Winter Spring 2019 Newletter

Our Winter/Spring edition of Nomads News offers the articles on ‘Matrakçı Nasuh; The Ottoman Leonardo da Vinci’; the Iranian Festival Bazaar; the Silk Road Symposium; a booklaunch of ‘India-ji; Land of my Birth’ by Aline Dobbie; and ‘Connections’ – Rufus Reade Tours on Japan…

See our events pages for all booking details.  Click here for the PDF of our Winter-Spring 2019 Newsletter.

Ottoman empire

Matrakçı Nasuh – the Leonardo of the Ottoman Empire

Matrakçı Nasuh (1480 – 1564) was a 16th-century Bosnian statesman and polymath of the Ottoman Empire. A mathematician, militarist, painter and miniaturist, among a host of other skills, he was eminently comparable in the scope of his creativity to his near contemporary, Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519).

Matrakci was brought to Istanbul after being recruited by the Ottoman scouts in Rumelia. He was a gifted Janissary who went through both the Infantry and devşirme system.

This was the cruel but highly successful system of conscription of foreign boys into the ‘civil service’ of the Ottomans, instilling a combination of loyalty and separation that contributed to the stability and endurance of Ottoman power.

Although born to Bosnian Muslim parentage, he was drafted into the devşirme system, which was mostly reserved for the Christian populace of the empire.

Exceptionally, however, in Bosnia, the devşirme was also extended to local Muslim families. He became a gifted Janissary and eventually rose to high station and with his prolifc intellect and extraordinarily diverse skills, he became a confdante of sultans and went on numerous campaigns, copiously recorded with his maps at every town along the way.

The 10th Edinburgh Iranian Festival takes place in March 2019, with music, performances, film screenings, talks, cooking workshops and many more exciting events. The Nomad’s Tent is hosting a two-day Iranian Craft Fair (Bazaar) introducing Iranian crafts and food to the people of Edinburgh on March 2nd and 3rd 2019. Women’s attire, jewellery, Persian recipe kits, mixed-media artwork, cushions, rugs, painted glassware and ceramics, sweets and saffron are among the many items that will be on offer. No booking required.


For more information on their upcoming events:



After a long period of study on mathematics and geometry, he wrote several mathematical works and submitted them to the Ottoman sultan Selim I. A recent study of one such book, Umdet-ul Hisab revealed an unknown fact that Matrakçı had invented some genuine multiplication methods.

One of the signifcant results displayed in this book was that the lattice method had been widely used in the Enderun School nearly 50 years before John Napier reintroduced it to Europe.

Besides his works on mathematics and history, he is particularly famous because of his miniatures. He created a naturalist style which focuses on panoramic views of landscapes and cities painted with the greatest detail. His most famous work, the Istanbul landscape pictured, shows almost every street and building of the city of that time. In Ottoman miniature art, this was later known as the “Matrakçı style”.



We had some very enjoyable events in 2018. We hope you will enjoy some offerings for 2019. Thank you for being on our mailing list and for your interest in what we do. You can be on our snail mail AND email (we don’t get it all into postal mail) list. Email us at to join our email list. Please notify us of your email address so we can send out updates. Each update will include the option to cancel or alter preferences. Further notice will be published nearer the time of each event but early booking or enquiries are welcome. Please email or visit our website for more information.

Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd March The 10th Edinburgh Iranian Festival takes place in March 2019, with music, performances, flm screenings, talks, cooking workshops and many more exciting events.

The Nomad’s Tent is hosting a two-day Iranian Craft Fair (Bazaar) introducing Iranian crafts and food to the people of Edinburgh on March 2nd and 3rd 2019. Women’s attire, jewellery, Persian recipe kits, mixed-media artwork, cushions, rugs, painted glassware and ceramics, sweets and saffron are among the many items that will be on offer. No booking required. For more information on their upcoming events:


Wednesday 27th March, 6.30pm

Book Launch: India-Ji

Aline Dobbie

Aline is widely acknowledged as an unoffcial ambassador for the great nation of India; an author, journalist, and blogger. Her ffth book is a collection of experiences and memories of journeys throughout India over the last ten years. Aline lived in India until she was sixteen years old and her enduring love for the vast country shines out of her narrative. India-ji encompasses history, social comment and her take on modern India, a country which plays an increasing role in global affairs. Martin Bell OBE, the distinguished UNICEF ambassador, retired BBC journalist and one term MP, wrote the Foreword to her frst book and will introduce Aline and India-ji at this book launch.


Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd March 2019 trade & nomadic life on the silk roads of central asia: A SYMPOSIUM

Traders in antiquity along the Silk Roads included Bactrians, Sogdians, Syrians, Jews, Arabs, Iranians, Turkmen, Chinese, Indians, Somalis, Greeks, Romans, Georgians and Armenians! The extent of the trading routes both geographically and chronologically, was extraordinary. In the last millennium, Europe, Africa and even the Americas were directly or indirectly transformed by the heart beat of this great highway.

Our symposium will explore settled and nomadic peoples on the Silk Road and their dramatic effect on culture across the world.


Friday 22nd March From Luxury to Everyday Commodities; Carpets and Porcelain in British Domestic Life

A tour and talk at The National Museum of Scotland. Senior Curator Friederike Voigt will take us through the Decorative Arts and World Cultures galleries at National Museums Scotland, discussing art and objects traded from China, India and the Middle East during the 17th and 18th century. Highlights will include the so-called Kinghorne table carpet.


Saturday 23rd March The Nomadic Way of Life by Carole Hillenbrand

This talk will shed light on the nomadic peoples who lived along the Silk Roads from ancient to early modern times. The umbrella term ‘nomad‘ includes the founders of major empires from the Huns of antiquity to the Mongols who established the largest continuous land empire in the history of our planet. It will cover language, social structure, clothing, diet and the key role played by women. Both peaceful and violent interaction between nomadic and settled society will be examined, including the great mass migrations that changed the face of history.


Central Asia as a Bridge Between East and West by Robert Hillenbrand

Defning the crucial role of Central Asia in the operation of the Silk Road over the centuries, this talk will focus on the whole region as an effective bridge between eastern and western Asia and on the area as a meeting place for Turks and Persians, Chinese and Arabs, and will explore their various interchanges, including the presence side by side of multiple faiths – Zoroastrianism, Nestorian Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Shamanism. But perhaps knowledge transfer, from silk production to paper-making to maps, deserves pride of place. Last but not least are the personalities that populated the Silk Road over the centuries – Genghis Khan, Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo, and a rich cavalcade of other personalities.


Silk Road Influences in Uzbek Embroideries From the Burrell by Noorah Al Gailani

From the day a girl is born in a traditional Uzbek society, her mother, aunts and grandmother would work together to prepare a worthy dowry for her later marriage. Through a small group of Uzbek Suzani embroidaries belonging to the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, this lecture will explore
the creativity of Uzbek women and their social and cultural environment – an environment flled with exposure to artistic influences that were carried along the Silk Road.


A Migration of Tents; Evolution and Diffusion of Nomadic Tent Types Across Central Asia by Peter Andrews

The present divergence in tent forms among Turkic and Mongolian nomads result from distinct cultural impulses that arose separately. The differences between Türkmen, Noğay, Qazaq, Qaraqalpaq, Özbek, and Qırgız tent forms, with their varying decorative schemes, on the one hand, and the Mongolian forms on the other, can be related to the historical interaction, or lack of it, between these peoples.




Rufus Reade Tours



I am just back from 2 months in Japan, and thought I’d share some of the extraordinary connections which link our own British Isles on the west coast of the Eurasian continent with the islands of Japan on the east coast of the same continent. During my visit I explored some of the foreign imports which have made such a difference to Japanese life.

Consider these: Buddhism from India, via China and Korea (arrives in the 6th century), writing (Chinese characters which we know as Kanji arrived in the 5th century from Korea), Chinese acupuncture reached Japan the following century, pottery (although there were immensely skilled potters already at work in Japan) was altered by important new techniques which arrived from China via Korea in at least two waves (glazing techniques arrived in the 8th century, and porcelain in the 17th century), and Christianity which was brought by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century (though banned and driven underground in the following century).

There are several Europeans who are credited with an enormous influence on Japanese culture. The British potter Bernard Leach is often mentioned alongside Shoji Hamada with whom he worked in St Ives, Cornwall in the 1920s, and latterly in Mashiko in central Honshu (where Hamada’s grandson still works as a potter). The two men led the revival in a craft pottery tradition quite distinct from the carefully painted porcelain that we may know as Imari-ware.

One of the literary links which I enjoyed was the half Greek, half Irish writer Patrick Lafcadio Hearn. In Japan he is regarded as an adopted son: he changed his name to Koizumi Yakumo. His role through such titles as his Japanese ghost stories Kwaidan (1903), and his earlier Gleanings in Buddhafelds (1897) was to re-introduce the Japanese to their own stories and folklore. By chance we coincided on our train back to Kyoto with his cousin who had travelled over from the United States to explore his family history.

Two other ghastly imports were the terrible repercussions of the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Visits there provoke both a sense of wonderment at the human capacity for healing and tears at the devastation that was inflicted on those two August mornings in 1945. What is so astonishing is the lack of bitterness at these actions. A determination that no nuclear weapon is ever dropped again underline the ethos of both cities. In Nagasaki, I enjoyed fnding two links to Europe, both of which are still celebrated. In a corner of this trading city is Glover Park, named after the merchant Thomas Blake Glover an Aberdonian who spent his life in Japan trading. His home in Nagasaki is the oldest western-style house in Japan.

By an accident of topography it survived the bombing. When we think of Japan we may think of its fantastic high speed train system. The frst train was brought to Nagasaki by Glover in 1865. Not far from Glover Park is the former Dutch trading enclave of Dejima. It was a small island that has now become landlocked as the city has expanded. Here the Dutch traders were confned.

David Mitchell’s excellent 2010 book “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” graphically describes the small Dutch community of merchants at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, bringing in European books, medical ideas, as well as commodities from Batavia (Indonesia), and yearning to communicate with Japan, which was forbidden. I think these rich links would make a fascinating tour of Japan. Let me know if you’d like to be amongst the frst to hear of my plans for 2020.

Rufus Reade runs Rufus Reade Tours




More stock instore