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Middle-east

THE MAHARAJAH OF GWALIOR AND THE BANDITS

Many decades ago, we had been the guests of the sumptuous Maharajah of Gwalior, government minister and huge personality. He had told us of his dacoits. They were the local bandits that occupied the savannah. They were organized in gangs, the most famous of the time lead by a woman, Phoolan Devi, which had been…

Exotic Royalty

Naser al-Din Shah belonged to the Qajar dynasty and ruled during the 19th century. Slowly, his country began to descend into chaos, caught between the competing pressures of England and Russia. He was a very open sovereign. He visited Europe and was well received, he knew how to please. Following the example of his predecessors, and…


The Third World

The newly liberated nations of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, in order to combat the growing influence of American and Soviet imperialism, moved little by little towards unification. Joining them over time were the dissident states of the Soviet Empire, such as Yugoslavia. This developed progressively, and took place because these nations were headed…

Aleppo

Having previously posted my memories of Palmyra, which has since been destroyed, I wish to do the same for Aleppo, a city I knew it all its glory, which is unfortunately succumbing to the same fate, progressively crumbling and collapsing before our eyes under the weight of civil war and bombs. The Souk of Aleppo…

Requiem for a Marvel

Extract from my diary, Palmyra, February 10, 2002. The ruins were charming last night, illuminated by the distant street lamps, but this morning they were beyond compare. I left at seven thirty, it was already broad daylight, and there I saw one of the most beautiful sights in my entire life. The columns of the…

The Cathars

Two centuries after the death of Christ, Mani, an exceptional magus and prophet, rose to prominence in Persia. He mixed the religion on his country, Zoroastrianism, with a fiery interpretation of Christianity. Mani himself would not end well, as the shah eventually had him executed, yet his followers would multiply. These faithful soon emigrated, reappearing in Asia Minor in…

Mithra

When the Orient arrived at the gates of Rome, it brought with it a rather discrete deity. This god was born to a virgin on the 25th of December. He was frequently represented as an infant, seated upon the knee of his mother before a group of kneeling wise kings who offered gifts. He was…

Urfa

Abraham, contrary to what was commonly held until recently, did not come from the village of Ur in Mesopotamia, but rather the town of Urfa in southern Turkey. The confusion, as one might have guessed, was likely a consequence of phonetic confusion. Long ago, Abraham, the father of monotheism, had lashed out against Nimrod, the…

Göbekli Tepe

Professor Klaus Schmidt was one of the most distinguished German archeologists to have worked on Turkish sites. One day he was informed that at Göbekli Tepe, not far from Urfa in southern Turkey, a gang of laborers had uncovered a large monolith. They were making preparations to destroy it so they could continue their work and not…

The Sultana

It was during the 13th century, in a world of men, that one woman would distinguish herself. Shajar al-Durr, once a Turkish slave, was the wife of the Sultan of Egypt, Al Salih Ayyub. Shajar possessed a tremendous character and refused to be locked in the harem, so she followed husband, even to war. Before…