Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria Ariana (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in the Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher

Basically, my reason for buying Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher (ISBN 970-0-340-92488-4) was because the story was set in the Oasis of Siwah which was visited by Alexander nearly two thousand five hundred years ago. It also was warmly recommended by Olaf Kaper at the conclusion of his lecture in 2010 (see: Alexander the Great in Egypt. Lecture of 24 November 2010) - better late than never.

The scene of the novel evolves at the end of the 19th century when Egypt is under British rule. The main figures are Mahmoud, who is appointed to replace the previously murdered District Commissioner at Siwah, and his Irish wife Catherine, who is very well versed in ancient languages and has a great interest in antiquities, particularly in Alexander the Great.

The book gives a fascinating description of their trip through the desert from Cairo to Siwah during which they are caught in a sandstorm, not unlike Alexander’s experience. Their welcome in Siwah is hostile and as if that were not enough, the locals themselves are split between Easterners and Westerners causing friction and problems of their own.

Bahaa Taher interestingly tells the story alternatively from the point of view of Mahmoud, that of Catherine, but also from that of the two main leaders Sheikh Yahya of the western clan and Sheikh Sabir of the eastern clan. There even is an entire chapter where Alexander the Great is giving his thoughts – not entirely without merit. As each person relates his own experiences and thoughts, we also get more information about what happened earlier in their lives and how they feel about it. It is striking to follow their “eastern” way of thinking and reacting (no wonder it collides with the British and in Mahmoud’s case with his Irish wife).

This is all fiction and we should remember that this is a novel, but nonetheless, it makes good reading and gives an excellent insight into a period of time about which little is known otherwise and certainly not from such a remote location as Siwah, close to the Libyan border. It is quite fascinating to follow.

An interesting chapter of Egypt’s history is being told here and for me, a not uninteresting approach to Alexander’s visit to the Oasis of Siwah.

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