Love Across The Sands : The Prologue To
…The Wedding Under The Arabian Skies…
Shadows began to fall as the setting sun dipped in the evening sky. The beauty of the sunset stretched across the Empty Quarter- a vast expanse of undulating desert sands. The vivid blues were interrupted only by slashes of vibrant reds and orange streaks rising up above the golden sands of the Rub’ al K’hali. The shimmering haze bringing the very air alive with a mysterious excitement created a sharp contrast to the subdued solemn mood within the palace walls.
In the Sultana’s chambers at the Royal Palace of Salalah, Queen Farida of Oman lay on the brink of death, afflicted by a rare blood disorder, with no known cure. Her devoted and beloved husband, Sultan Hasim, knelt by her side while her only son, Prince Akram , stood at the foot of her bed. The rest of the palace was shrouded in worry and fear, and a heavy silence filled the halls like an oppressive mist.Raising a weak and trembling hand, the Sultana beckoned Akram, who came and sat on the bed opposite his father, and grasped her hand in support. She turned to her husband, and in a rasping voice, barely audible, she asked his forgiveness for all her transgressions – a longstanding tradition amongst those who recognized they were dying. It is the first necessary step, insisted the ancestors, on the journey towards peace in the next realm.
“Save your strength my love, this too, you can overcome, just as we have all other obstacles in our path over the years,” Hasim encouraged her, not ready to accept that he may soon lose his longstanding companion and best friend.”No”, she mumbled, “the end is near, and I must ask one last favor of you my dear husband.””Anything for you my precious queen,”he immediately responded, voice cracking with emotion”It is very important…you must promise me on all you hold sacred that you will grant me this one wish.””I would give you anything within my power… this you know.””I need your solemn promise Hasim!””I promise on all I hold sacred and dear,” he quickly responded, trying to ease her mind just as he would any burden that was in his power to relieve. “What is it that is so important to you? Tell me so I may dismiss your concerns and we can focus on your recovery, my love.”Raising Akram’s hand she brought it together with Hasim’s. “I know it has angered you that Akram has refused to marry. It is unfortunate that the girl he fell in love with while studying in Damascus, and his only choice, is a commoner from a poor family, which you find unacceptable.”
Removing his hand from Akram’s and rising to his feet, he admonished her, “Let us not waste precious breath on this Farida, you know it cannot be; he must marry a girl of his station. It is written!”
“He is but our only son and an heir is needed to ensure succession Hasim! I believe he is mature enough to make a wise decision and this girl must be special and worthy, or he would never have fallen for her. He is a level headed boy, but more importantly he deserves happiness. Promise me, Hasim, promise me you will allow our son to marry Amal, the bride of his choosing,” she pleaded.
“No!” he thundered. “This is not possible, he cannot marry a commoner. It is against our laws dating back centuries. It is my solemn sworn duty to uphold the laws and traditions of our forefathers! You and I had our marriage arranged, and we have grown to love each other. I would move mountains for you. He will come to love another”
“Nothing is impossible for the Sultan of Oman. If your love for me is as true and as deep as you profess; if as you say you would move mountains for me, then move this hindrance too. Rewrite the laws…give our son his happiness.. It is my only wish and if you promise to grant it, I can go to the afterlife in peace.” Farida pleaded with the man she had grown to love. A man she knew to be just and caring but who ruled with an iron fist ensuring the laws were upheld by all. “Besides,”she added weakly, exhausted from the effort in pleading her case, “you have already promised me whatever I wish!”
“You have tricked me, Farida, played on my grief at your illness, on my love for you; you have backed me into an impossible corner,” Hasim grumbled, pacing the floor, his thobe rustling across the exquisite marble floors. “What am I to do?” After agonizing minutes pacing and pondering he let out a heavy sigh, turned to the guard at the door and commanded, “Summon the vizier and the scribes immediately.”
” I have promised you my dear wife, even though under duress, but I will honor my word, and your wish shall be my command.”
Turning to Akram he advised, ” Let this be a lesson to you, make no promises unless you know in advance exactly what you are promising, even to someone you trust completely. Women can be tricky creatures! Do not let their beauty and delicate demeanor fool you; their strength lies elsewhere and they can be formidable opponents!”
Moments later as the Vizier hustled into the Sultana’s chambers bowing so low as to almost butt the floor, he said “Vizier, issue a royal edict to the marriage law immediately. From this day henceforth, a man can marry the woman of his choice, irrespective of her position or that of her family; call it the “Farida” clause. The Sultana has lived up to the meaning of her name, for she is truly unique and precious – asking not for herself in her time of need but for the happiness of her son.
Akram will give you details of the location of the family into which he wishes to marry. Send word with our fastest riders, to the girl’s family that we request her hand in marriage. I doubt they shall refuse our request, so begin immediate preparations for our journey to Syria. Find an appropriate location and set in motion all that is necessary for a wedding suitable for the next Sultan of Oman.”
“Thank you my love…” and as a single tear cascaded slowly down her once pink cheek, Farida took her last breath…
“Mother!” exclaimed Akram sobbing as he threw himself over her, embracing her still warm but now lifeless body.
“No!” Hasim moaned quietly to himself, his face stoic but eyes moist with his unshed tears. Turning, he gazed out the window at the sands of the Empty Quarter and whispered, “Go in peace my love, we shall soon be reunited, when my work here is done.” At that moment, a great wind blew through the room, swirling around quickly and back out.
Simultaneously, the country mourned for their beloved queen of thirty three years, and prepared with excitement for the impending royal wedding. Each time the story was repeated, it grew in stature, painting the late Sultana as a revolutionary heroine fighting for love, and the young couple as the most romantic rags to riches love story ever told.
Two weeks after the Sultana’s entombment, the royal caravan of 40 horses, 30 well laden camels, the royal party and a retinue of servants and guards set off to cross the Empty Quarter. It would be a long arduous journey, made even more so by all the wedding articles – Garments of the finest silks for the families, ornate decorations, lavish gifts and prime food and drink for the journey.
Meanwhile, the King of Jordan, on hearing of the impending nuptials and knowing the girl’s family could not possibly host a royal event of this magnitude, volunteered to host the wedding for his longtime ally and friend Sultan Hasim. Amal’s family was also outfitted by the King of Syria, another longtime friend, honored that Oman would be joined to Syria through this marriage. It was organized that the bridal party would travel into Jordan when word arrived that Akram was but a day’s journey away. Both processions into Amman, the capital of Jordan, was timed to arrive at the same time amidst much pomp and splendor. This historic Royal wedding was set to take place in the lavish and picturesque Grand Savannah.