Arab Views of Europeans, 1578–1727: The Western Mediterranean

  • Nabil Matar


Ahmad bin Qasim was an Andalusian Morisco who fled from Spain in 1599 and settled, like many of his compatriots, in Morocco. He was proficient in Spanish and, to the surprise of his wary co-religionists in Morocco, Arabic too. Sometime in early 1611, he was sent with five other Moroccans by the ruler, Mulay Zaidan (r. 1603–27), to France and the Netherlands on a mission to retrieve goods that had been looted from Moroccan ships—or to demand compensation for them. During his three-year stay in these two countries (one whole year was spent in Bordeaux), he observed and reflected on the nasara among whom he was staying, debated and argued with them, feasted and prayed, made friends and enemies. He even fell in love, as the above quotation shows. Much as he was inimical to infidel Europeans who, knowing little about Islam, did not hesitate to denounce it, he still sought engagement with Christian men and women, scholars and princes, and developed complex relations, even relationships, with them. After returning to Morocco, and from there going on to Egypt, he wrote a memoir of his escape from Spain to North Africa, and his subsequent journey to Europe.


Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Early Modern Period Royal Court Oral Culture 
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© Nabil Matar 2005

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  • Nabil Matar

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