Monday, April 25, 2005

Breaking News: WaPo Gets It Half Right

Let’s see: Tamarlane was “famously devoted to Islam”, but “His name still reeks of butchery.” Interesting…

History's Pages, Limned In Blood and Stardust

By Paul Richard
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, April 25, 2005; Page C01

In the news, Afghanistan looks like an arid and impoverished place whose bearded mountain warriors have mud-brick houses, AK-47s, daughters who can't read, poppies and not much else. In "In the Realm of Princes" at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Afghanistan one visits doesn't look like that at all.
It isn't arid. Multicolored flowers sprout beneath its trees. And it isn't poor. Its sophisticated rulers dwell in columned halls that are floored with cool glazed tiles and hung with Chinese silks. And it isn't illiterate, it's the opposite of illiterate. Its 15th-century pages -- many from the courtly studios of Herat in northwestern Afghanistan -- are deeply bookish works of art.
…His name still reeks of butchery. When Timur brought his armies against some noble city (Damascus or Aleppo, Babylon or Baghdad) he'd sometimes spare the women and the most accomplished artists, but he'd slaughter the men, and then build columns of their skulls.
…The Timurids were famously devoted to Islam. They built enormous mosques, they enriched theologians. But they didn't ban dancing or outlaw music or declare war on sweet luxury. The Taliban they weren't. One sees that in their art…


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