Friday, August 24, 2007

My Return

“‘Kuwait, Kuwait!’ he said, pointing. ‘There, there is a land of beauty for you to see! Do you not see that that is beautiful?’ ‘What, that piece of sand?’ I asked, pretending to be unimpressed. Nejdi looked horrified, though the coastline of Arabia in the neighborhood of Ras Zor is in fact far from impressive, and none but the Kuwaiti would see much beauty in it.

‘Sand! Piece of sand!’ Nejdi almost shouted. ‘Look at it, Nazarene! Here are no rough mountains, but the soft, low land, gentle as the swelling of a virgin’s breasts … Look now at this Kuwait!’ And he looked himself, very long, and kept on looking, no longer caring whether I was impressed or not.” (Alan Villiers, Sons of Sindbad, 1940, p. 341)


  • Welcome back Kleio :)

    By Blogger Erzulie, at 8/24/2007 10:49 pm  

  • Thanks Erzulie. My system is in shock. I don't think I'm ready to be back in Kuwait. Oh dear!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 8/25/2007 12:48 am  

  • welcome back home. You will experience the culture shock, there is no escape but nothing relieves the stress like a dip in the water of the Arabian(Persian) Gulf.

    P.S. since you are a historian, tell us which term is the correct one Arabian or Persian gulf and why. I know you are probably jet lagged and exhausted but am not in a hurry.

    By Blogger Traveleer, at 8/25/2007 10:43 am  

  • Traveleer: I'm hitting the chalet this coming weekend, and I'm really looking forward to it - despite the heat. "Nightswimming...deserves a quiet night..." (R.E.M) :)

    As for Arabian vs. Persian Gulf, there actually is no definitive answer. Historically, the body of water has in fact been referred to as the "Persian Gulf" from as far back as the ancient Greek geographers, such as Strabo (who also mentions Failaka in his geography). It was not until the 1960s and the heyday of Arab nationalism that the use of the term "Arabian Gulf" came into usage. Historically, however, "Arabian Gulf" used to actually refer to what is now known as the Red Sea. As such, empirically speaking, Persian Gulf is the more "correct" term insofar as that is what our oldest sources label it as. However, despite what either the ancient Greeks or Arab nationalists might have used, it is difficult to definitively state today which term is in fact "correct". Times have changed, spheres of influence in the region have changed, and power structures in the Gulf have changed. What Ptolemy saw as the "Persian Gulf" 1900 years ago is not the same as the "Persian Gulf" we are discussing here today. The "Persian" influence on the Arabian side is significantly less today than it was back then. At the same time, Arab nationalists cannot deny the fact that one half of the body of water lies within Persian territory. Names and labels can never be permanently fixed, no matter what the historic texts might say, or what national sentiment might dictate.

    In my opinion, the most accurate way to articulate it would be to use the "Arabian side" or "Persian side" of the Gulf. So for example, Kuwait is a country on the Arabian side of the Gulf, whereas Kharg is an island on the Persian side of the Gulf. But then I guess the question still remains: which Gulf? Perhaps, the Arabo-Persian Gulf, or the Perso-Arabian Gulf? But the problem persists - which comes first? It's a tough one.

    And interestingly enough - it's a question one of the members of my research committee asked me at the end of my Viva just as an informal closing thought (what I think of the whole Arabian vs. Persian Gulf debate). I answered by saying that I grew up in an American school where all the maps in our American textbooks showed the body of water as "*thick-black-marker-line* Gulf", and as such our national censors inadvertently blocked us from developing any particular convictions for the use of either term (since we grew up seeing neither). Hey, it made them laugh (academics are geeks, we laugh at silly jokes like that).

    Wow, that was a mouthful. Sorry for the long reply!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 8/26/2007 1:29 am  

  • your long reply shows that you are a passionate historian who loves her work. Your answer is informative, I appreciate it .

    there is an example of the same dillema between Britain and France. I think the English channel is called that only in the UK and The French have their own name for it, but they dont make a fuss about it and life goes on.

    By Blogger Traveleer, at 8/26/2007 10:02 am  

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