Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Creswell, Robyn


This study analyzes closely the Arabic travel narratives of three Christians from the Ottoman Levant and Near East, who travelled to what they called the ‘lands of the Christians’—ie. Europe. Paul of Aleppo (Būluṣ al-Ḥalabī), a deacon of the Orthodox Church, travelled from 1652 to 1659 to Southeastern and Eastern Europe: the Danubian Principalities (modern Romania), the ‘lands of the Cossacks’ (Ukraine), and Muscovite Russia. Paul’s travels were part of an Arab Orthodox ecclesial mission in the company of this father, Patriarch Makarios III ibn al-Zaʿīm of the see of Antioch. He recorded his travel experiences in one of the most extensive Arabic travelogues: the Safrat al-Baṭriark Makāriyūs (‘Travels of Patriarch Makarios’). Elias of Mosul (Ilyās al-Mawṣilī), an East Syriac ‘Uniate’ priest, travelled throughout Western Europe from 1668 to 1675, then sailed from Spain across the Atlantic to the ‘New World’ (Tk. Yenki Dünya). There he toured Spain’s American colonies for another eight years until 1683, penning later the very first Arabic account of the Americas: the Kitāb Siyāḥa (‘Book of Travels’). Ḥannā Diyāb, a young Maronite from a textile merchant family in Aleppo, travelled in Ottoman territory as tarjumān (‘interpreter’) for a French antiquities-collector named Paul Lucas—joining him eventually to Paris between 1709 to 1710. Decades later he wrote the engaging account of his youthful travel adventures, which has only quite recently become known to scholars.None of these Arabic texts are unknown, although they remain understudied. In the case of Paul of Aleppo’s Safra, no complete Arabic edition has been attempted to date; the only existing English translation is an inaccurate and outdated one, published in three volumes between 1829-1836. This study aims therefore to address a lacuna in our understanding of Arabic travel literature from a long period—between the ‘classical’ medieval and the modern—which has suffered in the past from schol-arly neglect due to its characterization as a period of decline, or ‘decadence’ (inḥiṭāṭ). These travelogues written by Ottoman Christian raʿāyā who called dār al-islām home reveal in fact some of the diversity and richness of Arabic literature from this period. The unique travel experiences they record, as Eastern Christians “in between dār al-islām and the ‘lands of the Christians’ (bilād al-masīḥīyīn)”, in many ways defy the conventional dichotomies (eg. East/West, Muslim/Christian) with which we often approach historic travel between the Islamic world and Europe. The modern period famously saw Christian intellectuals in the Arab world take a central role in the region’s cultural Nahḍa. A major contributing factor to this were Eastern Christians’ renewed and deepened contact, beginning in the Ottoman period, with the Christian world of Europe—East and West. This contact had a transformative impact on their identity—one which, more often than not (paradoxically perhaps) consolidated their sense of belonging to their Ottoman homeland. The three travellers in this dissertation were among the growing number of Arabic-speaking Christians who took new opportunities to travel abroad and see the ‘lands of the Christians’ for themselves. Their ac-counts—approached here not as historical primary sources, but as literary works in their own right—tell an important part of this story of transformation.