Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Today's research snippet. A Close Shave in the Bath House!

Today's research snippet.

 This comes from the book posted below. Usama Ibn Munqidh was a 12th century gentleman, scholar, poet and Syrian nobleman, born at the castle of Shayzar in Northern Syria in 1095. He's an eye witness raconteur of the crusader colonists in the Middle East, although rather like Gerald of Wales. A great story teller who sometimes embroiders with an eye to the political ag
enda. Here's a piece from his memoirs, making an observation on bathing habits as told to him by his bath keeper Salim: (one suspects a little exaggerating of the truth, but even so, it's an entertaining tale, and a pointer to a Muslim's view of European Christian incomers.

"I once opened up a bath in Al-Ma'arrah in order to earn my living. To this bath there came a Frankish knight. The Franks disapprove of girding a cover around one's waist while in the bath. so this Frank stretched out his arm and pulled off my cover from my waist and threw it away. He looked and saw that I had recently shaved off my pubes. so he shouted 'Salim!' as I drew near him he stretched his hand over my pubes and said, 'Salim, good! By the truth of my religion, do the same for me.' Saying this, he lay on his back and I found that in that place the hair was like his beard. so I shaved it off. Then he passed his hand over the place and, finding it smooth, he said, 'Salim, by the truth of my religion, do the same to Madam, referring to his wife. He then said to a servant of his, 'Tell Madam to come here.'
Accordingly the servant went and brought her and made her enter the bath. She also lay on her back. The knight repeated, 'Do what thou hast done to me.' So I shaved all that hair while her husband was sitting looking at me. At last he thanked me and handed me the pay for my service.'

Today's picture from my research archive.
Pectoral cross made sometime between 1000 and 1200 and hailing from Byzantium or possibly Turkey.  Gold and precious gems including emeralds. Click to enlarge.

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