downfall instead of progress

Oh those flourishing days!


Tiaret is a centre of Arabian culture and Arabian schools and mosques. As I left the town, I passed a remarkable mosque, an example of splendid arts with amazing designs of strikingly harmonizing lines, arches and ornaments. It was built several centuries ago and is witness to the exceptional level of the Arabian arts of the past.

Vavilov’s voyages of discoveryAround it were the usual primitive villages and filthy reservoirs. The children were afflicted with trachoma. The rudimentary agriculture was of a haphazard nature. Again I happened to arrive on a market day. On beautifully prancing, splendid horses, smartly turned out Arabs, mostly with light-colored skin and wearing enormous, metre-wide straw hats and burnooses, came together in the village. Frequently one could see horsemen wearing two hats, one on top of another, apparently to be chic. The dimension of the hats was hardly due to necessity, but was rather an exaggerated fashion.

Both the most primitive and the greatest of the arts all meet here; all this contradiction amazed me and was hard to understand. In any case, on the whole, when traveling around in Syria and Palestine and, later on, in Tunisia and Morocco, it was difficult not to be aware of the ancient and outstanding Arabian civilization represented by immortal geographers, Arabian arts and the Mauritanian style (typical of Africa). In the same way, during a visit to Greece, it is difficult to understand how Athens, which now holds such an insignificant position within the modern world, could once occupy such a significant place among the advanced ancient civilizations.

The ancient time remains an unsurpassed example of an era of important art and sciences, covering all subjects from the medicine of Hippocrates and the natural sciences of Aristotle to the history of Herodotos and Strabo.

Why, when conditions are more favorable, has there in essence been such an enormous downfall and degradation instead of progress?

As if too many in the Middle East resent the failings of today while ignoring the fall of yesterday.