Usama ibn Munqidh was born on 4 July, 1095 in northern Syria. In the last decades of his life he concentrated on writing, collecting his scattered poems into a much-praised Diwan, but specialising in topical anthologies of poetry and prose like The Book of the Staff or Kernels of Refinement. Usama's last patron was the mighty sultan Saladin, to whom he intended his most famous work, the Book of Contemplation. He died in Damascus in 1188. Paul Cobb, Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic History at the University of Pennsylvania, has been engaged on a long-term project involving Muslim views of the Crusades and the writings of Usama ibn Munqidh in particular.