Book Secrets

Book Research: Ain Adhari

Okay, this is actually a bit of reminiscing for me. Ain Adhari or Adhari Spring or Adhari Park (as it is now called) was a freshwater spring in the Zinj area of Bahrain. I was thinking about it in reference to how communities congregate around water, particularly in desert regions.

Ain Adhari, was a natural spring that seemed to be the center of a community many years ago. It was fresh water bubbling up from below ground to a large natural pool. There were birds and frogs and all around there grew huge palm trees offering shade for visitors. My father talked about swimming in Adhari pool and there being fish that lived in there as well. Women would come from all over the island with bundles of clothes and do their washing using the natural channels of the spring. Families would have picnics on the grass and swim in the blue waters. All around it was farmland and date plantations, the water would flow through from the sweet water springs through irrigation ditches to supply expansive orchards and fertile gardens. There’s an old story that the waters of Adhari came into being when a virgin dug in the ground in search of water. After she dug but a little ways, the water bubbled up into her hands, fresh and cool and sweet.

When I was a child, the spring was already dying. There were no longer any fish, and the water had turned brackish with moss and algae. There was trash all around and the water no longer fed the channels around it, leaving little but a few palms desperately holding on and some scraggly brush. A few years after that, the waters dried up and it was abandoned completely.

In 2002, the government began to recognize the loss of Adhari park and decided to try and revive the spring and build a park for the community. It was remodeled again in 2006 and further improvements made. The “pool” is now 500 square meters…a pool-pool not a natural spring pool. And there are outdoor and indoor rides for people of all ages, a Family Entertainment Center, 10 food outlets at the Food Court, you get the idea. It is an amusement park.

In some ways, I guess it is great that they found a way to preserve some of what was Adhari Park and another part of me that laments what was lost, and what, in many ways, I never got to see – Ain Adhari as a fulcrum of a desert community. 🙂 Or maybe I’m just romanticizing.

As they say, pictures are worth 1000 words. I put these in what looks like chronological order.

These last three are from almost the same angle but probably cover about 20-25 years between each photo. 70s, 90s, and early 2000s.

 

Baba Ali Research (Book Secrets): Open Sesame

Sesame PlantNotes from my time writing “Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn” and fun tidbits.

This is definitely a “Book Secret.”  :)  Most people know “Open Sesame” from their own experiences or childhood familiarity with the 1001 Nights (or Arabian Nights) tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. They are the magic words to open the treasure cave.  What is interesting is that those words, as a magical means to open the cave, first appeared in Antoine Galland’s 1700s translation of the 1001 Nights. They didn’t exist in any earlier oral or written variants of the tale.

 

Baba Ali Research (Book Secrets): Translations of 1001 Nights

Notes from my time writing “Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn” and fun tidbits.

Okay, I saved this in my “Notes” while doing research last year but I cannot find the original source. This is more than a little upsetting considering how awesome the short snippet I saved is. In January, I wrote a “Book Secrets” about which 1001 Nights to read and highlighted that the translations had all come from one of two sources.  What I didn’t get in to was the difference between the translations.

The text below shows a few lines taken from the different translations of 1001 Nights.  It is eye-opening to see the difference, not just in text, but in the context it gives.  I knew the Burton version was misogynistic, racist, and colonialist but I never realized exactly how horrible it was prior to seeing it laid out for me line by damning line.

Arabic original (Calcutta II manuscript):  فلما كان في نصف الليل تذكر حاجة نسيها في قصره فرجع ودخل قصره فوجد زوجته راقدة في فراشها معانقة عبداً أسود من بعض  لعبيد فلما رأى لهذا الأمر أسودت الدنيا في وجهه

Gloss translation of Arabic: ‘When it was in the middle of the night he remembered something he had forgotten in his palace, so he returned and entered his palace finding his wife laying in her bed embracing one of the black slaves, and seeing this, the world became black in his face.’

Edward William Lane (1838-1840): ‘At midnight, however, he remembered that he had left in his palace an article which he should have brought with him; and having returned to the palace to fetch it, he there beheld his wife sleeping in his bed, and attended by a male negro slave, who had fallen asleep by her side. On beholding this scene, the world became black before his eyes.’

John Payne (1882–4): ‘In the middle of the night, it chanced that he bethought him of some-what he had forgotten in his palace; so he returned thither privily and entered his apartments, where he found his wife asleep in his own bed, in the arms of one of his black slaves. When he saw this, the world grew black in his sight …’

Richard Burton (1885-1888): ‘But when the night was half spent he bethought him that he had forgotten in his palace somewhat which he should have brought with him, so he returned privily and entered his apartments, where he found the Queen, his wife, asleep on his own carpet-bed, embracing with both arms a black cook of loathsome aspect and foul with kitchen grease and grime. When he saw this the world waxed black before his sight . . .’ (2001: 5)

“of loathsome aspect and foul with kitchen grease and grime” ???  Where the **** did that come from? One could even have assumed, from the earlier translations, that she was sleeping with the slave because he was a comely youth.  Why would she sleep with someone loathsome and foul?!

Baba Ali Research (Book Secrets): Tahtib – Egyptian Stick Fighting

In the draft “Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn,” Baba Ali carries a carved wooden stick from his grandfather. We were looking to have Ali to have a means to protect him and although he did have a khanjar, using a blade seemed too violent for the character. I didn’t want readers to fall into the assumption that he would know and use staff fighting. In part, because most people would think of Robin Hood and Little John’s staff fight on the log over the river (or at least that’s what I thought of). So instead, I brought in the idea of tahtib. It seemed like a natural fit. His father was a travelling merchant and Ali having an *uncle from Egypt from whom he could learn Tahtib would not be out of place.

Tahtib is…unusual and very awesome. It is a very old style of stick fighting and dance from the Middle East, more specifically, Egypt. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Brazilian Capoiera in its connection to music and dance. It is both self-defense, combat, sport, martial art, and folk dance. It dates back to ancient Egypt where images show it as a set of fighting and combat techniques.  Modern Tahtib seems split between the more dance-oriented, sport or competition oriented, and combat/martial art styled.

Tahtib Movements in ancient Egypt

Tahtib from the Abusir Necropolis more than 5000 years old

The stick, or Naboot is about four feet long. It is held, usually single handed, from the end and flailed in large figure-8 patterns across the body.

The demonstration below is from 2010 at the International Martial Arts Festival in Paris.  The first time (I believe) Tahtib was shown broadly to an international audience.

Adel Paul Boulad, a martial art expert and big proponent of Tahtib, has worked to develop and codify five forms or katas. Below is a video of the most basic form – “NAKHLA: The Palm Tree.”

Research Sources:

www.tahtib.com

www.alliancemartialarts.com/tahtib.html

And Youtube has several wonderful videos of a variety of forms of Tahtib – https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tahtib

 

*Growing up I had many uncles and aunties, none of whom were blood relations, and yet were as close.  They were family.  So Ali, I decided could just as easily have uncles and aunties.  🙂