History logo

A Harem Built on Sand

Where Time Flies

By Leeza CooperPublished 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 12 min read
Pinterest, Photography by; Sch Sch.

“Like sands through the hour glass so are the days of my lives”.

I am Amarni B’int Rashida B’int Salma, fourth wife of His Most Excellent Majesty, Selim IV, Sultan of Ottomani. I lived in his harem of His Majesty’s family....his wives, daughters, his unmarried cousins, and, of course, his fearsome mother and first wife. From time to time, I am granted the pleasure of his Majesty’s company when his mother, the former Sultana Hafsa chooses me over all the other women in his Harem.

Yet she chooses me less often than his other favourite wives, because she considers me a wild child, a rebel and she certainly didn’t approve of my cause or my mission.

It was she who first spotted my naked body gliding and floating in the oasis looking more reminiscent of an elegant swan or some type of exotic bird rather than a young teenage girl. I remember her dark brown eyes as they bore into mine across the cool water, partly out of the shock of witnessing my complete disregard for protocol, but mostly, I believe, out of envy.

It was later after she had me captured and tied up and hand delivered to her son, did I begin to understand that a young women wandering through the desert on her own, without a man in command, was not only unheard of, but immoral and unlawful. Somehow the Gods had spared me the strictures that were placed on other young girls heads by making me an orphan. But, unlike the usual devastation, loss and hunger that so many other children suffered in the desert; I had been raised by mother nature herself.

It had been five years to the day since my capture and things had slowly begun to move forward for me. The seeds that I had planted when I arrived were now sprouting little buds of hope and the sun was once again beaming on my skin.

It was the eighteenth century and young women like me in the Middle East were suddenly finding their power and their wings, and what constituted a thing called feminism. I wont ever forget my liaison with a dashing young Englishman, a traveller in our lands, he was fascinated by my hopes and dreams when I was a young effervescent sixteen year old, and he even gave me a copy, which had been translated into Arabic, of Mary Wollstonecraft’s book A Vindication of the Rights of Women, which I kept carefully hidden, because I knew it would drive other types of men into a viscous bloody rage.

But things for women were beginning to change as I grew up. And female empowerment known as the “Harem Rule” had begun to weave its way through the soul and spirit of its women like the plague.

It was evident that being Armani, I had taken the place ahead of the other wives, because of my aura as a women of intrigue. My influence had grown to levels previously unknown. Though not seen by almost anyone, this wild potency held enough power through its discreet invisible tendrils while still balancing obligations to the Sultan. I could now say things I should not say; I could do things and get away with it when I know it meets with his disapproval; and worse, much worse for his mother, when she calls me into her presence to address me, I look her in those dull brown eyes, and I don’t cast them to the floor in deference, looking at her feet through the veil, I had risen in authority and my place was by her son’s side whether she liked it or not.

Indeed, and I suspect, but don’t know for certain, that it is only when His Majesty, Sultan Selim asks for me to visit him at night, that his mother, Honorary Sultana Hafsa reluctantly and with blood curdling anger taps me on the shoulder and orders me to visit her son.

And it was on one of these occasions that something happened which changed my life. After I had spent the night pleasuring him with my mind and spirit followed insignificantly by my body, for me not him, I counted the ways in which I had cleverly crafted my future path to one of riches and freedom.

It was during the next morning’s feast, he said that I should come falconing with him and his entourage. I was stunned....my plan had worked, my trail of seeds dropped into his mouth had been eaten up and now he was bestowing me the privilege, the honour, the distinction above all others; to ride out with him, his bodyguards, his advisors into the hot forlorn desert and there to stand on a lofty hill of sand, and to send a magnificent falcon soaring up into the sky to chase after doves they’d released moments before....I cannot tell you the feelings which the Sultan’s command set off inside my body. I shivered, I nodded, I was speechless, my feathers were completely ruffled, I was going home.

I ran back to the harem to dress in riding clothes, wrapping my head in a black scarf to protect it from the burning lust of the sun. And then an hour later, in the middle of the morning, we rode out. I rode two ranks behind the Sultan, between two of his huge bodyguards, who continued to glance at me in suspicion, not saying a single word to me. It was highly unusual for a women, any women, to accompany his majesty in order to hunt and play. Little did they know I wasn’t any ordinary women at all, and games were beneath me. I was in life to win not fail and slink away like a dog with its tail between its legs.

I knew what it was like to have all one’s feathers plucked out one by one until there was nothing left but skin and bone. I understood the undermining of Arabic desert cruelty, the sordid truth underneath its brilliant stars. The warm frame surrounding its golden desert by day and freezing cold glassy winds at night with its harsh unforgiving predators that hide in the shadows waiting to devour the flesh of any weak defenceless creature. But I also knew of its serendipitous beauty, it’s amazing palate of sand meeting blue sky on its horizon, and it’s dappled fronds of palm trees glistening in and around it’s oasis of water.

We rode on in silence until we reached a suitable hill. The palace and township had disappeared long ago, and we were totally alone in a vast and trackless desert, surrounded by nothing but sand and the strong smell of the horses and occasionally wafts of sweat off the men.

I had returned to my happy place, out there in the desert and there was much laughter and release in the body of men. My own body had relaxed also because now we were on even ground, I was in my element, out in the desert far away from the other women of the harem, and glowing on the truth of what was to come.

At last, we came to a halt, and dismounted. The horses were tethered together so that they did not run off, and then servants watered and fed them.

And the men in His Majesty’s entourage were given water and small amounts of food. Seeing that I had been abandoned to the periphery of the group, the Sultan came over, and generously shared his food and water with me. I was gratified and told him so, but the effect it had on the others was astounding. They, too, started to gather around me, and one or two even deigned to address a few words to me.

But it was when His Majesty’s falconer brought over his magnificent bird of prey that my heart nearly burst out of my body. I have always loved falcons....their haughty demeanour, their uncompromising stare back at anybody who dares to look directly at them, their sleek bodies of royal plumage....he carried the bird on his leather-gloved arm, it’s head hooded in a leather pouch, and held the beast at right angles to his body, stroking the bird’s breast gently to calm him....for I believe that the bird knew that at any moment, the hood would be released, and he would he hoisted into the air to chase after any hapless bird of the sky, or any wild cat or fox or snake or rabbit or rat of the ground. Few, of course, would know that their death was imminent, because the falcon flew high in the sky, and when it spied its prey, it would fold its wings by its side and plummet downwards to earth faster than the eye could follow. Then, just before it crashed to its death, it would open its wings and fly horizontally to the earth, to scoop up the prey in its talons, crushing the life out of the struggling beast as it gripped it mercilessly and flew up into the sky to return its prey to its master. Sometimes, if the prey wasn’t crushed instantly to death and was still struggling in its talons, the falcon would find a rocky outcrop, and drop it so that it was killed as it hit the ground. Nothing could escape when the falcon had its prey in its amazing eyes, some things would never be forgotten.

I looked at the bird in awe and amazement, just as the three doves were released. They flew noisily into the air, squawking and cooing, and revelling in their sudden freedom....how little they knew about what would soon be their inevitable fate.

The falcon, though blind because of the hood, knew that prey was near, and became restless but falconer held the bird still, and I reached out and gently smoothed the feathers on its back. Smiling, His Majesty asked me if I would like to pull off its leather pouch which covered its head, a great honour. I nodded and thanked His Majesty, did as I was asked, and looked at the falcon in familiar amazement. It blinked a number of times as the light suddenly entered its world. Then it looked at me, and tilted its head.

I brazenly held out my arm, just beside the falconers. And to the amazement of His Majesty and the experienced falconer, and all others who were looking, the beautiful beast of prey hopped across, and settled down on my arm, looking at me again. Its merciless talons bit into my flesh, but I didn’t wince or scream, even though there was a spot of blood, I knew he recognised me instantly and I him.

Yes! the falcon looked at me, and I looked at him and smiled.

His Majesty was taken aback at my unexpected skill of handling the large bird and came over and offered the falcon a small piece of bloody meat, which he snapped up eagerly. It was to blood him, that his hunger would become keener and his search for the prey even more efficient. The falcon and I both knew we were after blood and that the time had come to secure our place together again, it had just been a matter of time.

And then the falconer instructed me to unleash the bird, and I hoisted him into the air. Within seconds as it soared into the air, its wings beating furiously, it spotted the three doves, now almost invisibly far away, and it flew higher and higher into the air, so that it was positioned between the sun and the birds.

Then, at a speed which made the entire assembly of men audibly gasp, the falcon plummet downwards and the innocent doves, which had no idea that death was hurtling towards them, continued to fly until a multi-coloured blur fell on one them from the invisible sky and removed it from the trio. It just disappeared.

My falcon....yes! My falcon!....flew towards me and from a height, dropped the dead dove at my feet as it circled back and flew upwards to the sun to gather the two remaining doves.

Within no time, all three doves lay dead and bloody at my feet. And proud of its accomplishments, the falcon flew back to us, but instead of landing on the outstretched arm of the falconer, instead, it landed on my shoulder, it’s mother. The falconer scowled at me, and took the bird, but when he did, His Majesty Selim came over, and said, “You have an affinity, and they with you, it’s as if you have both met before. Staring into the sultans eyes I wanted to tell him the truth, that I was a falconer in this life before I was stolen by his mother, that I was a bird in my previous life, that my skin had once held long white feathers and that I could see a desert rat from high up in the clouds through its eyes, and I could smell fear a mile away, and I could also instill fear in all creatures including man; despite my feathers having floated up to the heavens hundreds of years ago.

Pinterest, Volha

Blinking away his obvious arousal at my competence and fascinating spirit he cleared his throat and spoke.... “I was thinking of employing a second falconer, but instead, I want you, Armani, to take the position. You will still live in the harem, but will become third in line to my mother and my first wife.”

And with that, at that moment, as the men talked excitedly about the falcon and his brilliance, as well as the fact a women had managed to hold onto something of such extreme power and beauty....least of all command it to follow instructions without even a whisper....had left them all completely breathless and mesmerised.

It was at that moment that I knew that my life had come full circle, that I had flown across sands of time and metamorphosed into my old but new beautiful self. My long white feathers had returned and I was no longer trapped inside human flesh waiting to die an insignificant and humble death.

My mission is accomplished and my cause is secure. My future is bright and sunny I’m no longer worried about the sand in the hourglass running out.

Like sands in the hourglass so run the days of our lives.

Pinterest, Hourglass Desert Portal; Inqua Art.

Why does humanity worry about its sand running out each year?

You may not be planning on this happening, but can you be sure it will not?

I do not want to conclude my story about two of my past lives by being pessimistic or morbid, but as a spiritual women I do want to encourage each of us to consider the brevity of life. Archaeologists discovered a tombstone from antiquity with an hourglass with wings carved into the stone and beneath the picture was the Latin phrase “tempus fugit” – TIME FLIES! The sand is running – time is passing – we must make the most of the lives we have, in our human experience, our spiritual journeys and our dream states before we acsend to the heavens forever.



About the Creator

Leeza Cooper

Leeza Cooper, a devotee, artiste, creator of published literature & poetry; Studied Degree CU, founder/president of Wheels & Dolls SMC; raising funds for DV, lover of travel, nostalgia & anything vintage.

Ms Australia International 2023.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments (2)

Sign in to comment
  • Scott Jacobs 10 months ago

    Always looking forward to what comes next from you.

  • David Milstein10 months ago

    Interesting and well thought out. I could not stop reading, to tell you the truth.

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.