It was a dirty, deceitful business, but it had to be done, Rima reflected. The library was a small, specialist archive with scant resources. The core of its collection came from a prominent Andalusian family whose members could trace their roots back to the reconquista, when the Christians had taken back the peninsula from Muslim warriors who had claimed it in the eighth century.
The Christian kingdoms of northern Spain slowly conquered the southern territories of Andalusia over the course of 750 years (722-1492). The wars came to an end when the armies of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I conquered Granada, a city in the far south of the Iberian Peninsula. The story is rather fascinating — Ferdinand and Isabella (not exactly known for their religious tolerance) pressured a captured emir of the Muslim territories to attack his own father.The emir, known to the Spanish as Boabdil, capitulated and began waging war. Boabdil later tried to defect and repel the Spanish, but it was too late. Historynet.com reports this uncomfortable anecdote of the surrender of Granada:
Leaving Granada with his family and retainers, Boabdil personally delivered the keys of the city to Ferdinand. Within moments royal bearers raised a great silver cross and the Castilian banner in triumph from the watchtower of the Alhambra, and the victorious royal couple wept for joy. Later that day, as he crossed over the Sierra Nevada, a dejected Boabdil paused for one last look at the city, shedding a tear for all he’d lost, only to be taunted by his own mother. “You do well to weep like a woman,” she scolded, “for what you failed to defend like a man!”
If you’d like to know more, you can explore the history of the Reconquista through the extraordinarily detailed Historical Atlas of the Mediterranean.
It was the third time this week he’d asked her out. Rima knew that he found her attractive. Her mother’s Berber ancestry appealed to some men.
The Berbers are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa — Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Tunisia, Libya, and the west of Egypt. The Berbers appear in the great histories of the Greeks and Romans, including Herodotus. While the ethnic group is not homogenous, most members speak in the Berber language, which has between twenty-five and thirty million speakers. The Berber alphabet (Tifinagh) may derive from old Berber script and looks like this:
Want to try Berber? Try this video from Free Morocco:
You can watch a short video on the Berber ethnic group here:
In four hundred years, would the only proof of her existence be a page from her calendar, a shopping list, and a scrap of paper with her grandmother’s recipe for alfajores on it, all placed in a file labeled “Anonymous, of no importance” and stored in an archive no one ever visited?
Putting aside the melancholy commentary on the fleeting nature of human existence for just a moment, now is as good a time as any to make sure that you, too, have a recipe for alfajores handy. Alfajores are chewy sandwich cookies with dulce de leche filling popular in Spain and South America. According to Wikipedia, there are towns in Spain whose alfajor recipes date back centuries. Traditionally, the ingredients include hazelnuts, honey, and cinnamon. I am personally more familiar with the Argentine recipe, frequently dunked in chocolate and served with bitter coffee. You can find a recipe for them from ChowHound here.
Such dark thoughts were bound to be unlucky. Rima shivered and touched the hand-shaped amulet of the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima. It hung around her neck on a leather cord and had been passed down among the women of her family for as long as anyone could remember.
The hamsa is a symbol of a hand significant to several cultures and religions. The earliest use of the hamsa dates to ancient Mesopotamia and Carthage (modern day Tunisia).
It symbolizes the protecting hand of god and wearers believe that the hand offers its owner peace, happiness, and prosperity. The hamsa may be worn with the fingers pointing either up or down; unlike the Irish claddagh, I could not find any symbolism for distinct modes of wear. Depending on whether the wearer of the hamsa is Jewish or Muslim, the symbol represents different things — for Jews, the five fingers of the hand represent the five books of the Torah and the fifth letter of the alphabet (Heh) represents one of the sacred names of god. For Sunni Muslims, the five fingers represent the five pillars of Islam and the hand is that of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet.
The phrase Khamsa fi ainek, or “Five in the eye,” is meant to ward off evil spirits.
We’ll see you tomorrow on the journey to 1590 Sept-Tours. In the meantime, you can find us on Twitter @chamomilenclove or in our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers. Feel free to e-mail your thoughts on the Real-Time Reading of Shadow of Night to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cait and Jen