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06Sep

Stealing from the Saracens by Diana Darke review – a long-overlooked cultural exchange

This persuasive study argues that northern Europe’s greatest gothic buildings are deeply indebted to the Arab world

In 2019, a survey asked 3,624 Americans if Arabic numerals should be taught in school. An affronted 56% – and 72% of Republican respondents – said no. Only 29% said yes. The nos didn’t seem to know that Arabic numerals are the things they type with the keypads of their phones.

Something similar has happened with architecture. You can read titans of art history such as Kenneth Clark or Nikolaus Pevsner, who took upon themselves the task of defining European civilisation, and barely find a mention of the Great Mosque of Córdoba or the Alhambra in Granada – extraordinary and important works of architecture that are unarguably located in Europe. It’s a breathtaking omission.

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