Friday, November 13, 2009

From Fez to Cairo to Mecca to Rome

Although Leo Africanus is known for his extensive travels, this week’s readings proves this fact. The story transpires from Fez to Cairo, back to Fez, back to Cairo again, to Mecca, and finally to Rome, where Hasan is enslaved. The section begins, however, with Ahmad the Lame revealing his true character to Hasan; he wants to take over all the lands. Then there is a detailed description of the Zarwali’s murder by Hasan’s brother-in-law and friend, Harun. At the same time, we learn that Hasan’s beloved wife, Fatima, dies in childbirth and Hasan’s true emotions are revealed in his mourning period. To make matters worse, the Sultan confronts Hasan about involvement with the Zarwali’s death. Although Hasan had nothing to do with it, he is exiled for a period of two years. I found the way Hasan left Fez very interesting; he claims in order to “honor his family” he must leave in a manner of elegance and wealth (he even throws gold coins). In exile, he travels to Cairo describing the desolation and first signs of plague in the region. But Hasan meets his next wife here in Cairo and inherits a son, Bayazid. They travel back to Fez and again to find Harun. On this journey Hasan finds out that the Grand Turk, Sultan Salim, is planning to attack Cairo. They travel back to Cairo to warn the city, but the Sultan eventually takes over anyway. Hasan then travels to Mecca—I found this section extremely interesting because it again emphasized the importance of faith in this time. Hasan says about Mecca, “With every step I took, I found myself transported into a world of dreams…at the centre, the Noble Mosque, the House of Abraham…the Ka’ba…I longed to walk around it until I became exhausted”(279). But the last part of Hasan’s journey in the section is his enslavement and capture in Rome. This is where Hasan receives his famous name, Leo Africanus, through baptism by the pope.

Besides the reoccurring theme of religion, I found one more thing very interesting in the readings—the apathy toward war and death. In the first few paragraphs of the reading, Hasan comments that he did not have one description or “progress” of battle in his writing. He focused more on the kings and courts and the courtiers. When the mentions of hundreds upon hundreds of bodies on the battlefield is made, it seems as though this is of no importance. Furthermore, Hasan, depicts the story of an old man with his dead son’s body without any emotion at all. Again, more deep into this section, when Hasan is talking to Nur’s son, he apathetically talks about stepping over a Turkish head. The boy seems to have no emotional reaction to this at all, he simply shrugs his shoulders when asked about it. So, my question is why is this apathy so rampant? I understand warfare and death were more common in this time, but I would expect a bit more sadness or at least shock to the death of family members. Were these people just more used to war than we are today?


  1. I think those people were more used to war directly, because it was directly affecting their families, homes, and villages. Now, there has not been a war on American soil for some time now, that war seems so far off. We hear about deaths in Iraq and such, but it is easier to forget when war is not happening on our soil.

  2. I agree with Dominique. We as Americans are used to war but not in the sense where we actually see it. We are aware that our country is involved in wars but these wars are not happening in the US. As for these people, to use a figure of speech, war is "in their front yard."

    -Justin Lovett

  3. I believe that during times back then...every society's goal was to achieve more and by doing that you HAVE to engage in war. Now during our times that things are more humanized and less primative and societies and rules are established and enforced...War doesnt seem to be necessary.