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Encounters of the First Kind: Early U.S. and Middle East Relations

Author: Mona Kolsky


Shawmont School

Year: 2010

Seminar: History of the Modern Middle East

Grade Level: 5-8

Keywords: American History, Middle East History, oil

School Subject(s): Global History, History, Social Studies

The Middle East is a highly complex region with a rich cultural heritage. It is the cradle of civilization that has also produced three of the world’s greatest religions. It occupies a strategic position on the world map: center position at the crossroads of three continents with the most strategic waterways of any place on the planet. Then there is the highly charged political and economic issue of oil that has historically positioned the world’s superpowers.

I have endeavored to create a curriculum unit that examines the earliest interactions between the United States and the Middle East.  It seems like a natural insertion into the study of American history, the examination of the young America and the ancient Middle East.

This curriculum unit is designed for fifth and eighth grade students who are studying American history. There is a strong emphasis on geography and primary source materials. Students are introduced to a variety of primary source documents in their exploration of early U.S.-Middle East interactions. They will use maps, historical documents, paintings, photographs, material culture and comics.

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Full Unit Text
Content Objectives



This curriculum unit is designed for fifth and eighth grade students who are studying American history. There is a strong emphasis on geography and primary source materials. Students are introduced to a variety of primary source documents in their exploration of early U.S.-Middle East interactions. They will use maps, historical documents, paintings, photographs, material culture and comics.


The Middle East is a highly complex region with a rich cultural heritage. It is the cradle of civilization that has also produced three of the world’s greatest religions. It occupies a strategic position on the world map: center position at the crossroads of three continents with the most strategic waterways of any place on the planet. Then there is the highly charged political and economic issue of oil that has historically positioned the world’s superpowers.


In my readings about the Middle East and its relationship with the U.S., I found that most books begin their history either at World War I or in 1945.  In fact, I believe most people associate America’s first interaction with the Middle East to be somewhere in the first half of the twentieth century. This is incorrect. America has had more than a two hundred year relationship with countries in the Middle East.


The United States has had a relationship with the Middle East as far back as 1777, when Morocco recognized American independence.  In 1785 John Lamb conducted the first American diplomatic mission to the Middle East and, in the same year Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with the emissary of Tripoli.  In 1788, the American adventurer and explorer, John Ledyard, is the first American to arrive in Egypt.  Thereafter, the excitement builds as America signs treaties, battles with Barbary pirates, missionaries begin a steady stream of travel to the Middle East, and American schools are established.  Further along, in the mid-nineteenth century, Herman Melville and Mark Twain travel through the Middle East and publish works that clearly reflect their travels.  They introduce Americans to the people and places in the Middle East. Twain’s book, Innocents Abroad, sells an astounding 300,000 copies.  As early as the nineteenth century, Americans were intrigued with the mystique of the Middle East.


In 1876, Philadelphia hosted the greatest world’s fair, the Centennial.  People came from all over to visit this grand display of pavilions from countries around the world.  There was a Turkish Pavilion.  There was the extravagant Egypt Pavilion.  The banner across the Pavilion read: “The oldest people of the world sends its morning greetings to the youngest nation.”  All the while, America is getting a sense of an exotic area of the world, albeit a distorted view. It will be one hundred and fifty years of distortion, “Orientalism,” that influences Americans in the twentieth century as to how they think of the people in the Middle East.


What countries are in the Middle East?  Throughout this curriculum unit, the geographic/political term Middle East is used to refer to the region of the world that includes present day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman. When a particular country/region is examined in a lesson, the plan will make note of that country.





“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad , 1869



The intention of this curriculum unit is to engage fifth graders by understanding the past,  and by using their knowledge of the present.  Students know of conflicts in the Middle East. They know about fights. They know about war.  The modern Middle East conflicts are complicated for most adults, so teaching about the conflicts directly would be futile.  It is abstract and fifth grade students see the world in black and white, and in a concrete way.  No abstractions.  No politics.  They do clearly understand trade and economics at a basic level.  They think they know something about pirates and battles.  Most know nothing about missionaries.  They know nothing of the 1876 Centennial and that it was in their fair city. They are all studying American history. Thus I have endeavored to create a curriculum unit that examines the earliest interactions between the United States and the Middle East.  It seems like a natural insertion into the study of American history, the examination of the young America and the ancient Middle East.


Near the end of the colonial period, when the colonies were still under control of Great Britain, American ships made voyages to the Mediterranean Sea seeking trade with North African countries, western Asian countries, and Turkey. The Muslim countries purchased wheat, flour, lumber, rum, onions, and beeswax.  North American ships returned to the colonies carrying wine, salt, oil, Moroccan leather, and figs.  There was a small trade with Persia, Syria, and Saudi Arabia also.  All the while, the colonies were under the protection of the powerful British Navy in the Mediterranean.  Once the colonies declared war in 1776, the United States relinquished its protection by the English.  Consequently there was no foreign commerce by the thirteen new states during the Revolutionary War.  However, by the end of the century an active American trade resumed and, in 1799, approximately eighty ships of commerce passed eastward through the Mediterranean Sea.1


The United States began its formal diplomacy with the Middle East in 1784 when Congress appointed a special commission, comprised of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, to negotiate treaties with the Barbary states.  The following year “$80,00 was allotted for the treaty-making process and envoys were designated, in place of the three high level dignitaries, to go directly to the Barbary coast countries.”2  Thomas Barclay was appointed by John Adams to go to Morocco and John Lamb was to negotiate with Algiers. In the end, Morocco was the only success whereby a treaty was negotiated for little cost, a few thousand dollars.3


John Lamb went to Algiers but failed to negotiate a reasonable treaty. He also failed with Tripoli.  Essentially the United States could not meet the price requested by these nations.  In 1790, Thomas Jefferson, now Secretary of State, and Vice President Adams had opposing viewpoints on the Barbary situation.  Jefferson believed that America should put its funds into building a strong navy that would protect American trade ships from Barbary pirate attacks. Adams thought peace should be purchased.  In the end both men got what they wanted. The Senate, in 1791, allotted forty thousand dollars for ransom money to pay the Barbary pirates when they took Americans hostage while the new Constitution lead to the creation of a navy.4 In March 1794 Congress authorized the building of six ships for the new United States Navy. The outlay of funds, for ships and ransom, was well worth the commerce conducted in the Mediterranean. Additionally, unbeknownst to Congress at the time, the navy would help to make America the mighty power it would become.


The term “Barbary states” was commonly used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to refer to the independent and semi-independent kingdoms along the coast of North Africa, stretching from the Atlantic to Egypt, all partially governed by the Ottoman Empire but actually independent. To gain access to the Mediterranean Sea after its independence, America had to make special arrangements, essentially paying money and/or goods, such as gunpowder and guns, to the Barbary states in order to allow American ships to pass through the Mediterranean safely.  Trade treaties were negotiated by the administrations of George Washington and John Adams with the rulers of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. Despite the signed treaties, Barbary pirates captured American trading ships, confiscated the cargo and enslaved their crews.  In fact, the first two presidents of the United States paid millions of dollars to the Barbary rulers for the safe passage of American vessels, as force was out of the question.  America did not have a navy on the open seas until the establishment of the United States Navy in 1794.


In 1801 Tripoli declared war on the United States, as Thomas Jefferson is the newly elected president. Jefferson had rejected the Pasha of Tripoli’s “demand for $250,000 and force was the consequence.”5 America’s ships easily defeated the Tripoli fleet in the Mediterranean.  Thereafter, American ships were not challenged until the fall of 1803.  The USS Philadelphia was captured by Tripoli forces in the Mediterranean and taken into Tripoli’s well-protected harbor.  It would be near impossible for America to retrieve the Philadelphia. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, commander of the U.S. navy vessel, the Enterprise, sailed from New York to Tripoli to lead an operation against the Tripolitans.  Decatur became a hero by retaking the Philadelphia and then setting it on fire so not to be used by the enemy.  He and all of his men escape safely.  This was America’s first war and established the United States navy and marines as a formidable military power.


In the 1830s, the Ottoman Empire enlisted the aid of American specialists to assist in rebuilding the Ottoman navy.  The Ottomans had lost many of their ships during the Greek War for independence which, interestingly enough, used the United States as its model for independence. Later in the century, in the 1870s, American army officers from both sides in the Civil War, assisted in the modernization of the Egyptian armed forces.  All the while, Americans were traveling throughout the Middle East, and American museums were conducting archaeological excavations in Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.


American museums and universities acquired huge storehouses of artifacts during the nineteenth century. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is one such example.  As noted on its website, it has a “long history of field work in the Middle East, beginning with the late 19th century excavations in what is today Iraq.  This one museum alone houses 90,000 artifacts in its Near East Collection.  Along with field excavations by researchers and archaeologists over the past hundred years, a parallel activity occurred.  Researchers, friends and supporters of the museum would collect available artifacts in antique shops in capital cities, such as Cairo and Istanbul.  On April 1, 1970, the Museum was the first institution to take a public stand on the controversial subject of the cultural heritage policy. Thereafter, no object was be purchased without an accompanying pedigree, including information about its different owners, place of origin, legality of export, etc”.6


Perhaps the most active group of Americans in the Middle East during the nineteenth century was missionaries. Protestant missionaries went to the Middle East as early as 1819 when Levi Parsons and Pliny Fisk departed from Boston to Syrna,(Izmir), Turkey.  Missionaries established schools and hospitals. Missionaries did not convert Muslims as it was forbidden.  There were native Christian sects in major cities with whom the missionaries worked, preaching, teaching, establishing medical stations, and providing humanitarian efforts.  Many of the schools began in this century still exist today.  The most well known include Robert College in Istanbul, the American University of Beirut, and the American University of Cairo.7


By 1830 diplomatic relations were established by Andrew Jackson with the Ottoman Empire.  David Porter became America’s first ambassador in the Middle East in1876 when he arrived in Istanbul. In 1840, the Sultana, a ship belonging to the ruler of Oman, becomes the first Middle Eastern vessel to dock in the United States.  The Sultana arrived in New York on a trade mission.  This event, while not a commercial success for Oman, began its friendly relations with the United States.


In 1856 Herman Melville, the American writer, toured the Middle East just as Mark Twain would do in 1867.  They traveled and wrote a travelogues that further peaked the  American’s interest in the Middle East. In 1868 Egypt hired Civil War veterans to help modernize its army.  All the while, U.S. ties with Egypt were strengthened.


In 1876 the United States International Exhibition was held in Philadelphia.  Its purpose was to introduce to the world the modern successes in commerce and technology: to inform and show off each country’s accomplishments and products. That year happened to coincide with America’s one hundredth birthday, thus the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. It was spectacular.  Countries from forty countries from around the world participated.  People from around the globe came to Philadelphia to witness the grandeur of it all.  Middle Eastern countries, Tunisia, Egypt, and the Ottoman Empire, were represented in the Exhibition’s main building. Persia (now Iran) initially accepted the offer to exhibit but later declined. The Centennial was an opportunity for the people of the world to see that Middle Eastern people were skillful, industrious, and “advanced.”  It provided a worldwide venue in which to display their industries.  After all, commerce was a major goal for participating nations.


Egypt’s exhibition at the Centennial was grand, 5000 square feet.  Its entrance paid tribute to its past with a huge structure resembling an ancient temple from the land of the Nile, painted in imitation stone.  Two massive pillars supported the entrance.  Over the entrance was the globe with encircling wings, the ancient Egyptian symbol of eternity, and on either side of the entrance crouched a sphinx.  The sign on the side of the entrance read: “Egypt- the oldest people of the world sends its morning greeting to the youngest nation.”  Upon entering the exhibition the walls of the court-like room were hung with photographs and drawings of Egypt.  The room held an array of opulent objects made of velvet, silk and embroideries of gold.  Fine drawing room furniture with ivory and mother-of-pearl designs, taken from ancient mosques, were displayed and for sale.  In fact everything was for sale; the exquisite jewelry, precious stones, carpets, works of iron and copper, pipes, silk, and gold and silver threads. It was a show of fine workmanship and design.  Cotton was the main product Egypt displayed.  The intention was to show the world its fine cotton and strengthen its cotton export business.


The exhibition from the Ottoman Empire/Turkey had a Turkish Café whereby visitors could drink Turkish coffee and smoke Turkish tobacco. They also presented a fine display of pottery, crafts, jewelry, carpets, leather goods, and tobacco in a “Bazaar-like” setting.  The Tunisia display was similar. Syrian Christians even had a “bazaar” filled with Christian religious items from the Holy Land.  What was not sold at the Centennial was shipped to New York auction houses.


The Centennial afforded westerners the opportunity to meet people from the Middle East who spoke English in a setting that attempted to duplicate their native land.  People could observe their customs, clothing, and environment in these exhibitions.  Thus, international trade, human understanding and enlightenment, for some, moved further along the timeline of U.S.- Middle East history.






The lessons in this unit were primarily designed for the use in fifth or eighth grade American history classes.  The activities clearly reflect a multidisciplinary approach whereby history, geography, reading, writing, mathematics, economics, and culture are integrated.  The lessons could be used independently or with the social studies curriculum.


This curriculum unit is integrated into the American history curriculum when teaching the New United States, Thomas Jefferson and westward expansion and the concept of Manifest Destiny.  Americans of the early nineteenth century saw their political (and religious) liberty as a form of enlightenment. Perhaps they believed spreading the word throughout the world, particularly as they traveled east or westward towards the east, that is was their responsibility, as their new nation was hope for those oppressed and “backward” countries of the world.  In fact, Manifest Destiny extends beyond geography, but also to the spreading beliefs and ideas to those who, as Americans believed, needed help or enlightenment.


The main objectives are:


  • to analyze, organize, and interpret information
  • to understand that American began its interactions with the Middle East in the late eighteenth century
  • to use a wide variety of primary source documents, written and graphic reading material
  • to identify countries in the Middle East, past and present
  • to use latitude and longitude coordinates to find specific locations on a map
  • to use a world map to plot routes used by Americans traveling to the Middle East
  • to compare and contrast paintings
  • to make inferences
  • to classify and categorize

1 Bryson, Thomas. American Diplomatic Relations with the Middle East, 1784-1995: A Survey, p. 4.

2 Field Jr., James A. America and the Mediterranean World, 1776-1882, p.32.

3 Field, Jr., p. 33.

4 Bryson, p.3.

5 Bryson, p.5


7 Groisser,Philip L. The United States and the Middle East, p. 155.

Teaching Strategies

The unit will be taught as an interdisciplinary study, although history is the main discipline.  It will also incorporate reading, writing, speaking, listening, and art.  Each lesson begins with a whole group lesson that leads to an exploration of a topic or a document.  Students will work in small groups to complete a task.  Each group will be organized with a facilitator, recorder and reporter.


To focus and set the tone for the unit, the initial lesson is a geography lesson that examines what we call the Middle East.  The Middle East, for purposes of this curriculum unit, will include the countries today that we call Egypt, Morocco, Turkey Lebanon, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. It will help students understand the location, its relationship within the world and its distance from the United States. Students will use longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates to locate countries.  They will use a legend to calculate miles between cities and countries.


All of the lessons thereafter will use primary documents.  Students will learn how to explore a variety of documents: paintings, photographs, journal entry, advertisements, catalogue descriptions, and material culture.  After reading the documents, students are asked to analyze, interpret and make conclusions based on the evidence.  It is expected that the immersion into the use of primary source materials will enable students to become more thoughtful and critical readers.  In addition, the examination of primary source materials will, hopefully, stimulate interest in history.


The final lesson uses material culture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  This lesson is the culmination of study which will further emphasize that the Middle East is a diverse geographic are with political boundaries called countries.


Classroom Activities

Lesson 1:  Where in the World is the Middle East?



  • world map in textbook or atlas for each student
  • overhead projector or chalkboard
  • chart/poster paper
  • colored pencils
  • class set of world political outline maps with continents and countries and has lines of latitude and longitude


Time: 2 class periods



  1. Using the students’ textbook map of the world and/or using a large classroom map of the world, or an overhead projector displaying a detailed political map of the world, show students where the Middle East is located. Examine its geographic relationship to Europe, Africa and Asia. Examine all of the major water bodies that border Middle Eastern countries: Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Aegean Sea, Red Sea, Black Sea, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Caspian Sea, Arabian Sea


  1. Place a list of the Middle Eastern countries on the chalkboard, poster paper, or overhead projector. The countries should include: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman. Review the list of countries and the pronunciation of each country’s name. Distribute a blank political outline map of the world to each student.  Using the world map in the students’ textbook, have students label the countries in the Middle East. Students may want to lightly color each country with a different colored pencil in order to more clearly distinguish each country from the other.  Have students label the major water bodies surrounding the Middle Eastern countries.


  1. Copy the chart below onto poster paper or copy onto the chalkboard. Have students use the coordinates for longitude and latitude to find the correct answer.  Each set of coordinates is located on a Middle Eastern country.



LATITUDE                       LONGITUDE                         COUNTRY


  1. 35 degrees North 5 degrees West ____________(Morocco)


  1. 30 degrees North 30 degrees East ____________(Egypt)


  1. 25 degrees North 20 degrees East ____________(Libya)


  1. 25 degrees North 5 degrees East ____________(Algeria)


  1. 35 degrees North 40 degrees East ____________( Syria)


  1. 25 degrees North 40 degrees East ____________(Saudi Arabia)


  1. 40 degrees North 30 degrees East ____________(Turkey)


  1. 30 degrees North 37 degrees East ____________(Jordan)


  1. 32 degrees North 35 degrees East ____________( Israel)


  1. 33 degrees North 43 degrees East ____________(Iraq)




Lesson 2:  America’s First Document in Arabic: The Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Morocco



( )


Time: 1-2 class period




  • Background: Teachers should prepare their class with background information prior to the class examining the primary document in this lesson.  Refer to the following websites to prepare background information for students on the historical relations between the newly formed United States of America and the first country to recognize it as an independent country, Morroco.


  1. Divide class into groups of four. Assign a facilitator, recorder, timekeeper, and reporter for each group.
  2. Distribute a copy of the Treaty with Morocco and a “Written Document Analysis Worksheet” to each student. Introduce the document and examine it closely with the students so that they are aware of the different portions of the treaty, the introduction and paragraphs 1-10.
  3. In small groups students will examine the first treaty the United States made with a foreign country, Morocco. Teacher will assign a specific portion of the analysis worksheet to report out on but all groups will complete the worksheet.
  4. Each group will complete a “Written Document Analysis Worksheet” after exploring the Treaty with Morocco, 1786.
  5. Each groups’ reporter will report out on a different portion of the “Written Document Analysis Worksheet.” In the end, all students will have analyzed the Treaty with Morocco and completed an analysis worksheet.



 Lesson 3: Pirates, the Barbary Wars and Philadelphia


Materials:        • class set of comic strips on the Barbary Wars/Pirates or access the comics online in the school computer lab

Click Fall 2002, scroll to “Barbary Pirates”…

Click onto:

  1. “Who Were the Barbary Pirates?”
  2.           “How Did America Fight 1801 Pirates?”
  3.            “Why Did the U.S. Blow Up Its Ships?”
  4.            “Who Crossed the Desert to Tripoli?”
  5.            “Who Finally Beat the Barbary Pirates?”


  • class set of EXIT TICKETS for each comic strip read :Comprehension questions (see appendix)
  • online library “Burning of the Frigate Philadelphia, 16 February 1804”

Department of the Navy


Time: 1-2 periods



  1. Teacher will discuss background information on the Barbary Wars. If use of the computer lab is possible, use the primary documents (maps, engravings, and paintings) on the website to visually show students the attack and burning of the Philadelphia.
  2. Student will independently read the five comics on the Barbary War.
  3. After the reading, students will complete the EXIT TICKETS (Comprehension questions) to assess students’ understanding.



Lesson 4: The Middle East Comes to Philadelphia: The Centennial, 1876



  • class set of article, Centennial in Philadelphia, from Saudi Aramco World, Nov./Dec. 1976
  • class set of two illustrations of the Egyptian & Turkish Exhibits at the Centennial: entrance to the Egyptian Exhibit & Turkish carpenters creating the Turkish Bazaar (see appendix)
  • double class set of Photo Analysis Worksheets

  • chart paper

Time: 1-3 periods



Part I

  1. Introduce students to the Centennial, the world’s fair in 1876 held in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. The Centennial highlighted commercial, industrial, and international exhibits.. Discuss the fact that countries from around the world participated, specifically three countries from the Middle East: Egypt, Turkey, and Tunisia.. Note that Philadelphia hosted 10 million visitors from around the world and thus, it was an opportunity for Americans to see and meet people from cultures of which they had no first-hand knowledge.
  2. Distribute a copy of the article, Centennial in Philadelphia. Review the layout of the article and summarize it for the class. Students should not be too concerned if they do not know the meaning of all of the words. Most fifth graders can read the article with sufficient skill so as to understand what is being described. If there are students who have severe reading difficulties, it is suggested to pair them with a stronger reader for this exercise.
  3. This activity is a “Jigsaw with Partners.” Assign groups of eight, whereby two students will partner. Divide the article into four parts. Assign one portion of the article to each pair. Partners move to sit with same topic partners (four groups with teams of the same topic).  Partners read and review the article portion they have been assigned. Partners consult with same-topic partnership to plan a teaching strategy.  Have teams reunite with their group and “teach” their portion of the article.  Therefore, no one has read the entire article yet the entire group learns about the article from the three other sets of partners who cover the material with their larger group.
  4. Optional: Have students complete a graphic organizer using the important information from their portion of the reading.

Part II

  1. Distribute copies of the two illustrations from the Centennial and two Photo Analysis Worksheets for each student (or pairs of students). Briefly discuss the two illustrations with the class. Ask them what they see.  They are copies of original illustrations from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Historical Register of the Centennial Exposition, 1876. One is a picture of the entrance to the Egyptian Exhibit and the other is a picture of Turkish carpenters building the Turkish Bazaar.
  2. After students complete their worksheets, have students report out on their analysis. Record their collective observations on chart paper.
  3. As a final activity, divide class into two groups. Have one group discuss or write how Americans of 1876 might have reacted to seeing the visitors from the Middle East.  Have the other group take the opposite perspective and discuss or write how they think the visitors from the Middle East might have reacted to seeing the Americans for the first time. Have students in each group focus on how the other group appears different and how they were similar.



Lesson 5: A Picture Says a Thousand Words: Examining the Countries of the Middle East Through Art and Artifacts


Part 1: Art themes compared and contrasted using Western and Middle Eastern artists8



  • class set of a Venn Diagram
  • 6 color copies of the 5 sets of  Western & Middle Eastern paintings or the website:

Sets Include:

  1. Nobility: Portrait of a Prince/1840/Iran and Portrait of Napoleon I/tapestry/1805/France
  2. Lovers: The Lovers Reconciliation/Edward Manet/1863/France and Two Lovers in a Landscape/1779/Iran
  3. Celebration: Fourth of July in Centre Square/John Lewis Kimmel/ ca. 1810/ American (Philadelphia) and Shah Tahmasp Entertains Abdul Muhammed Khan of the Uzbeks/ 1814/ Iran
  4. Town: New England Headlands/ H. Childe/ ca. 1880/ American and Town in a Landscape/ ca. 1880/ Iran
  5. Horse: The Galloping Horse/ 19th century/ A.F. Davenport/ American and Foundered Horse / 19th century/ Iran


  • class set of Picture/Photo Analysis Worksheets


Please note: The artists of Middle Eastern paintings are difficult to determine and usually not noted.


Time:  1-2 periods



  1. Divide students into groups of three or four, depending on class size. (Alternative: use computer lab to access art online) There are 5 sets of companion paintings. Each group will receive one set. Each set of two paintings has the same theme.  One painting is by a Western artist and the other is by a Middle Eastern artist.  Students will complete one Picture/Photo Analysis Worksheet using one of the set.  Others in the group may complete a Worksheet for the other painting in the set.  Then as a group, they will compare and contrast the one themed set using a Venn Diagram.
  2. Give students 20-30 minutes to examine the artwork and complete the analysis Worksheet & the Venn diagram.
  3. After students have completed their task, one student from each group will report out to the class their findings. They should introduce their paintings and their theme to the class first. Then the reporter should explain what the group thought was similar and what was different about the two paintings in their theme..



Part 2:  Culminating Activity/Field Trip


Background:   This lesson occurs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The museum has a collection of art and artifacts from numerous Middle Eastern countries: Turkey, Iran, Morocco, Egypt, and Israel.  The items are dispersed through several galleries.


Time: two hour lesson



  1. Students will examine artifacts from Middle Eastern countries in the various galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They will learn the age, material, patterns and countries from which these objects have come.


  1. When students return to their classroom they will write an article, editorial, advertisement, or draw a carton for the fictitious, Shawmont Gazette, circa 1880.

The piece that they write will describe an artifact or a work of art depicting the Middle East.

8 Images compiled by the volunteer staff of the Wachovia Education Resource Center at the Philadelphia Museum of Art


Bryson, Thomas. American Diplomatic Relations with the Middle East, 1784-1995: A Survey. Metuchen, New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1977.

This volume gives an outdated view of American diplomatic relations with the Middle East.  It does, however, give a good overview of the Barbary Wars along with an extensive review of America’s interactions with the Ottoman Empire throughout the nineteenth century.


Buheiry, Marwan. The Formation and Perception of the Modern Arab World: Studies by Marwan R. Buheiry. Princeton, New Jersey: The Darwin Press, Inc., 1989.

This large volume of work is a collection of essays by the Lebanese scholar Marwan Buheiry.  What makes it extraordinary, it was written in English, as Buheiry was multi-lingual.   His essays examine the creation of the modern Middle East while starting with colonial perceptions and imperialism by the French and  English.  This lofty volume is not recommended for the classroom teacher, although it does have a wonderful photograph collection of the Middle East dating back to 1880.


Cleveland, William L. and Martin Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2009.

This comprehensive, weighty volume clearly moves the reader from the rise and expansion of Islam in the eighteenth century to the present.


Daniel, Robert L.. American Philanthropy in the Near East: 1820-1960. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1970.

This is a comprehensive examination of philanthropy by American groups in the Middle East.  In addition to the author limiting his exploration to primarily Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, he speaks of only Christian groups’ philanthropy.  There is an emphasis on the evolution of private philanthropy and problems of various organizations, fundraising, and the shift from church societies to secular organizations in the Middle East..


Edwards, Holly. Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000.


This beautiful catalog was produced as a result of an exhibition at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA.  It includes paintings, decorative arts, material culture, and advertising reflecting the different stages of Orientalism in America from the late 19th century though the early 20th century.  The accompanying text examines America’s attraction to the Middle East, its perceptions/misperceptions and its subsequent interpretation of its people and events.


Field Jr., James A. America and the Mediterranean World, 1776-1882. Princeton, new Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1969.

Field was the Swarthmore College professor who wrote this comprehensive examination of America’s early history in the Mediterranean Sea region, including Islamic territories of North Africa and the Ottoman Empire.  The text is organized by country and time period.


Finnie, David H. Pioneers East: The Early American Experience in the Middle East.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1967.

This book covers America’s different roles in the Middle East in the nineteenth century.  It examines America’s missionary activity in the Middle East, and America’s naval affairs with the Ottoman Empire.  There are several pages of fascinating illustrations.

Grabill, Joseph L. Protestant Diplomacy and the Near East: Missionary Influence on American Policy, 1810-1927. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1971.

As the title suggests, this book emphasizes the role of American missionaries and philanthropists in the Middle East, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  It looks at evangelism, schools, and relief activities.  The author, it should be noted, was a Christian “informal minister,” in the United States and abroad.

Groisser, Philip L. The United States and the Middle East. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1982.

This volume was apparently written for undergraduates thirty years ago so much of the information is outdated.  However, the chapter on the United States and the Middle East before World War II uniquely starts with their association in the eighteenth century.


Gregory, Derek. The Colonial Present: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq. Victoria, Australia: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

Gregory pays homage to Edward Said in this rather academic view of America’s wrath against the nations stated in the title since 9/11.  He uses the lens of Orientalism to examine America’s present-day view of these countries.  Excerpts of literature are used to underscore ideas, which makes it more interesting to read for the non-scholar.

Hudson, Michael (ed.) and Ronald G. Wolfe (ed.). The American Media and the Arabs. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, 1980.

This is a brief but fascinating look at the perception of the Arab world through media.  The media includes not only newspapers, magazines and television, but also written texts. The historical analysis begins with first English printing of the Qur’an in 1649.  The first essay by Willard Oxtoby briefly discusses America’s fascination with Orientalism.


Khalidi, Rashid. Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East. Boston: Beacon press, 2004.

Khalidi is an Arab American historian who states in the introduction that he is biased.  He examines, often lamenting, America’s misguided, misinformed public.  There are several chapters to which he refers to interactions between the Middle East and the United States prior to the twentieth century.


Korbani, Agnes. The Political Dictionary of Modern Middle East. New York: University Press of America, 1995.

This small book is a must for non-experts on the Middle East.  It is most useful when trying to clarify the complicated, multi-dimensional aspects of Middle East history and politics. It alphabetically lists who, what, where, and sometimes the why of the Middle East over the last five hundred years. It’s perfect for classroom use when discussing the Middle East as it is clear and concise in its descriptions.


Lenczowski, George (ed.). United States Interests in the Middle East. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1973.

This volume, due to its publication date, is rather obsolete.  However, there are several sections that give an historical view of America’s interests in the Middle East in the nineteenth century that are of interest.


Marr, Timothy Worthington. Imagining Ishmael: Studies of Islamic Orientalism in America from the Puritans to Melville. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Co., 1998.

This is a graduate dissertation that is laborious and esoteric.  However, his discussion on the Puritan view of Islam, and the Puritans belief that it was the spiritual corruption of the Christian church, is fascinating.


Munroe, Alexandra. ˆThe Third Mind: American Artista Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989. New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2009.

This is an enormous catalogue, over 400 pages, from the exhibit in 2009 with the same name, presented by the Guggenheim Museum in New York.  The collection of art is beautifully displayed amidst the extensive text. This book is worth examining for its wide range of art and for its challenging view of Edward Said’s classic and predominant view of  Orientalism.


McGreevy, Patrick (ed.) America in the Middle East: The Middle East in America. Beirut, Lebanon: American University of Beirut, 2005.

This book is a compilation of twenty-eight papers delivered at the first international conference by the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Center for American Studies at the American University in Beirut in 2005.  The book is presented with themes thus, while very scholarly, is more inviting to the average teacher examining the history of the America and the Middle East.


McCabe, James D. The Illustrated History of the Centennial Exhibition. The National Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1975.

This comprehensive volume chronicles the Centennial and Philadelphia in 1876.  It is the original book reissued one hundred years later for the Bicentennial.  There are 400 engravings of buildings, exhibits and scenes in the great exhibition.


Nicolai, Richard R. Centennial Philadelphia. Byrn Mawr Press, Inc.: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, 1976.

This is a small but useful book for examining the 1876 Centennial.  The pictures far exceed the value of the text.  They include clear, detailed photographs and sketches of places, people and events associated with the Centennial.


Oren, Michael B. Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.

This 750-page book is thoughtful, thorough, well written, and fascinating.  The timeline alone was invaluable for examining the history of U.S. and Middle East interactions.  Oren takes the reader through history using three themes: power, faith, and fantasy.  It is a comprehensive view of America’s involvement with the Middle East from 1776 to the present.


Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.

This book is considered the most important work on explaining Orientalism.  Said was a Palestinian Arab scholar at Columbia University. Many writers have been influenced by Said’s scholarship on the history of the western view of the Middle East.


Said, Edward W. Power, Politics, and Culture. New York: Pantheon Books, 2001.

This is an excellent, readable, comprehensive source of information on America’s interactions with the Middle East, from the past to the present.  The book is organized chronologically and, while it covers colonial America to the present, it has over two hundred pages of brilliant information just on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  There are many wonderful photographs, illustrations, and a concise timeline that can easily be used by students of all ages.


Saikal, Amin. Islam and the West: Conflict or Cooperation?  New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

This is a small, readable book that examines the tension between the West and Islamic nations of the Middle East. Most of the historical content is the twentieth century, yet there is a small portion that reviews American’s role, essentially as isolationists, in international affairs in the nineteenth century.


Sha’ban, Fuad. Islam and Arabs in Early American Thought: the Roots of Orientalism in America. Durham, North Carolina, The Acorn press, 1991.

This view of Orientalism is explored through the relationships in literature and religion.  Fuad begins with the Puritans and argues how they, as well as all early American Protestants, saw themselves as the “chosen” people.  It is through that lens, a lens of superiority, that the author suggests America looked upon the world and their missionary enterprise. This book has a most unusual spin on Orientalism and wouldn’t be of interest to most teachers.



Web Source


Web Sources for Bibliographies of Children’s Books on the Middle East








                                    …EXIT TICKET  #1…


  • Read the comic, “Who Were the Barbary Pirates”
  • Answer the following 4 questions.


  1. In what body of water were Americans ships attacked by pirates?
  2. What areas in Northern Africa made up the Barbary States?
  3. Why didn’t the pirates attack American ships before its independence in 1776?
  4. Why were American ships easy targets for the pirates?






                                    …EXIT TICKET  #2


  • Read the comic, “How did America Fight 1801 Pirates?”
  • Answer the following 4 questions.


  1. Who was president of the United States during the Barbary War?
  2. What branch of the U.S. government declares war?
  3. In what year did the new U.S.A. unofficially fight its first war?
  4. How did the U.S. ship the Enterprise trick the pirates?




                                    …EXIT TICKET  #3…


  • Read the comic, “Why did the U.S. Blow Up Its Ship?”
  • Answer the following 4 questions.


  1. What was the name of the American warship that guarded U.S. trade ships in the Mediterranean Sea?
  2. What U.S. navy officer took on a dangerous mission in Tripoli’s harbor?
  3. The Philadelphia is captured by pirates in Tripoli, then what do the Americans do to it?
  4. Why do the Americans blow up their own ship?



                                    …EXIT TICKET  #4…


  • Read the comic, “Who Crossed the Desert to Tripoli?”
  • Answer the following 4 questions.


  1. In what Barbary state do U.S. Marines march 500 miles?
  2. What was the name of the general who lead the war in Tripoli?
  3. Why does the U.S. pay Greek, Arab, and Italian men to fight with the U.S. Marines?
  4. What city in Tripoli is captured by the Americans?



                                    …EXIT TICKET  #5…


  • Read the comic, “Who Finally Beat the Barbary Pirates?”
  • Answer the following 5 questions.


  1. List three reasons why Thomas Jefferson finally paid a large sum of money to the leader of Tripoli.
  2. In what year does America pay a ransom to Tripoli for its captured men?
  3. Who is the American hero against Algeria in 1815?
  4. What two Barbary States give money to the U.S. as an apology for the Barbary wars?
  5. In the end, what country wins the Barbary Wars?







  • DRAWING: Entrance to Egypt Exhibit, 1876 Centennial



  • DRAWING: Turkish carpenters building the Turkish Bazaar, 1876 Centennial





Pennsylvania State Academic Standards


Geography Standards


7.1.5 Basic

  1. Identify and locate places and regions


Social Studies Standards Grade Five



  1. Understand chronological thinking and distinguish between past, present and future time
  2. Explain and analyze historical sources
  3. Explain the fundamentals of historical interpretations
  4. Describe and explain historical research


8.2.5 Pennsylvania History

  1. Identify and explain primary documents, material artifacts and historic sites important in Pennsylvania history from Beginnings to 1824


8.3.5 United States History

  1. Identify and explain primary documents, material artifacts, and historic sites important in United States history from Beginnings to 1824
  2. Explain how continuity and change has influenced United States history from Beginnings to 1824


8.4.5 World History

  1. Identify and explain important documents, material artifacts and historic sites in worls history
  2. Identify and explain how continuity and change has affected belief systems, commerce and industry, innovations, settlement patterns, social organizations, transportation and women’s roles in world history


Literacy Standards


1.1 Learning to Read Independently

  1. Establish the purpose for reading a type of text
  2. Select texts for a particular purpose using the format of the text as a guide
  3. Identify the basic ideas and facts in text using strategies
  4. Acquire a reading vocabulary by correctly identifying and using words
  5. Identify and understand the meaning of and use correctly key vocabulary from various subject areas
  6. Demonstrate after reading an understanding and interpretation of both fiction and nonfiction text


1.2 Reading Critically in All Areas

  1. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas


1.3 Reading, Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

  1. read and respond to fiction and nonfiction


1.4 Types of Writing

  1. Write multi-paragraph informational pieces


1.6 Speaking and Listening

  1. Listen to others
  2. Speak using skills appropriate to formal speech situations
  3. Contribute to discussions
  4. Participate in small and large group discussions and presentations


1.7 Characteristics of the English language

  1. Identify word meanings that have changed over time


1.8 Research

  1. Locate information using appropriate sources and strategies


Standards for the Arts and Humanities


9.2.5 Historical and Cultural Contents

  1. Explain the historical, cultural and social context of an individual work in the arts
  2. Relate works in the arts chronologically to historical events
  3. Relate works in the arts to varying styles and genre and to the periods in which they were created
  4. Analyze a work of art from its historical and cultural perspective
  5. Know and apply appropriate vocabulary used between social studies and the arts and humanities
  6. Relate works in the arts to geographic regions


9.3.3 Critical Response

  1. Identify critical processes in the examination of works in the arts and humanities
  2. Describe works in the arts comparing similar and contrasting characteristics


9.4.3 Aesthetic Response

  1. Identify uses of expressive symbols that show philosophical meanings in works in the arts and humanities