Letter from Qatar

September 14, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (3)

Dear Amitav, 

I have just returned from a trip to Beirut and Malta. While in Beirut
I took a truly wonderful walking tour led by an AUB grad that I
thought you might enjoy. Next time your in Beirut please consider
checking it out: http://www.bebeirut.org/walk.html

I also thought of you when I was in Malta. I do not know whether or
not you have ever been, but I found it to be extraordinary. Maltese is
basically Arabic with a bit of Sicilian Italian thrown in. I was
continually enthralled by the juxtaposition of Arabic and Italian. For
example, every town and village had a large welcome sign as you enter
with the local coat of arms. My favorite sign read, “Merhaba San Paul
al Bahar” or Welcome to St. Paul’s Bay.

Having recently been to Al Andalus as well, it was interesting to
compare how the Spanish retained their language, but there is a huge
and extraordinary remaining Islamic influence in architecture. Whereas
in Malta they continue to speak Arabic but there is little remaining
Islamic influence in architecture. Also, although Spanish still has
ojala, I didn’t hear any words in Maltese that had an Islamic origin,
i.e. masalam, insha’allah, mashallah, etc.

However, they do have some traditions that survive, such as the
Turkish evil eye is painted on every fishing boat, and I noticed
several hanging on car rearview mirrors.

If you have not visited yet, I do hope you have a chance. As someone
who loves languages I think you would find it absolutely fascinating.


Jackie Armijo
Associate Professor

3 Responses to “Letter from Qatar”

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  1. Comment by malq — September 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm   Reply

    Decades ago, we ended up “touching” for a few days the small island of Gozo, right next to, westwards, of Malta. Gozo became facmous subsequently in the “pass the trash” scandals surrounding paedophilia and a particular religious order, but otherwise, this was an island which had pretty much been left to itself – barring during wars and battles.

    Thanks to WW2, the people there spoke English – but with attitude and thick accent. And the other big language is – Sindhi.

  2. Comment by Nina — September 16, 2011 at 3:11 am   Reply

    We were on holiday in Malta this year. It is a fascinating place, full of gigantic Baroque churches in villages with a population of 300. As I miss the Baroque (the UK doesn’t have much of it), I loved the architecture and the honey-coloured stone. A very odd place, in many ways, and somehow very ‘European’.

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