Thursday, December 23, 2010
The Ottomans wrote in Arabic calligraphy and it scrolls across historic buildings all over Turkey. As an art form, the elegant, interlaced lettering is worthy of framing. However, it's a good thing Ataturk changed everything over to a Latin alphabet, or I'd never figure out what anything meant!
Take for example, the Tuğra (seal or signature) of Suleiman the Magnificent at the right. Talk about a John Hancock! I can't figure out where the first letter is...forget about finding a word. To be sure, most building names are more linear. But Arabic lettering, even written by a regular person, has a way of connecting and contorting itself into something I can't decipher.
(It's also written from right-to-left, which adds to my overall confusion. Maybe it's just me though, I tried learning Cyrillic when I studied Russian and even though that's written left-to-right, only a few of those letters stuck. An interesting aside: Kurdish can be written with Arabic lettering, Cyrillic lettering, or Latin lettering.)
Some calligraphy is even shaped into objects, like the bird below.
After some head tilting and a few mumbles, we know that someone named Abdulreni wrote it in...1167? Something about Mevlana...so he must have been a Sufi. You know, one of the whirling Dervishes, like Rumi...and something about Allah, so it's a religious piece. Besides that, your guess is as good as mine.
You might think anyone who can manage to read the Arabic lettering would understand. Yet the Ottoman words themselves are Turkish, so someone who only spoke Arabic wouldn't know what the words meant, even if they could recognize the letters. Which makes sense, because I can't read Latin, even though English uses the same lettering.
Another interesting aside: Farsi, the language of Iran (Persia), also uses Arabic lettering, but with modifications.
Some Interesting Links: