Sicily’s Islamic heritage highlighted

Updated 23 November 2013

Sicily’s Islamic heritage highlighted

Islam has left an indelible mark on Sicily's culture, which has survived until the present day, an Italian academic said here Thursday.
Francesca Corrao, a professor of Arabic culture and language at the LUISS University in Rome, said the island played an important role in transmitting knowledge from east to west.
LUISS stands for the Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli, or the Guido Carli Free International University for Social Studies.
Corrao made the comments in a lecture on board the Italian aircraft carrier, Cavour. The ship is part of the 30th Italian Naval Fleet, which is visiting Saudi Arabia as part of the 80th anniversary of Saudi-Italian diplomatic relations.
"Discoveries show that this small island was important in the transmission of knowledge from east to west. We use many things of Islamic origin in our daily lives," Corrao said.
She said it was important for people to learn about other cultures to promote understanding and cooperation. She said the influence of Muslims, including Arabs, can be seen in pottery and ceramics found at archeological sites. A bath owned by a Norman king shows that Islamic influence remained long after Muslims left the island.
Corrao said Arabs and Sicilians share many common fishing terms. In addition, the Arabs introduced a system of watering to the islanders. “Before they arrived, we didn’t have gardens, oranges, lemons, bananas, or dates.”
Sicilian and Tunisian brides use similar marriage boxes. “That is something beautiful and simple that we have in common. Even the churches were built in Islamic style. We learned a lot from the Arab world. The Mediterranean is like a mirror reflecting humanity,” she said.
Corrao said Italy has "important links with the Arab world" and that it was important to continue sharing knowledge. "It is through knowledge that we fight fear, war and misunderstanding, especially for our children and our future. We have a duty to solve problems and have the opportunity to find harmonious solutions. Listening and understanding is our mission,” she said.
The audience on the vessel included Simone Petroni, the Italian consul general, and Paolo Treu, the admiral and commander of the group.
Treu said: “It is part of our mission to strengthen, deepen and further promote political, economic, social and cultural cooperation.”
Diego Roma, project manager at Translize, said he found Corrao's talk interesting. “Living in Saudi Arabia for nearly 30 years I know that Islam had some connection in the past with Italy, but I didn’t know what exactly. It enhanced my knowledge and understanding,” he said.
Mohammad Raffi, a businessman, said he was at the event because of his interest in the spread of Islam in the Mediterranean. He said he did not know much about Sicily, and the spread of Islam there. “I read about it in Malta and the south of Spain but this is the first time I had an opportunity to learn about Islam in Sicily. I'm thinking of traveling there so I came to attend to get more information as an intellectual pursuit,” he said.
Fatima Akram, a specialist at Nesma Training Center in Jeddah and an Italian of Indian origin, said she has read many books on the spread of Islam but did not know how it reached Sicily. She said the lecture would help change people's perception and widen their knowledge.

Saudi women gear up to take the wheel at midnight

Updated 7 min 56 sec ago

Saudi women gear up to take the wheel at midnight

  • The lifting of the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was announced on September 2017

Women who have their licenses are counting the minutes to midnight in Saudi Arabia after eagerly awaiting this moment since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion. “They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver an ymore.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”