We arrived late for Friday prayers from a meeting in the city centre. Carried on a warm May breeze, the sermon droned over the little loudspeakers of the dome-less, minaret-less mosque to an audience of motorcycles, chained handcarts, and an avalanche of footwear.

Historians can only be admired for the alchemy required in blending together fragments, ellipses, and lacunae into a narrative that expresses a reality of the past in the context of the present.