A pink taxi

A pink taxi

February 11, 2011

History Buffs

We were not born to be scientists in our family, but we have been genetically blessed with a passion for world history. When I married my husband, who is Afghan, I ensured my children's cultural destiny. The question remains whether they will eventually stray to sciences or the arts.

My father's maternal side are all great historians. They are professors at Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Columbia. They write books that become references, they write fascinating articles,  and are often interviewed on television. These are the Khalidis, my role models when I attempted to walk in their academic footsteps, eventually earning a Phd.

My mother's father also was a historian, who became a medical doctor malgres lui. In his leisure time, he read about history  and  truly enjoyed politics. I therefore gifted him Albert Hourani's "History of the Arab People", knowing well that it was a gift more precious to him than any pajama or college sweatshirt.

My mother studied Middle Eastern history at AUB. I believe her interest in that field permeated down to me.  I then married a co-graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, an institution that thrives to solve contemporary political dilemnas but bases its solutions on historical analysis. My fate was set.

Although I always enjoyed history, I never excelled at it, perhaps because I am a multidisciplinarian type of scholar, preferring a combination of art and literature, not to mention my penchant for mathematics. When I was in graduate school, I crossed paths with a professor who became my PHD advisor, Dr. Sugata Bose. With India as an amazing historical case, he approached history from the grass root level, in a subaltern studies method. It is much more complex than it sounds and I think I only comprehended his approach on the surface.

This also is the method used by my favorite historian, Albert Hourani whose gem of a book I gifted once to my grandfather. The book is about the mercantile activities, farming methods, music and art, religion, life of women in the various Arab countries at different times in history. Hourani strays from the typical stories of battles, edicts and dynasties.

At home, we watch historical films, such as Joan of Arc, Gladiator, Troy and Alexander over and over again in search of applied history. We comment out loud and over the dialogue because we know the story and are merely interested in its history. My son knows every detail of many battle scenes.

All our encyclopedias are historical no matter how much we have attempted to purchase scientific ones. It is the history books on Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Medieval Times that are used and abused, while I read to my kids during their dinner. 

In the car,  as I drive my kids around Dubai, if we are not reviewing Quranic verses, 19th century poetry, spelling or science terms before an exam, discussing current events in Egypt, or of course listening to music, we are always talking about historical events. It's in our blood and in our genes after all!


  1. When I opened this page I noticed the hazy,trembling picture of Hourani's book,and I thought it was a reflection of the sisemic upheaveal that we are witnessing in the Arab World after 60 days of deep slumber and botched aspirations.
    As a child growing in a house deeply involved in politics,my other side of the family was totally immersed in education.
    I elected to emphasise to my children the importance of reaching education at its highest level,and leaving politics and business to be a choice at a later stage in life.

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