BOOK: “Nablus – City of Civilisations” by architect Naseer Rahmi ‘Arafãt 18Feb13 February 18, 2013

pic14-1Published by Cultural Heritage Enrichment Center, a project of the Sheikh ‘Amr ‘Arafãt Foundation.
Two separate editions in Arabic and English, 320 pages, 870 figures, £50.00.

Through twelve detailed units, Nablus, City of Civilizations, presents a complete description of the city, with documented data of its historical background, origin and development. The book refers to architectural typology and planning patterns of the historic fabric of Nablus, from the Canaanite era till today, accompanied by architectural descriptions of its buildings. Graphs, pictures, and decorated lines of poetry inscribed on the stones in Nablus serve to enhance the text. The lines of poetry not only describe the buildings and offer praise to their owners, they also provide a means to date the construction of these buildings through a code that is based on specific letters of various words. The poetry brings to life the marketplaces, with their handicrafts, soap making, and famous sweets, including knafeh. In addition, the book introduces the reader to the people of the city who, lacking freedom for long intervals during their history, have struggled to achieve their right to independence.

Photos and graphs illustrate the development of the architecture and reveal treasures of particular beauty. The book’s 17 maps specify the location of the sites of interest and contribute to the book’s role as an exceptional guide that facilitates visits and tours.

The first part of the book gives detailed information about the city’s historical development. It starts from the Canaanites in 2500 BC, followed by the Romans, the Byzantines, the first Islamic period, the Crusades, the Mamluks, the Ottomans, the British Mandate, the Jordanians, the Israeli Occupation, the first Intifada, the Palestinian Authority, and the second Intifada, which began in the year 2000. These periods are introduced through a chronological historical development that includes the main events of each period, as well as through the present-day ruins and historical buildings that are characteristic of each period. Each major building of every period is presented as evidence of the main activities that took place during a particular period.

The second part of the book – old city architecture – provides an analytical description of the planning of the historical town and the topographical relationship of the town area to the planning of the traditional Islamic town of the east. It also shows the city of Nablus as an economic centre of industry and trade since its famous market has historically been on a major trade route. The chapter on typology offers a general introduction to the buildings of the old city, as a continuation of the general introduction about the city. This chapter shows the characteristics and style of the old city’s local traditional architecture and provides a comprehensive view of the old city.

The third part of the book focuses on architectural treasures and addresses the soap factories, khans and caravanserais, historical mosques, religious shrines, tombs, zãwaiyah, old city architecture, Christian and Samaritan architectural and cultural heritage, water fountains, Turkish baths, schools, palaces, and other residential buildings. Nablus, City of Civilizations is a thorough account of the many characteristics that make up Nablus today.

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