Category Archives: Uncategorized

Herbal Teas (Tisanes)

I like to blend my own teas during the cold weather months. This year I’ve made the following three caffeine-free blends. I’d love to hear of other favorites to try next year!



Chamomile Flowers

Fennel Seeds

Lemon Peel

Hint of Basil Leaf

Dash of Licorice Root




Red Rooibos

Ginger Root

Cardamom Pods

Cinnamon Bark


Black Pepper




Ginger Root


Fennel Seeds

Licorice Root


DIY Laundry Soap

So here’s a departure from my usual posts. I have several recipes for products that I prefer to make instead of buying because my family has found them good and easy enough to be worth their minimal effort. Here is the first. This recipe takes me less than one half hour to make, and one batch lasts my family (of two people) about three weeks.

DIY Liquid Laundry Detergent


1. Soap bar (1/4 bar)

  • Note: I first used a Fels-Naptha Soap Bar, but I didn’t like the fragrance. Since then, I’ve come to prefer Zote. Alternatives that I have seen recommended include Sunlight (from Canada), Zote (best for babies, less chemicals, made in Mexico), Liro (laundry bar soap from Latino / Afro-Caribbean stores), Octagon (by Colgate, maybe same ingredients as Fels-Naptha), and Linda (Italy).

2. Washing soda (1/4 cup)

3. Borax (1/8 cup)

  • Note: You will need a container. I use a 2 gallon bucket with lid that I bought at a hardware store. The lid locks in place. You will also need a small pot. Optional: essential oils for fragrance.


1. Grate 1/4 of a soap bar.

2. Put grated soap in a pot with 1 cup hot water. Stir continuously until dissolved (about 10 min.)

3. Fill a container that has a lid with 1 gallon of hot water.

4. Pour in soap mixture. Add 1/4 cup Washing Soda and 1/8 cup Borax. Stir.

5. Add a 2nd gallon of water (or whatever fills container) and essential oils. Stir. Cover and leave overnight.

  • Note: I use a citrus-smelling soap bar (pink Zote), and then I add several drops of lavender essential oil.

6. Stir again. Transfer into containers using funnel and fill only half way. Fill the other half with water and shake. You can experiment with using a more concentrated form of the soap if you like.

7. Use 1/2 cup for a front-loading washing machine and 1 cup for a top-loader.

Iznik Blossom in Jerusalem


This is one of my favorite pieces of art. Those of us who are partial to the color combination blue and white may already know of Dutch Delftware or English willow pattern dishes. Both are seventeenth and eighteenth century European porcelain designs inspired by Chinese pinyin, literally ‘blue flowers’ wares, dating from the fourteenth century. Chinese porcelain also inspired pottery styles in the Islamic world, especially in Iznik (in the Ottoman Empire, today Turkey).



The British Museum’s Islamic Art collection includes a large lamp. Gracefully shaped like a pear, with a flared neck, the shape derives from Mamluk glass lamps. Three handles, placed symmetrically at the lamp’s waist, allow suspension from chains (like this). The hard lead-frit body resembles porcelain. Its underglaze-painted surface is composed of two fields of white, alternating vertically with three blue fields. On the white fields, black and turquoise arabesque panels alternate with black and cobalt cloud scrolls. The cobalt blue fields contain inscriptions: bismallah and hadith (sayings) at neck and base, and a bolder-font Quranic reference at the waist. Above this central inscription runs a narrow band of small turquoise triangles alternating with three white tulip buds on a field of cobalt. From a distance, the lamp displays International Timurid motifs, those features that were considered stylish in Iraq, Iran, and surrounding regions, in the fifteenth century. In addition to these general Timurid motifs, around the base runs a unique inscription. It includes 1549 as the date of manufacture, ‘the poor and humble Musli’ as the artist’s name, and a dedication to Esrefzade, local saint of Iznik. Esrefzade may refer to the Qadiri mystic, ‘And Alla-i Rumi (died 1470 at Iznik, see Rogers 203).


Historical Background

Iznik (Byzantine Nicea) in Turkey, probably selected for its deposits of fine clay, served as a major source of production for the Ottoman court. Its ceramics were imitated in other Ottoman cities as well as Italy, Hungary, and Iran, and such production continues in cities such as Fes in Morocco (see Bloom 397). Iznik wares, initially decorated in blue and white, are known for demonstrating a renewed interest in the arabesque. The first known reference to Iznik blue-and-white appears “in the kitchen accounts of Mehmed II at Bursa from 1469 to 1473” (see Rogers 186). Their typical decorations include chinoiserie, peony, lotus, cloud scrolls, arabesques, knotted interlaces, and pseudo-Kufic script calligraphy. These last several lead some people to conclude that the potters were trained in a Mamluk tradition. Prior to this Mamluk influence, Chinese blue-and-white porcelain was imported into the Middle East as early as the late fourteenth century, appearing in bulk with the brief opening of early Ming China to foreign trade in the early fifteenth century. The hardness, durability, and size of this porcelain stimulated a high demand for it in the Islamic world of the fifteenth century. Aside from exterior influences, however, Iznik blue-and-white signified a kind of technological revolution, permitting a relatively low temperature for firing and achieving impressive effects with an often limited palette.


The Story of this Lamp

This mosque lamp is the earliest extant example of ‘Damascus’ wares. ‘Damascus’ wares, so called since they were thought to be made in Damascus, are considered the finest of all Iznik pottery for their brilliant glazes and varied designs. Suleyman (reigned 1520-1566) may have commissioned it in his restoration (1530s-1540s) of the Haram al-Sharif, at least it was very likely commissioned by the court. At that time, Ottomans controlled all three holy places of Islam (Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem). The mosque lamp adds to an image of the Haram al-Sharif as a powerful, monumental, central statement of Islam in this period. It also demonstrates the Ottoman’s interest in renewing the stature of the monument, not coincidentally the nearest of the three sites to the Ottoman capital and center of power.


What kind of message does a lamp convey? The Arabic language, first language of Islam, reveals some answers. Grandeur, though impressive, does not summarize the meaning of this important decoration. It is also clearly more than simply a light. What is a ‘mosque lamp’? The Arabic word for mosque, masjid, means ‘place where one worships God.’ Lamps provide light, nur in Arabic, a concept of beauty, knowledge, and goodness in the Quran. So the mosque lamp is like an illuminated blossom, virtually flowering by illuminating a prominent place of prayer. The statement of the mosque that once shone forth from a central shrine of Islam in Jerusalem now sits in London as an elegant and eloquent reminder of the medieval Islamic world.



Blair, Sheila S. and Jonathan M. Bloom The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800. 1995.

Bloom, Jonathan and Sheila Blair. Islamic Arts. 1997.

Rogers, J.M. and R.M. Ward. Süleyman the Magnificent. 1988.


My academic training is in Arabic literature. By literature, I don’t mean written materials alone. I mean instead the manipulation of language in all of its various forms (whether stories, poems, rhymes, etc.) to reach an audience–expressing feelings, communicating experiences, asking questions, offering advice, and so on.

When I first studied in Morocco, I had to reevaluate my own definition of literature. Having grown up in a very bookish anglophone family, it took some adjustment to understand how people can live quite fully without any great use of books in their lives. The book lovers were few and far between, and yet most people enjoyed some kind of art. Being a fan of myths and fantasy, I found myself searching for stories in Morocco. People didn’t necessarily understand my quest, offering me instead music, dance, or poetry. I came to the conclusion that the role that books tend to play in the United States is filled by a variety of related arts in Morocco and throughout Arabic and some other cultures.

I went to graduate school and studied Arabic literature, in a variety of forms, for almost a decade. My studies included prestigious Arabic classical literature (such as Jahili poetry, the Qur’an and early Islamic texts, the maqamat and akhbar, medieval literary criticism, and philosophy). I felt particularly compelled to study examples of oral and folk literature as well (such as the historical epics, tales of the trickster Juha, and traditions of public storytelling and poetic performances). My studies also included an introduction to Hebrew language and medieval Hebrew literature. This site is a place for the culmination of my studies to share what I’ve learned and to provide a resource for others.

Classroom materials for ARB 101

Today we have some computer-based exercises.

With your partner, run through the following in any order you choose:

  • Visit this image, click on it to zoom in, and answer the following questions. If you get stumped, raise your hand for help.

١ –

شو هذا ؟

٢ – Write some of the names, and any other information you find:






  • Open SignsInArabicAmended and decode it. If you and your partner are stumped, raise your hand for help.
  • Visit this page and listen to the first video listed:

    من دول العالم

Take notes with your partner. See how much information you can glean.

  • Listen to this Short Vowels Jingle with your partner if you haven’t heard it yet. Feel free to sing or hum along 🙂
  • If you have extra time, you can visit Sayidaty or Al-Jazeera and see how much information you and your partner can find.
  • If you’re a member of Facebook and have never looked at our URI Arabic page, check it out!