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The Sultan's Daughter: A Historical Fiction

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Title: The Sultan's Daughter: A Historical Fiction
Authors: El-Kadi, Shereen
Advisor: MacMillan, Ian
Issue Date: 15 Jan 2014
Publisher: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract: The culture of Ancient Egypt has often been coveted by the Western world. While Egypt’s history is rich, there has been little study into the lives of Egyptians during the Middle Ages. This is not surprising, as Europe was flourishing as the educational center of the world. Arabs were generally considered below-standard until Europeans found the Arabic translations of Greek and Latin medical treatises useful, as the Egyptians had preserved valuable information in their libraries and universities. Medicine was initially simply a study - scholars did extensive research on the writings and techniques of European specialists such as Galen and Hippocrates. It was not until the 10th century that the Arabs finished translating previous works, assimilated Greek science into their studies, and began producing their own works. In the beginning, the writings of the Arabs consisted of the compiling and rehashing of European works. Many of these summarizations were deemed better-organized than their original formats. Once the scholars and physicians felt that they knew the history of medicine well enough, they began documenting their own observations and experiences for the use of others and as a sort of log of their tried (and hopefully successful) procedures. Many Arab doctors emerged from the period known as the Dark Ages of Europe (7th to 13th centuries), but only a few, such as Avicenna and Rhazes, became well-known to the Western world. I have pursued an interest in finding out what life was like for the doctors that played small parts in medieval Egypt. The typical Egyptian physician - at least the male one - was educated at a university and through the works of the famous European scholars. While women were physicians as well, they were not often educated at the university level and used herbs to cure the poorer population of Cairo. They were therefore frequently labeled as charlatans. In 1284 AD, King Al-Mansuri Qalawun commissioned the construction of a hospital in Cairo. It had different wards for different diseases and served 4,000 patients daily, regardless of class or race. Music therapy was used as a line of treatment for psychiatric patients, and a large fountain graced a courtyard where it served to cool the air. The patient's stay in the hospital was fee. Moreover, upon discharge, the patient was given food and money as compensation for being out of work during the hospital stay. Al-Mansuri hospital has served Cairo for seven centuries, and is now used for ophthalmology and is called Mustashfa Qalawun. I began my research by reading historical accounts of Arabic medieval medicine and Egyptian folktales. I read everything that is known about the Al-Mansuri hospital. I then concentrated on finding a medieval Arabic medical treatise that had been translated into English so I could gather information about illnesses of the time and the medicines that were used as treatment. I also relied on my personal knowledge and experience of current Egyptian cultural practices, beliefs, and social mannerisms. Finally, and most difficult, attempted to gather information on the details of daily life in Medieval Cairo, such as the weather, the way houses looked, and the clothing they wore. My goal was to write a work of fiction that accurately portrays Egyptian medicine during the Middle Ages, particularly focusing on the difference in practice of men and women as it was perceived by the local population of Cairo. The main characters of my story include a male physician, a female herbal healer, and her wise grandmother. Their interactions display my interpretation of medieval Egyptian culture, as well as the tensions that arise between the sexes when it comes to the acquisition of valuable information and their perceptions of the definition of medicine.
Pages/Duration: 93 pages
Rights: All UHM Honors Projects are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections:Honors Projects for English

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