SOAS University of London

London Middle East Institute

Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture shaped Europe

IMG - Diana Darke Book Cover
Diana Darke (author)

Date: 8 December 2020Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 8 December 2020Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Webinar

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Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture shaped Europe (Hurst, 2020) uncovers a long yet often overlooked history of architectural ‘borrowing’, revealing the Arab and Islamic roots of Europe’s architectural heritage. Ideas and styles are traced as they passed from vibrant Middle Eastern centres like Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, entering Europe via gateways like Muslim Spain, Sicily and Venice through the movement of pilgrims, bishops, merchants and medieval Crusaders. It is a rich tale of cultural exchange, shedding new light on the backstory of some of Europe’s iconic landmarks.  

Described by The Guardian as “exhilarating and meticulously researched”, the book has created something of a stir, roundly attacked on social media by alt-right groups for whom European architecture represents ‘the pinnacle of civilisation’.  It sold out on day one and has been reprinted.

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, gave it his endorsement: "As exhilarating as it is learned, this splendidly illustrated book shows how our cultures - including our religious cultures - interact and interweave in ways that challenge all kinds of assumptions we might make about our history. By studying our past, Darke poses essential questions about the possibility of a shared and humane civilisation in the future.'


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Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture shaped Europe

About the speaker

Diana Darke is a Middle East cultural expert and Syria specialist who has lived and worked in the Middle East and Turkey for over 30 years, with both government and commercial sectors. She graduated in German & Philosophy, then Arabic from Oxford University, holds an MA in Islamic Art & Archaeology from SOAS and is the author of many books including My House in Damascus and The Merchant of Syria. Architecture has been a life-long interest, featuring heavily in most of her previous books, now culminating in this latest work, which she describes as 'a giant circular jigsaw.'


This webinar will take place online via Zoom. Click here to register

* The webinar will also be live-streamed on our Facebook page for those that are unable to participate via Zoom.

Chair: Dina Matar (SOAS)

Organiser: SOAS Middle East Institute

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