In An Antique Land byAmitav Ghosh
• The story of Ben Yiju relates to the idea that history can be lost. Eric Wolf wrote about the
"people without history". Of course, he didn't mean people did not have a history; rather,
that slaves, like Ben Yiju, don't typically leave behind historical records, and are not
typically the subject of historical accounts. The Geniza was the place where all these lost
documents about the day-to-day lives of common merchants etc were dumped for
centuries, and its discovery offered a glimpse into the lives of people forgotten in historical
accounts. It also showed us that the transnational links between people from diverse
places existed long before European Empires colonized most of the world. Ben Yiju was a
simple slave from India who had a relationship with merchants from Egypt. Ghosh clearly
identifies with the slave: he felt a sense of shared history, a certain sense of entitlement to
visit Egypt and to carry out field work. - discussion board
• slabe of MS H.6. abraham ben yiju- jewish merchant gone to india as a trader and lives
there he is a scholar poet and is wealthy. mubashshir – khalafs brother
• not until 1942- summer when khalaf's letter slipped quietly into twentieth century print-
that the middle east saw so great and varied a gathering of foreigners.
• Talks lightly about E-Ps war
• khalaf and his fellow merchants had a network of contacts all over north africa- middle east and
southern europe. - keep themselves well informed.
• Khalaf calls bin yiju his master- he is ben yijus indian slave and business agent
• ab-ali- shop keeper and landlord- fat and everyone made fun of him and hated him- no shortage
of customers. Head of his lineage
• Jabir- abu ali cousins son- paternal line member of lineage annoying to ali
• lived in an old chicken coop brought by doctor aly issa- professor eminent anthropologists in
• Masr is another word for egypt that means to settle or cilize. - long history in arabic it is the
name by which the country is known the most- renders the city indistinguishable from the
• cairoEgypt – south lies upper egypt- long thin carpet of green that flanks the nile on both sides
to north is the triable created by the river- the delta.
• Egypt itself sits in between like a hinge straddling the imarginary line that since the beginning
of human history has divided the country into two parts
• egyptians outside cario- metaphor stands for entire city- whole of it is known as masr people of
cairo speak of masr- often have a particular district in mind.
• cario not so much a single city various different dynasties and rulers.
• Babylon of egypt – where abraham lived. The entrance to babylon was guarded by two massive
heavily buttressed towers- one now a ruined stump- other was incorporated several centuries
ago into the structure of greek orthodox church. Towers served as babylons principal
embankment against the annual Nile flood. When the fortress was built the river flowed
directly beside it
• served as a port- was one of the busiest in the middle east- handled a lot of traffic.
• Second great gateway- no longer in use- floor deep in water and swamped – thick film of green
film over interior. This putrefying pit- thought that through this gateway that the arab general
thought to have effected his entry into Babylon 641AD – Muslim victory over christian powers
• In Babylon – the moment of capitulation marked its greatest triumph for it was then that this tiny fottress fixed the location of the countrys centre of gravity.
• Shaikh musa – sons ahmed- educated- hasan- followed dads footsteps in taking care of the land.
• His new wife is jabirs fathers brothers son
• stereotypes about Hindu’s
• the synagogue of ben ezra members followed a custom- of depositing their writings in a special
chamber in the synagogue so that they could be disposed of with special rites later- intended to
prevent the accidental desecration of any written form of Gods name.
• Chambers where documents kept were known by the term geniza- meaning storehouse
• the geniza- more than eight centuries papers continued to accu