Review: Crusades through Arab Eyes

by Amin Maalouf
crusades thru arab eyes
 Not only did our troops not shrink from eating dead Turks and Saracens; they also ate dogs! Documentation of rampant cannibalism among the Franj comes from the Franj themselves, but the historical accounts from Arab witnesses are what makes this book so enjoyable: the cannibalism, the elective surgery by battle-axe, the trials-by-ordeal,all described by genteel observers shocked at the barbarism of the blond peril. The book covers a long period where many rulers come and go, but major figures like Nur ad-Din Zangi, Saladin and Baybars are presented in good detail, and there are many colorful digressions that fill in a picture of the times, among the major battles and changes in leadership. I especially enjoy the tone of anthropological distance from the historians quoted, as with Ibn al-Athir upon the unexpected death of Frederick Barbarossa, King of the Germans: His army dispersed, and thus did God spare the Muslims the maleficence of the Germans, who constitute a particularly numerous and tenacious species of Franj.

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