A Day in the Life of Halima al-Rakkasa

Sabah alkhair. Ahlan wa sahlan. Isme Halima.
{trans.: Good morning. Welcome. I am Halima.}

O, beloved traveler, you ask about this day of mine; this I shall tell you, but only if you sit for some of Sahar's mint tea.

The call of the muezzin from town was just loud enough to wake me. Damashq is a wonderful place, full of strangers with pouches of dinars (though it seems that daharim and fals are all they will share with me), and the suqs overfull with colors, fragrances, and music.

Sahar, true to her name, was up at dawn for prayers and her morning work; I could hear 'Azzah padding after her. What is that phrase? Dogging her footsteps. Over my linen kamis and sirwaal went robes, with the blue sash, and today I added cote and abaaya to stop the chill. My headscarf is wool; if the heat becomes sufficient, I might change to qatun.

My yesterday only ended at the coldest of night, so I did not rise until the morning meal was ready. Never will I tire of of za'atar on bread, and Sahar makes it very special, may blessings rain upon her. Did I mention that I'm happy to have her as servant?

Morning was taken up with gathering firestuffs near the caravanserai. Although wood is best, caravan dung is plentiful, and makes a reasonable fire once dried. The waterbags were filled, and camp tidied. Since we have not traveled lately, tidying has become a daily exercise, instead of packing to wander over sahra and wahdi. I enjoy the freedom; even while we stay where there is food and coin to be had, my dar remains a tent!

We will later do what mending is needed, work on some embroidery to sell, and do some spinning. We are close enough to the road that we can watch the people mill around the caravansarai in their comings and goings. And we sometimes ask for news; any of fighting will find us again into the desert.

Such people who travel! The faranji must be watched carefully, even giving them some distance; not all understand the society they visit, and so I pull my scarf over my nose when they become too forward. Perhaps it is in self-defense of their odor. But their coin, fals, dirham or dinar, is always welcome!

Speaking of coin, I must see Hakim today. Last night, his flea-ridden batir of a monkey snatched coin from my basket, and if it is being taught the thieving arts, I want to see it suitably punished. And, by the Eternal Wind, Hakim, too!

After the heat of the day eases, Sahar will go to the suq (for we are low on adas), and I will go to the walls to seek out places to entertain. I will take my pouch of fortune, for those who need to know their future, and wear my brightest colors for dancing. Always is there interest in my dancing; the good Moslem women are in seclusion, and so men are starved for beauty. I will find the places with music; losing my family also meant losing their music, may their eternity be blessed. The local musicians know that I share my earnings with them, so they do not begrudge my presence; indeed, we all profit by our association.

'Azzah sees a rabbit Sahar will take the saluqa out to get meat for tonight's meal, if I am unable to earn any today. 'Azzah may not be beautiful (it is only because of her diminuative size that I have her), but she is quick enough for rabbit, blessings on her for that.

Sahar will bank the fire after our meal, and make all clean. She will retire for the night, while I go out again with 'Azzah's company, seeking profit in dance and in fortunes.

Your companions call to you, and you leave now. Shukran; you have brought a flight of birds to my heart. May there always be a road. Ma'assalama.

You could read Halima's tale of her past, or the ramblings about Persona(e).