The book traces in detail the history of a new Muslim cemetery in Malta, from its inception to its construction and completion in 1873–74. It investigates the process of commissioning and implementing this architectural project through an intricate set of relationships between the colonial authorities in Malta, then a British island-colony in the Mediterranean, and the Ottoman, Tunisian, and Moroccan authorities. It considers the key roles played by the various institutional actors and protagonists, involved in conceptualising and executing the project, from the Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz I, acting through his political and cultural interlocutor, the Ottoman consul Naoum Duhany, to Emanuele Luigi Galizia, the Maltese architect who designed the cemetery, and the British colonial authorities who permitted its construction.
The author also explores issues relating to the emerging forms of neo-Ottoman architectural representation during the late nineteenth century, as was actively promoted within a Western European cultural context, and in this case, situated on the peripheral edge, far removed from the traditional cosmopolitan urban centers. The Ottoman patronage of an overtly exotic and Orientalist building complex, “exported” to a British colonial outpost in the Mediterranean, gives rise to a series of political and ideological issues. This case study serves to provide broader and revisionary insights into the current discourse on Orientalism, not as a closed and binary system, but rather as an open-ended and flexible form of artistic representation.
Besides the main analytical text, the book includes several transcripts of original archival documents, old photographs and a comprehensive photographic documentation of the cemetery complex in its present state. A selection of drawings comprising a general plan and elevations of the cemetery, accompany the text and documents.