For eight long, dark centuries (from roughly 500-1300 CE), the flame of learning in Western Europe flickered and sputtered, coming precariously close to extinction on a number of occasions.
What saved much of the accumulated knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome from being forever lost to history was the salvage work, and translations, undertaken by Arab scholars in Toledo (Spain), Norman Sicily and a handful of other sites. (Such salvage work also was undertaken in a number of Western European monasteries, most notably in Ireland, but the focus of this salvage effort was primarily classic literature. To Arab scholars must go the credit for saving ancient philosophy and science:)
Given the enormous debt that Western Europe owes to Arab scholarship, it is puzzling why the Arab world's own native literary traditions remain so poorly known and understood in the West.
Over the next several days we shall examine this conundrum in more detail, for by ignoring such a large body of literature, the West is missing out on some of the finest works of literature ever written....