17. The crafts are firmly rooted in a city (only) when
sedentary culture is firmly rooted and of
The reason for this is obvious. All crafts are customs and colors of civilization. Customs become firmly rooted only through much repetition and long duration. Then, their coloring becomes firmly established and rooted in (successive) generations. Once such coloring is firmly established, it is difficult to remove it. Therefore, we find that cities with a highly developed sedentary culture, the civilization (population) of which has receded and decreased, retain traces of crafts that do not exist in other more recently civilized cities, even though they may have reached the greatest abundance (of population). This is only because conditions in those (cities) with the old civilization had become well established and firmly rooted through their long duration and constant repetition, whereas the (other recently civilized cities) have not yet reached the limit 87
This is the situation, for instance, in contemporary Spain. There we find the crafts and their institutions still in existence. They are well established and firmly rooted, as far as the things required by the customs of (Spanish) cities are concerned. (They include,) for instance, building, cooking, the various kinds of singing and entertainment, such as instrumental music, string instruments and dancing, the use of carpets in palaces, the construction of well-planned, well-constructed houses, the production of metal and pottery vessels, all kinds of utensils, the giving of banquets and weddings, and all the other crafts required by luxury and luxury customs. One finds that they practice and understand these things better (than any other nation) and that they know well the crafts that belong to them. They have an abundant share of these things and have distinctly more of them than any other city, even though civilization in (Spain) has receded and most of it does not equal that which exists in the other countries of the (Mediterranean) shore. This is only because, as we have mentioned before,88 sedentary culture had become deeply rooted in Spain through the stability given it by the Umayyad dynasty, the preceding Gothic dynasty, and the reyes de taifas, successors to (the Umayyads), and so on. Therefore, sedentary culture had reached in (Spain) a stage that had not been reached in any other region except, reportedly, in the 'Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. There, too, the reason was the long duration of the respective dynasties. Thus, the crafts became well established there. All the various kinds of crafts were developed and refined to perfection. Their coloring remained in that civilization and did not leave it, until it was totally destroyed. Like a garment's fast color, (the color held fast until the garment was destroyed).
This was also the case in Tunis. A sedentary culture had been established there by the Sinhajah (Zirid) dynasty and its successors, the Almohads. The crafts were developed to perfection in every respect, though less so than in Spain. However, sedentary culture in Tunis has been greatly enriched by sedentary institutions imported from Egypt. The distance between the two countries is short, and travelers from Tunis visit Egypt every year. Also, (Tunisians) often live in (Egypt) for some time, and then bring back the (Egyptian) luxury customs and technical knowledge they like 89 Thus, the situation with regard to (sedentary culture in Tunis) has become similar to that of Egypt, for the reasons mentioned, and also to that of Spain, because many people from eastern Spain who were exiled in the seventh [thirteenth] century settled in Tunis.90 Thus, certain aspects of (sedentary culture) have become firmly rooted there, even though the civilization (population) of (Tunis) at this time is not adequate to them. However, a fast coloring rarely changes, except when its basis ceases to exist. Thus, we also find in al-Qayrawan, in Marrakech, and in Qal'at Ibn Hammad some remnants of such (sedentary culture). All these places, it is true, are nowadays in ruins or destined soon to fall into ruins, and only people who know are able to discern these remnants. They will find, however, traces of the crafts (there) showing what once existed there, like faded writing in a book.
God is "the Creator, the Knowing One." 91