Joint Middle East Department/Palestine Exploration Fund lecture series
Cities of the Levant: the past for the future?

Thursday 13 November 2014,

Free, booking essential

Phone +44 (0)20 7323 8181
Ticket Desk in Great Court

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Dr Philip Mansel, author of Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean, will speak about the cities of the Levant, particularly Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut. Under the Ottoman Empire and its successors  they were inhabited by Muslims, Christians and Jews. The alliance between France and the Ottoman Empire enabled foreigners to live, trade and establish schools there.

Smyrna was described as a lighthouse illuminating every corner of the Ottoman Empire. Alexandria was compared to a European ship moored off the coast of Egypt. Beirut was called the Paris of the Middle East. Dr Mansel asks how these cities functioned and explores their shared characteristics – diplomacy, trade, hybridity, pleasure, modernity and vulnerability. In the end, Smyrna was burnt, Alexandria Egyptianised, Beirut ravaged by civil war. What is the message of the cities of the Levant for today's mixed cities, such as London, Paris, and Dubai?

Organised jointly by the British Museum, Palestine Exploration Fund, Council for British Research in the Levant and British Foundation for the Study of Arabia.

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Watercolour by James Clark R.I, of Beirut Harbour at night, 1896. From the PEF Collections