Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘fiction novel

Prophesies of “end of time”: In “Rainbow over the Levant”

Note:  This article is a section of chapter 17 of  the fiction novel “Rainbow over the Levant”: The Exile

In 1400, Timorlank was closing in with his Tatar hordes toward Northern Syria. The Viceroy of Aleppo was frantic and sent messengers after messengers for directions from his master the Mameluk Sultan of Egypt.  He requested reinforcements and financial support but Cairo did not stir.

The Viceroys of Damascus and Hama were of no help either, and as completely in the dark as to the policies of the Sultan of Egypt.  The agents of the First Emir of Lebanon reported that Egypt’s position was not to intervene at this stage either financially or militarily and to concentrate its resources in Egypt for the time being.

It seems that the advisers to the Sultan reminded his Majesty that these hordes, like the Moguls before them, never ventured into Egypt, and most of the time they retreat after capturing Damascus. They also reminded the Sultan that when Holago the Mogul decided to advance to Palestine a century and a half ago the Mameluks defeated him easily in 1260 at two major battles.

These counselors assured the Sultan that the Mameluks would repeat the previous military feats if Timorlank dared advance toward Palestine with his already exhausted forces and stressed on the facts that the previous Fatimide and Ayubid dynasties had deteriorated and their hold on power had begun to decline when they had tried to stretch their dominions into Iraq.

The Mameluk’s Viceroys in Damascus and Hama decided not to put up a fight against the Tatars and invested their time in hoarding as much money and riches as they could gather and flee in due time.  Aleppo was destroyed and Timorlank entered Damascus in 1401 without a fight and transferred all its remaining artisans to Samarqand, his Capital, within a year.

Prophesies of the end of time

There were other factors accounting to this social uneasiness, apathy and helplessness.  Any society facing changes in its structural order is usually ripe to the cyclical apocalyptic prophesies of the ultimate end of the World.  The Levant (people living in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine) had already experienced one such depressing mood during the lifetime of the First Emir and twice in the previous century, with a slight delay of such rumors since they were emanating from Europe.

The Fatimide dynasty in the 11th century reigned in Egypt and claimed its right to the Caliphate of the Moslems by proclaiming the imminent coming of a disappeared Imam. The decline of the Crusaders’ hold on the Levant, and lack of subsequent infusions of men and financial support, combined with the occurrence of pests or plagues prompted one of these cataclysmic beliefs within the Levant Crusaders.

The other period happened when news of the Mogul invasion were imminent and the fact that indeed Holago erased the Capital Baghdad in 1258.

In the mid 14th century, society remembered the plague that devastated Aleppo half a century before, a catastroph which added to the fear of an imminent recurrence of a Tatar invasion led by Timorlank toward Syria.  These apocalyptic prophesies were shared by both Christians and Moslems.   the Shiaa Moslems would preach the coming of either the 6th disappeared Imam or the 12th Imam to unite the Moslems to some kind of victory and the Christians would rely on the eschatology of Christ returning and reigning for one thousand years over a peaceful and happy World before the end of time would take place.

Antichrist finger pointing, or which power was represented by Satan, was convenient and successful in fomenting pockets of extremist sects within each religion.  Actually, a century later, with the Renaissance upheaval in Europe, Luther was able to establish his religious Reforms by capitalizing on the fears spreading in Europe of the coming of the end and using the advancing Ottoman armies toward Vienna as the sign of an angry God punishing the Christians for following the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church who forgot the Word of God.

After the devastation of Aleppo, the First Emir realized that his stay might induce Timorlank into driving a hard bargain over the Levant; he determined that his high profile in the region was a liability to the Levant.  He nevertheless ordered Gergis to join Ibn Khaldoun’s mission waiting to meet with Timorlank encamping around Damascus and to try reaching an agreement that would spare the Levant from further distresses.

Ibn Khaldoun was the famous 14th century Arabic North African author of “History of Civilizations” and he met with Timorlank camping outside Damascus and made him promise not to exact his vengeance on the population; a promise that Timorlank never kept.  Most of the craftsmen and merchants had evacuated Damascus and fled to Lebanon and Egypt while the remaining craftsmen were denied exiting this city after the hordes of Timorlank sacked it and would be transferred to Samarqand the Capital of the Tatar.  In disgust at his helplessness and the inaction of Cairo the First Emir decided to travel overseas for an extended period until the political situation was stabilized.

Although the societies in Syria, Lebanon and part of Palestine suffered economically and organizationally, the Mameluks in Egypt retained their cohesion and managed to survive another century before they were defeated militarily by the ascending Ottoman Empire in 1516.

Advertisements

My Sunny Levant 

(Rainbow over the Levant)

Antonios (1346-1381)

Chapter 1: Genesis of family from the Metn district

After his wedding, the minor landlord Youssef Fares spread the word that his first born boy would be named Antoun.

His wife Jamila was a proud and steadfast person and made her young husband promise to expand their one large-room home to include a private bedroom with door by the time she gives birth to a child. Jamila also wished not to have to step outside for bodily needs and washing, as was common, because she had a deep sense of privacy and propriety.

The stone house was a tad larger than the neighbors’, but resembled them by the lack of modern amenities. At night, bedding were removed from a special drawer to replace the cushions that spread around the room.  The tiny kitchen was located on the north-west corner.

Eleven months later, Jamila gave birth to Latifa, a girl.  It was too early for Youssef to despair and his immediate second attempt produced Youmna, a girl, thirteen months later.

Within fifteen days of Youmna’s birth, Youssef went ahead with his project for a large family and was stopped dead in his track.   The strong headed and shrewd Jamila sent him packing to the fields to work harder and give priority to feeding his growing family.

A year went by and Youssef’s male friends and relatives smirked at him and nicknamed his eldest daughter Antouneyeh which precipitated Youssef in a state of isolation, shunning friends and acquaintances.

Jamila sensed that business was deteriorating and the atmosphere in the house darkening and so she decided to give the nod for Youssef to resume his cherished project of producing a boy and crossed her fingers that destiny would turn more clement: Jamila did not believe in large families and mocked the traditional economic viability that feeding more mouths is the panacea for riches and life’s security in advanced age.

Jamila hired a helper to salvage the energies of Youssef and economized in everything except on substantial breakfasts and suppers, understanding that destiny had to be catered to if enterprises had to be successful.

Jamila would boil water in cold weather to warm Youssef’s feet after a day’s work and rub his back and shoulders with a warm wet cloth; everything had to contribute to begetting a healthy boy who should be called Antoun.

Youssef Fares was a wreck when his wife was pregnant for the third time and could no longer appreciate the jokes of his close friends, attributing the successive birth of females to his weak virility and the dominance of his wife in family affairs. The whole community knew that Youssef wanted to call his first-born son Antoun and so he was nicknamed Bou Antoun (father of Antoun) immediately after his marriage.

Youssef had driven Jamila to the walls in the last nine months, ordering her to pray more rosaries than needed, spending plenty of money on religious donations and making her submit to all kinds of traditional requests that would guarantee giving birth to a baby boy this time around.

In 1346, the big three kilograms baby Antoun showed up in his entire splendor.  Many exhaled a deep sight of relief, especially Latifa his eldest sister.  Jamila was drained from every ounce of energy and experienced a period of baby blues that lasted two weeks; she directed Youssef not to receive visitors while she was sick and to delay any major celebration until she could be ready to participate fully in the baptismal ceremony.

For the first time, scared to see his strong wife in such a state of depression and weakness, Youssef reluctantly postponed the grand celebration and sent word to the neighbors to temporarily guard his house from well wishers until Jamila was up to the task of honoring guests.

Jamila tried to breast feed big baby Antoun for two days and gave up this arduous and ineffectual endeavor, so that Youssef had to find surrogate mothers for the frequently and ever so hungry Antoun.

The house allowed only breast-feeding females to enter in the first week and then Bou Antoun had to carry his new-born son to different houses, at least four times a day, and suffer accidents and the humiliating caprices of little Antoun until a permanent deal to breast feed the gluttonous Antoun was arranged.

One night, Youssef confided to his wife his apprehensions about the baby boy; it seems that while he was carrying his boy to a feeding mother the baby constantly tried to rummage through his chest, proving that he was unable to be discriminating in a hungry state.  Youssef failed on the spot to describe his own embarrassment, but when he realized the purpose of baby Antoun,  in a weak moment, he revealed to Jamila that he felt his neck independent of his body, his head revolving in all directions for signs of any witness to Antoun’s behavior, his face scarlet hot with shame.

These two weeks of personal tending to his baby son’s needs proved a wealth of direct attachment and close bonding that not many fathers experience in their life time.

Bou Antoun threw a grandiose banquet for the occasion of baptizing his son and he entertained his audience as the supreme king sneering at his friends and threatening them for dire consequences if any of them dared any worn out jokes about virility and lack of authority.

During the festivity, Bou Antoun would dart flaming glances at Jamila and the only responses received from her steel cold eyes he correctly interpreted as saying: “Forget it.  Wipe it out of your mind.  You got what you wanted and do not expect any further special attentions.  Just sit tight and wait if and when I give any new signals.”

Youssef spent his energy expanding his business and planning for Antoun’s future who grew up comfortable among women; a great deal of self-esteem sharpened his mind under the watchful eyes of his strong spirited and hard-working mother.  Antoun was officially weaned within 18 months but he knew his surrogate mothers and felt at home attempting to breast feeding from anyone he was familiar with.

The next four years opened many neighbors’ doors to the growing Antoun who used to help himself to double and three portions at each meal when food was being served, his being most welcomed as a member of the family.

Jamila was obliged during the many special occasions to cook extra portions of sweets to be offered as gifts to the multitude of surrogate mothers in order to repay the favors of her neighbors and as compensation for the ravages done to the neighbors’ depleting pantries.

At 8 of age Antoun was sent to a nearby religious school to learn reading and writing in both languages of Arabic and Aramaic, and some elementary arithmetic. He was also introduced to the rudiments of the French language from a learned monk.

In the afternoons, Antoun helped on the family farms and ultimately was responsible for the accounting.  During religious holidays his sisters and he used to memorize whole sections of the Bible and then act scenes to entertain the family and guests assembled before dinner.

Since girls were not to go to any school outside their homes, his eldest sister Latifa would hang out with Antoun and share his school lessons on pretence of keeping an eye on his scheduled school assignments.

One day, Latifa overheard a disgruntled man cursing saint Anthony because he donated some money for the Saint in order to recover a precious lost object to no avail. Latifa put a twist on the saying and her mom heard her chanting: “Mar Antoun of Mrouj, big thief and far gone senile.”  Latifa was to ask forgiveness on her knees in front of the saint’s statue and wear a male St. Anthony frock for a month.

Wild Goose Chase

Conclusion

The presumed impotent Artax the Monarch, who had gotten the throne by usurpation long before the usurping “Khosro the Magnificent” reigned, suddenly contracted malaria and regained partial consciousness six days later.

Artax tried to walk and visit his favorite garden in order to recover from his ill health but was carried back to bed after each outing.  His close assistants were worried to death about his health status and many army officers hurried to his side expecting some rewards in his death testament.

Artax was in no shape to think clearly about the future of his kingdom or his successors.

He stated on many previous circumstances to his close friends that succession should be for the most deserving leader who invested time, effort and good will to better his intellectual potentials, his moral values and learn to be tolerant of diversity in religion and customs.

He used to insist that the best leader of people is the one who listened carefully to the news of change and worked on finding consensus before any decision, that war was the last recourse for intelligent leaders who should reach his objectives through all diplomatic and political channels before committing to the path of destructive wars.

            Artax died within nine days without designating a successor.

Note:  This end the draft of the general structure of the fiction story. If you appreciated the story, please contribute your opinions, ideas, additions, and possible alterations to the sequence and cohesion of the novel that I would like to publish with your generous aid.  Surely, any publishing houses that are interested in finishing the novel are welcomed to come forward and contact me.

Rainbow over the Levant: End notes and Post notes (fiction story)

End notes

Mount Lebanon continued to flourish at a diminished rate.  And while the Mamulks of Egypt refrained from further military campaigns, because the expenses of expeditionary forces had no financial return in Mount Lebanon, the authority and unity of the Levant’s governments were disintegrating: prompted mainly by the practical and pragmatic average leaders who responded to the sobering realization that they would never be allowed to be a significant political force in the Middle East. 

Mount Lebanon reverted as a province to the Viceroy of Tripoli, with the same original conditions of self administration, and gradually succumbed under the traditional feudal and confessional system.  Many Emirs were successful in strengthening their hold by offering many carrots than whips, and maintaining a sort of false elective position in municipalities.

Asaad married a daughter of the Emir Shehab tribe in the Chouf; Wujdan married into the family of a prominent feudal lord of Abi Lamaa in the Capital Mtein, and Jacob the son of Noura and Antoun married from the Emir Maan tribe in Deir Kamar in the Chouf.  

Noura never returned to Lebanon and did not attend her son’s wedding, but instituted centers of learning in Rome and Florence, which were later to be acquired by the Maronite clergy.  Samar was the official administrator of an ambulatory circus/theater business and Mariam married her lover Ignatios and took to editing the theatrical pieces submitted to her for the circus.  Mariam occasionally directed and produced drama shows for the exclusive benefit of her adoptive daughter company.

The consequences for the success and ultimate failure of the insurgency movement were not insignificant.  In local politics, the Emirs and feudal Lords understood that the citizens in Mount Lebanon could not be governed is the same heavy handed tactics, by simple decrees from any Emir as was commonly done by the Viceroys.  Most of the rules and regulations were enforced because of agreements among the main warlords and the clergy; even the local chieftain had a veto power in his district and could delay the implementation of many central orders indefinitely, unless a convenient tradeoff was negotiated.

In external politics, the Sultans in Egypt, and later in Istanbul, understood that, once an Emir from Mount Lebanon managed to unite its people, a united Mount Lebanon was to naturally expand into Syria and Palestine and prove to be a bothersome foe.

The formal strategy was that the best politics to maintaining the allegiance of the people in Mount Lebanon to the central authority was to divide the region into sectarian counties, which would insure the impossibility of uniting Mount Lebanon. 

Many foreign tribes from Iraq and the Caucasus were transplanted in the various districts of Mount Lebanon.  However, Maronite families, for economic reasons, infiltrated most of the districts as cheap land laborers “fallaheen” and settled in which would, eventually, cause dissents among the religious sects two centuries later, and lead to several civil wars.

After the first civil war in 1860, four European Nations claimed protection for their corresponding Christian sects: France for the Maronites, England for the Protestants and Anglicans, Russia for the Orthodox, and Austria for the remaining various Christian sects.

 Post note

Two years after Antoun’s martyrdom, a valuable manuscript was found in the cave where he was hiding and preparing for the second revolution.  The First Emir noted his grand plans for his new Republic; the first phase envisioned a federation of States in present Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine that could withstand a Tatar resumption of hostilities, along with strong support and cooperation with the power in Egypt under proper circumstances.  This federation could enjoy natural barrier borders except in the southern region with Egypt, unless part of the Sinai desert could be used as a buffer zone. 

The desert between Syria and Iraq would be inhabited with settlements designed to map out routes of possible invasions from Iraq or Turkey. The Zagros or Torus Mountains between Turkey and Syria and the Bakhtiar Mountains between Iraq and Iran were formidable natural barriers that could hamper any invasion from the North, given proper intelligence were supplied in due time.

The First Emir also suggested election of a President for the united federation for a six-year term and renewable for only another six years term. Each State would elect a Prime Minister and a State parliament and these parliaments would elect representatives to the Federated Senate that elect the President for the Union.

The whole region was under dominion of large Empires for long periods in history and it happened that a window of opportunity under a charismatic leader unified the people of Mount Lebanon for three decades, and proved that they were worth instituting a civil society that could influence positively the Greater Near East.

In fact the Levant managed to be unified twice more under the Emir Fakhr El Din of the Maan tribe in the seventeenth century, and Emir Beshir of the Shehab tribe in the nineteenth century during the Ottoman hegemony, and they naturally expanded their dominions to parts of Syria and Palestine.

There are many occasions in our land to celebrate Antoun.  Some of the Antouns have European spellings like Antoine, or Russian like Anton, or Latin as in Antonios or Greek like Antonionus or Manatios; some Antouns are Catholic Saints or other Christian denomination Saints, some call him by nicknames like Tony, Tanios or Tannus, but to our people there is a myth that a brave martyr, and a 14th century hero, by the name Antoun unified us and defeated obscurantism.

The next leader who will be successful in unifying us as a viable geopolitical power in a united demographic bloc in this century will be given the highest honorable title of Antoun

Rainbow over the Levant

Expansion toward Palestine (continue 17)

The Viceroy of Safad in Palestine was feeling the heat and the approaching demise of his reign: he could no longer expect any fresh reinforcement from the Sultan of Egypt or any financial support because he was by tradition next to be replaced when a new Sultan would come to power.

Thus, the Viceroy of Safad engaged in diplomatic negotiations with the Levant government for a trade-off,  an infusion of direct financial aid to him personally in return for the right of the Levant government to collect taxes in the coastal region extending from Beirut south to Acre.

The Viceroy of Safad expected the same deal as ratified with the Viceroy of Tripoli five years ago but finally had to settle for 15% of the previous year’s collection.  The Sultan of Egypt recognized that peace and stability to his reign would best be served by a strong and honest leader in the Levant who never shirked on his deals and paid the tribute on time.

The Sultan figured that consecrating Antoun as the official Viceroy of Safad would strengthen his hold on the Levant by direct communications and obedience.

It would have been more natural for the First Emir Antoun to obtain the Viceroy-ship of Tripoli because Mount Lebanon was within the jurisdiction of Tripoli, but high politics was never the art of creating manageable responsibilities. Consequently, in addition of the Viceroy ship of Safad of Northern Palestine the Levant was also unofficially enjoying an implicit hegemony on the domains of both the Viceroys of Damascus and Tripoli.

Chapter 12

Administration of an intricate Nation

In the ten years since the success of the insurgency movement, the new nation of the Levant expanded from Homs and Tartus (North West part of current Syria) down to Galilee and Acre (North of Palestine) in the coastal southwestern shore.

The Eastern mountain range of the Bekaa Valley formed the eastern border of the new nation. The Bekaa Valley was the fertile land and the bread basket for the whole region.  The nation had about 400 kilometers of coastal shoreline with an average depth of 100 kilometers.  The area of the nation expanded more than 50 times immediately after the insurrection,to about 40,000 square kilometers. The mountainous eastern borders were defensible and the northern borders could be defended in many areas where the mountains were very close to the main seashore highway.

The only moot borders were in the south and the government exercised policies of the most favored kingdoms with in the southern kingdoms and Egypt. In order to alley any sense of fear from the Egyptian Monarch, policies of commercial and economic cooperation and steady diplomatic relations were established.

Actually, the populations under the formal authority of the government of the Levant were enjoying complete self determination and extended from Betroun to Tyr, and to the Eastern mountain chain for just a total superficies of 7,000 square miles.  The rest of the territory required the rubber stamp of the Viceroys in either Damascus or Tripoli for official documents and the indirect payment of the tributes to Cairo after being collected by the Levant government.

The Viceroy of Tripoli was still officially attached to and appointed by Cairo, but his authority was restricted to the city limit proper of Tripoli and could not raise an army or dispatch his guards outside the city limits.  Any Viceroy would have been glad to rule over a well delimited territory, but Mount Lebanon was like a magnate pulling over the population from the three neighboring Viceroys’ territories.

The government of the Levant had to respond accordingly and assume very intricate internal policies and continual time consuming negotiations with the official sovereigns.

In order to administer this Swiss cheese like amalgam of territories the Levant had to set up four administrative divisions in the finance ministry where tax collected would be disbursed either directly to Cairo or indirectly through the other two Viceroys in Tripoli and Damascus.  These endeavors were much trouble and sometimes intractable, but controlling the collection and disbursement of money was the critical mean against raising substantial armies by the neighboring Viceroys without the direct funding from the Sultans of Egypt or Turkey.

Since the Sultan of Egypt required a certain amount of tribute according to the traditional system, the remaining tax collected from the newer tax system reverted to the Levant Treasury.

First Emir Antoun learned quickly that in order to enhance the economy in one of his provinces he would have to lower the tax break in that province so that capital and investment would flock to it at the detriment of the higher tax break provinces.  He learned that the changing of tax breaks had to be done slowly, allowing long periods of stability and assimilation and also that this financial tool had to be adopted moderately and judiciously so that no suspicion of punishment might be conjectured.

 The internal security had three administrative divisions, one for the coastal cities, one for Mount Lebanon and the third for the territories not directly under the jurisprudence of Mount Lebanon proper.  Even the department of defense had two separate divisions, one for Mount Lebanon with a standing army not to interfere outside its borders and the other division for the auxiliary army in the territory not formally part of Mount Lebanon; the auxiliary army was responsible in assisting the internal security outside Mount Lebanon.

First, the First Emir decided that no visible army concentrations would be placed within 10 kilometers of the city limit proper of Tripoli, Damascus or Safad.

The soldiers of the auxiliary army would wear the same attire as the internal security forces outside Mount Lebanon as a face saving scheme to the respective Viceroys; the smaller but numerous army centers in the auxiliary territories were a mixture of army and internal security forces with the implicit main task of gathering intelligence and pacifying the populace with prompt interventions in securing security and justice.

For the southern region neighboring Egypt a unified center for coordinating intelligence services between the army and the internal security forces was decreed, firmly consolidated and established in Tyr.

Basically, every ministry had separate budgets for Mount Lebanon and the auxiliary territories which were self administered but centrally controlled.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2019
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Blog Stats

  • 1,336,253 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 684 other followers

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: