12th Century World Map

  • Produced in Sicily by Al-Idrisi, this map is regarded as the most elaborate and complete description of the world made in medieval times. It was used extensively by travelers for several centuries an contained detailed descriptions of the Christian north, as well as the Islamic world, Africa and the far East.


  • The story goes that an Arab named Khalid was tending his goats in the Kaffa region of southern Ethiopia, when he noticed his animals became livelier after eating a certain berry. He boiled the berries to make the first coffee. Certainly the first record of the drink is of beans exported from Ethiopia to Yemen where Sufis drank it to stay awake all night to pray on special occasions.

Elephant Clock

  • The Elephant Clock was built by Al-Jazari, and gives physical form to multiculturalism. It features an Indian elephant, Chinese dragons, a Greek water mechanism, an Egyptian phoenix, and wooden robots in traditional Arabian attire. The timing mechanism is based on a water filled bucket hidden inside the elephant.


  • Before the Wright brothers, Abbas ibn Firnas, a Muslim poet, astronomer, musician and engineer made several attempts to construct a flying machine. In 852, he jumped from the minaret of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba using a losing cloak stiffened with wooden struts. Despite being unable to fly, the cloak slowed his fall creating what is thought to be the first parachute. By 875, he realized his device needed a tail and successfully stayed aloft for 10 minutes.