Book of the Week: The Sultan and the Queen-The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam.

18brotton-master768Murad III, left, Elizabeth I, right. Credit Ullstein Bild, via Getty Images (left); The Print Collector/Getty Images (right)

Jerry Brotton, a professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary University of London, is the author of the forthcoming “The Sultan and the Queen: The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam.” A dear friend of mine sent me a summary of the forthcoming book that the Prof. Brotton has written…. I have copy pasted what he wrote as I thought that I simply couldn’t put it any better… I have pre-ordered my hard copy, it is coming out on the 20th of this month yay!

“Britain is divided as never before. The country has turned its back on Europe, and its female ruler has her sights set on trade with the East. As much as this sounds like Britain today, it also describes the country in the 16th century, during the golden age of its most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth I.

One of the more surprising aspects of Elizabethan England is that its foreign and economic policy was driven by a close alliance with the Islamic world, a fact conveniently ignored today by those pushing the populist rhetoric of national sovereignty.

From the moment of her accession to the throne in 1558, Elizabeth began seeking diplomatic, commercial and military ties with Muslim rulers in Iran, Turkey and Morocco — and with good reasons. In 1570, when it became clear that Protestant England would not return to the Catholic faith, the pope excommunicated Elizabeth and called for her to be stripped of her crown. Soon, the might of Catholic Spain was against her, an invasion imminent. English merchants were prohibited from trading with the rich markets of the Spanish Netherlands. Economic and political isolation threatened to destroy the newly Protestant country.

Elizabeth responded by reaching out to the Islamic world. Spain’s only rival was the Ottoman Empire, ruled by Sultan Murad III, which stretched from North Africa through Eastern Europe to the Indian Ocean. The Ottomans had been fighting the Hapsburgs for decades, conquering parts of Hungary. Elizabeth hoped that an alliance with the sultan would provide much-needed relief from Spanish military aggression, and enable her merchants to tap into the lucrative markets of the East. For good measure, she also reached out to the Ottomans’ rivals, the shah of Persia and the ruler of Morocco.

The trouble was that the Muslim empires were far more powerful than Elizabeth’s little island nation floating in the foggy mists off Europe. Elizabeth wanted to explore new trade alliances but couldn’t afford to finance them. Her response was to exploit an obscure commercial innovation — joint stock companies — introduced by her sister, Mary Tudor.

The companies were commercial associations jointly owned by shareholders. The capital was used to fund the costs of commercial voyages, and the profits — or losses — would also be shared. Elizabeth enthusiastically backed the Muscovy Company, which traded with Persia and went on to inspire the formation of the Turkey Company, which traded with the Ottomans, and the East India Company, which would eventually conquer India.

In the 1580s she signed commercial agreements with the Ottomans that would last over 300 years, granting her merchants free commercial access to Ottoman lands. She made a similar alliance with Morocco, with the tacit promise of military support against Spain.

As money poured in, Elizabeth began writing letters to her Muslim counterparts, extolling the benefits of reciprocal trade. She wrote as a supplicant, calling Murad “the most mighty ruler of the kingdom of Turkey, sole and above all, and most sovereign monarch of the East Empire.” She also played on their mutual hostility to Catholicism, describing herself as “the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries.” Like Muslims, Protestants rejected the worship of icons, and celebrated the unmediated word of God, while Catholics favored priestly intercession. She deftly exploited the Catholic conflation of Protestants and Muslims as two sides of the same heretical coin.

The ploy worked. Thousands of English traders crossed many of today’s no-go regions, like Aleppo in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq. They were far safer than they would have been on an equivalent journey through Catholic Europe, where they risked falling into the hands of the Inquisition.

The Ottoman authorities saw their ability to absorb people of all faiths as a sign of power, not weakness, and observed the Protestant-Catholic conflicts of the time with detached bemusement. Some Englishmen even converted to Islam. A few, like Samson Rowlie, a Norfolk merchant who became Hassan Aga, chief treasurer to Algiers, were forced. Others did so of their own volition, perhaps seeing Islam as a better bet than the precarious new Protestant faith.

English aristocrats delighted in the silks and spices of the east, but the Turks and Moroccans were decidedly less interested in English wool. What they needed were weapons. In a poignant act of religious retribution, Elizabeth stripped the metal from deconsecrated Catholic churches and melted their bells to make munitions that were then shipped out to Turkey, proving that shady Western arms sales go back much further than the Iran-contra affair. The queen encouraged similar deals with Morocco, selling weapons and buying saltpeter, the essential ingredient in gunpowder, and sugar, heralding a lasting craving and turning Elizabeth’s own teeth an infamous black.

The sugar, silks, carpets and spices transformed what the English ate, how they decorated their homes and how they dressed. Words such as “candy” and “turquoise” (from “Turkish stone”) became commonplace. Even Shakespeare got in on the act, writing “Othello” shortly after the first Moroccan ambassador’s six-month visit.

Despite the commercial success of the joint stock companies, the British economy was unable to sustain its reliance on far-flung trade. Immediately following Elizabeth’s death in 1603, the new king, James I, signed a peace treaty with Spain, ending England’s exile.

Elizabeth’s Islamic policy held off a Catholic invasion transformed English taste and established a new model for joint stock investment that would eventually finance the Virginia Company, which founded the first permanent North American colony.

It turns out that Islam, in all its manifestations — imperial, military and commercial — played an important part in the story of England. Today, when anti-Muslim rhetoric inflames political discourse, it is useful to remember that our pasts are more entangled than is often appreciated”.

Book Of The Week: Pro/Con Kid’s Journal

Ok, this isn’t technically a book…. But I thought it might be useful for parents like me to know about it!!!….This Pro/Con Journal is supposed to be a great tool for introducing the concept to kids. It says that it could enable them to make right choices!!!…hmmm let’s see…. I’m ordering a few copies right now… and I’m hoping that the journal is everything it says it is!!! 😉

Via Kid Crave.

Book Of The Week: Gone Girl

It has been a while since I posted Book of the week!!!... and to make it up to you, I wanted to come back with the perfect book!!!… Gone Girl is the closest thing to perfection that I could find in terms of the story as well as the writing of course….I must say that I haven’t finished it yet but I am finding it to be addictive in the way the best stories always are!!! I don’t want to spoil it for you… So I will only say this: A woman disappears on the day of her 5th anniversary and all roads point to her husband as the killer!!! 😉

20th Century Fox acquired Gone Girl….Reese Witherspoon is said to be cast as Amy (The missing wife)… I truly hope that Matt Damon would be cast as Nick (The husband)!!! I honestly doubt that anyone would portray Nick as well as him!!!

Book Of The Week: Scribble Scribble by: Nora Ephron

I started reading this book by Nora Ephron very recently… actually right after her death (which was around 2 weeks ago)… I don’t know why it never occurred to me to read one of her books before even though I have always been a big fan of her movies!!!

Scribble Scribble collects the columns she wrote for Esquire from 1975 to 1977…. I found it really interesting that she described the beginnings of a phenomenon that actually dominates journalism today!!!….She described the birth of People magazine….a magazine that makes its profits by focusing on celebrity gossip and revolves around their lives!!!

I loved the way she wrote this book…. she was wickedly funny in it… and I highly recommend it.

Next on my list is Crazy Salad!

Book Of The Week: In Search of Perfection

Ramadan is just around the corner for us … So I have cooking books in mind!!!…. and am trying new recipes from various books…. This is a book I know I can never go wrong with!!!… Love his recipes and love his logic behind them!!!… Some of his recipes are beyond perfection!!!…


Book of the Week: Fashion Designers at the Opera

Fashion and Opera are 2 things I am very passionate about!!!…..So I was thrilled when I found this book!!!…. It shows the work of ten designers and their contributions to productions at some of the world’s most famous opera houses…..This book is a treasure of interviews with those designers, their sketches and production photographs … It’s so elaborate and beautiful…….. a must have!!!


Book of the Week: Alexandre Reza

One of my favorite stores in Paris is Alexandre Reza in 21 Place Vendôme. It’s an exclusive Paris atelier that has some of the highest quality of jewels. I can’t wait to receive my copy….I have a feeling that it would be one of those books that would always cheer me up when am feeling down!!!! 😉


Book of the Week: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

This post is dedicated to my 3 cheeky little monkeys!!!… This is one of their favorite books!!!


Former Sesame Street writer Mo Willems’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! is the first in his pigeon series and received the prestigious Caldecott Honor.

The story begins with the bus driver asking the reader to watch the bus for him while he takes a break. Our favorite part in this book is the hilarious double page spread of illustrations showing all of the pigeon’s techniques to convince us to let him drive the bus…”How ’bout I give you five bucks?” is my son’s favorite line and “joke” at home!!….. Every time I’m upset or say something like “I will tell your Dad”, my son goes “how ’bout I give you 5 bucks?…. he gets me every single time!! lol

Willems is a master of comic timing; each page anticipates the reader’s response and moves the story along in the pigeon’s emotional journey….

I think that the genius of the book is that the kids recognize themselves in the pigeon, but at the same time they get a chance to reverse the roles and play the “grown up” and say “No!”….I highly recommend this book (in fact the whole series) if you have cheeky little monkeys like mine because it’s just great for demonstrating expressive reading.


Book Of The Week: Where The Wild Things Are

Sadly Maurice Sendak passed away last Tuesday due to complications from a recent stroke…..He was 83…. Sendak wrote and illustrated dozens of children’s books, which earned plenty of recognition, and he won the prestigious Caldecott Medal, the Hans Christian Andersen medal for illustration and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. In 1996, President Clinton awarded him a National Medal of the Arts for his work. His characters were often difficult and bossy, but always a pleasure to read about. He was best known for this book, Where the Wild Things Are………

This was one of the first books I read as a child. I remember thinking that the world is not as scary as it might seem and that there were a lot of things to explore!!! It made me realize what my imagination is capable of!!!

The book told the story of Max, a naughty boy who rages at his mother and is sent to his room without supper…..As a result, Max decides to run away to a land where he can express his wild side:

And he sailed off through night and day

and in and out of weeks

and almost over a year

to where the wild things are.

There, Max leads the creatures in a frenzied rumpus …..however, he soon grows tired of the chaos and decides he “wanted to be where someone loved him best of all,” so he returns home where he finds his supper waiting!!!

Sendak’s ability to capture both the bittersweet difficulty of young children and the warmth and loving care of parents made Where the Wild Things Are a bedtime favorite for millions of children.

R.I.P Mr. Sendak.