The city, and at times the emirate of Mascalat featured in several Western maps of the Gulf from the 16th to the 19th century. We could not ascertain its status in Arab maps of the period and found no mention of it in Ottoman maps of the region in the map collection of the Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi Centre of Gulf Studies.
One Mr. Solomon Bolton marked it on an English map from 1755 qualifying it as ‘imaginary’. Later maps took no notice of Mr. Bolton’s classification. We asked the curatorial assistant of the Sharjah Biennial and its production coordinator for information and, upon visiting the map collection they replied:
The head of the centre advised that questions regarding “Mascalat” have been raised previously but unfortunately no information or resources have been compiled or published regarding this topic asides from what you have mentioned. The following is his own interpretation from his personal experience and conversations that took place earlier regarding this issue: the meaning of the name is contested, there are speculations that it came from Masalat – which literally means “needles” or can stand for “forts”, alternatively it could be a reinterpretation of the word Mushklat, which means problems – however that particular area of land was not deemed dangerous/unsafe. It could have been a settlement that disappeared, but there is no further documentation that could prove or disprove that hypothesis. The fact that it was referred to as imaginary is of romanticized motivation according to him.
What followed was a collaborative effort between ourselves and Nada Al Jasmi – production coordinator at the Biennial offices, in which she played the role of a young woman who came back from living abroad. In the mountains towards the east coast of Sharjah, Nada rehearses a text that describes the city as a city of and for women.
Kasper Akhøj and Tamar Guimarães, Address Rehearsel, 2013.
2 slide projectors with synched sound. 48 colour slides, 4 minutes.
Commissioned for Sharjah Biennial 11, Re:emerge – Towards a New Cultural Cartography, curated by Yuko Hasegawa, 2013.