Tandem Project

Making the Medieval Modern: Stories in Text and Art

Publication Project

Reading the past needs translation for contemporary readers, especially when it comes to young generation. Other than expected, medieval stories from Arabic literature already include concepts of openness, diversity and inclusion. It is the idea of the AGYA project partners to make these stories easily accessible through art. It is with these premises why AGYA members Dr. Enass Khansa and Dr. Konstantin Klein jointly with AGYA alumnus Prof. Dr. Bilal Orfali initiated a book series especially for young readers to bring medieval stories to new life.

As a kid, you wouldn’t have access to medieval Arabic texts and stories, because they appear in huge volumes. We had the idea to publish and illustrate them.

AGYA member Bilal Orfali 

Medieval Arabic literature in text and art: Making diversity visible

The series of booklets highlights aspects of diversity in medieval Arabic literature. The publications target young readership between the ages of ten and eighteen. The beautifully designed books are a result of a collaboration between scholars, writers and visual artists from Germany and the Arab world. Sally Shalabi, a professional storyteller, recorded parts of these stories. Children can listen to them as good night stories

The booklets focus on the following topics: 

  • Friendship (published in 2021) 

This volume taps into one of the most cherished bonds in human culture: friendship. It shows how medieval communities reflected on it, promoted kindness and social bonds through both lamenting the loss of friendship and appreciating it. The book on friendship has been published by the Library of Arabic Literature at the New York University Abu Dhabi.

  • Women in Power (forthcoming in 2023)

From a diverse body of literature, the booklet selects biographies of women from different ethnic, religious and social backgrounds, and highlights their contribution to their communities. It takes on women’s empowerment and invites young readers to explore medieval history in an unconventional way. 

The booklets are distributed to educators and an interested general public free of charge. For more information on the series, read the Interview with Enass Khansa and Bilal Orfali at ‘Arablit & Arablit Quaterly’.

Cover Publication

New York University Press

Disciplines Involved
Educational Studies, History, Literature
Cooperation Partner
New York University Abu Dhabi, USA
Project Title
Making the Medieval Modern Through Art: Visual Interpretations of Medieval Stories for Young Readers
2020 - 2021
Funding Scheme
Tandem Project
Countries Involved
Germany, Lebanon
AGYA Publication
An Anthology of Friendship in Arabic Literature