Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads Special Community Event: Leo Africanus Website Creator Cristel de Rouvray

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Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads 2005 is proud to host this special event at Pioneer High School, 601 West Stadium, Ann Arbor, in Schreiber Auditorium. Cristel de Rouvray, who attends the London School of Economics, spent 9 months in 2000-2001 traveling through Morocco on a Fulbright research scholarship, following in the footsteps of Leo Africanus. She then created a website, www.leoafricanus.com, which has been used internationally for Leo Africanus information by students, teachers and those curious about Leo's 16th century travels.

Using slides and photographs from her travels and research, Cristel will discuss the website and her personal experiences of living and traveling in Morocco in the 21st century. As she leads the audience in a recap of her travels, she will compare Morocco in the time of Leo Africanus with Morocco today. She will also discuss Leo Africanus, the man - as well as the process of undertaking such a project as the Leo Africanus website.

Through discussion and using a selection of pictures, and excerpts from Leo's text (each being a building block of his life and world) Cristel de Rouvrey will examine: Leo Africanus' writings, the life of Leo Africanus, Morocco in the 16th century and Morocco today, and the importance of putting historical fact in context and turning it into living knowledge.

Cristel holds a Bachelors in Economics and a Masters in International Policy Studies from Stanford University; she is currently finishing her PhD at the London School of Economics. She is half French, half American - and has lived in Paris, San Francisco, Rabat and London.

If you have read the novel, "Leo Africanus," this is a unique chance to see the world of the book come visually to life. It is also a chance to become more familiar with this excellent website, which can be a valuable companion tool when reading the book. Copies of the book are available at all Ann Arbor District Library sites and at area bookstores.

Using virtual travel, the website encourages readers to learn about the exceptional 16th century Mediterranean: an epoch that saw the constitution of many of the elements of our contemporary political, geographical and cultural identities; just as it uses Leo Africanus' adventurous life and unlikely destiny to awaken our modern minds to the desire for travel and exploration. The research and travel underlying the website were supported by a Fulbright Grant.

Leo Africanus is a person of many voices. His world was one of a tremendous melting pot. He came from many countries (Spain, Morocco, Italy); many ethnicities (Berber, Arab) and many religions (Muslim, Christian and shades of Berber mysticism) and his text is constantly torn among these various perspectives. His description of Morocco is deeply marked by all these views.

ANN ARBOR/YPSILANTI READS The 2005 Read program encourages readers of all ages to explore the Cultural Treasures of the Middle East - its many shared and diverse histories, memories and traditions of creative expressions.

A selection committee of community leaders, students and educators in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area chose Amin Maalouf's "Leo Africanus," translated by Peter Sluglett, as the focus of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads 2005. This is the first time a work of fiction has been chosen for the Read. Written in the form of a memoir, Leo Africanus explores Islam and Christendom through the fictional adventures of a real-life Arab traveler and geographer.

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads has been coordinated by several area organizations, including the Ann Arbor District Library, the Ypsilanti District Library, the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Public Schools, the Ann Arbor News, Barnes and Noble Bookstores, Borders Books and Music, Community Television Network, Eastern Michigan University, The Jewish Community Center of Washtenaw County, Nicola's Books: A Little Professor Store, Shaman Drum Bookstore, the University Musical Society, Washtenaw Community College and many others.

For more information about Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads, or this event, check out the website at www.aareads.org, or phone the events line at 327-4205.

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