I remember her. Her name was Shalimar with long tresses the color of a midnight raven and eyes of the deepest lake of an oasis. One would only look into her gaze to swim the deepest fathoms of an ocean, cross the sandstorms of the desert, and pledge their fealty to her beauty. She was innocence and temptation. She was my vengeance and my redemption. More significantly, she was mine in mind, body, and soul. And I loved her.
We came from a land where the Earth seduced the sky bearing from their loins the small nation known as Arikahs. It is a story told to me by my mother Samira, the favorite concubine and first wife of my father King Rafir Abdul Zimraan, who was the first cousin of the Sultan Abdul Hamid II, current ruler of the Ottoman Empire. My father had ten wives, each whom he cherished but loved my mother the most.
I, Prince Sinjin, his first born son was to inherit his throne as destined by the eternal Allah, Himself. My father prepared me well, educating me in the laws of Islamic government, economy, and social importance and I, in turn, swore my allegiance to him and to our people of Arikahs in a vow of peace and prosperity as part of my legacy.
Yet such a promise I could not keep. King Rafir and my mother met with an unfortunate accident and his brother, my uncle, Quadir Abdul Zimraan laid siege to the throne plunging our nation into years of civil wars, border conflicts, and social unrest. Dark days loomed ahead as Arikahs became a police state fraught with conspiracies to murder Quadir at the hands of rebels and peasant infidels.
Even my father’s harem had fallen prey to Quadir’s squandering of power. The ten wives my King Rafir honored and protected increased to seventy in his personal harem. Many of the local women and female prisoners of war were enslaved and subjected to my uncle’s cruelty as they were forced into a life of sexual servitude against their will. Any opposition was met with punishment such as being sold to a local brothel, bartered as chattel to another sheik for arms, or something far worse than the latter which was death.
From this degradation arose the most precious treasure.
She was my uncle’s favorite concubine from his harem. Her mother had been English which accounts for her eyes being the deepest color of the desert lakes. While in Cairo, Shalimar’s mother had been abducted by slave traders and sold to a brothel. My uncle found her and offered her a position as his premiere mistress in his harem to which she accepted. She eventually died in childbirth with the birth of her only daughter and my uncle took the infant grooming the child to take her mother’s place.
It was those years that I came to know and love Shalimar.
We sat at dinner as my uncle regaled tales of his armies squelching a recent peasant revolt. The harem feigned interest as he embellished his anecdotes placing himself in the middle of the story as some great warrior ready to fight and battle his foes.
“I stood upon the front gates of Arikahs. I alone, with no guards to protect me,” he boasted. “With my scimitar in hand, I struck down my enemies. I was aided by the vision of Muhammad who offered me the guidance of Allah to cast down these infidels as declared by the Sunni!”
A collective yawn wove threw the harem. I could sense the anger in my uncle’s eyes as he began to open his mouth to speak. Usually when this occurs, he severely punishes one of the women of his harem in the most brutal of fashions. Rumors of Quadir’s cruelty became legendary among the palace walls.
It has been said that his sudden need to keep a secret garden at the back of the palace is, in truth, to mask the unmarked graves of the people he had ordered killed. Such a statement was not to be beneath him. My uncle’s face turned red as his anger rose but by the grace of Allah, Quadir’s palace eunuch Sharif interjected.
“Your majesty,” said Sharif. “Perhaps you would like to be entertained by Shalimar’s dance.”
The suggestion calmed my uncle a bit and set him on a better mood. Sharif clapped his hands for the music to begin as Shalimar entered the room. Covered entirely by her dark abayah and asha, except for her piercing liquid eyes, she started to sway to the music.
King Quadir grew entranced as he observed her. The music swelled as she donned off her cloak to reveal her transparent costume of multi-colored veils covering her modesty with very little but a sash decorated with gold coins and metallic undergarments. She pushed her hips forward, rocking her belly from side to side leaning in closer to Quadir keeping him hypnotized for that moment. Her raven hair swirled around her wild and free emancipating herself from the confines of Arabic traditions and submitting herself to untamed passions.
I watched in awe of her as she glided across the room. From the strength of her arch foot to the bend of her strong legs, she twisted and contorted her arms as the transparent veils teased her audience with a glimpse of her bare form then quickly concealed it away from everyone. Her head bent down at that moment as she directed her vision toward me. Oblivious to her intentions, I swore under Allah’s breath that I should not receive her invitation but it would take the eunuch Sharif to offer me reassurance.
“Shalimar wishes to see you in the secret bed chamber above the palace,” he whispered in my ear. “Do not keep her waiting Prince Sinjin.”
I said nothing as Shalimar finished her dance. My uncle rose up to applaud her as everyone in turn did the same. She smiled at the acceptance of their approval and slightly looked at me. I turned away not to return her gaze. I could not accept such a proposal to meet. I dare not. I could not. My body and heart took leave of my senses and I submitted to temptation.
Forgive me Oh Great Allah for the flesh of Man is weak!