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Apr

18

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I’ll be honest: This aesthetically pleasing poster was part of the reason I decided to attend this lecture.

This Tuesday, staff writer (and honey bee fanatic) Jake Tibbetts had a bee-rrific time traveling to the other side of Broadway to listen to Dr. Jonathan Snow, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Barnard College, deliver a lecture about his research on the ways that honey bees respond to stress on the cellular level and about his attempts to connect cell biology to topics related to sustainability. In this piece, Tibbetts writes about his experience sitting in on a science lecture that even a humanities geek like himself could understand, learn from, and appreciate.

As a sociology and political science student, I don’t often find myself attending STEM lectures after classes wrap up for the day, regardless of how many opportunities there are here in Morningside Heights to learn more about the most pressing scientific issues of our time. As a die-hard fan of Jerry Seinfeld’s 2007 computer animated comedy film Bee Movie, however, I do take special notice when events centered around everyone’s favorite pollinators take place.

When I found out that Dr. Jonathan Snow, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Barnard College and a man who is perhaps just as passionate about bees as I am, would be delivering a lecture on Tuesday evening titled “What Does Cell Biology Have to Do with Saving Pollinators?”, I knew that, despite knowing very little about cell biology (or, to be honest, the process of pollination itself), I would need to stop by—and I’m quite glad that I did.

This talk, the third in the Barnard Noyce Teacher Scholars Program’s Current Issues in STEM Education colloquium series, was held in a large classroom on the fifth floor of the Diana Center and began at 6:30 pm. After Professor Snow, who has taught at Barnard since 2012, was introduced by someone from the Scholars Program, he dived right into his talk, aided by a slideshow presentation. He began by letting the audience know that his talk would be divided into three parts. First, he would discuss cell biology as a whole, its relationship to biomedical research, and his initial research. Then, he would discuss the reasons that he decided to begin studying bees. Finally, he would explore the question posed by the title of the talk: what, exactly, is the connection between cell biology and the protection of honey bees?

beez after the jump

Feb

17

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The ruins of the Ummayyad Mosque in Aleppo

Bwogger Cara Hudson-Erdman got intellectual this Friday and attended a lecture at the Italian Academy. This discussion focused global intervention in the protection of cultural monuments in war zones and the role of sovereignty versus international responsibility. Through a wave of witty academic banter, posh British accents, and overuse of the word “colleague,” the key question of the event was: is there an international responsibility to protect cultural heritage sites when states fail to do so?

At Columbia, we students find ourselves inundated with references to antiquity just by walking into the library,  and we often forget that sites of their origin are under threat of destruction. At the Italian Academy, the International Observatory for Cultural Heritage Lecture addressed this topic, titled Cultural Heritage in Conflict Zones: Protecting the Past for the Future. The keynote speaker was James Cuno, the president of the J. Paul Getty Trust, who is a major proponent of the idea of a universal cultural heritage and an advocate international intervention to protect cultural sites at risk of destruction. In particular, Cuno spoke about the situation in Syria, where in the midst of a civil war ISIS has destroyed sites such as the Ummayyad Mosque in Aleppo. Cuno emphasized that this destruction should be considered cultural cleansing as well as an indicator of genocide.

In the face of a failing state, Syria, a country whose map resembles a “jigsaw puzzle,” Cuno argued that there is a moral responsibility for other powers to intervene to protect these valuable historic sites. His reasoning stems from his idea that artistic and cultural monuments belong to a shared, international heritage that transcends national borders and states. The moderator, Columbia’s Professor David Freedberg, identified Cuno as “untrendy” for propagating such beliefs, characterizing them as values of the Enlightenment, and the same ones that bolster encyclopedic museums such as the British Museum. Cuno was also joined by a panel of art history and political science experts including Vishakha Desai, former president of the Asia Society, Thomas Weiss, professor of political science at CUNY and an expert in state sovereignty, Edward Luck, a SIPA professor and former advisor to Ban-Ki Moon, and Mariët Westermann from the Mellon Foundation.

Read more after the jump

Jan

27

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Sen. 1: What’s Cicero talking about? Sen. 2: Not sure, he hasn’t gotten to the verb yet.

Yesterday afternoon in Hamilton 503, the Classics Department kicked off its semester of Classics Colloquia in style. If you missed this one, fear not: the next colloquium is next Friday, February 2nd, at 4:10 pm in the same place; Nicholas Rynearson will be giving a talk on Socrates in Plato’s dialogues. Bwogger, noted nerd, and potential Classics major Levi Cohen attended this one, however, and discusses it below. Even if the subject matter was, to borrow from Livy, nimia obscuras — “excessively obscure” — it was still a great time.

After a brief nap following my Friday-morning Greek class, I bravely entered Hamilton Hall one last time before the weekend to attend the first of six talks being given this semester by Classics professors from Columbia—and its peer institutions—on a variety of topics. The turnout was solid, with a nice mix of undergrads, postbaccalaureates, grad students, and professors eagerly taking notes throughout the talk.

Our speaker was Hannah Čulík-Baird, a Professor of Classics at Boston University (@opietasanimi on Twitter); the talk was entitled “Vetustas pauca non deprauat, multa tollit — loss and recovery of knowledge in the late Republic.”

For those readers without any Latin, the quotation in the title is from the author Varro, and translates to: “There is little that time does not distort, much it obliterates completely.” It was a fitting header, then, for this talk, which examined a variety of sources so as to develop a picture of how Romans engaged with the concept of their own past.

Hear A LOT about what Cicero has to say after the jump

Apr

20

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Mitchell S. Jackson contemplates.

The last lecture of a series focusing on voice, Mitchell S. Jackson, someone who “nerds out” over prose and can’t have tea without honey, talked about finding an eloquent voice in creative writing. Bwogger Gloriana Lopez attended the event. 

As I entered Dodge 501, someone gave me a 19-page packet. After considering taking some wine, I wondered if I could actually get away with covering this event by just reading these pages. I would be proven wrong in the following hour.

Mitchell S. Jackson began his lecture by reading a paragraph from a handout that was provided to the audience. He talked about how the eloquence of a writer comes from their philosophies. Using the words of different authors’ opinion on voice, he gave the following advice on finding one’s voice:

What is his advice?

Apr

13

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Professor Adina Ciugureanu

Yesterday, Professor Adina Ciugureanu from Ovidius University in Constanta, Romania, gave a talk on the legacy of the Roman poet Ovid in the Black Sea. Bwog’s resident Classics majors, Youngweon and Finn, attended the talk and learned some things about Ovid.

The majority of the scholarship on Ovid, as Professor Gareth Williams commented, is centered around Western Europe and America, and his time in Rome; his time in exile in the Greek city of Tomis, present-day Constanta, Romania, doesn’t get as much attention. In this talk, Professor Ciugureanu gave an interesting perspective on Ovid in talking about his influence on the region that he was exiled to, as well as the influence that his exile in itself had on literature and philosophy.

Professor Ciugureanu started the lecture with a brief introduction on Ovid and his life; Ovid, known as Ovidius to Romans, was a poet who lived under the reign of Augustus. He was born to a well-to-do Roman family, and received an elite education in Rome. He traveled to Greece and Sicily as part of his education, as was customary during the time for the children of the Roman elite, and took a job in the public sector afterwards. However, to the disappointment of his father, he discovered that he didn’t like that very much, and instead dedicated his life to writing poetry. His first serious work was the Amores, which is a series of erotic poems about himself and Corina, his imaginary love interest. He then went on to write Epistolae Heroidium (or Heroides, as students of LitHum may know it), a series of imaginary letters from mythological heroines to their lovers; Medicamina Faciei (“The Art of Beauty”), a book about cosmetics; Ars Amatoria (“The Art of Love”), sex advice for Roman lovers; and the Metamorphoses, an extensive collection of mythological stories, all of which involve a kind of metamorphosis, beginning with the creation of the world and ending with the chaos after Caesar’s death and the Augustan peace that followed.

What happened next in Ovid’s life?

Feb

1

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The scene before it all filled up

The scene before it all filled up

Bwogger, prospective SusDev major, and proud Wien resident Nadra Rahman ventured into IAB on Tuesday night to attend a panel titled “Challenges and Opportunities of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.” The panel, consisting of three top-level UN employees, was part of the series of events celebrating SIPA’s 70th anniversary.

Since September 2015, the UN has been coordinating a massive, concerted effort to publicize and implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—a set of targets and indicators for global development that address physical well-being, resource use, economic security, gender equality, climate action, and conflict resolution, among other aspects of development. Every member country is meant to play a part in achieving these goals by 2030, but the UN faces a dilemma: it doesn’t have the power to enforce compliance. And so, “accountability” became the word of the night as Cristina Gallach (Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information), Tegegnework Gettu (Associate Administrator, UN Development Programme), and Navid Hanif (Director of the Office of ECOSOC Support and Coordination, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs) discussed the challenges and opportunities of the SDGs.

(All, by the way, are SIPA alumni.)

It’s a rocky road ahead, but keep your spirits up

Jan

31

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Yasmine Ergas discusses struggles of establishing women's rights in Tunisia with Yadh Ben Achour.

Yasmine Ergas discusses struggles of establishing women’s rights in Tunisia with Yadh Ben Achour.

Columbia hosted a lecture featuring Yadh Ben Achour, a member of the UN Human Rights Committee that focused on women’s rights in Tunisia and the making of a new constitution that ensures equality under law. Gender equality is only the beginning for Tunisia and other countries that are taking steps towards social modernization.

In the aftermath of the revolution, Tunisia adopted a new constitution that enshrined equality between men and women in law. Guest speaker Yadh Ben Achour was a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, which was the lead author of the recent Tunisian constitution. He spoke at the law school yesterday about the struggles of gender justice reform in Tunisia. Before Prof. Ben Achour started his short lecture, professor Yasmine Ergas, lecturer at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) gave him an introduction.

Yadh Ben Achour is one of the world’s most prominent human rights lawyers, humanist and advocate for women’s rights and human rights in Tunisia and around the globe. He was involved in the resistance against Ben Ali and resigned from his role in the constitutional council in 1992 due to Ben Ali’s attempt to control the constitutional process. He is the former president of the High Authority of the Tunisian Revolution and a professor at the University of Catharge. His most recent work includes the publication of Tunisia: a Revolution in an Islamic Country.

More on women’s rights in Tunisia after the jump

Nov

3

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The Enigma Machine Cracker is an Enigma itself.

Alan Turing is a famous British computer scientist, known for developing many prototypes for computers and for cracking the Nazi Enigma Machine. Last night, Bwogger Elana Rebitzer attended a lecture given by his nephew (and biographer) Sir Dermot Turing. 

Until last night, whenever I heard the name Alan Turing, I had a vague idea that he had something to do with computers, but that was about all I knew. Nonetheless, this lecture by his nephew and biographer, Sir Dermot Turing, was a fascinating introduction to his life.

As I learned last night, Alan was a brilliant mathematician. During his time as a post-doctorate fellow at the University of Cambridge in England, he came up with the idea for a programmable computing machine. For those of us who had no concept of how big of a deal that was, Dermot compared this to the idea of creating one kitchen appliance that could serve as a tea kettle, dishwasher, and frying pan all at once.

Years later, during World War II, Alan played a pivotal role in cracking the german codes stored in the Enigma Machine by building a device to test all of the different possible ways in which an Enigma Machine could be set up. That breakthrough was essential for the Allies throughout the rest of the war.

After the Enigma breakthrough, Turing continued to create blueprints for computers. At this point, the lecture got pretty technical, and I had a hard time following exactly what Dermot was saying about the rest of Turing’s technical work.

Technical fun after the jump

Oct

19

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everything about this case is fishy

everything about this case is fishy

IAB-interloper Nadra Rahman found herself listening to a chilling tale of abduction, murder, and corruption when she attended The Galindez Case: The Kidnapping of A Columbia University Professor and Trujillo yesterday at the International Affairs Building at 6 pm. The speakers were lawyer and author Stuart McKeever, Ambassador Bernado Vega of the Dominican Republic, and Dr. Ramona Hernandez of CUNY. Topics of conversation included libraries and sharks.

On March 12, 1956, Jesús de Galindez, a doctoral student and professor at Columbia University, simply vanished. It was, not coincidentally, only 11 days after he had presented his dissertation, a critical analysis of the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo and his rule. Though his body was never found, it is all but certain that Galindez was kidnapped and killed by Trujillo, a man obsessed with maintaining his image. The case remains a source of interest for many, including the Dominican diaspora, largely due to the dearth of publicly available information: how was Galindez kidnapped? What exactly happened to him? And what did the U.S. government know about it all? These questions have inspired five books and multiple movies, permeating certain sectors of Dominican pop culture.

So why another book? Stuart McKeever’s El Rapto de Galindez y su importancia en las relaciones entre Washington y Trujillo (The Kidnapping of Galindez and its importance in relations between Washington and Trujillo) is certainly not the first of its kind, but it is perhaps the most definitive. It is the product of 35 years of research, kernels of truth culled from thousands of pages of documents, all obtained from the Justice and State Departments through the Freedom of Information Act.

If the FOIA doesn’t get you heated up what will

Oct

8

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LectureHop: Black Hole Duet

LectureHop: Black Hole Duet

Stressed by midterms? Having a bad day? It always helps to think about how tiny we truly are in this gigantic universe, and how we humans (and our problems) are really just an insignificant part of a cosmic order. Last night, Bwogger Alex Tang attended Columbia Astronomy Department’s lecture: “Black Hole Duet – Hearing the Universe for the First Time”. Here are the highlights from that lecture.

If you’re reading this, drop everything you’re doing and check out this 12-second clip right now.

According to last night’s lecture, this video documents the greatest scientific achievement of this generation.

On Saturday evening, Columbia University’s Astronomy Department hosted its twice-monthly Stargazing and Lecture Series, free talks open to the general community. On this particular occasion, astronomy grad student Maria Charisi discussed the recent discovery of tangible evidence for gravitational waves in her talk “Black Hole Duet – Hearing the Universe for the First Time”. Through her lecture, Charisi managed to clarify a dense and immensely conceptual scientific development, and even bring out its intrinsic beauty.

Charisi began with the basics, stating that all objects of mass contain their own gravity. Through Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, mass distorts space-time, releasing gravitational waves in a sort of “ripple effect” out of itself. However, in the scale of things we associate with on Earth, gravitational waves are near negligible in their effects. You, or I, or the grand piano in Lerner don’t possess nearly enough mass to create discernible gravitational waves. If the entire mass of the Milky Way Galaxy were taken, the gravitational wave ripple created would only be about the size of a basketball. Yet, we’re all surrounded by gravitational waves created by cosmic occurrences happening all around us. In other words, we and everything in the universe are constantly being stretched or shrunk in a wavelike fashion.

More on gravitational waves after the jump:

Oct

6

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They look at the stars to maintain distance from plebs

They look at the stars to maintain distance from plebs

On Wednesday afternoon, Nadra Rahman ventured into the black hole that is the International Affairs Building, where she heard Olesya Turkina give a talk about her book Soviet Space Dogs. The talk involved cigarette packs, canonization, and deeply engrossed grad students.

Many of us associate the early days of the American space program with the restless, slightly ungainly monkeys that we shot into orbit—recalling the black and white photographs of them stuffed into their specially made space suits. But where we had monkeys, the Soviets had dogs, and these dogs, from pioneer Laika to the inseparable Strelka and Belka, were massively more loved in the Soviet Union than monkeys ever were in the U.S. Speaker Olesya Turkina, Senior Fellow at the Russian State Museum, while addressing a well-caffeinated crowd of grad students, went so far as to call them “techno-saints.”

She began by asking a question: “What was wrong with my childhood?”

While the possibilities were endless, the (given) answer was simple. Most of us would never send our own pets into space, but Turkina would have done it without hesitation. Shaped by Soviet ideology, she herself was ready to do what was needed of her by her nation—why not her dog as well? Clearly, ideology was powerful, and perhaps even sweet. After beaming a picture of a chocolate bar featuring the image of a space dog, she noted ideology rarely demands cruelty; at times, you are just encouraged to eat sweet chocolate until slowly, it begins to consume you too, in a “cannibalistic process.” After this lesson, she implored us to don ideological “sunglasses,” so that we could look beyond the iconography and the propaganda to analyze its construction and purpose.

But do you even need sunglasses in space?

Oct

4

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Another reason to take Spanish for your language req.

Another reason to take Spanish for your language req: to finally understand the drama.

Last night at the Heyman Center, Columbia Global Centers hosted Writing the Brazilian Telenovela: A Discussion and Q&A with João Emanuel Carneiro. Bwogger and Elementary Portuguese I student Angelica Lagasca covers the lecture: one filled with gray areas, dying German soldiers, broken toys, and some uncomfortable moments.

On Monday night at the Heyman Center, a group of around thirty people gathered to hear João Emanuel Carneiro speak on his work and his experience in the Brazilian entertainment industry, particularly in the context of issues such as race and class. Carneiro has won both national and international attention for his screenplays, from films like Central Station (1998) to telenovelas like Da Cor do Pecado (2004), A Favorita (2008), and Avenida Brasil (2012). With Carneiro were Professor Richard Peña, Professor of Film Studies in the School of the Arts, and Professor Ana Paulina Lee, Professor of Luso-Brazilian Studies. While the lecture began with the professors prompting Carneiro with questions, the floor later opened up to questions from the audience.

The audience was largely comprised of older people—among the mix was an anthropologist, a handful of Brazilians, a director, and my Portuguese professor, who engaged in small talk with me in Portuguese (and subsequently made me nervous because I’m only in Elementary Portuguese I). Some were longtime fans of Carneiro’s telenovelas and of Brazilian telenovelas in general. Others were more concerned with the writing process. Some wrote on notebooks; others were more interested in the (very gourmet) offerings. All were attentive.

Much of the discussion centered on Carneiro’s approach to writing. His characters live in a “gray zone.” They’re loved, they’re hated—they cannot be judged easily. Caminha of Avenida Brasil is a liar and a cruel person, yet the audience can still love her. In A Favorita, Flora and Donatela seem to represent opposites; Flora has a privileged life, while Donatela does not. Both lie and deceive, and the audience must wonder who to root for. In the end of A Favorita, Donatela is revealed to be the true murderer, a rupturing of the stereotype that the less privileged are always good. This type of story, one that breaks conventions, attracts Carneiro: he views stories as “toys to break.” “Brazilian telenovelas are different from Mexican telenovelas,” Carneiro said. “They don’t follow conventions.”

(more…)

Sep

20

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You know the event is legit when it’s held in Low

This Monday, a panel of experts on the topic of displaced scholars gathered in Low Library to discuss how institutions of higher learning around the globe can support scholars in war torn regions whose work has been endangered. Although not quite as popular as Ralph Nader’s speech on why we need to dispose of our cell phones, the Symposium on Displaced Scholars was an interesting dissection of the particular responsibility universities have during this refugee crisis to protect international academics and their intellectual pursuits. First-year Bwogger Isadora Nogueira brings you a recap of the event.

Sporting a shiny turquoise tie, President Bollinger began the symposium with an expression of thanks to the experts and an emphasis on the urgency of the issue of displaced scholars. Although difficult to estimate, he noted that the study of 100,000 Syrian scholars are thought to have been interrupted by civil unrest.

Then came a more passionate introduction of the symposium from Allan E. Goodman, Prezbo’s counterpart and President of the Institute of International Education, the organization that cosponsored the event. Goodman spoke on the uniqueness of this refugee crisis in comparison to historical ones, such as the influx of immigrants following World War Two, due to the higher percentage of civilians receiving tertiary education in the 21st century. In order to emphasize his point, Goodman pointed to a striking statistic. During World War Two, he said, only 5% of the population in the most advanced Western countries had gone to institution of higher learner; in Syria before the war, 25% of the population had attended some form of tertiary education. He then spoke excitedly of the UN’s new recognition of higher education as a need. Goodman ended with some historical reflection, telling the audience to remember “1939, 1940, and 1941” and how the neglected and displaced civilians from World War One reacted.

Almost immediately after the discussion portion began, the criticism that the focus on higher education was not a pressing issue for the refugee community was brought up. This was a concern I, too, had at the back of my mind during the introduction.

Read on for how higher education can help the refugee community…

Apr

22

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Don't forget...they're LITERARY annuals

Don’t forget…they’re LITERARY annuals

Self-professed romance fan Nadra Rahman attended one of the Book History Colloquium events yesterday evening, titled “The Rise of the Literary Annual, Powerful Femininity, and Beautiful Books.” There wasn’t as much romance as she expected.

I was the youngest person in the room by far—the average age of attendee (of which there were six, besides me) hovered at around 60 years old. While I felt out of place, the sense of an intimate environment pervaded; speaker Katherine Harris, ready to deliver her lecture on “The Rise of the Literary Annual, Powerful Femininity, and Beautiful Books” easily chatted with guests about her work and such scintillating topics as microfilm (I imagine).

Harris, an Associate Professor at San Jose University, specializes in Romantic 19th-century British literature, the literary annual, and the digital humanities. As she started her presentation, her excitement about literary annuals–published collections of short stories, poetry, and engravings meant to be consumed by young women–was fully visible. The literary annual had been described to me as a 19th-century equivalent of Twilight, and there are certainly striking parallels, in that the literary annual catered to women and was disparaged by critics as being frothy and silly, the “‘cakes’ of literature,” according to one critic as late as 1902.

More froth after the jump

Mar

25

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Second Lecture in the Focus Aleppo Series

Second Lecture in the Focus Aleppo Series

“City And Landscape in the Ottoman Aleppo: Experiencing Architecture, Narrating Space,” was the next lecture in the Department of Art History and Archaeology’s “‘Islamic Art:’ Disrupting Unity and Discerning Ruptures series,” presented by Heghnar Watenpaugh, professor of Art History at the University of California, Davis. We sent staff writer Romane Thomas to check it out last night.

“The art of Islam is not unified as many of us were taught,” Watenpaugh began.

Watenpaugh is an expert on architectural history in Islamic societies. Her book, The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries received the Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians in 2006. A polyglot, Watenpaugh attended Rice University and MIT before moving to the University of California. She agreed to visit the East Coast (#Beast Coast) to tell us about her research in Aleppo, Syria.

Avinoam Shalem, Professor of Islamic Art at Columbia and creator of the Focus Aleppo series, introduced Watenpaugh. He pointed out that “The Art of Islam is not unified as many of us were taught” and explained that, accordingly, Watenpaugh’s lecture would address the architectural innovations resulting from the Ottoman rule in Aleppo. Before starting her speech, she mentioned that the Syrian War has had a devastating effect on Aleppo architecture. According to her, “the destruction of Aleppo’s patrimony stands for the destruction of her varied social fabric.” Referencing the wreckage of the Minaret of the Great Mosque, Watenpaugh pointed out that as “products of the historical moment that we are in,” we need to reflect on the effect of our actions on centuries of history. The photographs that she was able to show the audience were taken by aerial view or by guerrilla fighters in the area.

She gave a short architectural history of Aleppo. Under Ottoman rule, Aleppo was a thriving hub of commercial exchange. Silk and spices from the East were exchanged within Aleppo’s walls in one of the world’s largest covered Bazaars (now destroyed). The Ottoman Empire had a huge impact on the architecture of the city, of which remains only a few Ottoman-style mosques. The nostalgia in Watenpaugh’s voice was palpable and gave her lecture a story-like character as she described how a foreign traveler would experience coming upon the sight of the great city.

More about the lecture next.

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