For a long time I’ve wanted to visit the Pudding Restaurant in Istanbul. It was a meeting point and cross road on the hippy trial to India, where you could post a note up for fellow travellers you’d met along the way.
These days its right in the heart of the tourist district and it turns out that the hippy busses have been replaced with tour coaches full of tourists born around the same time as the hippies of the 60s.
I got there a bit early for lunch and was the only one in there, so took a few minutes to look at the oversize pictures from the 60’s on the wall. More of a gallery than a restaurant, I wondered how they sweet little man at the end of the counter made ends meet. Then bang on queue the place was filled by tour groups escorted in by their guides after a tough morning pounding the mosque mill. Minutes later there wasn’t an empty seat in the place, or a dreadlock in sight.
I sloped down the hill with my take away pudding, and stumbled across the Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam. Nice concept I thought, newly opened, lovely building. And what have the Muslims ever done for us? Apart from Astrology, Navigation, Timekeeping, Algebra, Optics and Medicine.
I wonder if the technology developed reflects the need of the time or vice versa. Were the moors traders because they had the technology to navigate, or did they develop the navigation technology to help them trade.
By today's logic, it's manufacturing techniques that allow the widespread distribution of technology, and the technology shapes our lives. Its no good creating a great product if you cant make lots of them, and cheaply enough for people to buy. We have some great technologies that aren't widespread so aren't reshaping our culture. Solar panels for instance.
The commercial imperative encourages the development of manufacturing techniques, products and technologies that send our lives in a particular direction governed by fashion or consumer whim.
A lot of the pioneering work claimed by the museum on behalf of the Muslim world clashed in my mind with the work of the Romans, and the Greeks. Regardless it all was superseded by the Renaissance, and I left trying to think of a Muslim nation today that manufactures a car or produces tech products. Iran still makes the Hillman Hunter, I think, hardly a testament to engineering prowess, although they get a gold star for making the retarded British Empire era design run. Ironic that the Muslim world gives us the raw fuel but not the vehicles.