Arabic on the Web I began learning modern literary Arabic when I went away to college over thirty years ago. It was the shape of the writing itself that drew me, and this is no surprise. Forbidden to depict animals as well as people, Muslim artists early turned to calligraphy.

Much of my hard-won vocabulary has faded over the years, but my interest in the writing has recently been rekindled by a couple of sights. The first was the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. Not content to display only the magnificent carpets which the tourists are expected to admire, the museum holds a vast array of manuscripts and examples of writing in other media, like stone and metal. One is not surprised to see a marriage of writing and painting, but when writing merges with sculpture the effect is astonishing. Included also are collections of tools: the reed pens used for writing, the knives for cutting the pens, the boxes in which they are kept, and so on.

Back home again, I found a thorough, thoughtful and well-organized introduction to Islamic art on the Web. The sections on calligraphy include a fine introduction and many beautiful examples. Another page, Art of Arabic Calligraphy, features a more analytic approach.

I also found a book I had not known of in my college days, Writing Arabic, A Practical Introduction to the Ruq'ah Script, by T. F. Mitchell and published by Oxford (since 1953!). Mention of this work ultimately attracted the attention of another admirer of Arabic calligraphy, Umm Kublai, who has become familiar with several non-English texts on the subject. She has provided me with links to two artists currently working, Hassan Massoudy and Saabirah.

My other cherished books are:

For a trip to Morocco in 2002 I acquired a couple more items:

These books are about a spoken, not a written, language. Spoken Arabic, typically in the form of literary Arabic being read, is available on the Web at several places. Until recently it was not difficult to find television programs in Arabic, but I think that increased interest has swamped many servers.