Categorized | Middle East

Lest we forget: Bygone lights shining on our dark present

Arabs past and present


Mohamed El-Doufani* writes:

Nostalgia is often based on myths or an idealised vision of the past and, as such, is rarely a helpful illuminator of the present or guide to the future.

But occasionally one stumbles upon hard evidence of days long forgotten in the Arab world, or blurred and distorted by dysfunctional, primitive traditions and/or the venomous ideas of malicious forces among us, which shine a light on the darkness in which we currently live. 

The photographs below are snippets of the Arab world as it was once upon a time. 

Compare and contrast with scenes from, for example, contemporary Egypt with its ubiquitous hijab and its variants – a Jewish tradition rooted in Judaism and propagated by Islamists – or Libya with its bearded, gun-toting hoodlums and louts, and it won’t take you long to see how we’ve hurtled backwards, thanks to the poisons of Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood, the retarded Salafists and dictatorship, which found in these poisons useful tools to rule over hapless, semi-literate, superstitious populations. 

Qur’an reciter Sheikh Mustafa Ismail and his wife. She is not wearing a veil: does that make her a non-Muslim?

Qur’an reciter Sheikh Mustafa Ismail and his wife. She is not wearing a veil: does that make her a non-Muslim?

 

Sheikh Ahmad Hasan al-Baquri, Egypt’s Minister of Religious Endowments during 1952-59 and head of Al-Azhar University, and his daughter before the invasion of the Wahhabi ideology.

Sheikh Ahmad Hasan al-Baquri, Egypt’s Minister of Religious Endowments during 1952-59 and head of Al-Azhar University, and his daughter before the invasion of the Wahhabi ideology.

 

Damascus University Medical School graduates, 1940. Men and women sitting together in modern clothes. No beards, no hiijab, niqab or any of their variants.

Damascus University Medical School graduates, 1940. Men and women sitting together in modern clothes. No beards, no hiijabniqab or any of their variants.

 

In 1977 UNESCO declared that education in Iraq was the best in the Middle East and was comparable to that in Scandinavia.

In 1977 UNESCO declared that education in Iraq was the best in the Middle East and was comparable to that in Scandinavia.

 

Spectators watching a football match in Basra Province, Iraq. Note how orderly and well presented everyone is.

Spectators watching a football match in Basra Province, Iraq. Note how orderly and well presented everyone is.

 

Yemen gives a loan to the World Bank! How times have changed, with many Yemenis now facing starvation, thanks to the Saudis, and the country riven with multiple conflicts – north vs south, tribe vs tribe, jihadists vs humans and animals.

Yemen gives a loan to the World Bank! How times have changed, with many Yemenis now facing starvation, thanks to the Saudis, and the country riven with multiple conflicts – north vs south, tribe vs tribe, jihadists vs humans and animals.

 

It’s 1946 and a boat carrying illegal European migrants in search of work and a better life in Egypt is seized in Alexandria.

It’s 1946 and a boat carrying illegal European migrants in search of work and a better life in Egypt is seized in Alexandria.

 

Einstein and Iraqi physicist Abd-al-Jabbar Abdallah, the first Chancellor of Baghdad University.

Einstein and Iraqi physicist Abd-al-Jabbar Abdallah, the first Chancellor of Baghdad University.

 

It’s 1925 and Cairo wins a prize for being the most beautiful city in the world.

It’s 1925 and Cairo wins a prize for being the most beautiful city in the world.

 

Jerusalem Airport in 1920, renamed Atorot airport after Israel occupied the city.

Jerusalem Airport in 1920, renamed Atorot airport after Israel occupied the city.

 


*Dr Mohamed El-Doufani is an editor, writer, analyst and commentator specialising in the Middle East and North Africa, and Russian and US foreign policies.

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