Pangur Bán was an Irish monk’s cat in 9th century Germany; we know this cat’s name because the monk wrote a poem about him. Even though this poem was written more than a thousand years ago, Pangur Bán was not the first named cat in history.
The 105th surah of the Quran relates a battle outside Mecca between Yemeni war elephants and a flock of birds.
The Ethiopian and Coptic Orthodox Churches hold that Pontius Pilate, the governor who condemned Jesus Christ to death, later converted to Christianity himself, and they revere Pilate as a saint.
Neither Aladdin nor Ali Baba were in the original Thousand and One Nights (aka the Arabian Nights). The tales first appeared in the French translation, probably from a Syrian Christian storyteller named Hanna Diyab who lived in Paris from 1708 to 1710.
Wadi al-Salaam, the Valley of Peace, in Iraq is the largest cemetery in the world; more than five million people are buried there.
Up until 1982, all crystals were believed to be, by definition, periodic. But then an Israeli materials scientist discovered something strange…
Socotra, the alien island wedged between the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, is home to the dragon blood tree: a source of dye, paint, medicine, varnish, and magic.
The Sardinian launeddas, also known as a triplepipe, sounds like someone playing three clarinets at the same time.
The escape artist Harry Houdini and the author H. P. Lovecraft collaborated on a “true” Egyptian horror story.
How about that time that the Egyptian Mamluks, with secret support from Venice, battled the Portuguese in the sea off the coast of India?
In 1967, fifteen ships and their crews were trapped on the Suez Canal because of the Six-Day War. The ships would remain there for the next eight years.
Most accidental mummies are preserved by heat, cold, or peat bogs. But in the Chehrabad mines in Iran, the bodies of ancient miners were buried in salt.
In early Christian tradition, the power of saints’ relics could be transferred from object to object by a simple touch.
The shamir is described in the Talmud and Midrash as a tool capable of slicing through solid stone, iron, and diamond – but was it a worm, a laser, or a radioactive rock?
Proto-Indo-European is thought to be the ancestor language of English, Latin, Greek, French, Russian, Urdu, Sanskrit, Farsi, and dozens of others. But what did it sound like?
Al-Khazneh, the temple carved out of a cliff in Petra, is the most famous remnant of the Nabataean Kingdom. But to its south lies Hegra, the cursed stoneland city.