Ice-Cream Cone?

Adapted from a story by Jack Marlowe
Photographed by David Alan Harvey

What's better on a hot summer's day than an ice-cream cone? The ice cream's cool, of course, but did you ever wonder about the cone itself? It dates back to 1904 and a World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, so this tasty story goes….

Adapted from a story by Anna McKibbin and photographed by Anna McKibbin

The Arabian Sea off the coast of Oman is a year-round playground for whales, grace of the khareef, or southwest monsoon. Find out why humpbacks and blues break their traditional migrating rules because of the buffet provided by the monsoon.

Adapted from a story by Chip Rossetti
Photographed by Michael Nelson

In the raw, asafoetida is so smelly it’s called “devil’s dung.” But in the kitchen it undergoes an aromatic and savory transformation that secured its popularity from ancient Rome to the modern Middle East and especially India. After discovering this spice’s secrets, you might even like to try some yourself!

Adapted from a story by Robert W. Lebling, Jr.
Illustrated by Norman MacDonald

Modern musicians travel far and wide, both entertaining and influencing their audiences. So did Ziryab (“Blackbird”), who landed in Muslim Spain as an exile from Baghdad in the year 822. As popular as a modern rapper, he opened the first music school and blazed new cultural trails in many other fields that are still visible in Europe and the New World today.

Written by Stewart Gordon

Do you play chess? Have ever wondered about its history? The game may be far older, and much more interesting, than you think. Chess probably originated in India or South Asia more than 14 centuries ago and was carried quickly west and east by traders and soldiers. The game changed en route, but its attraction for players of all skill levels did not.

Written by Frank L. Holt
Illustrated by Norman MacDonald

I’m a handsome fellow, some 2.25 meters (more than seven feet) tall, and some say I have a big ego. But I’ve got good reason, for I’m the foundation stone of justice. Around 3800 years ago, my partner Hammurapi had me hammered into a stele, or pillar, and carved me front and back with the laws for his Mesopotamian kingdom based in Babylon. Today, I reside in The Louvre Museum in Paris, France. If you’d like to know more about me, read on.

Written by Alan Pimm-Smith

There are hundreds of Arabic loan words in English, although most have entered disguised as Arabic, French or Latin. Some of these Arabic words saddled up with the Arab horses the Spanish brought to the Americas, and ended up as part of the cowboys’ lingo in the West.

Written by Philippa Scott

Why did the moth marry the sea snail? To produce royal purple silks, whose color became a symbol for wealth, power and prestige for nearly 3000 years. Read all about this high-society fashion “wedding.”

Written by Zayn Bilkadi
Illustrated by Bob Lapsley

These “bulls” aren’t the kind you lasso and make into steaks. Rather, they were floating mounds of bitumen, or natural asphalt, harvested by the Nabataeans more than two millennia ago and exported to Egypt, where bitumen was a key ingredient in the mummification process.

Written by Frank L. Holt
Illustrated by Norman MacDonald

Being ostracized is no fun, no matter where you live. In ancient Athens, it was a form of punishment voted by citizens, each of whom used an ostracon, or broken piece of pottery, as a ballot on which to scratch the name of a person he wished the city-state to banish.

Written by Christopher Walker
Photographed by Thorne Anderson

Have you ever thought about the roots of the US government? Some extend back nearly 2000 years to a site in what today is Turkey: Patara on the Mediterranean coast.

Written and Photographed by Eric Hansen

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll like this: Using simple hives, nomadic beekeepers in one of Yemen's little-known valleys have learned over centuries the secrets of producing some of the world's most sought-after—and most expensive—honey.

Written by Juliette Rossant
Photographed by Eric Hansen

What? Sherbet is a soft drink? That’s right: The story of sherbet started in the Middle East, where people have long quenched their thirst with delicious drinks made from fruit syrups thinned with water, ice or even snow. In fact, social traditions grew up around sherbet drinks—which were once as popular as Pepsi and Coca-Cola are today.

Written and photographed by Jeff Harris

Exceptional ships manned by exceptional sailors make for exciting competitions. That’s what you’ll find off Dubai’s Port Rashid during dhow-racing season. Here, crew members practice the same skills and sing the same chants as their fathers and grandfathers as they navigate their traditional, white-sailed vessels toward the finish line.

Written by Frank L. Holt

It took an army of chanting men with chisels and hammers to carve my 250 tons out of the granite quarries along the Nile, and thousands more strained at ropes to float me on a barge up Egypt’s great river—eventually I sailed all the way to Rome, where I continue my story. 

Written by Richard Covington

Pakistani truck drivers may spend up to two year’s wages on spectacular makeovers of painting, wood carvings, decorated metal and glue-on plastic that might look like art but, according to one driver, it’s really business: “More people will hire me if I have beautifully painted truck.”

Written by Piney Kesting
Photos and illustrations courtesy of Teshkeel Media Group

As the story behind the Kuwait-based comic series goes, it was in the year 1258 that keepers of the great libraries forged 99 magical “Noor Stones,”  into which they poured the wisdom of the ages. The stones were then lost—until now, as young people around the world start finding them and discovering that each stone has a superpower: one of the 99 attributes of God, as revealed in the Qur’an.

Written by John Pint
Photographed by Lars Bjurström

Before the last Ice Age, it rained enough in Saudi Arabia to erode sinkholes in the country’s central limestone plateau. Some of these sinkholes are now huge, valuable water sources—underground lakes—and others lead down to newly discovered caves.


Frank L. HoltNorman MacDonald
Rosalie F. Baker and Charles F. Baker ([email protected]) are cofounders and coeditors of CALLIOPE (http://www.cobblestonepub.com/magazine/CAL/), a world-history magazine, and Rosalie Baker is the editor of DIG (http://www.digonsite.com/), a magazine about archaeology. Both publications are for youth ages nine to 15. The Bakers also have authored reference books on ancient history and teacher-resource materials. They live in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Norman MacDonald Jennifer P. Baker ([email protected]) is a high-school teacher and freelance writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a frequent contributor to CALLIOPE and DIG magazines and is completing master’s degree in education at Teachers College, Columbia University.