Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Kids Say the Darndest Things (about Sicily) . . .

I recently assigned my tenth-grade students an on-line article about Sicily and the Arab influence. Afterwards, they were to post their reflections on it. Here are a few of the more amusing ones:

"Oranges were also introduced by the Arabs? I had no idea how much the Arabs influenced Sicilian foods and I am mainly shocked by the Oranges. They are like the main fruit of Sicily. You have your blood oranges, tangerines, regular oranges, mandarins, the list just never ends. You can't drive through one part of Sicily and say that you didn't see an orange grove, by that you can see a big Arabic influence. . . . Catania Market is my favorite place to go in all of Sicily, you can find anything you need there at a fraction of the price. Now that I read this article, I can actually see the connection between Catania Market and the Arabs. You know those little shops with the silver and beaded jewelry, hobo bags, and scarves? All those things are from the Middle East but people today still consider those things 'very Sicilian.' I guess that today, if we consider anything 'very Sicilian,' we should also keep in mind that we might actually mean 'very Arabic.'"

"This article was very surprising and interesting to me. I did not even know that the Arabs were at any time in Sicily. Despite this, the Arabs had a huge impact on Sicily. . . . This article also talked about the mistreatment of the Arabs in Sicily. They were not treated with respect and were denied of building mosques. I also saw how they brought the markets to Sicily, living near Catania we have the chance to experience this influence by the Arabs. The markets also take place throughout the rest of Sicily."

"Before reading this article, I had absolutely no idea that the Arab people had ruled Sicily, let alone for over two centuries. I also found it fascinating that present day Sicilians, people who we interact with everyday, are descendants of Arabs."

"Already knowing that Arabic people were mainly Muslim I was very suprised to find out that the first Arabs in Sicily werent united until the Middle Ages and that it took Islam to unite them. All in all i realized that much of the credit we give to the Greeks should actually go to the Arabs. Now im not saying the Greeks didnt do anything because we've obviously got the evidence and the documents that prove otherwise. What i am saying though is that we kinda skip the part where Arabs ruled, and go straight into the great Roman Empire."

"I always thought that Muslims just moved to Sicily because of what the island had to offer in way of education and 'all the pleasures of life on earth.' Living side by side, the Scicilians would have gained some knowledge and culture from the Arabs, especially as more moved to Sicily. But of course, all things in history are not that simple. I see now that the Muslims being strangers to the island would have had to take matters into their own hands before the former inhabitants rebelled against their living there."

"Now I have a different perspective on culture here and how everything is not actually 'Sicilian' but sometimes is actually 'Arabic' in a way. It feels as if we don't give the Arabs as much credit as they deserve, which is disappointing to see."


At September 10, 2006 10:27 PM, Blogger Sicilian Mama said...

Great assignment! I just take for granted kids know about the Arabic influence in Sicily because here in Sciacca, we have so many Tunisians in our area. We visit Mazara del Vallo, right up the coast, which has Tunisian families that have owned homes in the area for centuries. The Arabic section is called a kasbah too.


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