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Bursa's Green Mausoleum From Persia to Paris Pilgrimage FI·escoes in Cairo FEZ
Philippe De c .
Wh n Egyptian go on IwjJ' nd p rform the holy pilgrimag rit in the Hija«, th ir hou . arc painted and derated \ ith ene r lating to thi j urn y. hes m all ver alro like the flowers off red as a w Icome girt to the n \ lIaJJI Before tim fade them, th fr 0 ar a radiant manif tation of pi t and I lamic art. The (r sco on the hom of pilgrim are but 11 aspect of the folk rt whi h can be fund all \ r airo. Hand-painted bill-board and cin rna adv rti in border the main treets, On the wall of boutique and tall. caf nd shop, ar often di play d dvertl m nts of differ nt bu ine • announcement of merchandi or, if nothing el ,rural seen • in affected and bomba tic style. Truck, ho -car pu h-earts, thr -wh I d hide, the narrows of tr t v ndors and other vehlcl all are covered with multi-colour d drawing, g omctric or figurati e. Portrait of Jar, of adat, and their gue t • patriotic ene, cover the wall of hool and club hou fany other drawing ha ear Iigiou meaning. ornetimes the Cop palnt figure of Theotoko or aint George slaying the dragon on th ir hou e tenors. Picture of circumci ion operation indicate barbers' hop . Koranic verse or piou invocation are writt n
mong other motu • on can see vn the repre nt tiom of th Ka ba or of the aint Hob; (, in prayer. Very popular among ar rtain piou im \ hich are Id for Imo t nothing n xt t ayyidna l-Ilu a. nand ayyid Za nab mo que and at other popular centre of \\'0 hip. The pictur d coral tall and hou of the poor of air. Koran • pr yer rug • calendars nd rcligiou bro hure ar domed with g om tric d 'gn or vl w of holy pia e . rhi arti lib d on hundr d of fa d photographedwhil strollin through \" riou quarters of Cairo, and esp cially through th poorer r id ntial lion. Indeed, th r ar v ry few pilgrimag Ire oe in the comm rcial and indu trial area. Mor often. only th app lation "Hajj" appear on Iacad there, Th r ar no de 'gn at all in th m dern part of airo. h Ire oe of pilgrim 'hou . at figurati and \ ary greatly in tyle, from naive to baroque. from common implicity to metaphy .cal . verity. They are the work of relative f th hajji, of arti an , or of children. (1) nly a fe\ ar . n d. In their disparate form and variety of colour. the de ire to produce a beautiful work of art do not appear to be the primary object. I shall concentrate I therefore, in thi article on the meaning of the fte oe rath r than on their ae thetic value.
ry of foreign t
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CAIRO ART A D RELIGIO ARE PART OF EVERYDAY LIFE
Text and photographs by Jean MICHOT
ThIS page: Various repre 'entations of tire Ka'ba Opposite page: A contra t in artistic 'techniques; primitive art decorates oue pilgrim's house, a realistic representation adorns another.
A first glance, the frescoes do not how any unity. hey ar a constellation of scenes distributed at random on the surfaces of the facade Cree of doors and windows. The facade forms the background, the limited area of the frescoes. It contributes only slightly to their sigruflcance. For example, floral garland may outline the subject , or flower frame the door, and inscription around it welcome the hajji. Although most of the facade are oovered by drawings or by inscription, entwined perh ps with nowe , this is not a- general rule for sometimes large surfaces are only distempered. Becau of this blown-up character of the Irescoe • it i better to analyse their different themes parately instead of each facade as a whole.
not po 'bie to see in these drawings ariation on a religious theme? In fact, the de igner's imagination often carrie him beyond the limits of the reali tic world .In connection with the pilgrimage, he transmits the presence within himself: the global lustre of the Ka'ba, 'f tbe pole of prayer in Islam. In veral drawings, the Ka'ba Is presented more prominently. The pilgrims are represented as dark dots or as coloured line at the foot of the black mass of tbe holy monument. These figures, schematic or more detailed, may form a crown around the Ka'ba. Sometimes, the pilgrims are replaced by actual linear or noral wreaths. atural or stylised and hearing inscriptions, these wreath encircle the K 'ba like a ring of precious jewels. (3) More el borated architectural represen ations are of various types. They may be sketche juxtaposed with the Ka'ba, without any perspective relating to it. This type of e ntially deoorati e dr wing may become a garlanded or convoluted frame for the edifice. On some frescoes, the Ka'ba is presented in a realistic architectural ensemble, but thi ha nothing to do specifically with Mecca. The drawing i then vere and metaphysical. Almo always, the pilgrims fill the courtyard, their face turned towards the Ka 'ba. In a small group of drawings, ~he Ka'ba i integrated into a veritable tableau, often framed, which realistically represents the holy places of the horam in Mecca. Here, in particular, the precise detail Indicate more than the fruit of simple lmagination. A source of thi last type of Cresco is surely tbe religiou prints sold in Calro, Meanwhile, passing through the pri m of the imagination of the designers, the details of these prints how new and singular aspects. Although ab nt from most of the pious image , the pilgrims are shown bere praying In almost every part of the matdr. or pre ing and crowding around the holy monument. When one examines these different types of frescoes, one s that the de Igner did not bother about the geographic realities of the sanctuary in Mecca. Frequently, the Ka'ba appears alone, simple and without details, pure and absolute. The meaning, whether the presentation is simple or elaborate, is essentially veneration: tbe pilgrims are rarely absent. The most common views of the mosque of Medina show the arcades of the courtyard, or the facade, surmounted by tbe green dome which covers the tomb of the Prophet and dominated by a minaret. The view of Medina can frequently be seen in magazines, in brochure and on television, in the iUustrations of brochures and on pious images. For tbe painters of the frescoes, the architectural reality of this mosque seem still more indeterminate than in the case of the relatively canonical figure of the Ka'ba, So, ODe finds diverse mosques, often with no resemblance at all to the one in Medina.
H HOLY PL
Drawings of th~ Meccan sanctuary appear many times on the frescoes (2). Because of their diversity, it i not easy to describe these representations of the Ka'ba, although the architectural structure of the monument itself is quite simple. In a majority of case the Ka'ba l depicted without any architectural or decorative context at all. Then, if shown in more than one dim en .on, thl edifice i often repr nted as a purely regular cube. On oettain frescoc , the sides of the Ka'ba can also be seen as a sort of triptych and, sometimes, the drawing extends outside of three-dimensional space. These paintings of the Ka'ba could be considered as simple and unsucce rul sketches hich oCten ignore the law of perspective. Beyond thelr naivet-e howe er is it
Offering the water of the Zamzam
Ofteh. the mosque of Medina is drawn on the walls of the pUgrims' houses as a small edifice, more or less square, pierced by a door and some windows and surmounted by a semi-circular dome and a little minaret topped with a crescent. Depth is rare in the drawings, There are fantastic constructions. However, most or the views, simple or embellished, recall the small tombs of the Moslem saints in the poorer quarters of cairo. Some palm trees Or a floral border may accompany the representation of these edifices. Sometimes, different elements are added to the Ka 'ba Itself; the two harams are then combined. On other frescoes, the mosque Is drawn with a succession of arcades, crowned with a large dome at its centre and one or, more orten, two minarets. Architectutal context and depth are very rare. The drawing of certain particular details may be evocative ot the mosque of the Prophet. Facades of another sort present rows of arches, disproportionately raised and narrow. Then, each arch is almost always surmounted by a smail, crescent-shaped cupola. The lamps hanging inside every arch are shown In detail, like spiders dangling Cromtheir webs. One last type of design, Less popular, shows the arcades jOining at one corner of the courtyard or of the facade, crowned by the typical pointed dome and by the minaret of the tomb of the Prophet. Pilgrims sometime pray in the courtyard. Here only appears the reality of the Medina mosque. Representations of the haram in edina are less frequent than those of the Ka'ba. Such representations are found on those frescoes where the design of the Ka'ba is Inspired by holy im~es.
A fresco More than giving a picture of the holy places in Me· dina. the designer seems intere ted In speaking of a Prophet, dead and yet close to the b liever. Most of the scenes of Medina found on the pilgrim' houses resemble the neighbourhood mosque, where local saints, patrons of everyday life, are venerated. In more elaborate frescoes, the mosque sometimes becomes a mysteriously radiating shrine. It may have a profusion of arcades, cupolas, lamp, stan and flowers, which commemorate the tomb of a friend. When the designs come closer to the architecture of the mosque of Medina, this is because or the form of the dome under which repo the One whom the people may name in ornate inscription : "my Envoy (ro-Vl4li), "my Beloved One" (habibi.).
A uranderlng dervi sh .burning incense
H RI H
H FAI H
s we h ve seen before, the pilgrim grouped around the Ka'ba contribute to the religiou aura of the Meecan sanctuary. They are often represented only by dots, lines or silhouet e. omeurnes, their positionreveaJ that they are performing the Iowa'. During prayer, the pilgrims may have their hand raised. Their special robes (ihram) are not alway drawn distinctly. On some frescoes, the pilgrim is drawn independently of the Ka'ba. At times he may be. depicted in Meoina. or without any context. In ihram, one shoulder uncovered, he sometimes has a purse attached to his belt, prayer bead in his hand. he pilgrim may be bearded and wearing a turban. Alone or in a large group, he is sometimes shown descending from an airplane.
Other religious theme can be found on the frescoes. First let u 'mention Al·8uraq, who also appears on certain reJigiou prints. The arti t of the pilgrims' house sometimes paint her as a winged horse, leaping into space, or as an animal which resembles the maje tic Assyrian bulls. The face of the animal, seen from the front, is that of a young girl, crowned, her long hair floating 0 er her shoulders. Richly harnessed, she may display a voluptuous bosom. On some facades the Ka 'ba i placed under the protection of an ngel, or is venerated by two of them kneeling at each .de. (4) They wear tunics and have abundant hair. Their wings are spread, their feature strangely feminine. Rarely, certain frescoes represent the sacrifice of Abraham. The bearded patriarch places one hand on the head of his son, who is patiently lying On the block. Abraham raise a large knife, but a winged angel stops his movement and place a substitute victim in Abraham' other hand. Sometimes, it is the ritual sacrifice of tbe tenth day of DI,a t-Hiiia that is evoked and one can e a man, hands extended, threatening a fattened beep with two kni e . Certain Ireseoe pre nt worshipping figures, standing with hands folded over their breasts, or in profile, seated on a prayer rug. In this case, they stretch out their arms with open palm, ying: "Ob Lord! Y8 Rabb ", This is a very popular figure in Egypt, u d on pious images and religious tract . The pilgrim drink the water of the Zamzam weU after fin' bing the tawat. They bring back small flagons fuD of "good fortune" for their relation. On the frescoes, these personages are seen most otten in profile and on foot. They are bearded and wear a tunic with a belt, a fez and, sometime , the leather coat of the water merchants of Cairo. On their backs, they ha e a large earthen jug or a water-skin; in their hand, one or two goblets, or sometimes little cymbal which announce their arrival In the streets. One can see them pouring the blessed water and even offering It to someone and saylog, probably, as is written in an inscription above them: ''Drink and bl the Prophet!" The scene sometime takes place under tree . The Prophet loved perfume . On Friday and fe tival days, incense still perfume Moslem houses and shop . On the wall of the pilgrims' houses, one may occas1onally find the drawing of a bearded old man, wearing a turban and fez and burning incense. He hold in one hand a large incense burner and In the other, sometimes, incense tick. ~n one fresco, I have seen him wearing the patched and brightly coloured tunic of the wandering dervishes with a bag at hls side.
Those are the a dated with pilgrimage. They painters concerning
elements on the frescoes directly the religious significance of the how the depth of feeling of the thi rite.
The pilgrims' houses are decorated with other numerous drawing unrelated, it seems, to the religiOUS xperience of the hajj. Representations of various means of transportation, from camel to planes, are the most frequent. Since 1952, the mahmal a palanquin or litter perched on a camel which u d to accompany the pilgrimage caravan, no longer exi t except in souvenirs, in the imagination of the people and on the wall of pilgrl"1s' house , where it has orten lost Its escort and is drawn only some sort of shelter on a camel's back. The palanquin j from the p t but ilhouette of camels remain, more or less faithful to reality. Whether in the oid or with an oasi in the background or, more often. On barely outlined terrain, the camel i drawn alone, mounted or not, or in a caravan. Very occasionally, the camel carries a palanquin - a modem ve tlge of the mahmal. camel driver may pr cede the camel and hold he bridle. The camel driver and metime the traveDer wear cl ic Bedouin clothes. Both may be bearded. On some frescoe , the caravan i tran formed into a joyful musician' procession.
This fre co probably di plays local talent
It does not look if he designers of the fre oes appreciate he Egyptian railr ad's new diesels. early alway ,they draw antique steam engine, spewing for h black fumes. The train may carry up to ten carriage, with two or three wheel. Ithough there i no persp ctive these paintings do not lack detail and colour: through p' norami window one can see thou, ette of people and a busy engin driver ... It may be nighttime, indicated by a white beam shining from the engine' headlights. Diversity in the' plane drawing i much greater than in the train picture. Frequently, the plane look like no thing more than two wooden planks placed on top of each other in the form of a cro . The plane may also have a long fuselage with small wing on each ide, or the more graceful aspect of a dolphin or of a flying fi h. It can even look like a l' O. There is a profu 'on of details: windows, pa ngers, wheel .several propellers haped like sparkling sun, gyptian flag on the tail multicoloured cockpits. There are also partisan of modern technology. It i possible to find faithfuJ representations of two-se er or large Boeing, even miJitary je and helicopters. The plane are rarely on the ground and in the air they nev r follow a regular night path. Several look as though they are diving toward the ground or engaged in intricate manoeuvring, loops and barrel-rolls. Are the ships the favourite traru])ort of the painters?
early always, banners and Egyptian flag are deployed almo t e erywhere on the ship which has several window and doors, ailors, anchors nd propellers. ometimes, the' ve I are not floating on water but seem to be sailing through the air. ome ships are named "Pe e," "Mecca,"" enerated Meet ." thar drawing manife ting various sentiment of the people in Cair decorate the walls of the pilgrim ' house ,to. ationalism i u uaJly pre nt. lag, alr ady hoi ted on top of .the m t of ve I may be deployed on the fac de. The num rou views of he three pyramids of iza are probably mbolic too of this nationalistic pride. Flowers of every oolour embellish or inv de the va t maj rity of the fre oes. Apart (rom sacrificial sheep and camel, there are few animal depicted. Bird are sometime drawn singing among flowers and flitting b tween palm tree , or above the Ka'ba. There are pairs of doves, rather tout pigeons and large peacocks. Several facades te tiCy to the fear of the evil eye. he hand of Filtima sometime covers the whitewash in order to drive off Satan. Eyes pierced with arrow seek to destroy envy. There can be magical symbols like riddle also: (or e ample, a serpent wrapped about a split-open water-me, Ion which it eat, while a dagger is implanted in the fruit, exactly be ide the r ptil ' head. 11 these drawing reflect sentiments and object which are associated, more or Ie ,with the Significance of the pilgrimage as a whole. Again, to depict a journey i not the aim of he painter. How couJd all these means of transport be used at the same time? More d ply the drawing manifest the atmospher surrounding thi reljgious journey: its my tery, remot.ene and the joy of the return. ReU ion i entwined with life, with all it colours, its daily r und, its natural simplicity, it worrie and pride. Rural scenery, nag and glorious monuments, flowers and birds, joy and, sometime, no talgia, the e II eye and j alou y.
One can believe it because of the multitude of rrescoe on which they are represented. ometimes, it is but a humble felucca. At other times, tlat-bottomed craft like the He boat '. or learners like tho of the uez anal with elongated prows extending indefinite,¥ over the w ter are depicted. orne ship , especially the steamers, are drawn quite realistically. However, mo t of the vessel are reconstructed by the painte 'imagination. The river boats are transfonned into arks with a central bridge-house, their decks tiered like a wedding cake the whole crowned with smoke funnel and black plume. Bosch could be the inventor of some of these ve 1.
from pa e 19
1. The majority of the fresooe are original work. However, they can also be painted by prof tonal arti whose work i recogni ble by the similarity of style and, sometimes by their signature . 2. In spite of it polar aspect, the Ka'ba is not alway present In the tNscoes, and the same i true for the mosque in Medina. 3. It i perbap interesting to note that th~ Black tone i rarely depicted in rep ntation of the Ka 'ba. Shown on variou religiou images, it is very often omitted from wall adantations of the same. Reverence is meUy for the Ka 'ba, not for the stone. 4. coordin, to me Mo m legends, it w the rchangel Gabriel who brought the black stone, then white, to braham during the construction of the Ka 'ba. ccordlng to others, Gabriel and the angels built the foundation of the Ka'ba as Adam's dwelling.
Though most of the in riptionswhichappear on the frescoe are In simple handwrltine with, in 80m cases, spellini mistakes, one can al find example of truly fine calligraphy. These inscriptions, traced among th drawine add to their significance. Like them they bear witne to the reli(ious feeling in the painters' heart . They speak eloquently of that which r diates Irom the paintines: the polar characteristic of the Ka'ba, the house of God, the realltyof the rite, a faith composed of respect and praise, benedictions and hope, love for th Envoy. They may be verse of the Divine Book. However the inscription are never d tached from everyday life. Some of them welcome the new hajji, call him by hi name, . h him new pUerimage, and greet visitors. Superstitiou ntence are mingled with d claration of faith. These are some of the fresco of the pilgrim ' house which I have seen. It seem clear that the designers do not intend to d scrib the voyage. The fresco are made to greet the n w pilgrim. How b tter to honour his return from the riche t moment in a Muslim' life? The designer him If participate in thi overwhelmtng experience because he has Islam in hi h art. The figures and inscriptions of the fr 0 give voice to the ntiments of 1 lam toward the pilgrim e. To djfCering degree oertainly it i the vitaUty of the relieion which unifies the disparity of each fresco. In it naivete. the Islam Ih'ed by the d igners, the people of Cairo, illuminate the holy place mystical poles much more than mere fixed points on a map. The frescoes testify that thl mystical [slam, on the other hand, i integrated into life, and life it If into I lam. either an abstract religion nor an agnostic life, 1 lam, Cairo's pilgrimage fl'escoe reflectit, i a nthesi of the mystical and the everyday.
LOSS RY l-Bur q fant ic of the nocturnal voyage and ension of the Prophet.
tuner month of th Moslem pilgrimage
daughter of the Prophet, wife of All a small narrow ve 1, with one mast and sail, u d on the ile pilgrim, the title given to one who has made the pUgrimage (hajj) to Mecca. sanctuary: the holy Medina, Jerusalem place in Mecca,
Hajji Haram Hijaz
north-west region of the Arabian Peninsula,
where Mecca, Medina and Jeddah are located. Popular name for audl Arabia. Ihnun Mataf Ribi'a sacred apparel, prescribed for the pilgrim to ecca. are of the tawa! around the Ka'ba fo em saint who, according to tradition, was born In Basra at the end of the first century of the Hejira (the date of the Proph t's migration from Mecca to edJna 622 -the Islamic calendar commences with thl year) ritual encirclement of th Ka 'ba cr d spring of Mecca
-----------------TrQn lated from the French
Jean Michot i currently working on nis doctoral theat of Ibn Sino. A a Fellow of the i ational Fund for Scientific Research of Belgium, he IUI$ pent some time in Coiro, Istanbul and Iraq.
on tile philo ophy
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