Today we left Granada for our last city in Spain: Madrid! However, most of our time in Madrid will be spent working on our research projects that we will present tomorrow night over one final group dinner. One of our travel highlights today was that we took a double decker bus through the scenic countryside of Spain and saw many olive trees! It was interesting to get to our hotel due to the current taxi strike in Madrid, so we all ended up taking either a bus or an Uber (an app-based ride-hailing service).
Because we are mostly done with the trip academic content, we will use today’s blog as a final wrap up of what we have learned, loved, and experienced. Everyone will return home with many memories to share, along with a new lens through which to view the world.
The places we have explored in both Spain and Morocco have given us a glimpse of what the lives of these scientists may have been. During our stay in Morocco, we not only learned about the religion and science aspects of the course, but also witnessed the daily lives of the people living there. For example, we would receive mint tea as a sign of hospitality which is just one example of the culture of generosity shown to us in Morocco. This taught us the importance of sharing and forming bonds, even with people that we had just met. In Spain, we have also seen signs of generosity through tapas. In a previous blog, it was mentioned that in Granada, the culture is that for every drink you order, you receive a free appetizer-like dish called tapas.
Being abroad, we have also experienced the difficulties of language barriers. In Morocco, the main languages are French and Arabic. A few of us could speak and read minimal French, but none of us speak Arabic and the local people didn’t always speak English. In Spain, we had a little more luck because many of us have studied some amount of Spanish, however, there were still many times where we either couldn’t communicate with the local people or were misunderstood. This experience opened our eyes to the difficulties people in the U.S. face when English is not their primary language.
Before embarking on this trip, we all knew very little about Arabic science in the Middle Ages because this is a period rarely taught in U.S. schools. Along our journey through Morocco and Spain, we have seen ancient sites where these scientists laid the foundations for Renaissance scientists to develop and expand scientific knowledge into what it is today. Islam as a religion was very influential in encouraging the study of sciences. Though some people may argue that science and religion are inherently contradictory, many of the Islamic scientists said they were heavily influenced by their religion in their scientific pursuits. For example, the Qur’an mandates that Muslims seek reason and knowledge. In addition, the emphasis Islam places on cleanliness and caring for others was a factor in medical advancements at the time and the need to determine the direction of Mecca for prayer made astronomy necessary. Without the influence of these Arabic-speaking scientists who bridged Greek knowledge to Renaissance European knowledge, modern science would probably look very different.
With souvenirs in our bags and knowledge in our heads, we are excited to be returning home in just a short couple of days, despite the -30 degree weather back in the midwest.
-Meghan Sickel and Payton Knutson