Creating the Mediterranean

Maps and the Islamic Imagination


In Creating the Mediterranean: Maps and the Islamic Imagination Tarek Kahlaoui treats the subject of the Islamic visual representations of the Mediterranean. It tracks the history of the Islamic visualization of the sea from when geography was created by the Islamic state’s bureaucrats of the tenth century C.E. located mainly in the central Islamic lands, to the later men of the field, specifically the sea captains from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries C.E. located in the western Islamic lands.

A narrative has emerged from this investigation in which the metamorphosis of the identity of the author or mapmaker seemed to be changing with the rest of the elements that constitute the identity of a map: its reader or viewer, its style and structure, and its textual content.

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Biographical Note

Tarek Kahlaoui, Ph.D. (2008), Rutgers University, is Assistant Professor of Islamic art history and Islamic civilisation. He is working on projects concerning the history and archaeology of the Maghrib and the Mediterranean and has published numerous articles on the topic.

Review Quotes

Creating the Mediterranean is a truly accomplished tour across a complex terrain of settings and subjects that stretches from Abbasid administrators to Ottoman renegades. It is also a study that is exceptional in its methodological variety. "

"Kahlaoui’s Creating the Mediterranean is a vitally important contribution to literature on the Islamic Mediterranean. It deserves to be read by any scholar or student interested in the history of cartography, in the cultural history of geography and geographers, and in the sciences in the Islamic world more generally."
In H-Ideas (June, 2018) by Carlos Grenier (Florida International University)

“Overall this very interesting book makes a substantial contribution towards the creation of a narrative for Islamic perceptions of the Mediterranean. Kahlaoui is especially impressive in resisting the urge to offer a straightforward uncomplicated arc of development spanning the early medieval and early modern periods; rather, he depicts a nuanced and complex process of development involving multiple influences and as many discontinuities as continuities. His sensitivity to the audiences and objectives of each author/cartographer is equally notable, once again reinforcing the plausibility of his thesis. The main chapters are supplemented by a long and helpful appendix providing a catalogue of the manuscript sources employed. There are, in addition, many detailed tables of evidence as well as fascinating photographs of key maps throughout. It has to be said that non-specialists might find this work rather heavy going; the author works through the evidence at a granular level and it is very closely argued. That said, there is no doubt that this work makes a solid contribution to the re-creation of a multi-civilisational understanding of the Mediterranean.”
Nicholas Morton, Nottingham Trent University, in Al-Masāq 2019.

“… Creating the Mediterranean is an impressive and meticulously researched work that lays the groundwork for countless areas of future investigation.”
Giancarlo Cassale, Iniversity of Minnesota/European University Institute, in Bulletin of the School of Oriental & African Studies, 2018.


All those interested on pre-modern Mediterranean cartography, Islamic visual culture in the Mediterranean, and Islamic civilisation.