Mediaeval Islam

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CFury
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Mediaeval Islam

Postby CFury » Thu May 20, 2010 3:51 pm

If there are any scholars for this kind of thing, It's been bugging me for a while. Does anyone know what Muslim's used to drink during the Crusades? I understand that we used to drink small beer, as the water was a 'bit dodgy', but obviously Muslim's don't drink any alcohol. Is that a modern thing, was their water cleaner than ours or did they just have stronger constitutions than us Europeans? Sorry if this is a dumb question, but I figured if anyone knew the answer it would be one of you guys!
PS. Only my second post, so sorry if I did it wrong!



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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri May 21, 2010 5:52 am

A contemporary account of the 1187 Hattin campaign begins:

"Now I will tell you about King Guy and his host. They left the spring of Saffuriya to go to the relief of Tiberias. As soon as they had left the water behind, Saladin came before them and ordered his skirmishers to harass them from morning until midday. The heat was so great that they could not go on so that they could come to water."

Those sources of drinking water already existed before the Franks arrived in the region; the locals of whichever religion depended on them for their daily existence just as many modern Arabs, Jews and Christians in the area do today. The Bible emphasises the importance of wells in providing water for people and flocks. Not only is the geology and availability of water different than in England or France but personal hygiene and toilet habits were and are very different.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby CFury » Fri May 21, 2010 8:56 am

Thats great, thanks! I thought, after visiting Alhambra and some of the Moorish places in Spain flowing water from springs and wells was an important part of the building, with courtyards and the like all over the place. It always struck me as quite strange that the great Roman features like aquaducts were ignored in later history.



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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Lady Cecily » Fri May 21, 2010 9:39 am

CFury wrote:..........., as the water was a 'bit dodgy',


Argh - when will we realise that people didn't know this until the 1855 Cholera outbreak in London - when Dr John Snow mapped the ill people and their proximity to the well. Most people before this thought bad air made you ill, not the water.

People in the middle ages wouldn't have got dysentery if they didn't drink the water. Army's get massive outbreaks of the bloody flux because they are ingesting bacteria that are not familiar too them (it's like you or I getting Delhi Belly* now) without proper rehydration you die.

*Indeed if you go to India now you will be advised not to drink the water because of the infection risk. The locals clearly haven't worked out that defecating in your drinking water is not advisable.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby CFury » Fri May 21, 2010 11:43 am

Dr John Snow mapped the ill people and their proximity to the well. Most people before this thought bad air made you ill, not the water.


oops. I knew that as well, I've even had a few beers in the pub named after him in Soho!



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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby KedlestonCraig » Mon May 31, 2010 10:41 am

Lady Cecily wrote:
CFury wrote:..........., as the water was a 'bit dodgy',


Argh - when will we realise that people didn't know this until the 1855 Cholera outbreak in London - when Dr John Snow mapped the ill people and their proximity to the well. Most people before this thought bad air made you ill, not the water.

Is this therefore a "re-enactorism"?


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon May 31, 2010 11:24 am

Isn't the point really that water, especially in urban areas, was generally contaminated and therefore unsafe; whether people at the time understood the mechanism of bacterial infection doesn't make any difference - they knew from experience that if you drank water straight from the well next to your cesspit you got sick, if you drank ale you didn't. No doubt people drinking water from a Welsh brook or a lakeland mountain stream didn't have the same problem. Gerald of Wales, speaking of the demands Welsh people made when guests in other people's houses, said that "they insist on being served with vast quantities of food and more especially intoxicating drink", so alcohol was preferred to water no matter how "safe" it might be.

It would be a re-enactorism to say that medieval people knew about the principle of infection, but they could link certain activities with becoming sick. That they failed to learn much from it is certain - reading Alexander Neckham's description of a kitchen layout in a stone-built house, manor house or castle, he points out that the main feature of a kitchen was the large fireplace and within a few feet of it the opening of the garde-robe pit for both kitchen and human waste. It would be emptied via the kitchen in buckets . . . :worried:


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Eve » Mon May 31, 2010 12:57 pm

I have come across references (can't remember source now) for 'sweet water'. I understand this to mean running water or well water. No doubt they didn't realise these sources could be contaminated but knew pond water wasn't a good idea.



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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Lady Cecily » Mon May 31, 2010 5:12 pm

Brother Ranulf wrote:....- they knew from experience that if you drank water straight from the well next to your cesspit you got sick, [/quote}

Brother Ranulf wrote:....- - reading Alexander Neckham's description of a kitchen layout in a stone-built house, manor house or castle, he points out that the main feature of a kitchen was the large fireplace and within a few feet of it the opening of the garde-robe pit for both kitchen and human waste. It would be emptied via the kitchen in buckets . . . :worried:


Don't these two statements contradict each other? My point is that the former was not understood at all - as evidenced by the latter behavior.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Lady Cecily » Mon May 31, 2010 5:53 pm

Something else crosses my mind too. Jews are blamed for well poisoning that causes plague, so it's probably more complicated as to what people think is dirty water. When I retire and do my history degree I feel a disertation coming on. :D


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon May 31, 2010 6:39 pm

You left out:
That they failed to learn much from it is certain


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon May 31, 2010 7:29 pm

Currently researching the rights and perquisites of labourers working at harvest time in southern England, their customary dues and so on, I found an interesting piece in the Ramsey Cartulary (late 11th/early12th century).

It specifies on a daily basis what food and drink should be issued: for the carters, on day 1, a second-rate loaf , with beer, pottage, meat and 3 maslin loaves (wheat and rye) per two men. On day 2 they get bread, pottage, good water, herrings and cheese. On day three, they get the same as day 1. The harvesters get similar rations. [The meat (caro) was often poultry in this context]

So "good water" was being issued as an alternative to beer. We are not told the source for the water, but its quality seems to be emphasised; since the reference is in a monastic context (and monastic water management was frankly astonishing) it is likely that good water meant running water rather than wells. Put this together with Eve's "sweet water" and the logic is that there was some degree of understanding that water could be "bad" or "sour" - and maybe there was more appreciation of water quality than we give them credit for.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Sophia » Mon May 31, 2010 11:04 pm

Lady Cecily wrote:Something else crosses my mind too. Jews are blamed for well poisoning that causes plague, so it's probably more complicated as to what people think is dirty water. When I retire and do my history degree I feel a dissertation coming on. :D


That one regrettably is more related to the "fear of the other" and also related to the fact that despite their poverty it would be unthinkable for a mediaeval Jew to empty their cess or any other waste in proximity to the kitchen due to the ritual purity issues linked to keeping the kitchen kosher. Also in a time when bread was served with practically every meal, Jews regardless of their social status would have washed their hands as one does not say the blessing for bread (their is a blessing and a grace for everything you eat in Judaism) without washing ones hands. Also again for ritual purity reasons Jews wash their hands every time they go to the toilet (in modern times Observant Jews do this in addition to washing their hands for hygiene reasons).

This, various other practices such as the method of koshering meat, washing the body before using a mikvah (ritual bath) for ritual purity reasons (both men and women) and their restricted lifestyles often meant that Jews did not contract certain ailments as often or as fast as their Christian neighbours.

On an anecdotal basis, even back in the Shtetl in Russian Poland my Great-grandmother's people bathed on a daily basis (this in the 1800's) and though no one in that line has a history of being house proud (i.e. dusting every day) kitchen and bathroom hygiene have always been strongly emphasised - think dust bunnies but scrupulous washing up.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Brother Ranulf » Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:22 am

Thanks for that Sophia. It makes sense that if Christian communities, or their livestock, were to experience dysentery/body flux and other ailments but their Jewish neighbours seemed untouched, the fingers of suspicion would quickly point their way.

I'm no expert on Islamic hygiene but this seems to link directly with the original question and the dependence on water in the Middle East, with much more emphasis on good toilet and personal hygiene practices keeping water sources free of contamination.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Lady Cecily » Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:15 pm

Sophia - I do hope you didn't think I believed the Jews cause plague stuff.. I'd be mortified if you did. I think Brother Ranulf has hit the nail on the head about Jews/Islam being more water conscious because of the nature of their desert origins. Interesting that we do have records of people drinking water too.

If I had the time to really study some castle/monastery plans we may be able to shed some light on the subject. I have an awful feeling that the loos are upstream of the kitchen at Rievaulx.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Brother Ranulf » Tue Jun 01, 2010 2:41 pm

At Rievaulx the Cistercians founded the abbey on the east side of the river Rie, with canals to the north and south and the river diverted in several places; it is almost impossible to trace most of these water courses today and most plans of the abbey simply leave them out. In general terms, the water flows left to right along the lower edge of this plan, therefore serving the kitchen (which is almost in the bottom left of the cloister complex) before passing under the reredorter (latrines):

rievaulx-dormitory.jpg
rievaulx-dormitory.jpg (34.56 KiB) Viewed 6202 times


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Sophia » Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:59 pm

Lady Cecily wrote:Sophia - I do hope you didn't think I believed the Jews cause plague stuff.. I'd be mortified if you did. I think Brother Ranulf has hit the nail on the head about Jews/Islam being more water conscious because of the nature of their desert origins. Interesting that we do have records of people drinking water too.

If I had the time to really study some castle/monastery plans we may be able to shed some light on the subject. I have an awful feeling that the loos are upstream of the kitchen at Rievaulx.


Not at all - I was just trying to add some information and show where some of the Mediaeval misunderstandings came from. Interestingly while there may be issues of water consciousness involved these are very much secondary to the ritual purity issues which were and still are of great importance to observant Jews.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby CFury » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:58 pm

There is always the danger of underplaying the intelligence of our forebears. While it is acknowledged that the concept of bacteria was unknown, if you drank from one water source and got sick then drank from another and didnt, it would be pretty plain that the water had affected you without expressly understanding why. This would go some way to explaining why the waste pits were near to or in the kitchens, as this is where most of the waste in the house would be produced and would ensure it was not seen (or smelled) by the upper orders. While a lot of illnesses and such seems to have been blamed on 'bad magic' or loose morals, I am sure there were enough people savvy enough to see the correlation, but perhaps without the option to do anything about it...



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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby gregory23b » Sun Nov 21, 2010 11:40 am

I would add the extra complication that not all food poisoning (water) affects the consumer that quickly, some can take weeks to manifest, so direct attribution may not be that easy.

Visible pollution, from say tanners and butchers is a simple case of using your sense of taste, smell and sight, otherwise apparently clean water is clean, viz the Cholera in the 19th century, people did not stop drinking from the contaminated taps, even though people were dropping like flies.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Langley » Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:26 pm

Lady L recalls seeing an illustration of a lady standing by a well from which are issuing dozens of small devils. Going to try to find it again - may be one we saw in the Wellcome Collection Library and she thinks it was German. So, while the germ theory of disease was not around and it was "miasmas" - not exactly smell but "bad air" which was thought to cause illness it was associated with smelly stagnant water causing illness via the air, not drinking the stuff. The insistance on "sweet water" to drink is also suggestive that they were wary of still water. Only slight concern I have about the definition of sweet water is that water running through new lead piping is sweetins to taste. As is water with a trace of arsenic! (And yes, they did have lead piping, look at the fountain in St John's church built into the old walls of Bristol which runs through lead pipe from the spring on the hill a mile or so away and is still working. Admittedly, it was the supply for a well off monastic establishment and I don't for one minute imply that indoor plumbing was at all common so it is only a tiny concern).



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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Miss Costello » Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:35 pm

There was a good book on Amazon some time back about Al Raz(h)i or Rhazes. Not sure he made any comment on water, but it made interesting reading.

K




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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby gregory23b » Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:50 pm

Lead pipe in hard water areas gets furred up, same as copper, which might reduce any dissolution.

Lead acetate is the sweet part, used to adulterate foods, but lead lined jam pots were also around, the lead acetate as a reaction of the acidic fruit jams.

Not sure how toxic it is in normal running water though.

Bear in mind beer was brewed in lead vats as well.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Langley » Wed Dec 01, 2010 1:10 pm

That was why I made the point about them being NEW pipes. Older lead vessels get a coating of oxide which has a protective effect as it is insoluble. I liven in a house with lead pipes when I was a kid and I am perfectly sane and... Oh, wait, I'm a reenactor. It was a pretty obscure possibility in any case. Just my scientific training coming to the fore and making sure all the fact (especially the inconvenient ones) are in the open. I actually did my degree in Microbiology before going to the dark side (IT).



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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby gregory23b » Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:03 pm

Sure, was not contradicting, just adding more meat to the feast.

How long does the new lead sweetness last?


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Langley » Thu Dec 02, 2010 2:43 pm

Depends on the hardness of the water in your area - the harder the quicker you get a build up of limescale coating which helps. Trying to recall what a plumber told me when I was a kid thinkit is of the order of a month or so. Not very long which again, tends to reduce the liklihood that this is what they were thinking of.



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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Grymm » Fri Dec 03, 2010 3:34 pm

Several texts refer to drinking beer, wine or arrack, in some interpretations of the Koran intoxication/drunkenness is the sin not alcohol although it varies from sect to sect and seems to be more hard line anti alcohol now than previously in history.
But I can recommend Medieval Arab Cookery Rodinson, Arberry & Perry pub Prospect books for Arab food, not so hot on the drinks but it do mention, albeit briefly, subiya, shashsh, distilled syrups (ikar aqsimar),fuqqa(which can be translated as beer but prob'ly isn't ) grenadine & lemon syrups
The Ain I Akbari(16thC) gives a quick recipe for a brewed drink involving pounding Babul bark mixing with brown sugar and water burying the sealed jars in horse dung then waiting a week or two til its strong and astrigent....


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby gregory23b » Fri Dec 03, 2010 7:32 pm

Indeed, scholarly sites, explain the Koran as frowning upon intoxication, but it is easier to manage if it is banned altogether, hence modern interpretation. I am sure Iran had a wider drinking populace in its early Islamic times than it does now, with one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world.


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby Captain Reech » Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:35 pm

I don't actually have a copy (although I'm tempted) but I spotted this whilst browsing the other day:
Baghdad Cookery Book - $19.95
Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Baghdadi, newly translated by Charles Perry. This book was for long the only medieval Arabic cookbook known to the English-speaking world, thanks to A. J. Arberry’s 1939 translation. Charles Perry, working from the original manuscript, has produced a new English translation incorporating many amendments and corrections, fully annotating his variations from Daoud Chelebi’s earlier transcription. 128p, Prospect

available from:

http://www.poisonpenpress.com/cookery.html


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Re: Mediaeval Islam

Postby cannontickler » Sun Dec 19, 2010 5:53 pm

Captain Reech wrote:I don't actually have a copy (although I'm tempted) but I spotted this whilst browsing the other day:
Baghdad Cookery Book - $19.95
Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Baghdadi, newly translated by Charles Perry. This book was for long the only medieval Arabic cookbook known to the English-speaking world, thanks to A. J. Arberry’s 1939 translation. Charles Perry, working from the original manuscript, has produced a new English translation incorporating many amendments and corrections, fully annotating his variations from Daoud Chelebi’s earlier transcription. 128p, Prospect

available from:

http://www.poisonpenpress.com/cookery.html


how very fascinating screech old man, didn't realise there was just the one book that we all thought was the bible of Arabic nosh ( no puns intended at all ).
that does raise some very interesting alternative points don't it.


it was a quick process until they made it efficient .


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