Tag Archives: Anthropology

Islam – Submission to the Will of God



“There is no God but Allah; Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” -The Shahadah

The youngest of the world’s major religions is Islam. It is also one of the the largest, with more than 1 billion adherents. Islam is the dominant religion in many of the developing nations in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. This makes Islam one of the most interesting and important religions.

The basic belief of Islam is that there is only one God, who is called Allah, the same God worshiped by Jews and Christians. Allah is the sole and sovereign ruler of the universe. Though Allah has made himself known through other prophets at other times, his final revelation was to the prophet Muhammad in the 7th century CE. Islam teaches that a person has just one life to live. How believers live this life determines how they will spend their eternal existence. During this one life, believers must fully submit to the will of Allah. Thus adherents to this religion are called Muslims (those who submit to God).


arab moon god

Islam began among the Arabian desert people in the 7th century CE. It did not appear out of nowhere, as the people from this area had already developed religious ideals and traditions. Byzantine Christians, Jews and even those of the Persian Zoroastrianism, were all present all over the Middle East. In fact, when Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam entered Medina in 622 CE, many of the residents of the city were Jewish.

arab idols

The religion of the pre-Islamic Arabs was characterized by it’s animism. Gods and spirits were believed to be in stone, tree, wells, animals; these spirits were placated and implored to for aid. They worshiped a variety of gods. The city of Mecca was a holy place for pilgrims and all their variety of gods. Mecca was also a economic center, as caravans passed through from all over. Hence there was a economic motive for being a welcoming place for all kinds of deities, from all the different visitors.

kaba painting

Eventually, pilgrims built an enclosure to house the many deities that people came to Mecca to worship. This enclosure was named the Ka’ba.

kaba stone

An important fixture of the Ka’ba is the Ka’ba stone. Islamic legend tells us that the stone fell to earth from heaven during the time of Adam and Eve. When it left heaven it was white and pure, and when it fell to the earth it turned black after absorbing all the sin and impurities of this world. Abraham, and his son Ishmael, his son by his slave Hagar, built the Ka’ba to house the stone. Some scientist think the stone is probably a meteor.

As the Ka’ba began to fill with idols and paintings of all the pilgrims, more and more people would journey through Mecca, making Mecca a very wealthy city. There is no wonder why clans vied for control over the holy shrine. Perhaps the major religious force from which Islam grew- and reacted against- was the native religion of the Arab people, as the deities that received the most attention were the local and tribal gods.


prophet muhammad

Due to Islam being a very new religion, we know so much about the Islamic Prophet of God, Muhammad. He was born about 570 CE, into the clan of Hashim of the Tribe of Quraysh, the group that controlled the Ka’ba in Mecca. Both Muhammad’s parents died when he was young, so Muhammad was raised by his uncle, abu-Talib, chief of the Quraysh tribe. Life of an orphan was rough in those days and Muhammad was not formally educated. Actually, it is widely believed that Muhammad was illiterate. Thus, the revelation of the Qur’an to him was something of a miracle.

Mecca controlled the trade that flowed through the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, which solidified the wealth of the city. Christians, Jews, and even Zoroastrians frequented this caravan route and had several things in common. They all believed in one God, they had scripture believed to be the word of God, they all believed the world would end one day when the righteous would be rewarded and the evil tormented in hell. There is little doubt that these ideals naturally influenced Muhammad.

While working with the caravans on route through Mecca, Muhammad met his first wife, Khadija, who owned a caravan. Khadija was wealthy widow of about 40 years when she married 25 year old Muhammad. Although it was permissible for Muhammad to have more than one wife, Muhammad was married only to Khadija as long as she lived. She bore him two sons and four daughter. The sons died in infancy and only one daughter, Fatimah survived her father. His wife Khadija would be one of the first converts to Islam. During their marriage Muhammad began to go into the hills surrounding Mecca to meditate.

gabriel and muhammad

During one of these excursions, Muhammad received a visit from the Archangel Gabriel who gave him the following command from God:

Qur’an 96:1-5

Recite: In the Name of thy Lord God who created,
created Man from a blood-clot.
Recite: And thy Lord is the Most Gracious,
who taught by the pen,
taught man what he knew not.

At frequent intervals during the rest of his life, Muhammad received revelations from God in this fashion.


Eventually, scribes committed these revelations to writing, to become the scripture of Islam, the Word of God, called the Qur’an. After a series of revelations, it was revealed to Muhammad, and he was convinced, that there was only one God, Allah, and whom other religions called by other names. He was also convinced that he was the last of Allah’s prophets. Previous prophets, the main ones being, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, had only an incomplete revelation from God. he had the complete and final revelation. This shows that Islam did not deny the validity of other religions, but rather looked upon itself as the completion of what others began. Muhammad never considered himself as anything more than a prophet. He never claimed to be divine, and he died like any other person.

mecca caravan

When Muhammad first began to reveal God’s word to the people of Mecca he did not receive much encouragement. In fact, he received open hostility. Preaching that there was only one God who was not to be worshiped with idols was very bad for business. Mecca depended on all the pilgrims arriving to worship the idols at the Ka’ba. Muhammad slowly began to gain converts, but most of them were from the poorer classes that were attracted by the the charity and equality that Islam offered. When opposition and persecution became more severe, Muhammad had to urge some of his followers to leave the country.

In 615 CE, about 15 Muslim families fled Mecca and took refuge in the Christian Kingdom of Abyssinia (Ethiopia today). In 619 CE Muhammad lost his wife and his uncle. Without his uncle, Muhammad lost the protection of the powerful Quraysh tribe.

In 630 CE a group of six men from Yathirb (what is now known as Medina), journeyed to Mecca to seek Muhammad out. They were very impressed with him, his honesty, his sense of justice, and his charisma. Their city was being torn apart by clan strife. They believed Muhammad could be an impartial judge and mediator. They next year twelve men came, ten of them Jewish, as some believed that maybe he could be the Messiah, and they invited him to govern the city.


On 24 September 622 CE, Muhammad arrived. The journey from Mecca to Yathrib is called hijrah (migration). It is from this date that Muslims began to date their calendars using AH (anno hegirae). In Yathirb, Muslims were a clan among other clans, and their religion was not widely accepted. There was an agreement that was made which stated that even though Muhammad was the governor, other members of the community would be allowed to practice their own religions, which was mostly the Jewish and Christian religion. Unlike the polytheists of Mecca, Muhammad was opposed by monotheists in Yathrib.

Jafa Gate Jerusalem

At first Muhammad commanded the Muslims to pray toward Jerusalem, but with the passing of time he changed the direction toward Mecca.

mother of believers robert hunt

After the death of Khadija, his first wife, it is known that Muhammad had at least 10 more official wives, possibly twelve (these two are unconfirmed and could have been household slaves). The second wife, Sawda bint Zam’a, like Khadija was older than Muhammad and a widow. He married her a few days after Khadija’s death. The third wife, Aisha bint Abu Bakr, was his youngest wife. She was betrothed to the prophet at the age of 6 or 7, and it is claimed by some that she married him at the age of 9 (this however is debatable by historians, as dates and ages are not consistent in all written accounts). The basis of this marriage was a political alliance between families and she was the only non-widowed, never previously married, wife of Muhammad. Hafsa bint Umar was the fourth wife of Muhammad. When she was widowed she was offered to two men who refused her. Her father complained to the prophet and he accepted her as his wife, making a point that widows needed to be provided for. This marriage also strengthened family ties. Zaynab bint Khuzayma was the fifth wife of Muhammad. After she was widowed twice she was living in great poverty. Muhammad took her into his family. Muhammad’s sixth wife, Hind bint Abu Umayya, was one of his earliest converts. After her husband died, while she was pregnant with her fourth child, she joined Muhammad’s family. The seventh wife, widowed Zaynab bint Jahsh, was first married to Muhammad’s adopted son Zyad (a former slave). The marriage was politically motivated as Zaynab came from the illustrious Quraysh tribe. At first she rejected the marriage stating she was too good to marry a formal slave. Eventually she agreed, but the marriage did not last long. The couple soon divorced. Muhammad then married her to ensure the continued relationship between the families. Juwayriyya bint al-Harith was Muhammad’s eight wife. She was widowed and enslaved when her tribe fought a battle against the Muslims. Muhammad married her and she was freed. Safiyya bint Huyayy, was the ninth wife of Muhammad. She was a Jewish woman, widowed when her husband was killed in a battle against the Meccans. After she was captured, Muhammad offered to marry her, and she would not be a slave. She accepted. The tenth wife of Muhammad was, Ramla bint Abu Sufyan. She divorced her first husband after he converted to Christianity, and then she married the Prophet. Her father was the leader of the Quraysh tribe, so their marriage was very advantageous, politically speaking. Muhammad’s eleventh wife was Maymunah bint al-Harith, a widow from the Hilal tribe from Mecca. Her mother was from a Yemen tribe. Maryam al-Qibtiyya was either Muhammad’s twelfth wife, or his concubine slave. She was an Egyptian Coptic Christian who was given to the Prophet as a gift. Rayhana bint Zayd was a Jewish concubine slave, a spoil of war. She is believed by most not be an official wife of the prophet. If she was his wife, she would have been the thirteenth wife. (Look for my detailed article: The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad – Mothers of the Believers.)

pilgrims to mecca

In 627 CE, Meccans tried to attack Medina, but failed to take the city. The following year, the Muslims of Medina attempted to go on pilgimage to Mecca, but the Meccans locked them out of the city. They returned to Medina and converts grew and grew. In 630 CE, 10,000 Muslims entered Mecca for pilgrimage, unopposed. Muhammad went into the Ka’ba and destroyed every idol and image within, leaving only the black stone untouched. This act paved the way for Muhammad becoming the leader of the Arab people. Over the next few years, Islam grew rapidly as many converted. Muhammad’s marriage treaties brought even more converts into Islam as whole clans embraced the faith.  This also strengthened and empowered him. Qur’an reciters were also sent to convert the Bedouin tribes of the Arabian desert.

632 CE was Muhammad’s last pilgrimage to Mecca. After he returned to Medina he died. His death caused much confusion as to who would lead the Muslim people. Would it be Abu Bakr, Islams first caliph, and a succession of caliphs from then on? Or would it be the descendants of Ali, Muhammad’s only surviving child, his daughter Fatimah’s husband? For the time, they agreed that the caliphate would lead the people spiritually;  however, later on down the road,  a faction would split and follow the leadership of the descendants of Ali and Fatimah. The former would be called Sunni, the latter would be called Shiite.



The word Qur’an or “recitation” is revered as an eternal scripture, written in heaven and revealed, chapter by chapter, to Muhammad, The title also reflects the first surah, or chapter, to be revealed: “Recite: In the name of thy Lord who created…”

No scripture has ever been so influential to its people as the Qur’an. Surely no scripture is read as much or committed to memory as often. Although Christians and Jews take their scriptures seriously, human, though inspired, authorship is acknowledged. Such is not the case in Islam; the Qur’an IS the word of God: It is eternal, absolute, and irrevocable. The Qur’an is believed to be God’s last word to humanity. Islam respects the Scriptures of Jews and Christians, but the Qur’an is understood to be God’s final message.The ritual of reciting the Qur’an is to produce God’s divine speech. Those who commit the entire Qur’an to memory are given the honorary title of hafiz.

The revelations that  make up the Qur’an are organized into 114 surahs. The surahs contain approximately 6,000 verses called ayas. The longest surah contains 287 verses, the shortest only 3. There is no topical or chronological arrangement of the material.


norway panorama

Because the Qur’an is the word of God, its messages are the authority for all Muslims on God, how God expects people to live, and the central destiny of humankind. Allah is revealed as one sovereign God over the entire universe. The religion of Islam demand strict monotheism. Muslims believe that there is only the one God, complete, eternal, undivided. Of all the world’s other religions, only Judaism insists on such absolute monotheism.

Qur’an 25:2

Blessed be He
who has sent down the Salvation upon
His servant, that he may be a warner to all beings;
to whom belongs the Kingdom of the heavens
and the earth; and he has not taken
to Him a son, and he has no associate in the Kingdom

Qur’an 112

Say: He is God, One,
God, the Everlasting Refuge
who has not begotten, and has not been begotten
and equal to Him is not anyone.

God’s role as an omnipresent, omniscient, and Omnipotent creator of the universe is heavily emphasized in the Qur’an.

Qur’an 7:54

Surely your Lord is God, who created the heavens
and the earth in six days-
then sat Himself upon the Throne,
covering the day with the night
it pursues urgently-
and the sun, and the moon, and the stars
subservient, by His command,
Blessed be God
the Lord of all Being.

99 names of allah

According to Muslim tradition, Allah has 99 names. Muslims repeat these names in a similar way that a Roman Catholic recites the rosary.

nature salat

Although Allah possesses the characteristics of power, sovereignty, and majesty, he is also characterized by justice and mercy. He will repay evil with justice and the righteous with mercy.

Qur’an 53:32-33

To God belongs whatsoever is in the heavens
and whatsoever is in the earth, that He may
recompense those who do evil for what they
have done, and recompense those who have done
good with the reward most fair.
Those who avoid the heinous sins and
indecencies, save lesser offenses-
surely the Lord is wide in his forgiveness.

Very well he knows you, when he produces you
from the earth, and when you were yet unborn
in your mother’s wombs; therefore hold not
yourselves purified; God knows very well
who is the god-fearing.

islamic angel

In Islam, Angels act as God’s messengers, as did the Archangel Gabriel when he revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad. Some are also God’s warriors that fight at the side of believers against the infidels. An example of a warrior angel would be the Archangel Michael. In Islam angels have no free will, therefore they can only do what God orders them to do. Angels are said to be made of light, and humans made of clay.


Another supernatural entity of Islam is the Jinn. Jinn are a creation halfway between human and angel, except like humans and unlike angels they have free will. They can either evil, good, indifferent, or neutral. These creatures are made of a smokeless fire and are either like the guardians or demons. The good Jinn are Muslim, the evil unbelievers. The leader of the evil Jinn is Iblis, a fallen angel turned Jinn/demon. Demon Jinn are called Shaytan Jinn. In Islam Iblis was responsible for the fall of Adam. When Iblis was an angel, his name was Azazel. [See Correction]

The story is that God created Angels, Jinn, and Man. Jinn and Man were given free will. God commanded the Angels and Iblis who was the leader of the Jinn to prostrate before Adam. The angels obeyed immediately, as they could not disobey. Iblis refused to and felt himself superior to Adam. For this disobedience God exiled him from heaven, to earth. God was going to destroy him, but he begged to be spared until the day of judgement. This God allowed and Iblis vowed to spend all that time on earth trying to lead all men and women astray. It was after this that he became known as Shaytan.

**I have been corrected by my friend, Bahija. According to Islamic belief, Iblis was never an angel to begin with. He was created a Jinn. Which explains why he was able to disobey God (Allah), by not bowing before Adam when commanded to do so. I most likely got confused the Judaism belief.



There are four schools of thought that have their own idea of predestination, two of them are way outside the folds of Islam. The first of these is Al-Jabiriyah. These people believe that humans have no control at all over their actions and everything is dictated by Allah. The second group is , al-Qadiriyyah, which is the polar opposite of the former. They believe that humans have complete control over their destiny, and that Allah does not even know what they will choose.

The Sunni belief is the belief that God already knows all occurrences without the restrictions of time. and so it is written in the Preserved Tablet (al-Lauh al-Mahfuz). This does not mean that human beings do not have free will. They still chose their own, it is just that God has already seen that path. The Shia (Shiite) belief is a complete rejection of predestination, and that further more, not only is every humans destiny undetermined, but also that God may change any destiny as He sees fit.



islam day of judgement

The Qur’an says that when a person dies, the body returns to earth and the soul goes into a state of sleep until resurrection day. On this day, the Angel of Allah will sound his trumpet, the earth will split, and the bodies will rejoin their souls. The resurrected are then judged by Allah. Those who have been faithful and virtuous will be rewarded, those who have been evil will be punished.


domo de la roca copy

Islam is NOT a temple oriented religion. Although certain places are venerated by Muslims, it would not have suited nomadic life to require them to worship at any sort of temple. The nature of their lives and religion demanded that they be free to worship Allah everyday, where ever they might be.

Muhammad decreed Friday as the special day of Muslim worship. The Jews laid claim to the Sabbath (Saturday), and the Christians Sunday. There are some places where Muslims, Christians, and Jews use the same sites, and this way is most efficient. Also, Friday is the only day where Muslims are required to pray together at a mosque. The rest of the week they are free to pray where ever they like.

At the mosque on Fridays, believers are led in prayer by the imam. The imam is someone chosen from the community known to be knowledgeable and pious. Mosques also serve as schools and libraries.


5 pillars of islam

Being a Muslim is fairly simple and easy, which is why it has appealed to so many people and spread so fast throughout the world. The Five Pillars of Islam are obligations that every good Muslim must achieve or strive to achieve.

I. SHAHADAH (Confession of Faith)- The first pillar is the first step in becoming a Muslim. All one must do is recite the creed which translates to “There is no God but Allah; Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Muslims are supposed to repeat this creed everyday.

II. SALAT (Daily Prayer) – A good Muslim is expected to pray five times a day, and this can be anywhere, but the accepted times should be: Dawn, Mid-day, Mid-afternoon, Sunset, and Nightfall. Muslims are sticklers for cleanliness. Before prayer one must perform ablution, which is to wash any impurities away. This must be done with water if it is available. One must be clean before God, to be otherwise is to be disrespectful to God, and distracting to others around you trying to worship. Mosques have places built in where people can wash their hands, feet, and faces before prayer. Prayer is a complete submission before God, one must prostate themselves onto the ground before the Almighty God. They must bow as low to the ground as they can, and they must do so facing Mecca. Men and women do not pray together, to avoid improper contact and distractions during prayer. Some places, women are allowed to pray at home, so they can have an easier time minding the children. Some mosques do not have a place for women to pray, if this is usually the custom.

III ZAKAT (Alms-giving) – Muslims are expected to share their possessions with the poor, widows, and orphans. Charity is obligatory according to Islamic law and it is assessed as a tax amounting between 2.5 – 10 percent of one’s wealth. Islam does not look at begging  as dishonorable, giving and well as receiving alms is considered a source of God’s blessing.

IV SAWM (Fasting) – Muslims are expected to fast. Most religions fast in some form or another, but Islam requires the longest and most stringent fast of them all. Each year during the month of Ramadan, Muslims are expected to  abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual activity during the daylight hours (sun up, until sun down). The fast is kept in remembrance when the prophet first received his revelation. Due to the Muslim lunar calendar, the month of Ramadan varies from year to year. Those Muslims exempt from the fast are the ill, travelers, mothers nursing infants, and young children. It is believed that Allah will forgive all the sins of the Muslim who completes the fast.

V: HAJI (Pilgrimage) – Pilgrimage to Mecca was apart of the pre-Islamic Arab religion. After the Prophet made his pilgrimage and destroyed all the idols in the Ka’ba, it then began a Muslims tradition. It was then decreed that every Muslim should make the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their life, if they are able to. This pilgrimage is done in the month of Dhu al-Hijah. During the pilgrimage, the pilgrims also visit the Zamzam well, which was founded by Abraham’s son Ishmael, and Abraham concubine (Ishmael’s mother, Hagar). This was the well which saved their lives when Abraham was commanded by God to send them away into the desert. Abraham was reassured by God that Ishmael would be the founder of a great Nation of people. At the Ka’ba, the pilgrims make seven trips around and kiss the black stone. Also a sheep is sacrificed and feasted on to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael when God commanded him too. This was right before Abraham was commanded to send Hagar and Ishmael into exile. Those who make the pilgrimage are honored with the title Haj (male) or Haja (female).


islam and women

The position of women in pre-Islamic Arabia was very low. Female infanticide was a common way to control the female population. A woman was considered property owned by her father, husband, or elder brother. Although Muhammad did not raise the status of women to that of men, he did raise it significantly. Something as simple as saying every daughter will earn a father more blessings from God, and forbidding the murder of female infants, made all the difference in the world. Muhammad allowed polygamy as a way to care for widows, their children, and divorcees. He also preached that to marry a widow and care for fatherless children would earn twice as many brownie points with God. This protected women considerably in a world where her whole survival was dependent upon men. This was a society where men were frequently killed in battle and in which marriage was the only acceptable state for a woman. Many of the prophets own wives were women that were previously married to Muslims who were killed in battle. He allowed  up to four wives for each believer as long as that man could provide for them, and treat them equally.

Although divorce is easy and allowed in Islam, it is not taken lightly. All a Muslim has to do to divorce their spouse is to say three times, “I divorce you.” However, divorce rate is much lower in Islamic society than it is in Christian, whose divorces, if allowed, can be quiet complex. A Muslim woman had every right to divorce her husband, as he did her. Divorced women in Islam were not left completely destitute either. It is Islamic tradition that the husband pay a dowry to the wife, not to her family, or she to his. This “bride price” is agreed to and paid, before the marriage even takes place. In the case of divorce, the dowry remains the wife’s property. In most Islamic countries, modest dress is demanded of both men and women, but hijab (veiling) is not. In Islam, veiling is supposed to be the woman’s own conscious choice, which many choose anyway. Hijab is a visible sign of a woman’s piety and veiled women are held in high esteem in Islamic societies. Women are required to be veiled within mosques and holy sites. Some nations consider their whole country a holy site, such as Saudi Arabia, therefore women are required to be veiled in public.


haram and halal

Many Islamic taboos concern food consumption. There are foods that are halal (allowed), and foods that are haram (forbidden). Food that requires the death of an animal requires a special invocation to Allah. The animal should be a free roaming animal and must be slaughtered by cutting the throat and saying, “In the name of Allah,” as a way to show respect to God and the animal that has been provided for sustenance. The animal is then drained of all blood. from the artery in the neck. Muslims are not allowed to eat unclean animals. The pig is considered one of the most unclean animal there is. The pig eats anything, even decomposing waste. Dogs are forbidden, as well a bottom feeder fish and other seafood that lives of the waste that settles to the ocean, river, or lake floors. Muslims must not eat donkey’s or birds of prey. Not only do birds of prey eat flesh, but they will eat dead, decomposing flesh as well. It is prohibited to eat these animals. They are unclean. This rule does not apply if one is starving and that is the only thing available to eat. Muslims are also forbidden to drink alcohol and gamble.



To strive and struggle in the path of God. That is what Jihad is and means. Nothing more.

To attack non-combatants, especially women and children, violates the Islamic law of war. True Muslim scholars conclude that using the Qur’an to justify attacks like what happened on 9/11, and call it Jihad, is simplistic, inaccurate, and self serving.


The Spread of Islam

Many may wonder why Islam spread so far and so rapidly. The answer is simple:

1. Islam is a universal religion. All people are created by Allah and can become Muslims. It recognizes no national barriers and no race distinctions.

2. Islam is a religion with wide appeal. Islam is a simple faith that does not have a ton of rules and require tons of ceremony and pomp. It is easy to practice and very clear cut.

3. The world that surrounded the early Muslims was confused and corrupt. Islam came and was very straight forward. Most of the Islamic rulers and conquerors were just, merciful, and benevolent. They won people over by their honesty and straight forwardness. People were tired of shady and corrupt rulers. Many people welcomed Muslim conquerors with open arms. Some even invited them.


islamic world

Although there are Muslims all over the world, even in the West, as immigrants move across the globe, intermarry and convert others, much of the World’s Muslim population is in the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans and Eurasia. Much of Islams reach can be credited to the growth of the Ottoman Empire during the Renaissance era and into the Baroque era.

In recent decades, Islam as become an increasingly important force in the world politics. Many of the emerging nations of the Third World are Muslim. Some of these nations are very important to the world’s economy because they control vital natural resources such as oil, natural gas, and minerals. Today, Islam again has become a steadily growing religion. Immigration has caused a rise in Muslim populations in Western Europe and the United States. There have been many converts to Islam within the United States, especially among African Americans. Islam is now the second most popular religion in the United States, the first being Christianity.

world religions pie chart

NOTE: This is my first huge World Religion Piece. I am also not a Muslim, so this based all upon research (online and text books). If there are any mistakes I would love to have some feedback. Thank-you. -Tanya


Latcho Drom – Documentary Film


Latcho Drom

My friend who is part Kalderash Roma told me about this amazing documentary film. The movie is about the Romani’s people, specifically their journey from India to Spain over a span of more than a thousand years. The Romani can now be found all over the world, yet they have preserved much of their ancient culture. This film is especially important, as most people do not know that the Romani have suffered much discrimination and prejudice. Their belief in cultural preservation and the fact that most of their social behavior is deep rooted in strict Hindu Purity laws, makes them remain outsiders. They have difficulties with assimilation, which causes tense relations with the people of their host countries.

This film contains mostly music and very little dialogue, which is the beauty of it. The film begins in the Thar Desert in Northern India and ends in Spain, passing through Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Spain. All of the Romani portrayed are actual members of the Romani community.

India – Kalbelia people gathering in celebration

Egypt – Ghawazi people sing and dance while children observe and begin to learn the artistic traditions.

Turkey – Turkish Roma in Istanbul sell flowers and play their music in cafes while their children observe and learn.

Romania – A young boy listens to Roma musicians sing about the horrors of Nicolae Ceausescu and his reign before returning to his village, where the musicians from earlier begin a semi-spontaneous and joyous music session.

Hungary – A Roma family on the train sing of their rejection by non-Romani people. The scene cuts to the train station ahead, where the waiting family set up a fire as they wait across the tracks from the train station while a Hungarian woman and her young son wait on a bench. The boy, seeing that his mother his sad and cold, ventures over to the Roma, who strike up the music and cheer the woman up before their family on the train arrive and they walk away singing.

Slovakia – The train screeches along a barbed wire fence as an old woman sings a song about Auschwitz and the camera pans down to reveal her imprisonment tattoo from her time in the concentration camp. A series of shots show a winter camp before the occupants return to the road.

France – French Romani set up camp with their metal vardos in a summer field and briefly go about their business, making baskets and other crafts before being driven off by landlords. They leave behind clues that a fellow Romani musician Tchavolo Schmitt uses to find them. They all meet up for the celebration in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and celebrate the festival of Saint Sarah, patron saint of the Romani.

Spain – Latcho Drom closes in Spain, showing flamenco puro performed by local “Gitanos”. The famous “gitana” singer La Caita sings mournfully of the centuries of persecution, repeatedly imploring “Why does your mouth spit on me?” as her query echoes out over the town.

The Neolithic Revolution (c. 10,000 – 4, 000 BCE)



early agriculture

The neolithic revolution started at the end of the Ice Age, around 10,000 BCE. The cause of this huge change, was the dramatic shift, from hunting and gathering to systematic agriculture and animal husbandry. By planting grains, vegetables, and domesticating animals, the early humans were able to provide a continuous food supply, which allowed them to give up the nomadic way of life and settle in communities.

Systematic agriculture developed independently between 9,000 and 7,000 BCE in four different areas of the world. In each of these areas different plants were cultivated:

agriculture near east

In the near east there was wheat, barely, and lentils.

southern asia agriculture

In Southern Asia there was rice and millet.

west african agriculture

In West Africa there was millet and yams.

anicent american agriculture

In the Americas there was corn (maize).


catal huyuk

The Neolithic village of Catal Huyuk, in present day Turkey, reveals how the growing of crops and the raising of animals gave rise to permanent settlements. The oldest known agriculture was wheat. People grew their own food and stored it in storerooms in their homes. Domesticated animals such as cattle, supplied meat, milk, and hides. Food surpluses also allowed the birth of culture. People were able to do other things aside from searching constantly for their next meal. Some people became artisans and made weapons and jewelry, which they were then able to trade with their neighbors.

catal huyuk goddess

Religious shrines and statues, like this Catal Huyuk goddess statue, have been found at Neolithic farming village sites. The voluptuous female form, with large breasts and hips, generally means the statute was a fertility goddess and a mother earth figure. These discoveries reveal the growing role of religion in the live of Neolithic people.

The Paleolithic Age (c. 2,500,000 – 10,000 BCE)



stone age tools

What sets the human species apart from the others, is the ability to make tools. The earliest known tools were made of stone, which is where the Stone Age gets its name from.


For hundreds and thousands of years humans were hunters and gatherers. Early humans came to know which animals to hunt and which plants to eat. Cultivation and Pastoralism came much later. They did not know how to grow crops and raise animals, but they did know how to gather wild fruits, nuts, berries, grain, and green plants. They could also hunt buffalo, horses, bison, wild goats, and reindeer. In the coastal areas, early humans could also hunt fish.

stone age spear

Due to the way humans obtained their food, they had to live by certain patterns. Archaeologist and Anthropologist assume that the Paleolithic people lived in small bands of 20 – 30, and they were nomadic, following their food sources. Hunting was a group effort and required extensive observation of the prey. Over many years,  tools became more refined and efficient, such as the invention of the spear and the bow and arrow. Eventually, there were also harpoons and fish hooks made from animal bone.

stone age woman

Both men and women were responsible for finding food, and finding food was pretty much the only main task of the Stone Age people. Since women bore and fed the children, they usually stayed close to the camps and gathered berries, nuts, and grains that had grown nearby. Men hunted far away from camp. There is speculation that men and women roles were generally equal and both made important decisions that affected their band.

stone age fire

Some Stone Age humans from colder climates, found shelter in caves. Over time they used what was available to create more efficient forms of shelter. The most common shelters were probably tents made of wooden poles (or mammoth bone poles, if there was no wood) covered with animal hides. Fire, which was believed to be used as early as 500,000 years ago, was a source of heat and light for the Stone Age humans. Fire also enabled the early humans to cook their food, making it taste better, last longer, and/or digest easier.

chauvet rhino

Making tools and creating fire were key to survival, but Paleolithic people did more than just survive. Cave paintings found in southwestern France and northern Spain reveal that these people had culture. Many of the animals in the paintings were not food sources, which means that these paintings were either religious in nature, or aesthetic.

The First Humans


Oldest Tools

There are no written records in existence for the prehistory of mankind. The story of humanity depends upon archaeological. and more recently, biological information, which anthropologists and archaeologists use to formulate theories of our early past. Although modern science has given us more precise methods for examining prehistory, much of our understanding of early humans still relies on conjecture.


The earliest human-like creatures- known as hominids- Existed in Africa as long as 3 – 4 million years ago. Known as Australopithecus, they flourished in East and South Africa and were the first hominids to make simple stone tools.


Another stage of development occurred around 1.5 million years ago when Homo erectus emerged. These hominids made use of larger more varied tools, and was the first hominid to leave Africa and move into both Europe and Asia.


Around 250,000 years ago, a crucial stage in human development began with the emergence of Homo sapiens. These more modern appearing hominids appeared in Africa between 200,000 and 150,000 years ago. Recent evidence indicates that they began to spread outside of Africa around 70,000 years ago.

spread of homo sapiens

This map shows probable dates for different movements, although many of these are still controversial.


These modern humans, who were our direct ancestors, soon encountered other hominids, such as the Neanderthals, whose remains were first found in the Neander valley in Germany. Neanderthal remains have since been found in both Europe and the western part of Asia. They have been dated between 200,000 – 30,000 BCE. Neanderthals relied on a variety of stone tools and were the first early people to bury their dead, By 30,000 BCE, Homo sapiens had replace the Neanderthals, who had largely become extinct, and by 10,000 BCE, members of the Homo sapien species could be found throughout the world. By that time it was the only human species left. All humans today, whether they are European, Australian, Aborigines, or Africans, belong to the subspecies of human beings.

Hands on a globe

Kulture for Kids – Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico Flag

This is my 5th week doing Kulture for Kids and it has been wonderful so far. This week we are learning about Puerto Rico.


Puerto Rico World Map

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. This means that US law governs the country, but they do not fall under our constitution and they do not have to pay US income tax. Many times territories are eventually let go and they become their own nations, like the Philippines. Puerto Rico is an Island in the Caribbean that was a Spanish territory before we obtained it after the Spanish-American War. Because the territory is not a state, she is overseen directly by the Federal Government.


Puerto Rico Food

Breakfast in Puerto Rico is usually quite simple. Maizena is like a slightly sweetened breakfast custard made from cornstarch that is sometimes eaten in the mornings. For Lunch and supper most times beans and rice can be served along with some type of stewed, grilled, or baked meat, like beef or chicken. Puerto Rican style Cazuela Chicken is seasoned with Cumin and Oregano and cooked in orange and lime juice.


Puerto Rican Folk Dress

Puerto Rico, once a Spanish colony, and also a place where the Spanish brought with them the people from Africa, has a very rich mixed culture. The folk dress is a blend of both in some ways, though you can mainly see the dominate Spanish influence. These are some examples of folk dress in Puerto Rico, however there are many different varieties through out her villages and cities.


Puerto Rican Language

The official language of Puerto Rico is Spanish, but it is a bit different from the Spanish spoken in Spain. Over time people have made the language their own, so some words are different. Also, a lot of people in Puerto Rico also speak English now.

In Puerto Rico, even though some words may be different, they use the Spanish alphabet, which contains 29 letters. The Spanish alphabet has all the letters the English alphabet has, plus a few more that make special sounds.

Spanish Alphabet


Puerto Rico Religion

Most people in Puerto Rico are Christian, and of those, most are Roman Catholics. Catholicism was the main religion of the Spanish explorers and settlers, so they passed their religion onto the native inhabitants. This also means that many holidays in Puerto Rico are Christian ones and follow Catholic tradition.


Puerto Rico Toys And Games

Like children all over the world, Puerto Rican children play a lot of the same games and with the same toys. One very popular game in Puerto Rico is a game called “La Gallinita Ciega,” which means. “The Blind Little Hen.” This game was brought to Puerto Rico from the Spaniards. It is actually a very old game. Another game that is just like it comes from England, Scotland and Ireland, called “Blind Man’s Buff.”

The game is played outdoors or in a large room. The children make a big circle, and one person “The Blind Little Hen” is blindfolded and turned in a circle 3 times, then someone leads them into the middle of the circle. The hen then must find another person on the rim of the circle, and by gently touching the face, must identify the person in order to change places. The Hen is allowed to move around the circle until he/she guesses someone. The person identified then becomes “The Blind Little Hen.” No one must not speak and try not to laugh or the Blind Little Hen will guess who you are.

Read more about “The Blind Little Hen” and the history of the game HERE.


Puerto Rico Music

One traditional style of music in Puerto Rico is Bomba. It is a mixture of Spanish, African and Native Taino music:

Another style, more recent, that has developed in the Caribbean, that also has strong Latin/Spanish and African influence, is Reggaeton. According to Wikipedia “Reggaeton blends musical influences of Jamaican dancehall and Trinidadian Soca with those of Latin America such as Salsa, Bomba, Latin American hip hop, and electronica. Vocals include rapping and singing, typically in Spanish.”

My children’s Godfather, Julio DrJay Colon, is a Recording Artist/Producer/Song Writer at KoneXion Latina Music. His music is an example of Puerto Rican Reggaeton. KoneXion Latina Music and VG Music Group won the 2013 Fox Music Award for Best Urban Music.



Puerto Rico Dance

Puerto Ricans, like most Latin Cultures are world renowned dancers. They have a very festive culture. Like their music, dancing styles are a mixture of Spanish, African and Taino.

Like Bomba music, Bomba the dance is a musical expression from the 17th Century West Africans that were brought to the Island by the Spanish to work the sugar plantations. The women’s lifting of the skirt to show their legs and/or slips is said to ridicule high society European ladies of the plantation owners and their way of dress. This dance of Bomba is more African than Spanish than the version we saw in the music section.

The original natives of Puerto Rico, were the Tainos Indians, known as the Arawak people.

This traditional dance is heavily Spanish influenced.

Now, in Modern Puerto Rico, most people are fused with all three cultures and have now become distinctly Puerto Rican.


Emancipation Day Puerto Rico 3Emancipation Day Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans love to celebrate. There are all kinds of carnivals all through out the year. Like most nations that were built up by African slavery and/or indentured servitude a significant cause for joyous celebration is emancipation. Emancipation day is celebrated March 22 in Puerto Rico and it accompanies Puerto Rico’s Caribbean Carnival season. February-March is a time for much celebrations there.


Epiphany Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico celebrates almost all major holidays that are celebrated in the United States, but because Christianity in the main religion in Puerto Rico, specifically Roman Catholicism, Christian celebrations are most prominent. Epiphany, January 6th, is an important celebration there as it celebrates the Birth of Christ. The holiday symbolizes the 3 Kings from distant lands, who proclaimed the Christ Child was born to all the towns and villages that they passed through, as they followed the North Star to bring gifts to their King.



Maracas Puerto Rico

Maracas are a common instrument used in Puerto Rican music. We will make some out of Easter eggs and plastic spoons.

Puerto Rican Carnival Mask

Carnival Mask Puerto Rico

Carnival is celebrated before the religious holiday of Lent in many Latin countries. Usually people take to the streets donning scary masks symbolizing a satirical contest between good and evil. We will make our own scary mask out of painted paper plates and construction paper.

Kulture for Kids – Morocco


Morocco Flag

My daughter is half Moroccan and when I was married to her father we traveled to Morocco several times. Morocco is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to so far. I love almost everything about Morocco. The sights, the food, the culture, the very nice people. Moroccan people are very very nice and they are true hosts. Their hospitality is some of the best in the world.


Morocco World

Morocco is in North West Africa. If you travel to the Moroccan Mediterranean, it almost seems as if you can swim to Spain. In fact, historically, Morocco has had the influence of French, Spanish, African, and Arab culture. This blend has created a truly diverse people and a very rich culture. The Kingdom of Morocco is a Constitutional Monarchy. Morocco has both a King and Prime Minister. The crown passes to the King’s closest male relative, whereas the Prime Minister is elected. People from Morocco are called Moroccans.


Moroccan Food

I must admit that I never tasted any dish in Morocco that I did not like. Everything is so delicious! Food and hospitality go hand in hand in Morocco. Every time you visit any Moroccan home you must eat something! (Even if you are still full from the house you just visited before.) I learned really quick to eat just a tiny bit of everything, because everywhere you go, you most likely will be offered more food. It’s polite to make sure you taste everything too, or you will hurt the hostesses feelings. Moroccan women are amazing cooks and it is an honor for them to show off their skills, especially to foreign visitors. Moroccan people are very proud of their cuisine, and they have every right to be.

Another interesting thing is that food is placed in big platters in the center of huge tables. Moroccan meal times are crowded. Family, friends, neighbors… a friend you just plucked off the street moments earlier… All will gather around the table to eat and chat. To eat Moroccan style is to eat with your hand (right hand) or use bread to scoop food or sauce. This is good though, because no one will know how much you really ate, because everyone is eating from the same plate. (This comes in handy when you have been eating too much all day and night. You can get away with having a few bites here and there.) 😉

A Moroccan breakfast many times consist of a Moroccan type of pancake (called Msemmen), honey, juice and tea. Actually Tea is served all the time during the day or night, and Moroccan tea is hot, sweet, and minty. Moroccan lunch can be a variety of things. Many times it is some kind of meat/veggie puree/sauce that you eat with bread. My favorite was these French baguette sandwiches that had some kind of seafood paste. Kind of like Tuna. We ate them on the beach, bought from vendors. The most famous Moroccan dish is couscous. It contains steamed veggies (carrots, squashes, and such), with some type of meat, served over couscous, which is like a kind of pasta called semolina. There are also sweet varieties that are made with dates, raisins, and cinnamon.


Moroccan Folk Dress

Although Morocco is accepting of modern western fashion, many Moroccans choose to wear traditional garments anyway. Sometimes they choose western/traditional randomly. Most Moroccans do dress conservatively as they are a Muslim people. Folk or traditional dress varies, as there are several different types of people in Morocco. Most Moroccans are from Moorish ancestors descended from Arabs, but many are also Berber as well.

Blue Men Morocco

In the Sahara region of Morocco are the Tuareg, who are a people from an ancient Berber tribe. Most of them still live nomadic lives in the Sahara desert. There are Tuareg (also called Blue Men, because of the blue head coverings they wear) in other North African countries too.


Moroccan Greetings

Moroccans all speak a Moroccan dialect of Arabic that is unique to Morocco. Although most Moroccans know classical Arabic because they are Muslim, they will only use it in everyday conversation if they are speaking with non-Moroccan Arabs. Berber Moroccans also speak the Berber dialect. All educated Moroccans speak, read, and write in French. Children begin to learn it immediately in schools. French is the official second language of Morocco. It is also the language of official government business and diplomacy. Many signs in Morocco are written in Arabic and French.

Moroccans are also great linguist. Young people, from the urban/suburban areas usually pick a 3rd, and sometimes 4th, language to study. Morocco is a big on tourism, the fact that many people speak a variety of languages, and they hang on to that traditional culture foreigners love to experience, makes them one of the biggest tourist countries in the world. Knowing many of their visitor’s languages also helps them to be more friendly to strangers. This probably has a lot to do with why Moroccans have a reputation for being friendly, warm, and welcoming. I met Moroccans who spoke (aside from their language and French) English, German, Spanish, and Italian as well.

Moroccan is written using the Arabic system of writing. It is also written/read from right to left.

Arabic Alphabet


Moroccan Religion

Even though there are a very small number of Christians and Jews in Morocco, Moroccans are mostly Muslim. Islam was the religion of the Umayyad conquerors of Syria, who spread into North Africa and then into Spain, in the 8th century. The Moors would not be pushed back down into North Africa and expelled from Spain until the Spanish Inquisition under Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile (the King and Queen of Spain during the Renaissance Era). Much of the Architecture in Morocco (Mosques and even homes) are still done in the Moorish style, and in lower Spain, the same Moorish architecture still exists.


Moroccan Toys and Games

Children in Morocco are like most children around the world. They love the same toys (building blocks, dolls, toy cars). However, Moroccan children love to play outdoors a lot, and they are very inventive and can make toys and games out of anything. You will notice that toys can be more expensive sometimes in Morocco than a lot of Western countries. One reason could be is that Moroccan children prefer to make their own toys and invent their own games. Children play together in packs there and there is a lot of things lying around for them to get into. There is way more group play there, than solitary play.  😉


Moroccan Music

Music in Morocco is played by men and women, however usually the men play the traditional music, while the women dance. Traditional Moroccan music, usually consist of drums, some string instruments (usually bowed), and some woodwinds. The music is very tribal and rhythmic. Malhun music is unique to Morocco. It is a melodic poem and very traditional. It’s roots are traced all the way back to Andalusian classical music of their Moorish ancestors.

Moroccans love Western music and their musicians. Their own Modern music emulates these styles as well. Rai music is also popular in Morocco, which is a kind of pop/dance music unique to North Africa. Also some Moroccan musicians add the electronic dance vibe to their music. This artist blends Rai and electronic styles:


Moroccan Dance

Traditional dancing in Morocco, mostly preformed by women (though there are some dances for men), has many elements of Middle Eastern belly dancing. However, in Morocco it is typically a tribal style of belly dance. This dance, called Chaabi, is such a tribal style of dance:


Music Festival Morocco

This music festival is held every summer in the city of Essaouria. Different styles of musicians and dancers, from traditional to modern to experimental, come together and share their art and culture with their fellow Moroccans, as well as any tourist who attend.


Independence Day Morocco

Morocco celebrates her independence on November 18th. This is a day for celebrating the return of the exiled king, Sultan Mohammed V and the end of the French Protectorate. The new king Mohammed VI, (grandson of the once exiled king, now resides in the royal palace in Rabat and wears the Sultan’s crown.) All Moroccans from all regions celebrate this holiday in much the same way. There are parades in the big cities, with vendors selling all kinds of traditional food and wares. In Rural areas, there is also feasting and dancing. Moroccans celebrate being Moroccan. The Moroccan flag is flown and is symbolic of the country’s freedom. The red is for the ruling dynasty, the green is for Islam, the star is the seal of Solomon- and its points, the five pillars of Islam.


Khamsa Hand Morocco

The Khamsa hand (or hand of Fatima) is something of a good luck/protection charm. Like most people, Moroccans are not without their superstitions. This hand is usually worn as jewelry or hung inside the house. The Khamsa hand can be traced all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia! People use the charm and ward against the “Evil Eye.” There are many reasons for gifting a Khamsa hand to a loved one. One reason is a gift for a newborn baby. My daughter’s grandmother gifted her with a gold Khamsa hand necklace after she was born.

Today the Khmasa hand is a tradition. The ancient meaning is to protect the baby from jealous Djinn. Djinn are creatures that are supernatural like Angels, but unlike Angels- like humans, they have free will to be good, evil, or indifferent. Some can be jealous and malicious, especially when a baby is born and everyone is saying how beautiful he/she is. Like in a lot of mythological stories, gods and supernatural creatures get annoyed when they are not in the center of attention.

Now the Khamsa hand has more symbolism related to Islam. For instance the five fingers symbolize the five pillars of Islam. Usually it is a symbol that represents blessings, power, and strength. Regarding a baby, it’s a hope for a healthy baby.

Khamsa hands are very beautifully decorated. You can print this one out on card stock, paint, or color it, cut it out and hang it.

Khamsa Hands




Moroccan Windows

Moroccan style of architecture is the same as Moorish architecture. The windows in Morocco are exquisite works of art. In this project, you can cut out the white areas inside the window, then use colored tissue paper behind it, to make a Moorish style stained glass window effect. Or, you can color it if you want.