Islamic Empire

Wipe the tears from your eyes, the smoke has cleared and we have moved ahead to the mid-7th century to the mid-13th century.  The city of Baghdad is a center of learning and innovations that rivaled Ancient Athens and Ancient Rome (6), a new intellectual epicenter has emerged!

Clip about scene
From 1982 Spaceship Earth Guide

Sharing Ideas

We happen upon muslim scholars presumably having an intellectual conversation which could have been about a variety of subjects including agriculture, the arts, economics, industry, law, literature, navigation, philosophy, sciences, sociology, and technology (1).   During this period, the people of the Islamic world including Jewish and Muslim scholars preserved earlier traditions from the ancient texts and added inventions and innovations of their own.

Islamic Scene prior to 2008 refurbishment. Copyright Magic in Pixels featuring Islamic Scholars discussing literature
Scene prior to 2008 refurbishment. Copyright Magic in Pixels.

As the narrators of the ride imply, the “copies of these books” include many classic works of antiquity (Mesopotamia, Ancient Rome, China, India, Persia, Ancient Egypt, North Africa, Ancient Greece and Byzantine civilizations) (1) that would otherwise have been forgotten were translated into Arabic and later in turn translated into Turkish, Sindhi, Persian, Hebrew and Latin.  In two centuries, the Islamic Empire extended its reach from Spain to the edge of India and shared these texts and ideas.

Scholars sharing knowledge from scrolls post 2008 refurbishment. Copyright Orlando Theme Park News featuring scholars with headdresses discussing scrolls that lay next to them.
Scholars sharing knowledge from scrolls post 2008 refurbishment. Copyright Orlando Theme Park News.
New detailed lighting post 2008 refurbishment. Copyright Magic in Pixels featuring islamic scholars discussing scrolls that lay beside them.
New detailed lighting post 2008 refurbishment. Copyright Magic in Pixels.

Scholars would often get together for “literary gatherings” and hold study circles at independent libraries to either share ideas or recite texts (2).   With the latest 2008 ride changes we lost one scholar but gained more elaborate attire for the remaining three.  Books were also replaced with scrolls, perhaps indicating that we are earlier in the sharing of information than originally depicted.


The construction of the first observatory for research appears in Baghdad and the collection and correction of previous astronomical data takes place leading to exciting discoveries.   Examples include (1):

  • Ja’far Muhammad ibn Mūsā ibn Shākir discovered that the heavenly bodies and celestial spheres were subject to the same physical laws as Earth
  • The first non-Ptolemaic models (Earth NOT in the center of the Universe) by Ibn al-Haytham andMo’ayyeduddin Urdi,
  • The first empirical observational evidence of the Earth’s rotation by Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī and Ali Qushji

Standing up high on the balcony on the right, an astronomer holds a quadrant reproduced from photos of a 10th century Islamic quadrant supplied by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (3).

Standing up high on the balcony on the right, an astronomer holds a quadrant

The Horary Quadrant is designed to give approximate readings of time and altitude of the sun.  Detailed instructions can be found in this article in the Journal for the History of Astronomy.

Horary Quadrant
Horary Quadrant from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Libraries and Paper

On the left is a library.  In the previous version, the scene featured two men (one standing, one seated) who are reading.   Our standing scholar took leave in our latest version and now presents a scholar deep in thought reading an ancient textbook (4).

Scholar in the library reading

Islamic library

The Muslim Civilisation has held libraries as centres of knowledge with high regard. So widespread were public book collections that it was impossible to find a Mosque or a learning institution of any sort, throughout the lands of Islam, without a collection of books placed at the disposal of students or readers (5).  The Muslim Civilisation had many techniques for each stage of book production: composition, copying, illustrating, binding, publishing, storing and selling. Reading books, as well as hearing them being dictated, became one of the major occupations and pastimes (5).


Muslims were responsible for the transfer of papermaking from China, where it had been invented in the centuries before Christ, to Europe, where it fueled the print revolution in the late fifteenth century.   Paper soon became standard for all books (6). Not only do we have a “back up” for the ancient texts but we have a method for faster dissemination of knowledge!


Because animatronics are complex, time intensive to create, and expensive – its common to duplicate the models that are made and dress them differently.   In this scene – The scholar in the front right from the pre-2008 refurbishment was said to also be the John Tyler from the Hall of Presidents (although this isn’t as easy to verify) (3).

turk     tyler

In addition, the sitting scholar is said to also be Franklin Pierce from the Hall of Presidents (3).

sitting   pierce

February 15, 2008 – current
Narrated by Judy Dench

It turns out there were copies of some of these books in the libraries of the Middle East, being watched over by Arab and Jewish scholars. Call it, the first back-up system. The books are saved, and with them: our dreams of the future.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007
Narrated by Jeremy Irons

But all was not lost. For far across the land, from Cairo to Cordoba, Jewish teachers and Islamic scholars continued the quest for knowledge. In libraries of wisdom, they debated ideas and shared new discoveries with all who would listen.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994
Narrated by Walter Cronkite

But all is not lost, for Islamic and Jewish scholars continue to preserve ancient wisdom in noble libraries. In their travels, they record knowledge, and share their findings with cultures East and West.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986
Narrated by Larry Dobkin

Far from the dying embers, Islamic wise men preserve ancient wisdom and weave a rich network of new knowledge linking east and west.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script


  2. Ali, S. M..Arabic Literary Salons in the Islamic Middle Ages: Poetry, Public Performance, and the Presentation of the Past. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010. Project MUSE