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

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

I posted this fiction story in October 2008. The characters in this novels were detailed in the novel and the setting was in the 14th century during the Mamluk Empire with Cairo as Capital.

End notes

Mount Lebanon continued to flourish at a diminished rate after the beheading of the leader Antoun in Cairo.  

And while the Mamluks 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.

The downhill trend was 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 it 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 Samar, her adoptive daughter, for the circus.  Mariam occasionally directed and produced drama shows for the exclusive benefit of Samar.

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 in 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 of 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 “fellaheen” and settled in the Druze districts, which would eventually cause dissents among the religious sects two centuries later, fomented by the colonial powers and the Ottoman empire, 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 Torus Mountain Chain between Turkey and Syria and the Zagros Chain and 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.

Once these natural barriers were crossed the entire land was opened for quick advances by any invading army.

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 17th century, and Emir Beshir of the Shehab tribe in the 19th 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

Consolidation of the kingdom. From Rainbow over the Levant

Note: Re-edit of a chapter of my novel posted in 2008 and set in the 15th century Mount Lebanon “Consolidation of the kingdom”

Antoun had a few rudimentary ideas concerning the organization of the social fabric but he lacked reprieves for consolidating his hold on power.

Fortunately, the new leader had good qualities of listening carefully to suggestions and delegating authorities for matters considered not to affect directly his grip on power.

Miriam Najjar was an excellent counselor and was motivated to enlarge her knowledge and participate in the decision units.  She suggested that one priority was to establishing elementary schools in every town and argued that without a learned youth the future of the regime would be totally dependent on foreign experts who would deplete the treasury.

She advanced the concept that relying on the know-how of other nations was the main reason why so many dynasties had died out or been replaced by dynasties elevated from mercenaries who did not care for the well-being and stability of the societies they governed.

However, there was the realization, experienced by most families living in high altitude of over 1000 meters above sea level, of the high mortality rate in extended families during the winter season that lasted five months.

Many kids died from suffocation, pulmonary diseases, and contagious illnesses.

Psychological disorders lead to brutal physical behaviors from close contact in unfit environmental conditions.

At the time, and for long time afterwards, homes were simply of a single room. The door was the only opening to fresh air.  Around ten people on average crowded that cloistered unique room for the duration of winter.

As was the custom, large families usually dedicated their second or third sons to the clergy’s institutions to become priests and a few daughters to turning nuns. Thus, to avoid feeding extra mouths and making more space for the other members of the family, many kids were lent to work for free in return for shelter and food and some education during the harsh season.

To return the favor for the outlawed peasants, it was decided that intern or boarding schools be erected for girls and boys, separately and where children of ages ranging from nine to thirteen would dwell in for 5 months from mid November to mid April.

Boarding schools

The first boarding school was established in Baskinta and demonstrated in its first year that mortality was drastically reduced in winter when the number of family members was cut in half within their reduced dwellings.

Consequently, this facility provided during the winter season education and healthier quarters for children and lent longevity to the extended family members.

Nuns and monks would run these schools in the beginning until a new generation of trained and learned lay administrators and educators took over gradually.

The teaching was traditional the first two years until tighter administration and teaching procedures were enacted.

A single instructor perched on a cushioned flat stone faced half circles of students sitting on the ground and was responsible for all the beginners in the reading class, regardless of the students’ age and gender.

The master’s long-reaching stick would not discriminate inattentive heads. Heavy physical punishments were the lot of free spirits who dared stand for their rights or argued boldly.

A few families would even worry if their kids were not physically disciplined as signs of careless and apathetic behavior on the instructor’s part in guiding the learning progress of their kids.

Families would rather go and visit their children at school on Christmas vacation and stay with them for a couple of days benefiting from warmer lodging in barns and healthier food varieties.

Christmas was a happy period for everyone in the school where children would get busy building mock-up houses, trees, animals and figurines for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi kings and presenting homemade gifts to their parents in return for assorted delicacies.

A typical day at boarding schools started at 6 a.m. followed by house cleaning, chicken feeding, cow milking, kitchen food preparation, and carrying necessary supplies for the day. At 7:30 mass and breakfast.

Classes for reading and writing in both Arabic an Aramaic languages (language of the land) and basic arithmetic would begin at 8:30 and end at 12:30 for lunch.

A short recess, then off to working in the artisanal shops of carpentry, pottery, glass painting, iron forging, cloth making, glass blowing and farm tending until 4 p.m.  The children would then head to the supervised study lounge until dusk, followed by diner and Vesper prayer.

By 7pm everybody was already in bed in order to save on candles and oil consumption.

Children less than eleven years of age would sleep ten in a room on hay stacks with spreads of goat skin. The older ones would sleep seven in a room.

It was not the sleeping quarters that mattered for the kids but a larger freedom to move around and be outside during the day with three fulfilling meals.

Meat was scarce but the kids were frequently fed “kebbe nayyeh” for Sunday’s lunch and eggs with “kaorma” for Saturday’ breakfast and tabbouli or mjadara on Fridays.

The usual staples were cereals, beans, crushed wheat, lentils, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, soup and plenty of breads. Fruits were a delicacy, especially apples which could be stored. Sometimes, apricot and blueberry jams; and more often molasses and “rahat el halkoum”.

Most of the toys and game equipments were homemade.

They used to fabricate rectangular flat wood plates, mark a number of 3 decimals on it and a string to attach around the forehead.  They divided themselves in two groups and scattered in the woods hiding their numbers on tree trunks.  If the enemy guessed the hidden number attached to the front head then the opposite member was out of the game until everyone in one team was out.

With time, many of these masks would become marked one way or another and the unfortunate wearers soon found themselves guessed out immediately, no matter how tightly they hid their front head closely to a tree trunk.

They also made rudimentary balls and divided themselves into two teams:  the member hit by the thrown ball was “killed” and transferred to the opposite line unless he caught the ball and then the thrower was considered eliminated.

They fabricated backgammon and tic tac toe gizmos and the like games.

The most rewarding type of equipment were slingshots, wooden swords and arches. The kids would go out hunting rabbits and squirrels within a short range because wild beasts were commonly found such as hyenas, wild boars, and wild dogs.

This system of schooling was expanded to towns at lower altitude for a shorter winter season of only 4 months.

Somehow, a few of these schools constructed annexes around their grounds with the help of the military garrisons close by and were transformed into major production centers for army supplies and exported objects.

In the winter season, skilled families of the interned children would manufacture goods and help in the maintenance of the institution, while in the remaining of the year the school and its annexes would be invaded by skilled workers occupying the living quarters for 6 months.

There were cases of greedy administrators in tandem with local officials abusing children as slave workers and delaying the release of the able and skilled children.

Families got wind of these awful practices and stricter monitoring procedures of these institutions were established.  Families were encouraged to resume sending their children to the nearest parochial schools for a couple of hours during the busy seasons in return for preferential winter work facilities at the boarding schools.

These boarding schools became popular and families from afar trekked their children to Baskinta until new boarding schools were available and mushroomed to every district in Mount Lebanon.

This system of boarding schools developed into more professional institutions :  Overseas parents inscribed their children for a substantial sum of money in return for lengthier educational periods and better accommodations for housing different age groups of students.

In the newer more professional boarding schools with diverse ethnic and religious affiliations there occurred a few religious frictions among the adult students without any repercussions to the children who found happiness and joy in being together, energetic and secure in their daydreams.

Like most institutions in the Levant, the boarding schools experienced traumatic and feverish times but never took roots to grow and then suffered sudden death.

After lengthy discussions, Antoun agreed with Miriam that it would be an excellent decision to offer incentives to municipalities for arranging educational facilities.

Instead of villages constructing more churches, the central government offered to incur half the expenses for constructing schools, the wages of the instructors and lunch for all the students.  In return for free education for a 4-year period, the graduates would refund part of the expenses after securing better employment.

This edict would be formalized so that no State investment would be contemplated without local and regional investments and participation.  The rational was that if investments were shared by the well-to-do inhabitants who tend to mind a return on investments then, proper and timely execution of projects were more secured since it is founded on individual interest.

Within a year Antoun appointed Miriam Najjar as his education counselor. Mariam encouraged many visiting scholars to settle in Mount Lebanon and more opportunities for various disciplines sprouted in education that required specialized higher educational institutions.

 

Women rights and Written Constitution: A chapter in my novel set in the 15th century during the Mamluk Empire

Note: A re-edit of of a 2008 post “Rainbow over the Levant: Women rights and Written Constitution

Chapter 16: Postponement of a written Constitution (#23)

The First Emir had secretly adopted the party lines of the Aram National Party and he swore allegiance and signed the contract as a regular Party member.  He directed Miriam to be his official representative, thus propelling Miriam firmly into the highest hierarchy of the Party, which was the legislative committee.

The government allocated a budget to promote the expansion of the Party through an increase in the educational budget and proclaimed that all political parties should join efforts for the “Unity and Defense” of the nation.

Although the First Emir kingdom did not stretch beyond the Eastern mountain chains of today’s Lebanon, he recognized the necessity of unifying the people in Syria for a satisfactory defense front from any major invader.

The First Emir was willing to negotiate in due time for an alternative name of the Party and other concessions on the political principles by the opposition groups.

The First Emir felt that winning the mind and heart of his citizens to the new program was going to be much harder than anything contemplated before.

He knew that the society was enjoying wealth and stability from an open sea, an economy relying on medium size industries and tourism: the Syrian market was conquered without the need for direct interventions.

This state of affairs was ideal for business and suited greatly the institutions of the government which abhorred undue risks to their profitable businesses by hinting to probable preparation for war.

Since rational dialogue was not propitious at this stage because of the powerful institutions, the First Emir had to create a climate of emotional need for the slogans of the new party.

Before setting the propaganda machine at work, the new party had to propose its position on a written Constitution and a draft electoral system.

The new spirit disseminated in the land was highly controversial in most of the regions, but the new society had enjoyed enough freedom of expression that the fundamental issues were tolerably discussed.

Women, for example, would enjoy equal rights as men in education, work opportunities, inheritance and acquiring properties and businesses.

The suffrage of the female gender

Miriam stepped in as candidate for the coming legislative election and struggled hard to provide women all the rights accorded to men. She led a vast campaign of civic demands to alter the previous temporary electoral system into a fair and equitable Constitution that would guarantee equal rights to both gender in duties, responsibilities, and rights.

Miriam’s position as head of the Legislative committee in the Aram National Party gave her an important leverage for organizing impact lobbying pressure groups in the State administrations, propagating the new demands within the masses and concentrating their energies into a few targeted reform changes.

Miriam was installed in Baldat El Mir and had a wing in the Saraya as minister of education. She was still not married because of unusual circumstances but had a steady gentleman for many years by the name of Ignatios Doumany.

They both did not mind a formal wedding but realized that the social traditions would inevitably pressure the couple into changing their priorities; Miriam would have to refrain from open political activities and cramp her flexibility to maneuver in the political scene; and Ignatios would have to assume roles that he was not willing or capable of shouldering as head of the family and controlling its behavior according to the expected norms.

Ignatios was an academician and a linguist versed in ancient languages such as Latin, Greek, and Farisi; he used to teach at the Foreign Office Center in Baldat El Mir.(Currently Beit Mery).

Later on, during Latifa Regency, (Eldest sister of the First Emir), he would transfer to Mtein as head of the new branch of that department which was recently established in the historic Capital.  He was housed in an annex to the house of Miriam and instructed her two adoptive daughters and played the role of the adoptive father in the household management.

Samar, the eldest daughter, was already about eighteen and was adopted during the mountain outlaws’ period and was the dynamo for refueling Miriam with recharged energy and revolutionary zeal for change, especially in gender discrimination issues and females rights.

The second daughter Sahar, who was rumored that she was Miriam’s legitimate kid,  was seven and had the freckled face of Miriam but resembled more to Ignatios.

Miriam had adopted Sahar after she returned from her leave of absence that lasted ten months in Palestine; she went there accompanied by Ignatios to study the school systems of the European missionaries in Jerusalem.

During her stay, she trekked behind Jesus’ footsteps throughout Galilee, Judea, Jericho, and the Dead Sea, and then crossed the Jordan River to Jerash and Petra.

Ignatios was aware of the different treatments received by Samar and Sahar from Mariam.

Samar was encouraged to behave as boys were raised, independent and self-confident in society but Sahar succumbed to the unconscious symbiotic relationship of mother and daughter.

By attitudes, gestures, and remarks Miriam unconsciously sent messages to Sahar who assimilated them in her upbringing and generated reactions as daughters do to preserving the “love” of their mothers:  Sahar was wholly scared to part from her mother during her travels and behaved in subordination to customs with sudden violent outcries and revolts when the pressures of rivalry and jealousy aroused among her mother and her sister.

Sahar was fond of making the life of Miriam untenable in most circumstances and the kind and patient support of Ignatius was essential in keeping the peace and tranquility in the family atmosphere; the efficiency of Ignatius was far better when Miriam was away.

In the town of Antelias, Miriam called for and organized a vast gathering for the female gender active in the electoral process for holding administrative, organizational, or management positions in the government or private enterprises. This assembly lasted for two days and Miriam spoke on the first session saying:

“Compatriots, mothers, daughters, wives, single women and grandmothers; I welcome you wholeheartedly and admire your courage and determination to join this beautiful gathering of dedicated citizens.

As you can witness, male citizens are excluded from this gathering, not on the basis of our unwillingness to have a fruitful dialogue with them but because we need to be alone to boldly discuss critical issues among ourselves without shame or innuendoes, or patronizing attitudes.

As far as I know, this is a first grand gathering of its kind made possible by the new era of openness and freedom of speech and assembly. Let us take full advantage of being together and openly discuss and set up a workable agenda for our political and social platform”.

“Please, this is not the time to feel intimidated; we don’t have to work on the basis that the next gathering will be more suited to expound on your grievances because this sort of get together, among the female gender, might not happen again for decades, realizing full well the entrenchment of the patriarchal system we are still experiencing in every step of our life.  The strength of this system can handicap our development and the acquisition of our political, economic and social rights”.

“Understand that this is Not the time to dwell on what your father, or husband, or brother might think or say or do.  This is an opportunity to think and feel for yourself as a full fledge individual. What are your needs, emotionally, financially and educationally as an integral citizen of this free Nation?”

“This is an exciting time but fraught with serious dangers if we fail to unite and express our steadfastness and stubbornness for securing our natural rights and demonstrate that we are the group on which is founded the survival of our society.

We are not to dwell on survival anymore; we are here to go beyond the de facto status we have been subjugated to. We are to design the new life process that this society need to erect in order to progress and the best strategy to counter the calamities that our Nation might have to sustain”.

“First, we will form committees to discuss, study and make recommendations on the subjects of education of the girls, the inheritance both tangible and immaterial, wedding traditions and conditions both financially and emotionally, voting rights, representation in the Parliament, municipalities, and governance as half the society, mothers’ rights in childbearing and support from the public funds for medical and babies growth, travel rights, and work rights”.

“This is your golden opportunity to talk plainly in everything that is cramping your life and your dreams.

Please, I urge you to recall all your dreams when you were young and how you might be able to accomplish them if full citizenship rights are accorded to you by your valiant fights.

Remember, rights are never offered without struggle; let us fight with the firm determination to earn them publicly and in the privacy of our own homes and families”.

“We can win our rights by our union after agreeing on a platform.

Let this platform represent our youthful dreams and not what our fathers, husbands or brothers might agree with.

Let our feelings and our minds mesh to win the battle of gender equality and equitable progress of our people and children.  Long Live our First Emir! Long Live women rights! Long Live the Levant Nation!”

To protect the convention of the women, each of the three accesses to the meeting place was guarded by a phalanx of the army, located half a kilometer away, with an order to deny entrance to disturbing or curious elements.  Male supporters were assembled close to the military barracks to cater to the requirements of the convention and ensure smooth logistical supplies.

Two female phalanxes  (the army included women phalanxes) insured the internal security of the convention and participated in the military committee.

The first day of the convention was hectic in the administrative and management tasks, but a learning curve settled as the days went by.

Many bold and articulated female leaders went beyond the enthusiastic themes of claiming laws for the equality of the sexes and dwelled deeper on the other facets that were restricting their independence to growing wings.

They reminded their colleagues that they were mostly responsible for their secondary status in society because they exhibited the attitude that a good wife has the duty to efface herself in conversation among men and avoided the critical financial decisions in the household.  They encouraged the wives and daughters to voice their concerns in family matters and stop interjecting their accumulated anger as a mean to establishing peace in the family environment.

After the convention, which made the headline news in social gatherings for months to come, the female population vented their feelings and inclinations to the public and were ready to pay the price for their rights as equal to men in social status.

There were  divergent arguments.

One group viewed that individual family decisions such as who is head of the family, how to lead life and maintain family cohesion should be separate from the Constitution and only female rights as a complete human being equal to men in everything in the law should be an integral item in the Constitution.

Another group maintained that specific articles in the Constitution relative to women might harm their peace of mind and the harmony in the households. Instead, the laws should maintain her power to reclaim her rights at critical circumstances whenever she is ready to grasp them, especially for divorce and separation cases.

Securing female rights in the Constitution was the glorious fight that Miriam accepted to lead against all odds.

It was at this period that the government proclaimed prizes for anyone inventing techniques or equipments that would facilitate the printing of leaflets which were done manually.

The demand for mass writing materials generated ideas and the rudiment of a few inventions that did not materialize because of the political instability in the Levant.

End of tome I


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