The work of some 60 scholars, primarily from the universities of Halle and Leipzig (both formerly in the GDR), this encyclopedia covers the Arab world in all its aspects, extending, for example, even to the zoology of the region. This distinguishes it from other reference works recently reviewed here that focus on Islamic culture (cf. RREO 95-1-048050). The treatment is historical, proceeding from antiquity to the present. Also covered is information on neighboring cultures (especially Iran and central Asia), insofar as they have interacted with Arab civilization.
The work is organized into two main sections: subjects, including 17 overview articles with bibliographies, and countries, covering 20 countries plus the Western Sahara and Palestine in over 100 pages. Although the overviews are useful, they are sometimes too broadly conceived and the topics seem arbitrary. The transliteration of Arab names and concepts is not standardized, using English, French, and German forms. An appendix includes a chronology and two maps, seemingly arbitrarily chosen from a comprehensive regional atlas.
In sum: an informative and readable guide to the history of the Arab world, of greater usefulness to the lay person than to the specialist. [ww/sl]
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Last update: July 31, 2000 [RD]
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