The Museum of Islamic Art, ItalyIn recent years the west and Islam have endured a fractured relationship. With wars, bombings, protests, revolutions, uprisings, flag burnings, religion mocking and worse it could be argued that the west and Islam are too different to ever be compatible with one another. However, to believe this would be to ignore the overwhelming wealth of evidence that shows how both the Islamic world and the western world have, throughout history, grown together in both war and peace. An example of this is found in the Museum of Islamic art in Palermo, Italy (although the locals would say it’s Sicily!).

A brief history of Islam in Sicily

The museum contains relics from as early as the 9th century, a period when Sicily was part of the extensive Abbasid and Fatimid Islamic caliphate. However, what’s more interesting is that there are relics created in later years, between the 11th and 15th century, a period when Islamic influence in Sicily had waned and the island was under Norman control. The continuance of Islamic culture, long after the caliphate had ended shows the continuing effect Islam had on the region.
Inside the Museum of Islamic Art you will find a collection of Islamic objects including ceramics, brass vases, Egyptian woodcuts, marble objects and numerous inscriptions. Unlike the earlier objects, the Egyptian and later century Islamic objects are mostly from the Ottoman period. A highlight of any museum tour is the mushrabiya – a 15th century, finely crafted perforated wooden screen.

The Museum of Islamic art is itself a treasure

The museum, situated on the edge of the picturesque giardino belvedere, is a sand-coloured building, so similar to ancient Roman rectangular designs, yet it has arches over every doorway and window hinting at the Middle Eastern treasures that lay inside. Furthermore the museum itself is part of a palace meaning any visit to the Museum of Islamic Art is to walk amongst the shadows of history’s most significant and influential people.
No trip to Palermo is complete without visiting this interesting building and absorbing the history found within.

IMG: Jan Kranendonk – Fotolia