The following is from the July 31, 2008, edition of The Dallas Morning News. Ali Alibhai will earn a master's degree in Medieval Studies from SMU's Dedman College in August.

Ancient lamp guides SMU's 39th Fulbright Scholar

Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

Ali Alibhai wasn't looking to gamble, but when a professor tipped him off to a treasure trove of Moroccan artifacts, the Southern Methodist University grad student hit the jackpot.

"It was just a slide" of an ancient bell-lamp, spoils of wars fought centuries ago in Spain and North Africa, he recalled. "But, culturally, it's a very rich object."

Mr. Alibhai not only secured a topic for his Medieval Studies thesis, but also paved the way to becoming SMU's 39th Fulbright Scholar.

Through the prestigious, federally sponsored international exchange program, the DeSoto resident will spend nine months in Morocco, exploring religious lamps, particularly those transformed from bells, which once hung in Spanish churches and now illuminate mosques.

He said though he dug into Arabic, English and Latin records documenting the lamps' existence as far back as the 10th century, there is a great deal more to learn.

"There wasn't much research out there, so I wanted to actually see them up front, to see what people actually think of them today," Mr. Alibhai said. "My thesis was about what people thought about them a thousand years ago."

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