Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Rainbow over the Levant

The attack; (continue #10 of fiction novel)

The night before the attack on the Capital Mtein, Antoun sensed the anxiety overwhelming his comrades and ordered to set up five bonfires and distributed the leaders to gather with the insurgents around the fires.  He refrained from meeting with his leaders in close quarters and repeated his address to the five encampments separately saying:

“The time is approaching to execute our decision for a better life, a life based on fairness in the laws as worthy equals in our society.  It is time to start erecting a society with the right to elect a government of the people and for the people; a government that understand the wishes and dreams of its people and has experienced the sufferings and injustices of the peasants and working people under the despotic and unfair feudal system.  It is natural to feel scared otherwise, I wouldn’t trust your courage and determination if you didn’t feel apprehensive tonight.  Our project is the life or death of our destiny tailored to our big heart. Our project is the dream and wish of many citizens in the towns and villages whom have been keeping these dreams burning deep in their compassionate hearts.  We know each other; we are friends and we will take care of one another as we had done for many years.  We have planned together our revolution to the minute details, as intelligent and responsible leaders of people should do, to succeed and win against the heartless and irresponsible feudal Cheiks, Beys and Emirs”.

“You all know by now that I don’t dwell much on abstract notions such as freedom, liberty and self-determination; we have discussed the meanings of these concepts so that we don’t abuse and short hand the intelligence of our citizens.  Opening and creating opportunities for learning and working go hand in hand with empowering the individual citizens to take bold decisions, fortified by laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, religion and social status.  That is how we give sense to liberty and self–determination and that is what our citizens should demand from us.”

He went on saying: “In a few hours we march boldly toward the Capital of the loathed executioners of our rights; who denied us the joy of life commensurate to our labor, sweat and blood.  Obey the orders and directives of your elected leaders and be steadfast in your fight.  I can see our flags fluttering in the morning wind at the top of the Castle. Victory is whispering sweet songs and the shout of Long Live the Revolution is already deafening my ears.  I can see hundreds of peasants gathering around you in the Capital’ Square and shouting in unison ‘Long Live the Revolution’!  Is Victory singing to you too?  I cannot hear you! Long Live the Revolution! Louder! Louder!”

The insurgent detachment headed by Antoun descended from Baskenta toward Mrouj with 150 fighters while Mustafa and Hanna accompanied by Elias headed for Falougha, in currently the Chouf County, with 200 insurgents. They were advancing at the pace of caravans and looking very much like trading caravans with a few women prominently exhibited and some well know caravan regular leaders perched on their ornamented mules. As soon as the two groups reached their first destinations they would descend on Mtein at sun down helped by the moon light. They were to wait for the combined attack at 5 o’clock in the morning after the peasants had left their homes for the fields.  Supporters in the Capital were ready to guide the insurgents to the residencies of the strongmen and powerful landlords in and around the town.  The insurgents were successful in capturing the targeted noblemen and entered Mtein with no major resistance.

At the same time, two dozen fighters were guarding the entrances to the Bishop Atanasios’ residence, waiting for the fire signal to elevate over the highest hill to enter the residence and have the Bishop and his monks under house arrest.  At every entrance and exit passageway, a handful of guards with an officer disguised as a monk regulated the traffic of civilians and clergy.  People coming in to pay a visit to the Bishop were discouraged to resume their trip because of a special conclave for the clergy and the impossibility of meeting anyone for a couple of days.  The peasants working the land of the monastery or traders were allowed in and retained there.  Gergis was leading this group of partisans with the mission of striking a deal with the Bishop after Antoun’s insurgents enter Mtein.  Elias was behind the project of this necessary house arrest coup but was instead assigned another task because he was still officially excommunicated and for fear that his zeal might foil this important mission.

Gergis’ task was to convince the Bishop and his associates in the clergy that the takeover of power was not the work of ruffians and outlaws but of learned gentlemen, citizens concerned with the status of lawlessness and injustices which was fueling a feeling of restlessness among the population of believers.  To convince the clergy that this revolt sought the approval and leadership of their Patriarch, Gergis promised that they will receive the proper documents very shortly.  Gergis insisted that he was ready to deal fairly and squarely on behalf of the leaders of this popular movement of believers.

In the mean time, Bishop Atanasios agreed to say mass in the Capital Mtein next Sunday with all the official ceremonies befalling a highly important personality.  The two parties were not duped in their respective intentions but they implicitly agreed that this negotiation was the business of politicians awaiting better circumstances.  The Bishop was convinced that this movement, like other previous revolts, would not survive long, and that life as usual would return under the full control of the clergy and the feudal old political structure.

The official mass was to be held at nine o’clock and the leader was outside by 8 am accepting the congratulations and respect of the town people and dignitaries while anxiously keeping an eye on the horizon waiting for the Bishop to be sighted.  At twenty to nine, a small group of pedestrians wearing black cloaks and following a person perched on a mule was sighted, plodding at an average pace.  Antoun who had become mainly a city man and, relatively removed from the customs of the mountains and the declining economic status of the clergy, did not pay this group much attention and was scrutinizing the horizon for dust generated by a cavalry accompanying the Bishop in pageant procession.  When the black clad group, many bare feet in dirty cloaks, was thirty meters away Elias nudged Antoun and shouted: “The bastard has come”.

The leader briskly faced Elias and waited for an explanation to his rude comment when someone raised his voice saying: “Let peace be upon you, Antoun my son “.  The Bishop was directly confronting him from the top of his mule with a thin smile across his lips and hard eyes piercing toward the inattentive leader of the peasants.  Antoun was taken aback in total surprise and fumbled down his mount, helped the Bishop to dismount and then kissed the proffered hand.  Elias was beside himself and was ready to wriggle the neck of the Bishop as well as Antoun’s for his vile humility toward this despicable high placed clergy and shouted to the Bishop: “Atanathios, remember me?  I am waiting for you to publicly recant your excommunication of me and everyone in the Metn.”  The cunning Bishop seeing an opportunity to reclaim his power replied: “Son Elias, I am glad to admit you back into the flock. You have already suffered enough and the church is forgiving to human weaknesses”.  Elias was about to retort but was taken away by a gesture of impatience from Antoun.

The new leader was received as the avenging hero who will strengthen the force of order and prevent violence, injustice, and anarchy. He could deliver his promises since the outlaw men and deserters were part and parcel of his well organized army.

Latifa; (continue of the fiction novel))

Latifa was a looker and an impressive lady that discouraged the weaker hearted eligible men from courting her. By the time her brother Antoun came to riches she could not avail herself to woo gentlemen whom she considered beneath her potentials.  Latifa was in her late twenties and, by the standard of the time, was considered too old to marry.  To preserve her dignity, she circulated a rumor that she had taken a vow of celibacy.  Her status increased among the town people and was given the nickname of Sit Al Forsan (Lady of the knights) and carried herself accordingly.

Latifa was in with the secrets of Antoun, or at least what he directly wanted her to know because he made sure not to connect her with his important partners;  she gradually suspected his intentions from her frequent visits to him in Beirut but was unaware of the timing, the seriousness, or the magnitude of the insurrection. Actually, Latifa became his eyes and ears in the mountain region where she received many visitors and received inputs from her benevolent activities in the neighboring villages.

Antoun mother, Jamila, started sending her eldest daughter frequently to Beirut after he was exiled to stay with her brother for a week, about once every three months in the first two years, to cater for his household needs, in keeping his place neat and well maintained, cooking for him a few of his favorite meals, supplying him with whatever her mother knitted for him; but basically, she was her parents’ reporter on Antoun’s well being.  As Antoun’s status and wealth increased and thus, did not need as much attention, Latifa’s visits to Beirut dwindled to about twice a year, mainly to do some shopping for herself and her family and to forward her mother’s good business advices and recommendations.   On the third year of his exile and after learning that Antoun has purchased a house in Beirut, his mother and two daughters descended to Beirut and stayed five whole weeks after a noisy argument with his father Youssef.  The latter propagated the drastic excuse that this extended trip was related to an unusual health case that Antoun succumb to.

Once, Antoun decided to build for his father a luxury carriage but the idea was deemed too outlandish and dangerous in local politics.  Instead, his father, at the instigation of his wife, accepted liquid money to buy more lands, expand the family business in the countryside, and fulfill Youssef’s promises to his wife Jamila to remodel her residence with new amenities, furniture, and additional rooms that boosted an atmosphere of a higher social standing.  The remodeled house was outlandish within the walls but the exterior was kept blending harmoniously with the neighborhood environment and dwelling.

Before the final preparations for the insurgency, Antoun paid a visit for two weeks to his house in Mrouj; he pretended taking care of family business and being social.  Then he vanished with his son Adhal, supposedly to return to Beirut.  Antoun headed instead to Baskenta to direct the insurgency activities.  Adhal was delivered to the care of Mariam and her team of volunteers because his son had to learn life from a different perspective, in the fresh mountain air and also to link friendship with different kinds of kids.

Before the general order to advance at the capital Mtein, the leaders of the insurgent groups met to decide on the list of noblemen that have to be rounded up and the locations of their incarceration.  It was relevant that a number of important noblemen became summer lords: they showed up to town when the climate got hot at lower altitudes;  theyhad residency in the coastal towns and villages at lower altitude and outside the Metn jurisdiction; they rarely visited their properties in the mountain but to collect their rent twice a year.

It was decided that a group would be in charge of locating these summer noblemen and surreptitiously transferring them to the incarceration areas in the outlawed areas, immediately after the Capital fell in the hands of the insurgents.  The coastal guards were bribed to check on men traveling by sea until the group of insurgents could identify them before boarding. A most important decision was to refrain from executing or unduly torturing any prisoner until due legal process was carried out individually.  It was apparent that Antoun had a vested interest in knowing first hand each noblemen and deciding on his worth for helping him tighten his grasp on power later on.

During the war with the Emir of Aleppo, the insurgents infiltrated the rear guard of the army with a few agents to keep updated on the evolution of the war outcome against the Turks. Antoun got his insurgent army ready for a decisive attack as soon as news of a defeat was imminent.  Indeed, the armies of the Viceroy of Damascus were badly reduced and, while the remnants of the army was retreating in disorder, Antoun attacked from two fronts and aimed directly at the Capital Mtein where most of the remaining Emir’s strongmen where located.

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.

Rainbow over the Levant: Self exile of the First Emir, (fiction novel)

The self-exile of the First Emir

The First Emir felt that the organization of the Aram National Party was well rooted throughout the Nation and he needed to analyze the future of this Nation from a different perspective, away from the daily tribulation.  He needed to study the various political trends in the World from close range, and their effects on the stability of the systems, and how adjustments are remedied to the fluctuation of society changes.

His sister Latifa was appointed as Regent to the Nation and Gergis Al Ustaz, his current Foreign Affairs minister, as Viceroy for the duration of his exile:  The Emir could not trust his minister of defense or internal security chief for not accumulating undue power in his absence, and also because Gergis was more able to keep the neighboring kingdoms appeased through his web of diplomatic relations.

The First Emir boarded a luxury ship to Cyprus and stayed there for a month signing commercial agreements with the Templar’s Knights of the remaining Crusaders in the region and entertained the Levant immigrants. The next stop was in Venice where he was received as an equal Dojo and was reserved the best villa close to St. Marcus square.

The First Emir traveled to Milan, Florence, Pisa, Rome and Naples before returning to Florence and settling there for four months. Florence was a small town and developing fast so that the First Emir petitioned the Prince to purchase a villa and contemplated to open a consulate there and dedicate Florence as a sister town to Mtein.

The First Emir asked permission from the Duke of Florence to travel to Cordoba in Andalusia.  He toured many of these Arab City-States such as Seville and Toledo and prepared the ground for formal diplomatic recognition and establishment of consulates in these provinces.

A united Arab and Moorish Andalusia could have been a stabilizing leverage to the Levant, but its “clan” mentality around a City-State political system prevented major interrelation and cultural sharing with the Levant, a prospect that the First Emir endeavored to remedy with no significant success. The First Emir returned to Florence via Barcelona, Marseille and the Piedmont province.

This overseas journey lasted over a year, the time that Tamerlane stayed in Damascus.

Latifa’s Regency

As soon as the Sultan of Egypt received news of the First Emir trip abroad that he downgraded the title of the Levant Ambassador to Cairo to Trade Consul, rather than closing down the Embassy for the simple reason that the Egyptian noble class craved luxury items that should be kept flowing in through Alexandria.  A trade embargo for all non luxury products imported from the Levant was strictly enforced.

The total number of the Levant civil foreign servants was maintained for three months, the time for the Mameluke to sort out the potential agents among them that might serve their interests; only fifteen members out of 45 were permitted to remain in Egypt.

When news reached the Grand Vizier of Egypt that the First Emir had landed in Andalusia, he masterminded a frantic backlash on the Levant immigrants in Egypt.  The prosperous and those with solid ties with the noble class were forewarned and fled to Yemen and Arab North Africa.  A few ended on some European ports to resume their mercantile trades as best they could.  Only the dispirited immigrants returned to the Levant praying that Tamerlane would not contemplate to devastate Mount Lebanon.

Latifa was conservative and shrewd.  She was not kept up to date with government details and did not follow closely the changes taking place in the kingdom, but she retained a high understanding for the power struggle that was in the offing.  She knew that the power seat had shifted to Beirut because of its location for trade, diplomacy and industrial development, but figured that with the First Emir’s absence, the historic Capital of Mtein could recapture the leverage it exercised at the beginning of the insurgency through its symbolic power for the Nation.

Latifa ordered that the Capital, during the Regency, would be Mtein and managed to transfer branches for most of the government ministries to be established in the historic Capital and its vicinity.  Since barely 20% of the kingdom’s budget was allocated to the mountain regions of over 800 meters in altitude, and only 15% were actually spent there, Latifa second major decision was that, within 2 years, half of the Nation’s budget had to be allocated in her mountainous regions.

In the mean time, 50% of the budget allocated to education, infrastructure, health and agriculture had to be spent in the mountains, with priority given to its population in the civil services.

The work on the highway crossing Mount Lebanon from south to north at 1000 meters altitude was rescheduled to resume with scares resources, and security garrisons interspersed the rest areas along the highway, to provide comfort and help to travelers until private businesses bid for the facilities.

The Christian Orthodox managed to secure a higher rate in numbers as civil servants, commensurate to their proportion and that was partly due to increased pressure from the Regent, and also because they were the most educated generally.

 Latifa had a tender passion and affection for the town of Zahle in the central Bekaa Valley that she visited once, before the insurgency and twice afterwards; she also understood its central location for internal and overland trades as well as being the main town with a sizable Christian concentration in the Bekaa.  Consequently, the Regent exhibited determination so that Zahle enjoyed a period of investment in real capital which renewed and expanded its warehouses for agricultural and textile goods, resort facilities around the Berdawny River crossing the town and enlarging the main trade roads leading to town.

During Latifa regency, the Christian clergy regained most of their power through reduced tax breaks and a renewed zeal for religious beliefs.   Monasteries were repaired and embellished, religious schools increased and churches regained their luster with acquisitions and renovations.

Mariam finally set her mind to build herself a beautiful and large house in Mtein, so that she could stay in constant touch with the Regent and keep close eyes on her associations and the political opportunists buzzing in the Capital.  Her main responsibility was to be the intermediary among Latifa, the Viceroy Gergis ,and the ministers in Beirut and Baldat El Mir.  Her male companion Ignatios Doumani was already appointed director of a new branch of the Linguistic Institute in Mtein, and he supervised the construction of the house which included a spacious annex for accommodating overnight guests and high-ranking functionaries.

Before Latifa’s Regency, most of the youth in villages and towns in the mountains were enthusiastic about the activities and opportunities offered by the Aram National Party.  They inflated the membership of that Party since there was no other political party to challenge or compete with.  The other alternative to attract and organize youth was the religious community services headed by very old people who lacked ingenuity and diversity in activities.

With the advent of Latifa to the Regency a new political twist was offered to the religious zealots who minded very much the relative secular principles of the Aram Party and labeled them as heretical.  With the support of Latifa, the clergy endeavored to create another political party counterpart called “Mount Lebanon First” which emphasized the integrity of allegiance to the Metn and with some arm twisting extension to the regions of Mount Lebanon that had Christian majority.

The new confessional party was thrust among the youth through key words such as tradition, allegiance to the Regent, Christian faith, mountain customs, and respect of and obedience to the clergy, respect of family unity and attendance at all religious events and ceremonies.

One critical factor for the sudden successes of this “Mount Lebanon First” party was the decree which ended the seclusion of the traditional noblemen in their encampments.  Many of the younger generations of former noblemen had been integrated in society, in the army, in the civil service or members of industries and trade without any feudal titles or financial or social privileges that they had enjoyed before the insurgency.

The older generations had managed to develop the lands assigned to them in the towns of confinement but many had nostalgia for their former villages and wished to be allowed to transfer there.

The clergy worked relentlessly on Latifa to rescind the old decree concerning the imprisoned noblemen because this political gesture would strengthen the validity of the new party as a staunch supporter of traditions. The government of the Levant reached a consensus with Latifa to free the old feudal classes with the following stipulations: first, the freed feudal persons would not be permitted to leave Mount Lebanon and second, their feudal titles could not be inherited and they could keep the title of “Cheikh”, if they wished, till their death.  A fresh period of forgiveness and unity was proclaimed by the Regent which was at best skin deep and would eventually harm the future of the Nation and wipe out the many political and social gains of the revolution.

Within two years, every village was more or less split between these two political factions; a village was divided into parts with majority in allegiance to either Parties and local ceremonies were marred by conflicts and physical confrontations.  The traditional harmony of apathy and stillness in village life transcended the clan and tribal affiliation to encompassing fundamental political divergences.

Mariam had sensed early on that the source of that schism was less a religious recrudescence of faith, but rather a direct vengeance of Latifa for Mariam’s ascendancy in the heart and mind of the youth and, especially, the female renewed activities for their rights in society.  Mariam launched political counter offensives in the mountain and increased the Aram Party involvement in regions far from Latifa’s personal influence and authority biding time for the return of the First Emir from his exile.

Mariam invested on the children attending the boarding schools, and expanded their activities by planning marching trips of a week-long.  The children were chaperoned by teachers and “Mkerehs” the merchant guides.  The “Mkereh” guided the caravan through well trodden shortcut routes by mules and donkeys; they taught the kids the tricks of the trade, such as what to bring as supplies and where to select resting location, and how to respect the properties of others, and the traditions of what trees and fruits are permitted to eat as travelers. The selected teachers were to instruct the kids on the geography of the land and encourage them to observe and note down the different customs, way of life, songs and folkloric dances in Mount Lebanon

The children were usually lodged in small groups with families in the villages, bringing with them gifts of packets of fresh and dried fruits and seasonal staples. The guest families were given advanced notice of the arrival of the school convoys and they cleaned their homes thoroughly as hospitality obliged, and they cooked abundant portions to feed the voracious kids.

These trips were to allow social learning of the customs of other regions of Mount Lebanon and circumvent ignorant myths spread by isolation.  Mariam’s programs were successful in many respects, however, the seeds of confessional tendencies were planted and many religious sects tried to create their own “first allegiance” parties with slight variations.

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: Tamerlane hordes enter Damascus 

(A chapter in my novel Rainbow over the Levant)

Hordes from the North

In 140o, Tamerlane (Timor Lank) crushed the Ottoman Sultan forces and put the Sultan in a cage, and used the cage as a step to mount his horse. This newly Turkish Empire (with no naval forces) was enfeebled and the Byzantium Empire enjoyed a couple of decades freed from paying annual dues to its neighboring nemesis.

In the same time, the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt was regaining ascendancy after Tamerlane withdrew from Damascus in 1403. The Sultan of Egypt could demand favors from the new Sultan of Turkey and incited him to step in and crush the nascent Republic of the Levant in Lebanon.

In 1410, the Viceroy of Aleppo whose domain extended from Alexandretta, Lattakieh, and all the way eastward to the Jazyra (The northern part between the two great rivers of Euphrates and the Tiger) was still badly rattled after the destruction of Aleppo by Tamerlane and was thus in a serious predicament when the Ottoman army moved toward Syria.

The Viceroy knew that if the Turkish army crossed the Zagros mountain chains or managed to capture the port and city of Alexandretta then he would be done for.  His Emirate was inhabited by various Christian sects dating back to early Christianity such as Armenians, Assyrians, Syriacs as well as an amalgam of the more known and well recognized sects.

The Viceroy of Aleppo had received orders from his master the Mameluk’s Sultan to cooperate with the Turks in their coastal advance toward Lebanon, and thus he wavered with the Levant’s government and compromised to the end.

Ultimately, he agreed with the Republic of the Levant to acquire free reign in the port of Alexandretta for an annual tribute and have access to the Zagros Mountains if war were declared.

Most of the livestock were routed toward Jazyra with the long shot possibility that a famished army might redirect its route where there was more food close to the Tatar territory, and thus having to deal with another military force. It was a strategic gamble which might draw the Tatars of Timorlank to reorient their expansion toward Turkey after retreating from Damascus and Aleppo.

The Turkish army experienced desertion but it was not serious enough to divert it from its plan.

The Syrian Viceroy in Damascus got the hint that he was no longer appreciated in Cairo since his assistance was not required and no financial support was contemplated in this coming invasion.  He was also under pressure from Damascus merchants with close connection with the Levant Republic to support the Lebanese uprising for defense and unity.

The Lebanese army sent a detachment of war consultants to manage and direct the war from the Syrian front with intelligence confirming that the Turkish army was directing a two pronged attack toward both the Bekaa Valley and Tripoli. .

The Lebanese had excellent defensible positions around the city of Tripoli and access to the nearby mountains in the East and the sea to the West.  The strategy of the Levant army was to slow down the Turkish advance by putting up a defensive stand by the Awwaly River where the Turkish army was to split its forces after crossing the river.

The strategy of Turkish army was excellent because the narrow strip of land between the sea and the mountains would prevent large scale maneuvers for a 35,000 strong army while sending a large detachment to the Bekaa would have a dual purpose. The Levantine army would have to tie up a major part of its smaller forces in the Bekaa and in the same time the Turkish army would not be short on food reserves if the war dragged on.

The first defensive stand on the Awwali River was meant to prevent the Turkish army from sending a large detachment to the Bekaa by inflicting substantial losses on its advanced contingent around well defended positions.  Two defensive lines were prepared; one along the River and another one, well hidden in a sparsely dense forest and on the edge of a low hill, two kilometers away; a long ditch, 5 meters wide and 1, 50 meter deep was dug and fortified.

The first line of defense was for testing the maneuvering capabilities and military arsenal of the Turkish army in order to capitalize on the information to maneuver around the second defensive line, and also to nag the enemy into an angry and unprepared assault forward.

The soldiers of the first line of defense were feddayins because they were forewarned that no help would be forthcoming to save them if overwhelmed by the enemy forces.

Mustafa, the military leader of the Levant army, perched on his black stallion looked much older than he really was and suffering from back ache, felt in a victory mood before the young and determined faces in front of him.  The pain eased while delivering his harangue:

“Soldiers of the Great Levant Nation!  The enemy across this tiny river is a vigorous young army, coming from a rough region even harsher than our mountains.  Those soldiers are used to hardships and their goal is evident: looting Mount Lebanon. Our goal is different: resisting a savage invasion determined to ruin our prosperity and kill our families for money and valuables.  Our purpose is clear: frustrating the plans of the Sultan of Egypt to humiliate our spirit of independence and trample our hard earned liberty for a better life for our children. The Sultan of the Mameluks is testing our will to survive as a full fledge Nation; he thinks that by detaining our leader and President our Nation will crumble into nothingness.  We are here to prove to all nations that as free citizens we are born leaders and can generate leaders to defeat stronger nations if our freedom and liberty are threatened”.

“Soldiers of the free Levant Nation; the enemy across the Awwali River is determined not to retreat without its promised booty.  The Sultan of the Mameluks had lured them with stories of riches and precious prizes hidden in Mount Lebanon.  The treacherous Sultan of the Mameluks who forgot our loyalty for centuries has also forgot that we have been preparing ourselves to defend our way of life and that we are ready to pay the heavy price with our young and warm blood to hold on to every piece of land in our glorious Nation”.

“Soldiers of the haughty Levant Nation; we have no choice but to stop the Turkish army from advancing toward Mount Lebanon, the “Promised Land” by the Sultan of Egypt.  We will have to wage several battles because they are more numerous than us but we know the land and we have a higher determination to win.  The families of our martyrs will be remunerated handsomely and the names of the martyrs will be carried as badges of honors and remembered for centuries to come as valorous citizen-soldiers fighting for legitimate values and for safeguarding our self-determination over our destiny. Long live President Antoun!  Long live the Nation of the Levant!”

This defensive stand bore fruits; first, the cavalry of the Turkish army chasing the retreating defenders was decimated at the second defensive line where the Levant army was in waiting behind the well fortified ditch; and second, the contingent to be sent to the Bekaa Valley was reduced when the Turkish army realized that it would have to contend with a highly organized army.

Before the Levantine army retreated in an organized manner to Tripoli, preparing for the decisive second round of battles, it had buried its fallen soldiers in the ditch and planted trees in honor of their courage. All the injured were retrieved and evacuated in an efficient manner which impressed the enemy. In the mean time the expert consultants of the Levantine army, dispatched to organize war preparations of the army of the Viceroy of Damascus, managed to draw in a sizable contingent of the Turkish army toward the borders of Syria away from the Bekaa Valley and far from the main body of the Turkish army.

During that campaign of tactical retreat in the Syrian front, the Lebanese army was also tactically retreating toward the major coastal city of Tripoli.

At this critical junction the Maronite Patriarch in the northern district of Mount Lebanon announced an edict to all the Maronite Christians to immediately join the Army of the Republic.  The inhabitants of the villages in Bshare, Ehden and Zgorta were whipped in to frenzy and contributed greatly to victory.

The strong castle of Tripoli was the magnet that attracted the forward Turkish army to advance hastily without much planning. The Turkish forward contingent of 8,000 soldiers encircled Tripoli and set up its siege waiting for the heavy equipment of siege to arrive within a week with the main body of the army.

For four days and nights the Turkish army was harassed and could not enjoy any rest or sleep.  They were lured into attacking the Levantine army in their mountain strongholds and were repulsed with heavy casualties. On the fifth day and late afternoon, the Lebanese army descended from the mountains and cut off the forward Turkish army in two.

The Turkish army found itself totally encircled from all sides and from the sea.  The Lebanese army benefited from several advantages: an excellent knowledge of the terrain and a drastic edge in the contribution for reconnaissance and signaling intelligence from the citizens. The slaughter lasted till nine in the night and by day break the retreating Turkish soldiers were attacked by the Levantine cavalry from behind and made prisoners.

In that battle the Levant army introduced its Tortoise; it was a huge, elongated and enclosed cylindrical housing char, mounted on five pairs of wide wheels and driven by protected four pairs of cows and carrying a dozen archers.  This war device was slow and not that efficient at this stage of its development but, as a new monster entering battles, it impressed upon the enemy and destabilized their onslaughts wherever one of the few Tortoises appeared on the battle ground.

The Turkish army acknowledged the futility and the unacceptable losses in that campaign and released its siege on Tripoli. The lack of navy support and the determination of a well trained and well equipped army fighting with vengeance and courage were determinant in sending messengers for peace negotiations.

The Sultan famous host

Rainbow over the Levant (a novel)

Antoun, President of Mount Lebanon, drove in a modest caravan to Acre and boarded a Levantine navy ship to Alexandria where he was met by the dignitaries, the remaining personnel of the Levant Consulate and emigrants…

After two days of sight seeing in Alexandria, he headed out in a lush caravan to Cairo to meet the Sultan.

The Grand Vizier of Egypt welcomed him with the customary protocol and the President was made to wait a whole week for an appointment with the Sultan.  The President of the Levant offered his valuable gifts and presented to the Sultan the respect of the Levantine government and citizens and reminded him of his loyalty toward the maintaining of peace, security and prosperity throughout the Mameluke empire.  The Sultan accepted the gift with modest thanks, followed by immediate denouncement:

The Sultan: “We have been hearing disturbing news about your lack of loyalty to our authority.  We will allow the Grand Vizier to speak now”.

The Grand Vizier (GV): “We have been receiving very alarming reports for many years of your friendship with many infidel Monarchs and Princes.  As you surely know, His highness the Sultan and his forefathers have sacrificed dearly to defeat and chase out the infidel Crusaders from our lands.

We have been vigilant and swore to God Almighty never to permit the infidels to desecrate our Holy Lands again. You have been dealing with the infidels for more than 25 years and you graciously welcomed them to travel throughout our dominion with your full knowledge of how it displeased our Highness the Sultan of all Egypt, Syria and Palestine.

You fled like a rabbit before the barbarian Tatars, leaving our riches and interests to be captured and our Moslem believers at their mercy without any opposition to save our Majesty’s Honor and Dignity.

You have been gallivanting in the infidel’s kingdoms, eating their bread, salt and their dirty pork meat, drinking wine with total disrespect to our values, tradition and customs.

We have been very patient with your behavior and allegiances because you paid the requisite tributes on time and managed to establish peace in his Majesty’s kingdom with little financial recourse to our treasury, but we have run out of patience lately.  You have been killing and executing Moslem believers without due recourse to our religious legal system or the approval of the appointed Viceroys.

You have disturbed our governing system, proclaimed a heretical written Constitution against the well founded rules and laws of the Chariaa and the Holy Koran.

You went even as far as giving yourself a new title of President that His Majesty the Sultan loath from the bottom of his heart. We have every reason to suspect that you intended to part company with our cherished Sultan of all Egypt, Syria and Palestine.  Can you respond to these charges of treachery and disobedience?”

The President calmly retorted:

“For 25 years, not a single European army dared to set foot on our Holy Land from the confines of Turkey to Northern Africa and our honor is preserved.  His Highness knows perfectly well that had we had the means to fight the barbarian Tatars we would have fought them as lions and would have saved Aleppo and Damascus from the infamy of falling in the hands of Timorlank.

I chose a harsh exile from my homeland, including Egypt, to save our citizens from Timorlank wrath to carry out his threats of invading our lands as reported to me by Ibn Khaldoun the messenger.

I kept my part of the bargain and stayed away as long as Timorlank was in Damascus.  I don’t eat pork and don’t like wine; otherwise my people would be too drunk to keep the peace.

I delayed as much as I could to ratify the written Constitution, but public pressure, without your political support in that difficult period, forced my hands to signing a system of government that was not to my liking also.  I would be pleased if your Majesty deigned to mention the names of his counselors who dared to spread calumnies in his presence.”

The GV: “I humbly ask his Majesty to permit the deletion of the last infamous sentence of this long list of unfounded rejoinders.”

The Sultan: “It would be almost impossible to restrict the number of informers and advisers, since we have been listening to these charges for many years with accumulated validation.”

The President: “I empathize with your Majesty.  I have been surrounded also with many close counselors who said what they thought would please my ears and chased away from my presence the just and honest people who had valid claims and recriminations.”

The GV: “Your Majesty, it seems that this infidel Emir from Mount Lebanon is taking much liberty in your presence.”

The President: “Your Majesty, before the infamous invasion of the barbarous Tatars of Syria, Mount Lebanon enjoyed prosperous trade relations with mighty Egypt and every one was well off and praying for the long life of Your Majesty.  If these trade embargoes are lifted we certainly would have the means to save the integrity of His Majesty’s territory. We always have been straight in keeping our word and delivering on agreements as the Grand Vizier acknowledged.”

The Sultan: “We will be hearing more of you in the coming month.  You may dispose safely and in honor.”

The Sultan was biased to his close counselors who harshly denounced the President as an agitator to foreign powers and kept reminding the Sultan that he was the sole Emir in the Mameluk’s Empire who dared visit the kingdoms of the execrable European invaders. These couselors mercilessly hammered the fact that for two centuries the Crusaders desecrated the Moslems religious sites and prevented the Moslems going on pilgrimage (haj) to Jerusalem.

 A month later, the President was confined to a small villa.  The retinue of the President was drastically reduced and visitors had to be granted special permission from the Grand Vizier of Egypt.  Three months later, the President of the Levant was officially detained.

The government back home showed unanimous support for its leader and decided to put up an all out resistance to the aggressor coming from Turkey in honor of the new pride, freedom and self determination they had enjoyed for three decades.

A stand for Liberty: Rainbow over the Levant (fiction novel)

Part 6: Mustafa’s period (1405-1410)

Chapter 18: A stand for Liberty

A huge army coming from Turkey was preparing a devastating campaign of rampage and desolation in Mount Lebanon, because traditional chauvinism and sectarianism could not swallow the existence of a neighboring prosperous and enterprising small community. This Turkish army was composed of three tribes that recently immigrated from the Caucasus region of current Azerbaijan, Georgia, Chechnya… The tribes were fresh convert to Islam, the Sunni sect, and have settled in the Anatolia plateau, close to the sources of the Euphrates River. They could not fathom how a heretic State could be administered according to civic laws not based on the Islamic Chariaa…

News of the revolutionary spirit, unacceptable social values, and political system were very disturbing to the religious and monarchial systems surrounding the Republic.  The clerics and landlords of these kingdoms endeavored to fire up the populations in neighboring powerful countries.  President Antoun was certain that, if an armed resistance were opposed without a mass popular support to that invading force, Mount Lebanon would suffer for centuries to come.

The Lord President called for a convention of all political leaders and army officers. The regional leaders flocked to Beirut and convened for an entire week to expose the problems and share the facts of the new threats to the nation, and find consensus to differences in positions and to elect a new crisis government.   The President organized community meetings, and consistently admonished his people to make the right decision and never to consider his personal safety a factor in their decisions.

President Antoun told them in no uncertain terms that, once the enemy army was allowed to enter the Nation, it would never leave peacefully, and if the enemy was permitted to have a say in the internal political affairs, then the Nation would be in for demonic plans for fueling hatred and sectarian animosity among its citizens, leading to eventual civil wars for years to come.

During the pandemonium of war preparation, the President received an urgent message from the Mamluk’s Sultan summoning him to personally pay his respect to Cairo.  It was not a satisfactory timely summon for the President, but it was well planed by the Sultan to catch him in an anxious period with many opportunities.

The President wavered for long time into scheduling his trip, not because he was afraid of the chastisement awaiting him ,or the high possibility that he would not be permitted to come back, but because his daily routines were overpowering. The First Emir President realized that his bladder forced him to relieve himself every hour of the day, which sunk his spirit to its lowest levels.

Antoun has tried to go to bed early, but his bladder disrupted his sleep several times and ended up forming a group of late sleepers to entertain him until four in the morning.  Waking up at nine in the morning was the hardest task for the President; he felt that sleeping did not reinvigorate his energy supply, as if he failed to breath during his sleep.  After his mind woke up from its dreams, he would consciously practice forceful breathing sessions in bed to clear up his oppressed chest: He would form a fake large smile on his lips to awaken the muscles on his sunken face, and roll his closed eyes in all directions as prescribed by his personal eye doctor for his shortsightedness, and because his eyes would not open without internal will power.

He was still impressive in stature and not as bald as people of his age, but he knew that he was physically delicate and disintegrating faster than he hoped: he needed the best part of the morning for his body and mind to come alive and be ready to face people, head meetings, and the gruesome job of deciding on proposals and signing on documents.

The President of the Levant simply could not confront the young Sultan, all the formal State diplomatic lengthy schedules, procedures, and of visiting dignitaries in his precarious state, or disturb his familiar environment and daily routines.

The date of the visit was finally scheduled for him by the Sultan and the President reluctantly decided to accept the dangerous invitation of the Sultan of Egypt, hoping against all odds to negotiate a satisfactory deal for terms he knew in advance will be denied. The First Emir President figured that at least his Nation might gain a reprieve of valuable time for a possible changing political climate. In any event, he believed that popular support for costly resistance had a higher chance of success if he were detained by the Sultan.

Before leaving for Cairo, the President wrote his testimony to be read in due time and which said:  “To the people of the Levant and the legal government.  My last wish is to consider any agreement with the Sultan, while I am detained in Egypt, as null and void.  You all need to understand that an agreement signed by a non free man is necessarily made under duress and unfair cunning.  The President of this free Nation is not about to deliver any lands of the Republic of the Levant or the rights gained through years of struggle to any foreign power.  We did not invest all these energies and forbearing periods so that a Pasha from Egypt reap the prosperous sate of affair and engage in dilapidating our hard-earned struggle for self-autonomy.  If I return within 2 months, God is Great, if not, I order you to unite and prepare for hard times.  The free and independent citizen of the Republic of the Levant will shoulder their duties as they have done for 3 decades against all odds.  I have great confidence in Mustafa Baltagy, your Defense Minister, and I appoint him as my Viceroy for the duration of my absence.  Long live the Republic of the Levant and its valorous citizens”.

The President had ordered Mustafa back from Tunisia because he considered him the most able to unite the Nation in an armed conflict in his absence, and because his return might satisfy the Sultan’s wishes and helped his case.

Prophesy of end of time: Rainbow over the Levant, (part of a fiction novel)

Women participate in the electoral system

Women were to be allowed to be candidates in any electoral system for the municipality or the chamber of deputy.  The voting right to every citizen who was eighteen years of age regardless of the voter’s marital status such as being single or staying with his parents or not having a steady income was to be the law of the land. Any religious laws that abridged women rights were discussed and critiqued. The bottom line was that if God provided men with specific rights like marrying more than one woman in some religions, then women had equal rights to marry more than one man in other religions.  This concept did not make much logic in our tradition but offered a fertile ground for dialogue that was totally lacking on gender discrimination.

The concept of taxation without representation was being argued as illegitimate and pressures for political reforms to elect representatives who were cognizant with the laws were making steady inroads in the status quo.  The First Emir was secretly behind this wave of demands and encouraged the exchange of ideas by staying above the fray and admonishing the sanctity of freedom of expression as the ultimate weapon for change and development.

The new political party had to cater to the intellectuals in order to disseminate the new principles and social values.  The First Emir then promulgated the urgency to build and staff art schools of music, acting, painting and sculpting in every major town.  He also worked on the intellectual vanity by erecting two imposing museums in Byblos and Beirut for artifacts, industrial machineries and achievements in all sectors of artistic endeavors.

This was the most glorious period in the cultural development in the Levant society; freedom of expression was carried far which almost broke many taboos in topics for discussions; formal cultural circles were spreading among elite families and endeavoring to dissect documents, articles and positional treaties.  Reason was pinned against religious dogmas and the seed of dissention was taking roots within the polarized extremist positions.

Part 5: Latifa Regency (1400-1402)

Chapter 17: 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 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 completely in the dark as to the policies of the Sultan of Egypt.  The agents of the First Emir 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 had already experienced one such depressing mood during the lifetime of Antoun and twice in the previous century with a slight delay of such rumors 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.

Shortly after Antoun was born, society remembered the plague that devastated Aleppo half a century before 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.




March 2021

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