7. Ottoman Arabs in Istanbul, 1860-1914: Perceptions of Empire, Experiences of the Metropole through the Writings of Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq, Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā, and Jirjī Zaydān

Ilham Khuri-Makdis
It is a well-known fact that Arab intellectuals—Egyptians, Syrians, North Africans, and others—traveled to Europe and wrote about their impressions of European capitals throughout the long nineteenth century, and to a lesser degree earlier. [1]  Much has been written on the “discovery” of Europe by people like Rifā‘a al-Țahṭāwī, Khayr al-Dīn al-Tūnisī, Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq, Francīs al-Marrāsh, and countless others, who wrote vivid, entertaining, instructive, perceptive, and stereotypical accounts on Europeans (especially French), European cities, and Western civilization. This encounter has been traditionally viewed as profoundly transformative for the individual traveler, and one that constituted a foundational moment in the shaping of Arab Modernity and decisively shaped the nahda, or the Arab intellectual Renaissance of the nineteenth century. More so, while there are definite differences between the authors’ writings on Europe, the existing body of literature, as well as the presence and development of common tropes, themes, concepts, and stereotypes, make it possible to talk of these descriptions as constituting a genre. [2] It is equally well known that empires, and especially metropoles, have produced a body of knowledge on “the Other” in the empire’s peripheries or beyond. While empires may differ quite substantially, and while early modern empires such as the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian Empires differed from British or French ones diachronically and synchronically, some historians have aptly applied some of the concepts and methodological approaches traditionally reserved to the study of European “maritime” empires—such as the notions of “othering” and orientalizing—onto the Ottoman Empire. [3]
However, what happens if we shift the question of “Imperial Geographies” 180 degrees? In the context of the long nineteenth century and within the Ottoman Empire, how did “provincial” Arabs experience and view Istanbul, the empire’s metropole? What tropes appear in their writings? How do their experiences and perceptions of Istanbul compare with their contemporaries’ (or their own) experiences and impressions of Paris or London? These are some of the questions that this chapter sets out to explore. A few preliminary remarks are in order: first, this is (to the best of my knowledge) uncharted territory. For all sorts of reasons, this topic has received scant attention among scholars of the Ottoman Empire. One of the reasons might well be the dearth of primary sources, a fact reflected in this chapter’s focus on three authors and a close reading of their writings. Nonetheless, this seeming absence of sources does not necessarily mean that they do not exist; rather that, if they do, they remain obscure and most likely unpublished. Hence, one of this chapter’s aims is to call for further research on the topic by suggesting possible theoretical and thematic questions based on a few sources. At the same time, we should keep in mind that this supposed lack of sources did not mean Arabs did not travel to Istanbul or reside there in the nineteenth century. Indeed, many reasons brought them to the Empire’s capital from present-day Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, North Africa, and the Arabian peninsula: trade; study, in both “traditional” madrasa institutions, as well as in “modern” schools and colleges, including the law school, military academies, and the school of medicine; [4] employment in the Ottoman administrative system or the receipt of State decorations; appealing for justice or clemency; [5] or self- or state-imposed exile (among other reasons). [6] However, while some of these visitors ended up residing in Istanbul for a few years, most of them did not write. Or when they wrote, they did not write about Istanbul specifically, but about the empire as a whole.
A second preliminary remark is that, while the sources available do not quite constitute an embarrassment of riches, it would be a grave injustice to underplay the importance of the three authors whose works are analyzed in this chapter, and their place in the pantheon of Ottoman Arab authors of the long nineteenth century. To put it succinctly, Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq (1804?–1887), Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā (1865–1935), and Jirjī Zaydān (1860–1914) were seminal, highly influential thinkers, authors, and self-appointed reformists, whose writings and ideas were foundational and formative of the entire infrastructure of the nahda during the period under study. All three were the founders and (quasi-exclusive) writers of widely disseminated periodicals that were read in the four corners of the Arabic-speaking world and beyond, including India. More biographical information will be provided below, but suffice it here to underline one major difference among them: Shidyāq lived in Istanbul for a quarter of a century (1860–1884), and it was then that he wrote and published the articles on Istanbul discussed here; Riḍā stayed in Istanbul around 1909 for about a year, and he published his articles on the city in his periodical al-Manār a few months upon his return to Cairo; and Zaydān merely spent a few days there, also in 1909, and scribbled (rather undecipherable) notes in his notebooks, much of which was later turned into a historical/contemporary novel he published on the Young Turk Revolution (entitled al-Inqilāb al-‘uthmāni, or The Ottoman Revolution). He first serialized this novel in his periodical al-Hilāl before publishing it as a book in 1911. Hence, the amount of time these authors spent in the city—and subsequently, the amount of deep knowledge they had of it—differed considerably from one author to another, and so did the amount of ink they devoted to writing on Istanbul. The reasons that brought them to Istanbul also varied considerably, and unsurprisingly shaped what they chose to see and comment upon during their stay in the empire’s capital. Finally, one very quick word about comparisons: travel literature, or writing about a “foreign” place or even a second home, seems to be implicitly or explicitly, consciously or unconsciously, comparative. One of the major themes that permeate through this chapter is comparison: what is Istanbul being compared to? How does it fare in the comparison? How does the comparison change, from one author to another? And how might we be able to interpret this comparison? 

Shidyāq as Urban Critic

There is perhaps no better place to begin an examination of all these questions than Shidyāq’s articles on the city. A maverick intellectual, essayist, journalist, and linguist, a convert from Maronite Christianity to Protestantism and then to Islam, (Aḥmad) Fāris al-Shidyāq (1804?–1887) left his ancestral village in present-day Mount Lebanon and worked in Malta, Tunis, and Egypt, before settling in Istanbul, where he lived from 1860 until his death in 1887. While in Istanbul, he issued al-Jawā’ib (1861–1884), one of the foremost periodicals of the era and the city’s first Arabic periodical, and established a publishing house there in 1870. [7] Like many of his peers, and as one of the main figures and leaders of the nahda, Shidyāq was obsessed with and elaborated certain concepts that provided building blocks for the intellectual infrastructure nahḍa intellectuals were busy erecting. [8] Among these foundational blocks were civilization (tamaddun), to be contrasted with barbarism (al-ḥāla al-hamajiyya), as well as the twin concepts of ordering and order (tartīb wa niẓām). Another concept was equality, especially that between members of different religious communities. Indeed, the Tanzimat had ushered in a new era, with the sultanic decree proclaiming the equality of all subjects, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. More so, like virtually every other member of the nahda, and every other Ottoman intellectual (Arab or otherwise) of the second half of the nineteenth century, Shidyāq looked closely and keenly to Europe, of which he had firsthand knowledge, having visited and resided in a number of European cities before settling in Istanbul. However, as we shall see, there were fundamental differences between Shidyāq’s attitudes and those of his contemporaries writing in the 1860s, and the attitudes of a later generation of intellectuals writing in the 1880s and onward. [9] If, in the 1860s, Ottoman intellectuals could and did still believe that their empire could reform and strengthen itself by adopting certain European ideas, after the 1880s, the specter of European domination through colonial expansion had become reality, and it became urgent to “catch up” with Europe in order to survive against its superior military and technological powers.

Istanbul in the 1860s: Transformation and (Uneven) Modernization

The 1860s were a time of tremendous urban changes, especially for Istanbul. The city’s population had exponentially increased since the 1840s, and would continue to do so throughout the nineteenth century. [10] Commercial treaties, signed in the late 1830s, privileged and increased European trade, and created a class of predominantly non-Muslim Ottoman and foreign merchants. New and imposing buildings associated with trade—e.g. banks, stores, and offices—and concentrated mostly in Galata, mushroomed. The city’s infrastructure also developed considerably in specific neighborhoods after 1855, prompted by the official verdict that “the capital cities of all leading countries were built to perfection, whereas Istanbul still badly needed embellishment, regularization, road enlargement, street lighting, and improvement of building methods.” [11] A municipal commission was formed soon after that, dividing the city into fourteen districts. The Sixth District, comprising Pera, Galata, and Tophane, was to be the experimental area for change. To be selected on the Sixth District council, one had to have lived there for more than ten years, and to own property within the district whose value was at least 100,000 kurush. The inhabitants of the Sixth District were mostly wealthy non-Muslim Levantines who were Ottoman subjects, or Europeans who had settled in Istanbul mainly for business purposes. Their presence was mostly concentrated in Pera. In 1858, the main street connecting Tophane to the main street in Pera (the Grande Route) was “leveled, widened, and provided with gas lighting.” Similar improvements were made on the street connecting Tophane to Galata. Later, between 1865 and 1869, the main arteries of the city on both sides of the Golden Horn were cut, the areas surrounding the most important monuments were cleared, and extensive infrastructure was provided, which remains in service even today. [12] In 1868 a municipal code of regulations was adopted, applying the administrative organization introduced in Pera-Galata to the remaining fourteen districts of the city. While these changes were monumental, they seem to have been confined to a handful of neighborhoods—at least in the 1860s. Most of the city remained unaffected by these grandiose modernization projects, the interconnection between individual neighborhoods was not addressed, and most neighborhoods still maintained their privacy and functioned as self-sufficient units in the 1860s. 
If the municipality emerged as a quintessential urban institution of the second half of the nineteenth century, so did the newspaper. Newspapers and periodicals, which appeared in a plethora of languages in Istanbul, followed with great interest urban matters and especially urban transformation. And their readership was high; by the end of the nineteenth century, “a substantial part of the citizenry of Istanbul, perhaps as many as 300,000 persons, read some sort of daily or weekly publication.” [13]
In the context of such massive and visible urban projects, it is no surprise that Shidyāq covered urban matters in his periodical, weaving descriptions and comments on the city’s streets, its inhabitants, zoning, provisioning, coffeehouses, places of leisure, consumption, and housing, and constantly shifting his zoom between the minutely micro and the massively macro. It is partly through Shidyāq’s writings on the city that his genius as publicist, political essayist, and modernist novelist becomes apparent.

Shidyāq as Urban Reformist

For Shidyāq, one of the main duties of newspapers was to suggest practical and useful urban improvements within the larger realm of public interest. In his mind, nothing that pertained to public interest was beyond newspapers’ scrutiny or was unworthy of their attention. More so, reform was not limited to the grand and the monumental: all aspects of life, daily governance, and public interest could and should be reformed. The changes Shidyāq suggested had the potential to impact the lives of vast numbers of Istanbul’s inhabitants, not only Europeans and Ottoman subjects living in Pera and Galata, and not exclusively the upper classes. Strikingly, while the changes he suggested were quite radical, they did not make away with the many institutions and practices that had regulated the lives of Istanbulis for centuries. They were also universalizable: they could be applied to any city in the Ottoman Empire, without requiring tremendous funds or labor. Shidyāq envisioned and articulated a blueprint of urban reforms throughout the empire, which would first be implemented in the empire’s capital.
One of Shidyāq’s main criticisms of Istanbul specifically, and “Oriental cities” generally, revolved around the organization of their markets and shops, and specifically the concentration of one specific commercial activity or artisanal production on one street or in a single neighborhood. In his article “On Lacunae” (“On the organizing and ordering of cities and markets”), he advocated the model applied in “civilized countries” whose neighborhood markets catered to all of their shoppers’ needs, arguing this benefitted both sellers and residents—the former by increasing their sales, and the latter by providing all necessary goods locally, hence eliminating the need to venture far. For such a change to be successfully implemented in Istanbul, “the owners of most of these shops, who are mostly Greeks/Orthodox Christians (Rūm) and Armenians,”and who “are like children … need the muḥtasib to conduct this reform and impose on all sellers to carry all of life’s necessities. It is simply unacceptable that somebody should have to walk an hour or two to … get a piece of bread.” [14] Here, as elsewhere, Shidyāq argued that the Ottomans could adapt from European cities some of their best features while maintaining institutions that had regulated life in Islamic urban societies for centuries, rather than constantly and solely relying on new (and “European”) institutions such as the municipality. 
The issue, for Shidyāq, was much larger than street organization and provisioning, and he was highly critical of newspaper owners in Istanbul, who did not bother to write on this matter, whereas their duty was to “reform/fix lacunas/weaknesses, not merely to report news with no benefit.” [15] At the heart of Shidyāq’s concerns were the empire’s subjects, and specifically men of the pen and journalists partaking in the debate on the empire’s reform and modernization: “our era, under the rule of our great sultan is one of goodness and improvement, so it is our duty not to be silent ... and mention what needs to be improved/reformed; for the [sultan himself] wants comprehensive reform in his country, for all and every part of its affairs.” [16] The author repeatedly mentioned and praised the press in Europe for underlining pertinent and improvable matters to its readership.
Another space in dire need of reform if not outright elimination was the coffeehouse. In most of his writings on Istanbul, Shidyāq launched a vituperative attack on this feature of urban life, describing it as a den for “the idle and the lazy” (dhawiyy al-baṭāla wa’l-kasal min al-nās). It was not so much the consumption of coffee in and of itself that exasperated him, but rather the loss of productivity associated with coffee shops and coffee-making. “In truth,” he complained, “this coffee has become a major disaster (maṣā’ib) ... it requires one man to make it, another one to serve it, yet another one to serve tobacco sticks; this is three men who are not engaged in useful work … For these unnecessary expenses are unknown to the foreigners.” Coffee shops could be reformed, too: “Indeed, there are many coffeehouses (mawāḍi‘ li’l- qahwa) in European cities, but people go there to read newspapers (jurnālāt) and gather useful news, not for idle talk.” [17] Until this was achieved, Shidyāq advocated imposing a heavy fine on these establishments in Istanbul, beginning in the Süleymaniye district, notorious for its high concentration of coffee depots/dens. [18] Shidyāq’s attack on coffeehouses was not unusual: throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, various intellectuals, in Istanbul and in other parts of the Ottoman Empire, associated coffeehouses with idleness, but also hashish consumption (especially in Egypt), and occasionally sedition. In an era obsessed with “catching up with Europe,” both masses and elites were exhorted to “roll up their sleeves” and get to work, rather than lazing around in coffeehouses, in order to develop city, nation, and empire. [19]

The Lure of Europe? What We Should Learn from Europe

Many of Shidyāq’s suggestions on urban transformation in Istanbul were prompted or followed by comparisons with European cities and institutions. Shidyāq had lived in Paris and visited London in the late 1840s and 1850s, and was visibly struck by the elaborate web of public transportation, notably public carriages (qāfila/‘araba) that transported people long distances, for a very modest fee, and protected them “from rain and mud and summer heat.” What a difference in Istanbul, he complained, where the walker had to contend with staircases, animals carrying heavy loads and blocking his path, and mud. Istanbulis were tired of walking, he complained, especially to Beyoǧlu. The problem was one of poor planning (sū’ al-tadbīr), but it could be easily remedied through the construction of a few roads for carriages. However, he did not cast the blame on the Ottoman state for the dire conditions of transportation in Istanbul, but rather on (interest) groups who were profiting from the existing situation and charged exorbitant fees: owners of individual carriages and individuals who rented out horses for the route connecting Hagia Sophia and Beyoǧlu. State and municipal funds should be primarily funneled into building roads for carriages and launching public carriages: “road-works [for carriages] and the presence of these public carriages are among the greatest reasons for comfort, and are much more beneficial than public baths and coffeehouses which the idle frequent. It is surprising that Istanbul’s inhabitants have accepted the usefulness of steamboats (vapur) … but have not yet realized that of public carriages.” [20]
If Shidyāq bluntly exposed individuals who profiteered from these lacunae, his harshest criticism was reserved toward “the European residents of Beyoǧlu, and not Istanbul’s residents. The municipal council of Beyoǧlu should have established a public carriage and run it in some places, so as to incite people to ask for more.” [21] This was the real meaning of civilization, Shidyāq argued: “once people familiarize themselves with this means of transportation and taste its comfort, then they will know the meaning of civilization (tamaddun).” Hence, Shidyāq suggested the path to real civilization, real progress, and real modernization lay elsewhere: what the municipal council of Beyoǧlu, and what European residents in Istanbul were doing was at best superficial, and at worse, distracting and deterring from it. Examining public transportation, or, for instance, the multiplicity of goods and services offered in each neighborhood in Paris and London (contrary to Istanbul), Shidyāq underlined two major points. First, he asserted that such issues had direct and indirect repercussions on the city’s population as a whole (not only on the inhabitants of distinct neighborhoods), and served the public good and public interest in more than one way. However, it is important to note that he did not use the terminology of class and did not argue for the necessity of providing services to the working classes per se. Affordable public transportation, as well as the existence of a more extensive transportation system, ultimately lowered the price of commodities, since they guaranteed their continuous flow: “this means that prices are actually moderate in Europe, contrary to what people here think. As for the provisioning of food and drinks in eastern lands … it is not consistent … partly because of … the dearth of ships and railways … In Europe, when people purchase something, they do not need to pay for its delivery cost, for a shopkeeper will send an item to somebody’s house for free [using cheap, public transportation].” [22] Hence, being modern was about adopting technologies, practices, and policies that ultimately improved everybody’s quality of life, not just that of the elites. 
Shidyāq’s second major point was that there was an entire political economy behind being modern and civilized, and behind having access to affordable objects. Noting that furniture is cheaper in London than elsewhere, he explained to his readers that “most furniture and fabrics found in the Islamic world is imported from there (al-bilād al-ifranjiyya), where it is machine-produced rather than handmade, so one machine does the work of one hundred hands.” Purchasing modern goods was essentially neither modern nor civilized if the goods in question had been imported rather than locally manufactured. The Istanbulis, Shidyāq lamented, set their eyes on and purchased objects produced all over the world, whereas Londoners were content with what their country produced (of course, he omitted to mention that the British Empire’s political economy rested on cheap labor and access to cheap resources from the colonies). [23] For Shidyāq, “civilization among the people without industries is much worse and pettier.” People should first develop these industries and then indulge in consuming their products, or abandon their use, except for the absolutely necessary ones. Hence, for Shidyāq, the city’s management, its modernization, and issues of urban change were all connected to larger and smaller problematics that needed to be revised and perhaps altered: consumerism and consumer choices, the empire’s political economy and foreign trade, notions of the public good and of accessibility to services and goods. Thinking about the city and how to reform it triggered these larger questions and ultimately prompted Shidyāq to reflect upon what kind of empire currently existed, and what kind of empire might exist, if the right reforms were introduced.

The City of Everyday Life

Shidyāq’s articles depicted Istanbul in the quotidian. It was predominantly the city of its inhabitants, rather than the dazzling metropole of an empire—and of inhabitants generally unmarked by religion or ethnicity, going about their neighborhood or beyond, busying themselves in unglamorous activities. None of the grandeur of the city was made manifest, no monuments commented upon or even deserving a mention. No frisson either, at crossing the Bosphorus or catching sight of one of the mosques at sunset. Istanbul is almost absent from its description, and Shidyāq might as well be writing about any city in the (Ottoman) world. His preoccupation was first and foremost with the mundane, the unspectacular and the non-glorious: people’s commute and transportation, public spaces, coffeehouses, and neighborhood provisioning.
This “banalization” of Istanbul—as well as the emphasis on the non-picturesque—was certainly partly due to the fact that Shidyāq was a resident of the city, and not a visitor. It was also connected to the genre of writing, namely newspaper articles: as previously mentioned, newspapers (in Istanbul, in other parts of the Ottoman Empire, and in the four corners of the world generally) closely followed urban matters, including reporting on municipal activities, and provided ample details on rather prosaic topics. Shidyāq was writing as a local journalist, but what is interesting is that his readership was probably overwhelmingly non-local. It was predominantly people from the Arab provinces and beyond—in Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and elsewhere—who read his articles. Perhaps the banalization of Istanbul was connected to his readership: Shidyāq might have intended to “demystify” the capital of the empire to its provincial subjects, and treat it on par with the rest of the empire’s cities, almost provincialize it in fact. He might also have been suggesting that all these questions facing Istanbul in the 1860s faced or would face other cities in the empire, and therefore that Istanbul was a good case-study, or a laboratory for analyzing these mechanisms of modern daily life. 
Finally, there is something extremely modernist in Shidyāq’s writings on Istanbul. I have here distilled some of his main arguments and themes, and have strung them together so as to extract his main arguments. His articles, however, are everything but linear: Shidyāq jumped from topic to topic, and would revisit a theme he had begun to explore at a latter stage of an article. Both author and reader are made to meander through the text, somewhat like a flaneur in the city. Many of the same themes appeared in different articles, each time strung together in a different order. Shidyāq’s writings, with their conscious rejection of one single linear and dominant narrative of the city, are quite reminiscent of Walter Benjamin’s thoughts on collections and writing about the city. [24]

Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā’s Trip to Istanbul: Strengthening the umma and the Empire, and Modernizing Islam

If Shidyāq allowed himself to meander through Istanbul, physically and textually, and invited his readers to explore various layers of the city while using a multiplicity of lenses, Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā (1865–1935) gave his readers a very focused and linear reading of the city. One of the most influential thinkers of Islamic reformism in the modern period, Muḥammad Abduh’s disciple and torch-bearer, and the founder of the influential periodical al-Manār (Cairo, 1898–1935), Riḍā spent a year in Istanbul in 1909, and upon his return to Cairo in 1910, published a handful of articles on his time there. Unsurprisingly, the reasons that took him to Istanbul completely informed and shaped his perception and experience of the city. Riḍā was a man on a mission, and a self-imposed one. He went to Istanbul after the revolution of 1908 (which deposed Sultan Abdülhamid and restored the Ottoman constitution, abolished since 1878), with the hope of convincing the Ottoman state to help found Ma‘had al-Da‘wa wa’l-Irshād, an institution whose purpose would be to train Muslims and prepare them for missionary work among Muslims who had fallen off the rightful path. In other words, the Istanbul Riḍā was interested in was the capital of the largest Muslim empire, the seat of the caliphate, and the most likely and legitimate place in which to establish a school geared toward defending the umma against European political, economic, and moral encroachments. It was also the capital of an empire whose recently deposed Sultan (Abdülhamid) had adopted a pan-Islamic policy. This, however, had not made Riḍā a supporter of Abdülhamid. In Riḍā’s eyes, Islam had been weakened from the inside, through the tyranny of its political leaders (including Abdülhamid), and the population’s divergence from the rightful path and their adoption of practices and beliefs that were anathema to the spirit and laws of Islam. At the same time, it was imperative to strengthen Islam by adapting it to the necessities of the times; indeed, for Riḍā and many other Muslim reformers at the time, there was no inherent contradiction between Islam, on one hand, and progress and modernity, on the other. The necessities of modern times included a constitution, as well as newspapers, railways, and other elements of modern technology, all needed to connect the Muslim world with the rest of the world, and thus paving the way toward progress and civilization. [25] However, even before he set foot in Istanbul, Riḍā was quick to criticize a substantial segment of its population, on account that they were too westernized, or pretending and aspiring to be westernized (mutafarnijīn). [26]
Istanbul for Riḍā represented central Islamic orthodoxy, in an empire where the threat came not only from the West, but also from the empire’s heterodox and troublesome borderlands. The school Riḍā wished to establish would graduate missionaries “[whose] most immediate usefulness is to send them to lands where ignorance became rampant and troubles increased, such as Yemen and Iraq and Anatolia, in order to preach and guide [Muslims] on the right path (irshād), and prevent sins and rebellions (fitan) ... and befriend and get acquainted with all sects/groups and elements (tawā’if wa ‘anāṣir).” [27] Hence, Riḍā’s project, rather than being merely compatible with that of a centralizing state, was in his mind necessary for its survival. It also went hand in hand with the metropole’s civilizing mission of its ignorant subjects living at the edge of civilization. At the same time, Riḍā made it clear that reformist ulama should be in charge of such a project: “my aim is not for the Ottoman government to establish such an institute. Politics corrupts everything, like [Muḥammad Abduh] said. The aim is to have an association of reformist ulama” (ibid., 46). The government should assist them by exempting the school’s students from military service, directing income generated by waqfs (charitable endowments) to it, and covering the teachers’ salaries. 
Istanbul, in Riḍā’s articles, emerged as a set of personal landmarks or a network of connections: influential people he met, visited, and talked to, who could help him realize his vision. His account reads like a Who’s Who of Istanbul: a web of its most influential ulama, officials, educators, notables, and bureaucrats. Beyond these reformers of the umma, Riḍā had little to say about the city itself, but what he did say, as well as what he omitted, is quite telling. First, while acknowledging the unbeatable location of the city, he hastily began to enumerate what the city lacked: “Besides mosques, one cannot find a single trace of the ancient buildings of the previous sultans … and no modern structures except for caserns and military schools … Sofia, Athens and Cairo are all more refined (arqā). Istanbul ... is one big military encampment/ barracks (mu‘askar), with a continuous and visible presence of soldiers” (ibid., 53). While Riḍā might have disapproved of such overt military power, his prime concern lay elsewhere. The empire’s leaders had to be capable of building it and developing its infrastructure without relying on the West: “not with loans from foreigners, with interest rates (ribā) that went against the sharī‘a, placed the Empire under European control, and provided them with a pretext … to intervene” (ibid.). Hence, Riḍā’s concern was with the manner in which space was produced: what power relations, what economic and political asymmetries were inevitably tied to urban development, in an empire struggling to fend off European interests.
Turning his attention to the city’s moral and intellectual infrastructure, Riḍā compared education and instruction (‘ilm wa adab) in Istanbul with Egyptian and Syrian cities, and broached the subject by focusing on women. Education in Istanbul might be more widespread and comprehensive, he pointed out, and women were better educated and more refined, but this was (partly) the consequence of provincial over-taxation and corrupt rule, the metropole essentially siphoning off wealth from the provinces during Hamidian rule. In Istanbul, he mused, “one never catches a glance of an uncovered woman in a window or on a roof; and one does not hear loud voices in houses, in the markets or on the streets, the way one does in Cairo.” Overall, women in Istanbul both privately and publicly behaved in a most appropriate and modest manner, providing they were educated (but not necessarily schooled) à l’ancienne, whereas the modern manners and the tremendous dangers of tafarnuj (Europeanization), threatened to corrupt Islamic households (ibid., 54). Riḍā saw the empire’s capital as being made out of two irreconcilable cities: Istanbul on one hand, and Galata and Beyoǧlu on the other. While the distance between them was minimal, they represented two different, virtually unbridgeable, worlds. Istanbul resembled Tripoli in its customs and habits, especially in dress and dinner habits, whereas Galata’s residents dressed differently and stayed up late. Contrary to his expectations, he noted (perhaps with a tinge of disappointment?) that Istanbul was not more refined, more built, and more civilized than Syrian cities; it simply had more men and women educated in social manners (al-ādāb al-ijtimā‘iyya) than Syrian cities. However, its modern buildings and civilization were not more refined than Beirut’s, nor were its older structures more distinguished than those of Damascus. Where Istanbul fared better in the comparison was, interestingly enough, in its commoners: Riḍā found Istanbul’s commoners or its masses (al-‘āmma) more polished than Cairo’s. However, in wealth and buildings, or when it came to the city’s elites, Cairo was superior, and Cairene women were virtually on par with their Istanbuli counterparts (ibid., 55).
Riḍā’s attempts to establish his school in Istanbul ultimately failed, and in 1912, the school found an ephemeral home in Cairo, before it was shut down two years later. [28]  It is not clear whether his articles on Istanbul, which were published upon his return to Cairo, were written after he had lost hope of establishing his school in Istanbul. They do suggest, though, that Istanbul, in Riḍā’s eyes, was in a dangerous predicament: with a past barely visible and worth mentioning (perhaps a past that, as an Arab Muslim, he did not, or could no longer consider his own); a present mired in European dependency and loans (which went against Islamic principles); a metropole at best on par with provincial Arab towns, and inferior to Cairo; and an empire whose future remained uncertain and worrisome. What would the role of the military be? Would the center of the Muslim world tilt elsewhere, perhaps toward Cairo? Riḍā expressed no such desire: on the contrary, he (still) pitted himself, and the school he so wished to establish in Istanbul, as the much needed doctor whose services would cure the ailments of the umma, the Empire, and its metropole, and guarantee them a future. 

Jirjī Zaydān: Istanbul as seen through the Lens of an Ottoman Tourist and Writer

It was during that very same year, 1909—“year One of the revolution”—that another Syrian spent a few days in Istanbul. Jirjī Zaydān (1860-1914) founder, owner, and main writer of al-Hilāl, a formative and authoritative periodical based in Cairo, spent a few days in Istanbul and jotted down his impressions of the city in his notebooks. [29] A (Christian) Beiruti in origin, who had moved to Egypt in 1882 and spent the rest of his life there, Zaydān never lost interest in or contact with the rest of the empire, especially the province of Beirut. He remained a fervent Ottomanist, penning articles on the empire’s “best of sultans” in al-Hilāl’s very first issues, and including Ottoman reformist officials in his biographical compilation of famous Easterners (Tarājim mashāhīr al-Sharq). [30] His letters to his son also showed him to be fiercely attached to his Ottoman identity. At the same time, though, and as Anne-Laure Dupont has argued in her magisterial study on Zaydān, “the Ottoman Empire was not Zaydān’s major preoccupation. Naturally, it constituted his horizon, but it was a rather distant one. Ottoman news items [in al-Hilāl] were ... classified as ‘Egyptian events’, ‘Syrian events’, and ‘External events.’ The empire thus did not constitute a space in and of itself (en soi).” [31] However, like Rashīd Riḍā, he made sure to visit Istanbul a few months after the Young Turk Revolution, which he had passionately supported. He also had started taking private lessons in Cairo in Ottoman Turkish right before his trip to Istanbul. By January 1909, he was able to read the metropole’s Ottoman press. [32]
It is unclear exactly how many days Zaydān spent in Istanbul, or, for that matter, whether this was his first or only trip there. [33] It is also not clear whether his notes on Istanbul were ever published in article form. What was certainly published was his novel on the Young Turk Revolution (al-Inqilāb al- ‘uthmānī), which dwelt at great length on Abdülhamid’s character and his secretive life. This combination of genres—the historical novel, the detective story/political thriller, and the newsreel/journalistic—comes out quite vividly in the notes he took. Reading them, it seems that Zaydān already had in mind the many styles for which they would be used. Unlike Riḍā or Ibrahim al-Muwayliḥi’s writings on Istanbul, both of which were focused and linear descriptions of the city, Zaydān’s experience of the city, and specifically his selection of spaces and places he visited and commented about, were very varied. [34] Undoubtedly, this difference was partly due to Zaydān’s writings being scattered, unpublished notes, rather than finished, published articles. However, the differences were due to other factors as well. For one, unlike Muwayliḥi, Zaydān visited Istanbul after the revolution and had access to sites that were beyond the reach of Muwayliḥi. More significantly, Istanbul, in Zaydān’s notes, was simultaneously the imperial capital and the city of modest people and simple pleasures; it was also a historic city, that of the revolution of 1908 and of its heroes—a historical city—and a modern one. Zaydān was also sensitive to the fact that different ethnic and religious groups lived there, some of whom were concentrated in specific neighborhoods. Finally, while Zaydān was surely in Istanbul for work—most likely, to gather material for his novel and for some articles—he was not there with a tangible political project in mind. Unlike Riḍā, he clearly spent more time strolling around than establishing contacts with people and meeting influential figures, although he did meet fellow newspaper editors and some politicians. He was there for a few days, maybe a week, and was partly tourist and flaneur, partly reporter, and partly author in search of characters and a set for his novel. 

Istanbul as the Stage of the 1908 Revolution and the End of the Ancient Regime

As a writer well attuned to his readers’ desires, Zaydān started his notebook with information on Yıldız, Abdülhamid’s palace and adjacent mosque. The autocratic and paranoid Abdülhamid had remained out of the public eye, and his subjects knew almost nothing about him. [35] After the Revolution, Abdülhamid’s secluded world, which had been off-limits to his subjects, could be penetrable, and Zaydān recorded with frenzy every possible detail about the dethroned sultan’s private space: the palace’s conservatory, its colored glass and painted ceilings, even the curtains were described with painstaking detail, and accompanied with sketches and plans. The notes also provided ample details of the Hamidiye Mosque, which was part of the Yıldız palace complex, as well as of the women who prayed there. [36]  While this was neither the only nor the most important mosque about which he wrote, this was the only one described with people praying in it. Perhaps this was Zaydān’s way to illustrate how this quintessentially Hamidian space had been appropriated by the people he had oppressed. 
For Zaydān, Istanbul was the stage for History with a capital H, namely the revolution of 1908. Muwayliḥi’s narrative had described a static, atemporal city, stuck in a web of tyranny, corruption, and intrigue, with no history to write of, and no visible future in sight. Riḍā’s writings on Istanbul made no mention of 1908—besides qualifying 1909 as “Year One”—and the city for him was first and foremost a node within Dar al-Islam, albeit a central one. Shidyāq’s Istanbul was predominantly the city of the quotidian and the uneventful. Zaydān’s Istanbul, however, was primarily the stage of the empire’s revolutionary heroes, and most importantly of its thinkers: he included the names of the Committee of Union and Progress’s members for 1906 and 1909, provided physical and psychological descriptions of them, and jotted down meetings he had with some of them.  He also described the building housing the Majlis al-Mab‘uthān, the much-celebrated Council of Representatives/Delegates and one of the major achievements of the 1908 Revolution, and provided information on the Council’s activities. Other historical events also made an appearance in Zaydān’s fragmented notes, usually prompted by a site or a place: a monument, a building, a neighborhood. One neighborhood, for instance, “contains the remains of Russian soldiers who died in the war of 1877” (ibid.).
Like Shidyāq’s articles, Zaydān’s notes unraveled layer after layer of the city’s history without hierarchy or linear progression. He interwove past, present, and future, the sacred and the profane, the grand and the humble, the quotidian and the eventful, stringing together snapshots of the city: that of “a bear and a monkey with their master”; Roberts College and the villages of Bebek and Istiniye; Eyüp, its main mosque and the footprint of the Prophet on one of the walls; the Patriarchate in Fener; reading rooms cum-coffeehouses (“qirāatkhāna, by which they mean coffeeshops”); the archeological museum and some of its artifacts such as the tomb of Alexander; the Süleymaniye mosque and the Mosque of Sultan Ahmed. The effect is somewhere between a guidebook and a peep-box. Interspersed among these scenes were women carrying loaves of bread, notes on how the residents of Istanbul announced their dead, lists of the most important Istanbul newspapers, description of house interiors and exteriors, ethnological information on various ethnic groups living in the city (dress, profession, and the like), and a quick description of the slave market (sūq al-jawārī). Zaydān did not only dwell on the picturesque, though. He recorded with interest and pride the various kinds of schools, including military schools, colleges of medicine, and teachers’ colleges, and noted the various languages of instruction. Istanbul’s modernity is given its due: Hayderpaşa, the railway station and the Istanbul-Baghdad railroad (he noted that the trains at Hayderpaşa ran on electricity); the city’s paved streets, with imported stones (“similar to those imported to Egypt from Trieste”). While he included virtually the entire panoply of nineteenth-century modern institutions—the museum, the municipality, the newspaper, the train station—he intertwined them with pre-nineteenth-century spaces and practices: transportation carts, pulled by cows and buffalos, coexisting with the modern railway; the spring (‘ayn) in Üsküdar, from which people still got their water and carried it in barrels to the city; the sumptuous interiors of westernized elites, who decorated their homes with European paintings (ṣuwar ifranjiyya) as well as oriental carpets. There was no value judgment, implicit or explicit, no hierarchy, and no dichotomy. However, functional Islamic institutions and figures, ulama, sufi lodges, and madrasas, remained glaringly absent from his tableaux vivants.
Zaydān depicted Istanbul as the city of its different communities, religious and ethnic. It was made up of a series of neighborhoods, many of which had a majority or dominant ethnic or religious resident group. Perhaps the liveliest and fullest description of a neighborhood was that of Kadiköy. Its inhabitants, predominantly Greek (Yunān)/Orthodox (Arwām) [37] and Armenian, Kadiköy was also home to a few Jews, and “if there were among them a Muslim, he would be a stranger” (gharīb). However, if various communities were mentioned, they hardly interacted in Zaydān’s notes. Was he simply not interested in this issue? Or on the contrary, was it so evident to him that it was not worth noting down? Or was it that the interactions were less visible than signs of difference? Zaydān’s scribbles are also somewhat reminiscent of Western narratives of Istanbul and “Oriental cities” generally, with their need to classify people according to their religion and ethnicity, based on outer signs of distinction (usually sartorial). Unsurprisingly, given Zaydān’s own communal background, Istanbul appeared as the spiritual and communal metropole of Greek Orthodoxy: Hagia Sophia, which he described as both a mosque and a church, and dwelled on its Islamic references as well as on its Christian mosaics; the Patriarchate in Fener; the monastery in Halki and the school attached to it; and (briefly) the Bulgarian church. (He also wondered whether the mosque of Nurosmaniye had originally been a church.)   

Difference and Distinction: Istanbul, Cairo, and Paris in Zaydān’s Writings

One way to read further into Zaydān’s depiction of Istanbul is by analyzing his writings on other cities, and especially Paris, which he visited and about which he published a series of articles in 1912. [38] By looking at his writings on Paris, it becomes easier to identify what Zaydān omitted about Istanbul, while keeping in mind the uneven nature of the sources. Zaydān’s trip to Paris, and to Europe generally, was explicitly didactic in a way his trip to Istanbul was not: Zaydān was in Paris to learn from the West and share his knowledge with his readers. He explained the origins of the Third Republic (1870), the French political system with various representative chambers and presidential elections, before delving into a description of the urban landscape. Making note of large boulevards, grand buildings, electric lights, and the large numbers of chic pedestrians donning the latest fashion, he noted that Cairo compared quite favorably to Paris—although he did concede that Paris had grander and more beautiful buildings—and concluded that “it is not arrogant to claim that the civilization of modern Cairo is a small picture of that of Paris.” [39] On the other hand, he did not comment about or even jot down any mention of Istanbul’s boulevards and grand “European” buildings, although there were quite a few of them. Like Shidyāq sixty years earlier, what most impressed him was Parisian public transportation: trams and buses. He was particularly taken by the fact that the drivers did not hassle riders for more money. He was not all praise, though: he clearly disapproved of the French state’s banning of certain religious organizations and claimed that the French had become extremists in their anti-religious stance, and that the spread of religious doubt among the population had led to corruption.
One noticeable difference between his writings on Paris and Istanbul was the manner in which he wrote about “the masses.” Whereas he very often included descriptions of commoners in his Istanbul notebooks, he did not conceive of them as constituting a class per se. In his articles on Paris, on the other hand, the ‘āmma (commoners) emerged as a separate category, with Zaydān tracing the emergence of the ‘āmma as a category in French history, and remarking that in France and other countries, the ‘āmma have caused massive changes and revolutions. As a consequence of their role in the French revolution, he wrote: 
The masses in France differ from ours quite substantively and in many ways: they are more and better educated and instructed (arqā tarbiya wa awsa‘ ta‘alluman); all of them can read and write ... everybody reads newspapers, from shoe polishers to concierges ... They are interested in public issues and discuss politics … and political parties ... the difference [from us] is that they know their rights ... since the French Revolution, France has witnessed the establishment of parties made up of the masses.
Zaydān 2002: 44
While this was presented as a positive development, Zaydān was nonetheless critical of what he deemed the over-empowerment of workers and the spread of strikes, which caused the greatest harm to the public, since they led to an increase in prices. [40] Aside from workers, Zaydān devoted a great deal of attention to women. Reminding his readership of Europe’s negative treatment of women in premodern times, he hailed the considerable improvements that had been ushered in by “the light of modern civilization.” European women had been liberated and allowed to work but this was partly due to their constituting a cheap labor force, he argued. While women worked in various realms—in shops, factories, mines, as servants, office employees, post office workers, and also as scientists and doctors—Zaydān criticized the “extreme freedom” that Parisian women had. In Paris, “they” have:  
sent the woman to the markets where she mingles with men … and frequents them, while she is weak and sensitive! She became exposed to a great deal of corrupt behavior ... and men have seduced her with money ... she ended up wasting her life on the streets and alleys and her only source of income became [prostitution] ... In Cairo there is a small sample of this class known as (filles de trottoir) (banāt al-raṣīf), but in Paris, they number in the thousands: not a single garden or promenade or street is free of them, especially at night. 
Zaydān 2002:47
Zaydān did not blame women for prostituting themselves. Rather, he cast the blame on men, and the lure of higher earnings—and in fact, the whole economic and societal basis that allowed for the mingling of sexes—all of which left women with no choice but to prostitute themselves. It is the “letting loose of woman (itlāq sirāḥ al-fatāt) and making her equal to man, and putting her in charge of earning money like him, as well as the French government’s official condoning of prostitution, that is to blame.” He made the “classical argument” that women should be educated because they were created as mothers and educators of their children. However, it was “not natural” for women to work, and they should not do so, except out of sheer necessity and extreme duress. [41]
Zaydān was not only (or perhaps even chiefly) concerned with the fate of Parisian women. The proliferation of prostitutes, especially in the Quartier Latin, threatened the well-being and morality of another group of people who mattered infinitely more to him: Egyptian students on governmental educational missions (irsāliyyāt). The Parisian street was thus a space of moral contamination for the Egyptians, and it could potentially affect all of Egypt (ibid., 48). Interestingly, he blamed the Egyptian government, as well as the families of those studying in Paris, for sending Egyptian boys to study in Paris, and thus exposing them to these dangers; other parts of France were a lot safer, he opined, and this is where students should be dispatched. 
Women aside, though, Paris for Zaydān was clearly the capital of high civilization in ways Istanbul was not. At one point in these articles, he abandoned the seemingly objective lens through which he was noting difference and comparing East and West mostly in terms of buildings and infrastructure, and “acknowledged” the East’s debt to France. Like others of his generation, he had internalized the Orientalist argument that Bonaparte’s conquest of Egypt in 1798 had brought knowledge and progress to the East, and argued that “the seeds which he [Bonaparte] planted remained there until they were cultivated by men from the East who rose from their slumber/awoke (nahaḍū) … the Syrians (sic), Egyptians, Turks and Persians, when they sought out and busied themselves with this civilization (madaniyya), were mostly being inspired by the French and followed the footsteps of the French nation. They learned its language, translated its body of knowledge, and imitated its literature and customs and habits.” He also listed the most prominent French personalities who left their mark on Egypt culturally and scientifically: Dr. Clot Bey, and the founder of the Egyptian museum Mariette Pasha among others, and reminded his readers that “when the Turks rose/awoke (nahḍa) in Istanbul to embrace modern civilization, they mostly relied on translating modern literature (al-adab) from French: Rousseau, Montesquieu, Hugo and others” (ibid., 52).

Conclusion

To conclude, what do these findings say about Arab perceptions of Istanbul in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries? While keeping in mind that this is a first foray into this topic, and that more substantive research is needed, one preliminary conclusion is that Istanbul did not seem to enjoy the same kind of mystique and perhaps interest as Paris, London, or Cairo did in the eyes of some Arab intellectuals. Or more accurately, as the metropole of an empire, Istanbul represented a different kind of metropole to its provincial intellectuals than London or Paris represented to their colonial subjects. Indeed, similar examples of banalization or de-centering of empire can be seen in the neighboring Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose fate, like that of the Ottomans, hung in the balance in the early years of the twentieth century. [42] This suggests the need to rethink notions of empire/periphery and prompts a more nuanced analysis of the meaning of empires for the turn-of-the-century. Specifically, while taking into consideration the vastly uneven quality and quantity of available writings on Paris and Istanbul, the difference in Zaydān’s writings on the two cities suggests that by the first decade of the twentieth century, Istanbul was no longer exemplary. It was still the capital of an oft-beloved empire, but there was very little to learn from it, and little that dazzled, coming from “the provinces.” Riḍā even found Istanbul lacking, as compared to Cairo and even Beirut. Surely part of the “blasé” attitude of the two authors was due to their being Cairene. After all, the account of an Iraqi student from Baghdad, Ṭālib Mushtāq, who came to Istanbul in 1917 at the tender age of seventeen, reads very differently: Istanbul was the quintessentially modern city in his eyes, with its streetlights and its fancy buildings. Written and published half a century later, Mushtāq recalled how excited and happy he had been at the thought of seeing Istanbul, “the seat of the Caliphate and the beautiful city of hope and dreams. Istanbul was the ka‘aba of ambitious men from Iraq: whoever wanted a desirable position would fill his suitcase with expensive gifts and head to Istanbul. Whoever wanted promotion or a raise would fill his pockets with tens of gold liras and head there; and among well-to-do families, whoever wanted to educate their children in high culture, would send them to Istanbul. Most would study law or, if they were from poor or modest families, attend military schools.” [43]  Surely many, if not most, other Arabs who came to Istanbul still felt like they were in the center of the world. However, discursively, at least for Riḍā and Zaydān, two influential intellectuals whose writings made a great impact on large numbers of reading Arabs, as the first decade of the twentieth century was coming to a close, Istanbul had been decentered.

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Footnotes

[ back ] 1. For early modern North African travelers to Istanbul and their descriptions of the city, see Matar 2009.
[ back ] 2. Yared 1996; Hourani 1962. See also the many publications recently produced by Dar al-Suwaydi, which are translations of travel narratives (Riḥla) from the Arabic, the overwhelming majority of which are travels to Europe.
[ back ] 3. Makdisi 2002; Kühn 2007.
[ back ] 4. Haddad 1994; Mushtaq 1968; Tamari 2008.
[ back ] 5. Fattah 1998.
[ back ] 6. Tunsi 1967; Perkins 1994.
[ back ] 7. On biographical information on Shidyāq, see Roper 1998:233–234.
[ back ] 8. Khuri-Makdisi 2010.
[ back ] 9. Most, if not all of the articles used here appeared in the 1860s. They were published in 1871 in the first volume of Kanz al-Raghā’ib, which was mostly a compilation of articles that had appeared in al-Jawā’ib.
[ back ] 10. The population in Istanbul and the suburbs had jumped from 391,000 in 1844 to 851,000 in 1886, at which time it had more or less stabilized. Ottoman Muslims represented around 58% of the population in 1835, this number decreasing to 55% by the late nineteenth century. Çelik 1993:37.
[ back ] 11. Ibid., 44.
[ back ] 12. Çelik 1993:44; Rosenthal 1980.
[ back ] 13. Karpat 1985:96.
[ back ] 14. Fi’l-Khalal (Fī tanẓīm aḥwāl al-mudun wa tartīb al-aswāq),” in Shidyāq: 104–105.
[ back ] 15. Ibid., 106.
[ back ] 16. Shidyāq 2001:107.
[ back ] 17. Fi’l-farq mā bayna’l-sharq wa’l-gharb,” in Shidyāq: 140–141.
[ back ] 18. Fi’l-Khalāl (Fī tanẓīm aḥwāl al-mudun wa tartīb al-aswāq),” in Shidyāq: 105.
[ back ] 19. Khuri-Makdisi 2010:90.
[ back ] 20. Fi’l-farq ma bayna’l-sharq wa’l-gharb,” in Shidyāq: 142.
[ back ] 21. Ibid., 142–143.
[ back ] 22. Ibid., 143.
[ back ] 23. Fī usūl al-siyāsa wa ghayriha,” in Shidyāq: 152.
[ back ] 24. Sewart 2003:32.
[ back ] 25. On his return to Syria in 1908–1909, after an absence of eleven years (he himself was originally from a village near Tripoli, in present-day North Lebanon, and had emigrated to Cairo in 1897), Riḍā described Tripoli as being beyond the pale of civilization: “Tripoli is now as if it were isolated from the civilized world … one of the signs of this is the lack of daily newspapers, and the non-arrival of newspapers from Beirut there, because it is not connected through railway.” More interesting and somewhat surprising is Riḍā’s argument that Tripoli lagged behind other cities (and specifically Beirut) because of the lack of interaction between its inhabitants and “people who are more civilized than them (arqā minhum), foreigners and Ottomans.” Riḍā 1971:13.
[ back ] 26. Riḍā seems to have had a pre-set opinion about Istanbul, or at least about its Muslim inhabitants. During his trip to Syria, he remarked that the Muslims of Beirut were “ready to accept all religious and civil reform ... and the reason for this, from what it seems to me, is that those who love reform were not raised in a European fashion that has distanced them from their religion and has disfigured the civilization of their Elders (salafihim) in their eyes, triggering in them the desire to break with everything old and desire all that is new, as is the case for many mutafarnijīn in Istanbul (Asitana) and Cairo and Tunis.” Riḍā 1971:12.
[ back ] 27. Riḍā 1971:47.
[ back ] 28. For more information on this institution, see Adams (2000):197-198, and Hamzah (2012), forthcoming.
[ back ] 29. Zaydān’s unpublished notebooks are in the archives of the American University of Beirut, in AA6 AUBites papers: Jirji Zaidan, Box 1.
[ back ] 30. Dupont 2009:542–626.
[ back ] 31. Dupont 2006:553; Philipp 1985; Philipp 1990.
[ back ] 32. Dupont 2006:579–580.
[ back ] 33. Two of his notebooks contain details of his trip to Istanbul. They are both undated. It is not clear whether they refer to one trip or two different trips. In one of the notebooks he writes that he left Istanbul on August 21, 1909.
[ back ] 34. Ibrahim al-Muwayliḥi wrote a series of articles on Istanbul during Abdülhamid’s rule, which I am not discussing in this chapter for lack of space. Initially serialized by the Cairene pro-British periodical, al-Muqaṭṭam, they were later collected and published as a book entitled Mā Hunālik. The book was recently translated into English as Spies, Scandals, and Sultans: Istanbul in the Twilight of the Ottoman Empire. 2008, (translated and introduced by Roger Allen). New York.
[ back ] 35. It is also very likely that Zaydān had read al-Muwayliḥi’s descriptions of Abdülhamid’s Istanbul on the pages of al-Muqaṭṭam, and that he was perhaps implicitly or subconsciously “responding” to al-Muwayliḥi’s account, by providing further information on Abdülhamid and his era.
[ back ] 36. Zaydān, unpublished notebooks, n.d.
[ back ] 37. Zaydān uses both terms, seemingly interchangeably.
[ back ] 38. According to Dupont, these articles first appeared in al-Hilāl in installments, in Vol XXI (1912–1913), and were later posthumously published as a book in 1923. Dupont 2006:715.
[ back ] 39. Ibid.
[ back ] 40. In Zaydān’s words, “Because of the industrial revolution ... and technological inventions, many members of the upper classes have become much wealthier, which has upset workers … they have had to gather and protest and strike. What has helped them to do so is the spread of socialism (al-ishtirākiyya) and the deputies’ need for the vote of the masses. And this has made the umma greedier and stronger, and they’ve multiplied their strikes until they’ve ... caused losses for owners, but it is the public that is mostly suffering, because of resulting increases in prices.” Zaydān 2002:44.
[ back ] 41. Ibid., 50.
[ back ] 42. See the writings of Joseph Roth, a native of Brody, a provincial city in Galicia, who headed to Vienna in 1911 for his studies, and spent approximately a decade there. In the handful of letters that have been translated and published, Roth did not describe Vienna as the seat of an empire, nor as an exceptional and different place. Rather, he wrote about the familiar, about his neighborhood and its residents, and about the minutia of life. He was not dazzled by city lights nor by the grand imperial architecture. The institutions and spaces that (often hastily) figured in his letters were the university and cultural institutions, especially the theater and concert halls. For Paris, on the other hand, he reserved a very different treatment. Discovering it in 1925, an elated Roth ranked it as the world’s capital, adding that: “whoever has not been to Paris is merely a half-human being and could not be considered a European. Here is the rule of liberty, of the mind (l’esprit)—in the noblest sense of the term—and of irony mixed with the most sublime of pathos.” His empire no longer existed, but he had found the capital of the world, as well as his own private home. Roth, 2007:42–43.
[ back ] 43. Mushtāq 1968–1969:36.