Thursday, November 12, 2009

Leo Africanus

This section of the book starts with the exile of Hasan. Hasan was banished from his community for an incident regarding his brother in-law. Hasan pushed for the pardon of his brother in-law who is then suspected of killing Zarwali. The master sent him into exile for two years, and if Hasan did not leave within a certain time frame anyone who saw him would be ordered to bring him in with chains. While on his way out of Fez, Hasan made sure to make a grand exit, which included throwing gold coins to people in the street. He felt he needed to exit in celebration to help bolster his self-esteem. Before leaving he got himself guards who would protect him and his treasure. However at one of the stop sites a terrible storm blew through which killed the guards and left the money exposed, and people took it. While the guards were outside dying, Hasan was inside a cave with Hiba, his slave and lover. The entrance to the cave became blocked with snow and a few days later shepards came and unblocked it, however they were not happy to see Hasan and Hiba. Hasan however asked for their generosity which forced the shepards to show good manners. While in the cave Hasan also realizes he is in love with Hiba, which can be seen when he agreed to take her back to her family and not just resell her to the first merchant who offered. A few days later Hiba meets up with her tribe who shells out money in order to buy her back. Hasan says that they need not pay him, she can go back for free but she refuses. Hiba tells Hasan a story about her ancestors and how they always repay their debts. Hasan leaves shortly thereafter now with some money in his pockets and heads to Timbuktu, the place where he shared his first kiss with Hiba. While in Timbuktu however there is a massive fire which destroys a lot of the city yet he will always have his memories. After the fire Hasan decides to head to Cairo.

What I found intersting about this portion of the book was the mention of hospitality and the role it played with the shepards. Hasan said he had heard the proverb 'they always have a dagger in their hands, either to slit your throat, or to slit the throat of a sheep in your honour.' The shepards took the idea of generosity very seriously playing the good host when asked for generosity. I found this to be interedting because during the times of war and uncertainty I would not have figured hospitality to be on the list of things to do. Maybe this is just who shepards were.

What I did not really understand was Hasan's reluctance to take the money from Hiba's family once she was back with them. Yes, it is a noble thing for him to act uninterested in the money considering he loves her but lets be realistic. I personally found Hasan to be preoccupied with money especially during this time. He threw gold coins out to random people and had guards watching his fortune. And soon after that his money was stolen so I figured he would be anxious for the money. Do you think he just did not want to appear anxious and materialistic or do you think Hasan really loved Hiba enough to forgo the money awaiting him?


  1. I think it was two things - Hasan never saw Hiba as his slave, but rather like a wife/lover. Therefore, he may have felt that he was selling his wife, which would mean demeaning her. Also, he was being offered a hefty sum for Hiba which may have made him feel that he was exploiting her family. It also could have been, that he didn't want Hiba to leave him, i.e. she wasn't for sale to begin with.

    Finally, he may have not liked the idea that a woman was helping him to get his fortune back..he may have felt emasculated (this may be a minor reason)

  2. I'm also interested in the customs of the shepards, but on further study you will find that this was the tradition of many people of the time, particularly farmers/sherpards. In fact, the gypsies and other nomadic peoples observed very strict rules of consuct on helping strangers. If someone asked for mercy, it was given expressly, as they observed these "customs of hospitality."