Al-Maqamat: A Digital Art History Student Project

Welcome! Tap on the images below to play videos about the adventures of a con man named Abu Zayd and his friend al-Harith as they travel across the medieval Middle East. This is a collection of student digital multimedia work about the famous 13th C Arabic manuscript - BNF Arabe 5847 - held in the Bibliothèque nationale de France called al-Maqamat (The Sessions). Tapping on the titles will open an English translation, the manuscript and an Arabic transcription.

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In the fall of 2017, students enrolled in Dr. Hussein Keshani's course ARTH 370 - Art & Literature of the Islamic World at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna, Canada, were assigned the task of creating a multimedia web animation. They had to discuss an episode from al-Maqamat using the manuscript BNF 5847. Most had only a rudimentary knowledge of web programming.

Al-Maqamat of al-Hariri

The Arabic collection of 50 short stories called al-Maqamat (The Sessions) was written by al-Hariri (1054-1122). Each story takes the name of a city or region of the Middle East. The narrator is a naive merchant named al-Harith who repeatedly encounters the con man and imposter Abu Zayd in his travels. Written in a highly elaborate style, Al-Hariri's Maqamat is considered a masterpiece of Arabic literature. English translations can be found at

BNF Arabe 5847

Illustrated works of Arabic literature became popular in the 13th century. Completed in 1237 AD, the manuscript BNF 5847 was probably made in Baghdad, Iraq and is attributed to the copyist and artist al-Wasiti. BNF Arabe 5847 is considered one of the best examples of illustrated al-Maqamats to have survived and offers rich details of daily life in the medieval Middle East.