The road cut the Uwairedh massif at mid height towards the north-west.
As evening approached we stopped in a place from where could be seen
several fissures and caves. We explored for a while, moving away from
the road, and decided to choose one of them to shelter with our donkeys
for the night. In the last of the daylight we visited some until we
found one wide enough and comfortable. While Amin laid out the rugs, I
lit a small fire and prepared mint tea, then we ate part of our
provisions and sipped the warm tasty tea. Amin was talking about my
family, about the impression he had had and I listened with pleasure the
analysis he did of my relatives character, the good qualities and faults
he had noticed in each of them in those few days. His remarks were keen
and accurate, and I agreed on the opinions he was expressing. Then we
went to sleep. The following morning we were woken up by our donkeys
brays. I was carefully putting away our belongings when my Lord said:
"You know, Nadim, I was thinking that it could be wise to hide in one of
those caves our court attire and our weapons. They are a big problem:
already at your home the bundle made your family curious. If someone
ever discovers what they contain, it would be difficult for us to
explain their possession without revealing our identities. If we hide
them well, when we need them we can always come back here..."
"For our garments I do not see any problem. But what about weapons? We
cannot go around disarmed. And your sabre, more than your attire, is the
symbol of your rank..."
"Donkey breeders do not go around with scimitars and even less scimitars
covered in precious stones! If we have to live for a while as two donkey
breeders, it would be better to be disarmed. It is anyway less risky
than to be caught with beautiful weapons in our luggage, do you not
I thought about it and in the end I agreed with him. I decided to keep
with me my short dagger, and remade the bundle of our fine clothes and
weapons. We explored several fissures and caves until I discovered a
deep cleft, almost horizontal, near the ceiling of a small but high
cave. Climbing, I was successful in slipping the bundle into it, then I
blocked the entrance with some stones pushed in carefully. From below it
was not possible even to suspect the existence of the hidden equipment.
Then we went back down to the road and from there we observed carefully
the spot in order to find it without problems, when the day came that we
would wish to retrieve our belongings. Finally we resumed our journey.
Along the road I taught to my lord some traditional songs of my people.
I liked to hear the contrast and the harmony that sprang from our two
voices; mine that was becoming deeper and warmer, that of Amin, still
clear and crystal like.
In the afternoon we approached a well where some women were drawing
water. When they saw us, they suddenly and carefully veiled their faces
and looked at us whispering and chuckling among themselves. I dismounted
from my donkey and asked them if they could kindly fill up with water my
almost empty goatskin. One of them held out her hand, I gave her the
goatskin and she immediately started to fill it up with the small well's
bucket. Another asked me where we were coming from and where we were
going. While I was answering I noticed that one of the girls did not
take her eyes off Amin and feared that, in some way, she could have
recognized him: she could have been one of the harem servants that fled
the night of the slaughter... The girl whispered something to a
companion and I was more and more tense and was on the point of drawing
my dagger from inside my clothes, when her friend approached me and said
in a very low voice:
"Aziza is really struck by your handsome friend... how old is he?"
I was still tense and answered immediately: "He is not my friend, but
Khaled, my little brother and is just thirteen."
"Oh! He looks more adult. I had thought at least sixteen..."
"No, he is just a boy."
"What a pity. Aziza liked him so much... but of course, if he is so
On one hand I was relieved, but on the other astounded for the shameless
behaviour of these women. They could not have been serious... The young
woman gave me back my goatskin, full. I thanked her and remounted my
donkey. Then she said to me:
"Why don't you stop a little to rest with us, my handsome young man? The
day is hot and nearby there is a nice secluded shady spot, very
"We are in hurry, we have yet a long way to go. Thank you again," I
answered and spurred my donkey, immediately imitated by Amin.
When we had travelled some distance, my Lord asked me: "Why did you say
I am just thirteen? I am almost fifteen now, you know it very well."
"Because I was afraid they could have recognized you..."
"That girl was attracted by me, is it not true? Hers was a sexual
"Yes. Would you have liked to withdraw with her?"
"No... I do not know. I never went with a woman. That is to say, yes, in
the harem I was surrounded by women, but it was different, you see? You
already have been with a woman?"
"Do you not feel the desire?"
"But you are almost twenty..."
"But I am at your service."
"This does not means that the sexual urge does not awaken in you."
"No, of course, but man is the master of desire, not vice versa."
"But when desire is too strong? When blood becomes like fire in your
veins and all your body quivers and the skin becomes more sensitive than
a wound..." said he thoughtful.
"There are other means to find a little relief..."
"Of course, this is true," he answered without saying more. But after a
while he asked: "Are you annoyed if I talk to you of these personal
"Not at all."
"You know, I never could talk of this with somebody, before... and you
are to me more than a brother, more than a friend, now. I trust you, I
am not ashamed with you..."
I felt a pleasure course through me with those words so sweet and
flattering: so my Lord also was glad to be with me! This declaration of
friendship did not at all make me proud, did not make me forget that I
was a subject, and of a low rank, but gave birth in me to a great joy
and in my heart I thanked Allah for the gift I was receiving.
"You always can rely on me, you know, for whatever..." I simply said.
And he, just as simply, answered: "Yes, I know."
At evening we were in sight of Tabuk gates. We decided to spend the
night out of the city, in the open, in fact we would not have known
where to find accomodation. Even if the nights were cool, it was not yet
really cold. We were settling under a small tree where we had tied our
donkeys, when an old man, a boy around twelve with three donkeys laden
with baskets arrived. The old man greeted us and asked:
"Do you mind if we two spend the night here? We did not manage to arrive
in time to sell our merchandise in the bazaar and will have to wait till
"Certainly. The land is for all, and just one fire will be enough for
all four of us," I answered.
The man thanked me, tied his donkeys near ours and introduced himself.
He lived in the mountains, where he harvested roots and herbs he sold to
the city dyers. He was left alone with his daughter-in- law and three
grandchildren, of which the one with him was the eldest. I asked him if
his commerce was profitable and he answered that it would have been much
more so if he had more arms to help; the dyers asked for many more roots
and herbs than they were able to gather and nowadays there were really
few gatherers left. Moreover, he boasted, his roots were the most
valuable, because he knew how, where and when pick them. We chatted
until late. When we decided to sleep, I thought again for a long while
of this encounter. So, the morning after, after talking with Amin, I
decided to ask the old man if he wanted to take us with him to help him
in his work. The old man exclaimed:
"Oh, it would be Allah's blessing! You would really like to stop with
us? I will teach you my secrets, I will share with you my home... Four
more arms could harvest more than the double what I can do now... Come
with me to the city to sell this load. After I have done some shopping
then we will go to my mountains."
We followed them. The man went straight to the door of a dyer in the
Bazaar and sold immediately his entire load obtaining good money. Then
we wandered in the Bazaar where he purchased some provisions, bought
some tools and showed me what I had to buy to start our work. The coins
that my brother gave to me were few but enough, and enough remained so I
could buy some sweets to share with the others. Then we climbed towards
Mount Lawz where the old man lived. From the mountain, besides Tabuk, it
was possible to see part of the Nafud desert. The small house was built
near the totally dry bed of a water stream that only in the rainy season
flowed with any force. Near the little house there was a deep water
cistern and a scrubby patch of trees and bushes that surrounded a shabby
little vegetable garden. They had also a couple of sheep. At the door of
the house was his daughter-in-law, with a small child in her hands, she
was still feeding at her breast, and another snot-boy who was clinging
at her skirt. The woman was of medium height and under her clothes you
could guess a rather sturdy build. She saw us coming and remained still,
without any sign of a greeting - nor did she veil her face. The old man
tied the donkeys and carrying his purchases, greeted the woman and said
with a merry voice:
"I brought these two guests: they will stop here for a long while, to
help me in the harvest. Prepare a place where they can sleep!"
The woman grumbled something and disappeared inside the house. The man
showed us his place: the shelter for donkeys then the house. This had a
kitchen, wide also if rather low, that opened into the other rooms: a
tools store that was the room were the old man slept, a room for the
woman and her three children, and a third one, cluttered up with old
things, that the woman was trying to put in order to make a place for us
to settle. All was rather wretched and not very clean, so I looked at my
Lord with an interrogative expression. He shrugged his shoulders and
"We will tidy it and make of it our royal palace," he laughed.
I admired his sense of humor. In fact, after helping the man in the
search of the various herbs and roots that he taught us to recognize, in
our free time I started to restore, first the room we were using, then,
little by little, all the house. The old man was very happy: besides
having greatly increased his commerce (and he gave us always half of his
proceeds), he was seeing his house going back to a decorous condition.
We had not long been settled there when our donkey mounted his mare.
Amin watched with curiosity and attention, it was the first time for him
to see such things.
"Look at him, how he is devoting himself to that! You think we would
have a foal?"
"It is possible. I hope so."
"When will he be born?"
"In about one year."
"I'm longing to see it! Hey you, donkey, do well your duty, I command
you!" Amin said in great earnest.
The donkey, just at that moment, brayed, and we burst in laughter.
In our free time we often did a lot of physical training: I was keen not
only to maintain my training, but also so that my Lord, who was in his
period of maximum physical development, could shape a solid and strong
body and that he trained in the attack and defense techniques. We, as
usual, used two strong sticks. I taught to my Lord also to jump, to
somersault and everything that could improve his agility, reflexes and
quickness. We climbed, we ran, we jumped hurdles, and sometimes we did
hand to hand fighting. The old man, who sometimes watched us doing our
exercises, did not understand either the meaning or the usefulness of
After we had lived there for one year, our mare gave birth to a foal.
Amin was fascinated by the event and while I helped the mare to deliver,
filled me with questions, but also tried to be useful. The foal was
beautiful and Amin wanted to be the only one to take care of him. The
woman, whose name was Aiesha, in the beginning seemed sullen and sulky,
but little by little she started to confide in us, especially when she
noticed that we treated well her three children. One night I was waken
up by a hand touching me delicately but provocatively. It was dark and I
could se nothing, so I asked:
"Who is that?"
"Quiet! It is I..." Aiesha answered in a whisper.
"What are you doing? Go back to your bed!"
"Don't send me away... You are a handsome man and for too long I have
had no husband..."
"Not too long, your youngest child is not yet two years old!"
"And it seems a short time to you? And I'm tired of having to always
satisfy that old satyr, my father- in-law. I too need someone as
beautiful and young and strong as you are. Don't send me away!"
"Keep your hand out or I will wake up everyone! Behave as an honest
"What wrong is there in this? I am a widow! I don't cheat on anybody!
And then, see how your body reacts... your pole is rising..."
"-Distrust woman's caresses- is written in the Al Qur'an..."
I murmured, feeling lost because of those intimate caresses, but she
continued undaunted. I did not have the strength to reject her, so I
"-... but if nature's voice drives you to submit to her desires, the
Lord is lenient and merciful...-"
"Yes, this is wisdom!" she chuckled.
I tried a last defence: "My brother sleeps nearby..."
"We will not wake him up. Let go..."
I remained rigid and tense, but I was by now completely incapable of
opposition and I let her have her way until I felt bare skin against
bare skin and a fire of passion overwhelmed me and I covered her body
with mine, taking her with ardour. When all was consummated and we lay
sated, she went away as silently as she had arrived. I remained still
but awake for a long time: in my twenty one years of life, that was my
first sexual experience. It had been nothing but an outburst, without
any tenderness, without any affection: pure physical pleasure, intense,
that had left in me a sense of satisfaction but also of dismay.
The day after, in a moment when I was alone with the woman, I said to
her that I did not like what she had induced me to do and commanded her
not to try any more. She stared at me wide open eyes, and said in a fake
"What are you talking about? I am an honest woman!"
Amin did not notice anything, but I felt the need to talk him about it:
I do not really know why, maybe because I did not want to have secrets
from him, maybe because he was the only person to whom I could open my
heart... Anyway he was now sixteen and I could tell him these matters
"So, you did not like it?" he asked.
I shook my head: "Physically yes, I must admit, I enjoyed it very much.
But she is not my woman, and then... it was not a nice thing. My body
reacted to her caresses, but my soul was absent, far away. I do not want
it to happen again."
"You think she would try again?"
"I am afraid she will. And I do not want to cause a scandal. Moreover, I
know she has intercourse with the old man and I fear, if he comes to
know about this, he will be furious with me."
Amin nodded solemnly, then said: "I understand her desiring you: you are
indeed a handsome man and she has to feel lonely. What do you think you
"I really do not know. Perhaps we can lock the door from the inside when
we go to bed..."
"That could be a good idea: yes, it is the simplest solution. But she
really does not attract you? Not even a little?"
"No! And she stinks!" I exclaimed.
Amin bursted into laughter then asked me: "But... at least, is she good
"What do I know? It is the first time that it has happened. Her caresses
were not unpleasant, but..."
After that once, it never happened again. We closed the door from inside
locking it with a branch. She tried several times to enter but at last
she gave up.
At the end of the second year our mare delivered a new foal. We had put
aside several coins, bought clothes, and all was well. Almost all. The
woman had started to tease me and she did not lose any opportunity to
provoke me. And she did that not only with me, but now also with Amin
who confided to me:
"You are right, she really is a nuisance, that woman. And when I told
her to leave me in peace, that I was absolutely not interested in her,
she mocked me, saying: I think that you and your brother do it between
you; who is the wife, you?"
I stared at him amazed hearing how shameless that woman had become and
"And what did you answer?"
"I started to laugh and said: No, we do it with the mare, she is lots
more pleasurable than just thinking about doing it with you!"
I laughed aloud and asked: "And she?"
"Oh, she was furious and shouted obscenities. But not even after that
did she refrain from teasing me."
"Perhaps it will be better to leave before the situation becomes
unmanageable for both of us. I noticed too that the old man is beginning
to look at her in a strange manner: he must have guessed something."
"That is good. I am tired of staying here. Will we continue our journey
towards the north?"
So we did. We farewelled the old man, and left them. The man did not
seem surprised by our decision to leave and did nothing to detain us.
We went down to the city with a load of herbs and roots, some bundles
with all our belongings and our four donkeys. We sold that last load,
and decided to buy with all our money the dyed pieces of cloth produced
in Tabuk to sell in some northerly city, hopefully for a profit, and
resumed our journey north.