Libmonster ID: UK-1381
Author(s) of the publication: YUSUF ZEIDAN

YUSUF ZEIDAN

(Egypt)

The first life. Wedding Month

One hot day, Arabs came from far away and asked me to marry one of them. It was spring, but the air was filled with yellow dust, driven by the wind from the near and barren desert.

I was alone in the house. My mother and my brother Veniamin left before I woke up for the house of Peter the tax collector, a house we call the palace because it is large and has two floors.

No one asked for my opinion on the Arab bridegroom, but I agreed to be his bride without the slightest hesitation. I turned eighteen a few months ago, and I was already looking forward to getting married. My happiness lingered somewhere, and my heart ached more and more with each new day. My chest ached, and with each new spring, when the winter rains gave way to the summer heat, I was unbearably sad. The days passed slowly.

I don't have much happiness in my life, even though I'm white-skinned, like the core of a grain of wheat, and beautiful. A little thin, but beautiful. The women in the village used to say that if I got married, I would definitely put on weight and become even more beautiful. My eyes are clear and large, the color of honey that bees collect during clover blooms. There are thick lashes around her eyes, the color of winter nights. My eyebrows are wide and arched, and my hair is soft and long. And they are woven in thick braids, although I do not like them. Loose hair looks more beautiful. My friend Domiana said that when I let down my braids and dye my eyelashes with antimony, I become as charming as the women of the White City (the city of godless people).

Domiana knew everything, both what was said and what was not said before the wedding. She got married three years ago, when we were both fifteen. After she left, I became quite sad. My friend left me and the village to live with a thin guy, now her husband, in the distant city of Baramun.

I miss my friend terribly, and I can't go to her place. Domiana never came to visit her mother. The villagers call her Shaker, because she is too fat and her whole body shakes when she walks. When I was little, I heard that my mother was called a Gazelle. Probably because of her slimness and graceful, like a gazelle, movements. She still paints her eyes with antimony, and her mother's movements never stop in the house. Mom is beautiful and gentle. But after the death of her father, they stopped calling her Gazelle, and began to address her as Mother Maria.

On the day when Domiana was leaving with her husband and his family on a decrepit donkey for Baramun, all the villagers came out to see her off. My friend and I walked together from the church door to the edge of the market square, and at the back wall of the White City, we hurriedly hugged her one last time.

Domiana didn't say anything at the time, but her tearful eyes said a lot. They spoke to me, and I saw in them the fear of the unknown, and she was so eager to get married.

On the way back, after seeing Domiana off, Shivers whispered in my ear at the village gate that I should hurry up with the wedding, too. Shivers also added, leaning on my shoulder and pulling me to her, that if a girl is fifteen years old and she is not married, then rust gets into her stomach, which can not come out for a long time and cause damage in the girl's body. I shook my head in agreement, though I didn't understand the meaning of the words. I didn't know then that my essence was deep inside me. Shivers 'words made me feel dizzy, and I had questions that puzzled me:" How can I get married faster?", " What is the most affordable way to do this?", " What is this metal inside me that can rust?" and "How can the husband affect the disappearance of rust?".

Husband... I wonder if he will ever come to take me away from here to a place where he will make me happy and I will make him happy. Or maybe my happy time is now? After all, if marriage were truly happy, would married women look so sad? No, the only lucky ones are the little girls. They are happy, have fun all the time and flutter serenely, like butterflies.

page 72

* * *

I learned about the arrival of Arab matchmakers this morning. At the hour when the heat is at its peak and the birds are not singing, an Ethiopian woman from the tax collector's palace came to me and motioned me into the palace. She didn't know our language, even though she had lived here for a long time. I noticed other women shouting behind the Ethiopian woman as she crossed the threshold. She had an earthenware pitcher of clear water on her head. A little further away from the Ethiopian Woman was Nuna's short Mother. When she laughed, her prominent chest quivered. Noona's mother begged me to wear a beautiful, colorful dress that was lying on my mother's bed.

"Maria, quickly wash up and put on this new dress. They've already arrived, and we won't keep them waiting.

"Who's here, and who are they waiting for?"

"Why, Mary, the Arabs have come for you. They came to the square with a lot of donkeys and camels. Meeting and celebration at the Tax collector's palace.

"No one told me anything.

"I came to tell you that." Your mother sent me. Come on, hurry up. And after you wash up, put some makeup on your eyes.

The Ethiopian woman regarded me with a smile, her white teeth gleaming against her black face. I looked at her, wondering why she was still here. Soon, however, she set down the jug and placed the soap next to it on a white loofah sponge. As soon as I got out of bed, Noona's mother locked the door, shaking her head and winking at me.

I stood up, and it was like I'd stepped from one dream to another. I washed off the sweat and dust, quickly braided two braids, put on eye makeup, and got into my new dress. Immediately after I left the house, the neighbors gathered behind the fence shouted and laughed happily. They were singing a wedding song that goes like this: "Vona, Vona, Vona is the bride of Solomon. Round-faced as she is, like a full moon!"

My wedding dress was specially made to be narrow at the chest, and it featured narrow sleeves that started right at the armpits.

There was a ribbon of shiny fabric around the edges of the dress, and when I went out into the yard, I was surrounded by neighbors with their children, and everyone wanted to touch this ribbon. Shivers noticed me. She was sitting on a stone bench at the end of the road, and she called out wistfully. I walked over. Shivers hugged me and placed a bright necklace of colored beads around my neck, which she extracted from her deep breast.

The Tax collector's palace is surrounded by a green grass garden with pomegranates, oranges and lemons.

As I passed the living room, I noticed the Arabs. They sat at ease in the room, as if at home, leaning on the arms of the sofas. The women of my village were gathered in another hall, opposite the kitchen. Suddenly I saw my mother among them and was confused. She looked at me with tearful eyes and smiled. In one hand, she gave me a blue glass jug with red wine mixed with water and green apple slices floating in it. In the other hand - a pile of seven glasses, inserted into each other. Mom said, " Go to them."

My knees and fingers began to shake. Nuna's mother walked behind me, gently massaging my shoulders and whispering a prayer. I could hear loud male voices coming from the living room, making me afraid. I asked my mother to come with me, but she refused, shaking her head. I was about to cry, but my mother calmed me down by telling me that an Ethiopian woman would come with me with another pitcher and glasses.

"Pour it for the guests first, don't worry. The Ethiopian woman will serve you the rest of the glasses.

- Mom...

"Go on, Maria.

I wanted to fall to the floor and cry. But the women took me by the arms and led me to the living room, and then literally pushed me through the door to the men. There was nowhere to go. I walked in and felt ashamed because there were so many eyes looking at me.

The room felt very large, like a separate world. A dozen Arabs sat in a row to my right, and directly opposite the door, Peter the tax collector sat cross - legged and proud. At his feet was a large linen sack. On Peter's left sat an elderly Arab, and on his right sat the tax collector's son, his sister's fat son Basantius, and my brother Benjamin. The village men, led by the priest Shunuta, sat on couches near the door. In his ragged black robe, he was the most conspicuous of all. I think it would have been better if he had worn a shiny burnous with a black caftan, as he did for the service.

* * *

The Arabs had come to woo me, but without the women, and I wondered where I was going to sit after I poured them what they were going to drink. There isn't a single woman in the room that I can sit next to, and it's so stuffy in here. The Arabs, who looked alike, were dressed in loose striped cloaks, with shiny leather belts at the edges, and on their heads were white turbans tied together. The Arabs ' eyes were painted with antimony. I looked at Peter in a daze. He was wearing a long bright yellow halabia, and around his neck was tied a black cord with a crocodile's tooth hanging from it.

I sensed that they were not expecting me to appear and were very surprised by this; they immediately stopped their loud conversations and began to stare at me intently, which made my embarrassment stronger. My pulse rate reached its limit when one of the Arabs said hoarsely,"What a beautiful bride." Another enthusiastically said: "Hooray, hooray!". The Shunuta priest also supported them, saying, " Blessings be upon you... The Virgin Mary."

I started to fill the glasses, and the men took turns and drank. But among them was an Arab who did not drink from his glass. He took it from me and set it down next to him, not even looking in my direction. I noticed that the Arab's face was thin and made up with antimony.-


* Burnous - a cloak with a hood made of thick woolen material, usually white in color.

** Galabiya ( gelbab) - men's or women's shirt (approx. translation.).

page 73

my expressive eyes. His clothes were spotlessly white, and his turban gave off a faint fragrance. A thin headscarf hung on either side of his calm, thin face. I wonder if this is my fiance. It would be nice if that were the case. A handsome man reminds me of a sinless young man or an angel who got lost on the heavenly path and came down to earth just like that, without any purpose, just to live among people for a while.

He took the glass from my trembling hand and said in a low voice, " Thank you, Aunt." At that moment, all my hopeful heart wished that this very handsome man was the one who had come to take me as his wife... But it wasn't him, it was my fiance's younger brother. The Arabs called him the scribe because he wrote trade agreements for them. And they called him Nabatean, even though they were all Nabataeans themselves. Later, it is he who will reveal to me the secrets of Arabic speech and teach me the secret meanings of Arabic words.

* * *

I gave all the Arabs who were watching me a drink, and when I went to pour wine for Peter, he turned to me sharply and said, " Enough, Mary. Sit next to your brother. An Ethiopian woman will pour the rest."

Benjamin moved to make room for me, and I sat down in the corner. I was ashamed. On my right was the priest of Shunuta. I tried not to look at the matchmakers ' faces, but they, on the contrary, silently continued to stare at me intently. Peter cleared his throat twice and spoke to one of the Arabs: "My dear friend, here is our daughter Mary, pious, submissive, God-fearing, and you will be her family. She, modest, will settle in your country and will be safe. She will bear you many children, if it is God's will." One of the Arabs said to him, " We will be the best protectors for her, and she will live among us in care and respect. In our country, we have power, and we are respected. We will show her respect, she is a descendant of our Egyptian ancestress Hagar, the mother of all the Arabs."

Everyone's voices were mixed. The Arabs started talking loudly among themselves, but I couldn't tell who my fiance was among their flushed, dark faces. The attention to me continued unabated, and I was still in the grip of shame and fear, sitting with my eyes downcast. After a while, one of the Arabs threw a small cloth bag to the priest Shunuta and said: "This is money for everything you need for your wedding." The priest blessed the Arab and deftly stuffed the bag into Gelbab's pocket. Then he began to talk with the Arabs about Babylon, about the army of King Heraclius, and the wars rumbling in distant lands. They called Babylon Persia, the army of Heraclius the Byzantines, and by dirhams they meant drachmas.

Peter the tax collector spoke to the Arabs in their own language, as if he were also an Arab. I raised my head from time to time and stole glances from him to them. Finally, the tax collector said, " The wedding will take place in the church, the Lord's house, the rock of faith that gathers and protects us all." An elderly Arab neighbor answered him: "May everything you want happen with God's help, Uncle Peter. Reach out and take the bride price from me. We'll go to Coos for a month, and then we'll come back for her and get married. Now you will have a festive month, and it will be followed by another festive month, which will begin when we safely arrive at our homes in Arabia."

* * *

We in the village understood Arabic, and the Arabs understood ours. They would come to our bazaar and have their children with them. Here the Arabs are called merchants, and some call them the sons of Ismail. Bride price, for example, they have "mahr", not "urbun", mosquitoes - "dubab" instead of "namus". Even the flies they call "dubab"... We are called Copts by the Arabs, and our country is called Misr, despite the fact that in our language it is Kimi.

An Ethiopian woman came in with plates and tortillas. It was fast time, and it was still a long way from Sunday. But the aroma of roasted garlic coming from the food caused a strong appetite that had to restrain myself, swallowing hard. When the Arabs were invited to the table, they arranged themselves around the table, sitting directly on the floor. Given the opportunity to sneak out of the room, I slipped through the door behind the Ethiopian Woman.

My mother greeted me with awe, hugged me, and handed me over to the two women. One of them led me into the kitchen and sat me down in a corner on an overturned old clay pot. My head was spinning like a grinding millstone, and there was a sudden sharp pain in my stomach. I wanted to be alone for a little while, but the women came in with their children and began to fill the plates on the floor with food from large vessels. They all fell on the tortillas and ate them without paying any attention to me.

I looked down at my sandals, and my mind was full of thoughts that were unexpected, hot, and sharp as the edges of broken flint. I pulled away from what was happening and stopped hearing voices. My vision darkened, and Domiana came back to me.

Oh, how I miss you today. If you were around, we would tell each other stories so that the end of one of them would go to the beginning of the other. Little did we know, my dear, that my fate would be bound up with these strangers, and that they would come to ask for my hand in marriage. And that all this will take place in the big house of the tax collector.

All the people here are relatives, either close or distant, and all of them used to hide the news about matchmakers from me. But I felt like something was going on in secret. Neighbors who came to the courtyard of our house during the day stayed there with their children longer than usual. They were pacing in front of me, smiling and winking at each other for no reason. And my mother didn't mind. She just smiled the same way as the neighbors and continued to sew my dress.-


* A city in central Egypt (approx. translation.).

page 74

howl dress. At first I thought it was a dress for the upcoming holiday. It is bright, with fine Damietta brocade around the edges... Damietta is a remote town in the north where expensive fabrics are made.

I didn't talk to my mother as much as I used to in my fun days, when I could spend all day walking like other girls around the neighborhood of nearby al-Barabi and its market square. I went to all the houses in the village and then came back to tell my mother in the evening what I had seen and heard during the day. I did it so that she would be calm for me, but my mother was never calm...

* * *

I came out of a deep reverie as the men came noisily out of the living room. Their laughter echoed steadily between the walls. With joy and enthusiasm, the women got up, leaving the food behind, and hurried out of the kitchen. The children followed them to catch a glimpse of the departing Arabs.

I slowly got up from the overturned pot and brushed the dust and running ants from the hem of my dress. Confused, I came out of the kitchen and noticed Peter. Smiling, he called me into the living room. My mother came in with me. Benjamin was sitting in the left corner of the room, and I was standing behind my mother.

Putting his hand in the pocket of his shirt, Peter turned first to Veniamin, and then, happily shaking his fat cheeks, congratulated the smiling mother. Then he handed me five gold glittering dinars and said it was a ransom. He paused for a moment and added, "The signing of the prenuptial agreement and other marriage rituals will take place in four weeks."

My mother burst into tears when Peter reached into his other pocket and handed me two dinars that didn't shine. He said it was his wedding present... I had never owned a single dinar before, but my heart always beat faster when I saw it glittering in the hands of merchants in the marketplace.

Peter the tax collector pointed to the bag lying on the floor and said that these were gifts from the Arabs for my mother and me. He assured me that the Arabs were generous and rich, and that he had long known them and all their relatives who lived in the Sinai desert and even in the deserts that stretched to the city of Kus.

My mother wished Peter eternal happiness. Satisfied, he shook his head and left the living room. My mother followed, and I followed. In the middle of the hall, located between the rooms, Peter whispered softly to my mother, but I didn't hear him: "Look, I won't be here on the wedding day. I have to go to Upper Egypt in two weeks. I don't know when I'll be back. It's restless there. They say Heraclius ' army is returning to drive out the Babylonians."

My mother showed that she was afraid, and then softly said, putting the fingers of both hands together on her stomach: "My lord, we will wait for you at the wedding, the wedding is not happy without you. You are our only reliable support."

- no... Do not delay Maria, otherwise her journey to the land of the Arabs will fall during the worst of the heat. I'll probably be gone for two months, maybe longer. I have a lot to do there.

"Return to us unharmed, my lord.

"Listen, Basantius is still here, and the Ethiopian woman is with him. If you need anything for the wedding, contact them.

* * *

We went out into the front garden. The late-afternoon gloom had almost swallowed up all the shadows. Fat Basantii stopped me. He beckoned to me, and I stepped out from behind my mother. When I stopped, Basantius tried to say something, but didn't say anything. He gave me his right hand, which held a gift for me - a glittering gold dinar. I refused to accept his gift, but he insisted, his brows drawn together and his eyes fixed on me. At last I reached out to take the dinar gratefully, but Basantius behaved strangely. He started stroking my forearm with his hand, complimenting me on my dress. And I ran away from the fat man, even though my dress really deserved praise.

I quickened my pace and caught up with the women coming out of the back gate of the palace and onto the road. The women were followed by the children, followed by my mother and the Ethiopian woman. They were carrying a heavy bag of presents. I closed the back gate of the palace behind me, and after walking a short distance, I stopped at the door of our house.

* * *

After a moment of confusion, I stepped through the doorway, happy and tired. Benjamin was already home, and so were my mother and the Ethiopian girl. I met her in the yard as she was leaving. I closed the door behind her and went into the grain storage room to take off my new dress, which was clinging to my chest and waist in total darkness.

I was relieved when I closed the door behind me, relaxed, and finally took off my head cover and sandals, then let my hair down. But I felt more light when I carefully pulled off the tight dress and harem pants from under it. They radiated heat. I was naked for a while, standing alone in the dark, and I felt a strange, intense excitement inside. I leaned my hot back against the wall of the room before picking up my casual clothes, which were hanging from a stick driven into the wall.

I took the topknot in my right hand and ran it lightly along my neck a few times, feeling a pleasant shiver as I did so. The pads of my fingers somehow brushed against my firm breasts, and my nails began to scratch my nipples excitingly. I felt both cold and warm at the same time, and a little later I was overcome by an intoxicating shiver. The lower part of my trembling body was filled with fire. Something inside me was burning fiercely. Then I calmed down and felt dizzy.

Translated from the Arabic by Ph. D. candidate M. Nasr al-Gibali and V. Kunkova


© elibrary.org.uk

Permanent link to this publication:

https://elibrary.org.uk/m/articles/view/THE-NABATAEAN

Similar publications: LGreat Britain LWorld Y G


Publisher:

Jack DowlyContacts and other materials (articles, photo, files etc)

Author's official page at Libmonster: https://elibrary.org.uk/Dowly

Find other author's materials at: Libmonster (all the World)GoogleYandex

Permanent link for scientific papers (for citations):

YUSUF ZEIDAN, THE NABATAEAN // London: British Digital Library (ELIBRARY.ORG.UK). Updated: 23.11.2023. URL: https://elibrary.org.uk/m/articles/view/THE-NABATAEAN (date of access: 24.05.2024).

Found source (search robot):


Publication author(s) - YUSUF ZEIDAN:

YUSUF ZEIDAN → other publications, search: Libmonster Great BritainLibmonster WorldGoogleYandex

Comments:



Reviews of professional authors
Order by: 
Per page: 
 
  • There are no comments yet
Related topics
Publisher
Jack Dowly
London, United Kingdom
39 views rating
23.11.2023 (183 days ago)
0 subscribers
Rating
0 votes
Related Articles
SUMMARY
Catalog: Other 
65 days ago · From Jack Dowly
INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE DURING THE BATTLE OF SINEVODA"
Catalog: History 
69 days ago · From Jack Dowly
return. but how?
Catalog: Geography 
77 days ago · From Jack Dowly
ELECTRICITY INDUSTRY IN IRAQI KURDISTAN
Catalog: Military science 
79 days ago · From Jack Dowly
SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES OF THE GCC COUNTRIES
Catalog: Economics 
80 days ago · From Jack Dowly
SUMMARY
Catalog: Other 
82 days ago · From Jack Dowly
AN IMMIGRANT
Catalog: Sociology 
82 days ago · From Jack Dowly
KAZAKHSTAN'S POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND KAZAKH-EGYPTIAN RELATIONS
Catalog: Political science 
82 days ago · From Jack Dowly
EU TRADE AND ECONOMIC POLICY IN THE MEDITERRANEAN: SUCCESSES AND FAILURES
Catalog: Political science 
83 days ago · From Jack Dowly
REGIONAL BANKS IN AFRICA: OPPORTUNITIES AND PROSPECTS
Catalog: Economics 
83 days ago · From Jack Dowly

New publications:

Popular with readers:

News from other countries:

ELIBRARY.ORG.UK - British Digital Library

Create your author's collection of articles, books, author's works, biographies, photographic documents, files. Save forever your author's legacy in digital form. Click here to register as an author.
Library Partners

THE NABATAEAN
 

Editorial Contacts
Chat for Authors: UK LIVE: We are in social networks:

About · News · For Advertisers

British Digital Library ® All rights reserved.
2023-2024, ELIBRARY.ORG.UK is a part of Libmonster, international library network (open map)
Keeping the heritage of the Great Britain


LIBMONSTER NETWORK ONE WORLD - ONE LIBRARY

US-Great Britain Sweden Serbia
Russia Belarus Ukraine Kazakhstan Moldova Tajikistan Estonia Russia-2 Belarus-2

Create and store your author's collection at Libmonster: articles, books, studies. Libmonster will spread your heritage all over the world (through a network of affiliates, partner libraries, search engines, social networks). You will be able to share a link to your profile with colleagues, students, readers and other interested parties, in order to acquaint them with your copyright heritage. Once you register, you have more than 100 tools at your disposal to build your own author collection. It's free: it was, it is, and it always will be.

Download app for Android