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The Visit to Cyprus of Domingo Badía (Ali Bey) and Other Spanish Travellers

Abstract

Domingo Badía (Barcelona 1767 – Damascus 1818), career soldier, Arabist, intellectual of the Enlightenment, and adventurer. Between 1803 and 1807, commissioned by Manuel Godoy (Carlos IV's Prime Minister), he made a long journey around the Mediterranean pretending to be a Muslim Syrian Prince, a descendant of the Abbasid dynasty, educated in Europe, under the name of Ali Bey el-Abbasi. He visited Morocco, Algeria, Lybia, and several regions of the Ottoman Empire (Cyprus, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Greece). A man with a wide culture, he wrote an account of his travels illustrated with some magnificent drawings and maps, under the title Voyages d'Ali Bey en Afrique et en Asie pendant les années 1803-1807, that was published (in French) in Paris (1814). This work, translated into several languages, exerted a huge influence on the 'colonial' travel literature written by adventurers, explorers and spies in the 19th century. Along with the detailed description of the cities he visited, Badía also made careful remarks concerning Geography, Botany, Zoology, Entomology, Geology and Meteorology. Among the most remarkable episodes in his travels is the pilgrimage to Mecca, probably being the first non-Muslim Spaniard to set foot in these regions and to enter the Kaaba Sanctuary. Badía's visit to Cyprus took place between March and May 1806, and the author thoroughly describes the island in its geographic, ethnographic and archaeological aspects, making acute remarks about the terrible situation of the economy and the standard of living, and accurately speculating about the great possibilities of development and prosperity offered by Cyprus should just its ruling system radically change.
In this presentation, references to previous descriptions of Cyprus by Spanish medieval travellers such as Benjamin of Tudela, Pedro Tafur as well as the reflections of Juan Lόpez i Bartrolί, a franciscan monk of late 18th century are also provided.

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