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Market Zone

How travel and trade in Muslim civilisation brought new ideas for farming, supplying energy and producing goods

16th century bazaar manuscript

From Cordoba to Cairo and on to Canton, men and women travelled thousands of miles on trade routes across early Muslim civilisation. In this zone of the exhibition, hear how the exchange of knowledge and experiences encouraged creative new ideas for supplying energy, growing food and producing goods, many of which seem familiar today.

Did You Know


...that people within Muslim civilisation harnessed clean wind and water power?
...that archaeologists have found thousands of Islamic coins in modern-day Europe, showing how far such currency moved along trade routes?
...that 8th-century chemists of the Muslim world first produced kerosene fuel by distilling crude oil, so vital to modern life?

  In this zone:

  • Meet scientist and inventor Al-Jazari in our film, and hear how he described 50 machines in his Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices and designed the first reciprocating double-action suction pump that could raise water to a height of 12 metres.
  • Try out for yourself Al-Jazari’s most ingenious application, the ‘crank and connecting-rod’ mechanical system that converts circular motion to linear.
  • See a realistic reconstruction of a thousand-year-old windmill with vertical blades.
  • Discover the tips that helped food production boom in early Muslim civilisation, including how farmers built pigeon towers to gather vital fertiliser for the soil.
  • Investigate the beginnings of the chemical industry, with the early classification and organisation of knowledge about substances and their properties.
  • Find out how early chemists distilled rose-water perfume and developed new ceramic glazes, hair dyes and waterproof varnishes.
  • Discover the rest-stops called caravanserais which offered free shelter, food and entertainment to weary travellers along popular trade routes.
  • Explore a map showing the goods traded across Muslim civilisation: muslin from Mosul, gauze from Gaza and damask cloth from Damascus, plus gold, glass, pottery, paper, fruit, salt and spices.
  • Play an interactive game in which you trade goods along the silk route on a journey from Cordoba to Canton.
  • Investigate the mystery of the English King Offa, who minted a coin with an Islamic inscription in the 8th century.