After the ‘reconquest’ of Spain by Christian rulers, millions of Muslims and Jews who had lived in the Iberian peninsula for many centuries converted, more by force than choice, to the new monopoly religion of these lands. However, their customs, their rituals, their languages – and above all their food – proved impossible to eradicate.
It is a characteristic of the city of strangers, the global metropolis, that it throws disparate people together and asks them – often without much external support – to forge a community out of coincidence.
In almost all its historic iterations, utopia for some implies dystopia for others.
During the spring and summer of 2016, the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate on England’s North Sea coast hosted a new work by Yinka Shonibare MBE. Born in London but raised in Nigeria, the artist now uses the royal honour – which lends a ritual afterlife to a defunct imperial system – as part of his professional title. Pride, or parody?
This morning, a stiff breeze was blowing from the Persian Gulf. It often does, with a welcome cooling effect. Outside the restaurant windows, though, half a dozen human figures swung perilously in the gale as they inched down the building. External window-cleaning at 150 metres can never count as a relaxing job.
During my sixth-form years, I studied Ancient Greek for the first and last time. It played no part in my A-level curriculum.
Whenever the BBC needs a familiar standby to fill a gap in its early-evening schedules, it turns to ‘Dad’s Army’. As a result, David Croft and Jimmy Perry’s much-loved Second World War sitcom has over the decades tickled audiences a lot younger than those who saw the nine series on their first outings between 1968 and 1977.
Only on my third visit to the Alhambra did I really begin to understand the writing on the wall. The palace-fortress of the Nasrid rulers of Granada can be read – if you know Arabic – just like a book.
Alona Frankel is talking about ‘the most horrible event of my life’. A much-loved Israeli children’s writer, with a late-blooming career as an autobiographer, she survived the Lvov ghetto in Poland. One of a handful of Jews who escaped transportation to the death camps, Frankel came as a child to the new state in 1949. She sits, genial and youthful, in the conference hall at Mishkenot Sha’ananim just outside the old city of Jerusalem.