29 November 2013

Anood of the desert

Anood of the Desert 

Tayseer had literally stumbled upon Anood on one of his music-hasheesh trips to Al-Naqab desert. She was a fierce woman, black with sharp, pronounced features – deep wrinkles adorning her once beautiful face. What had immediately caught Tayseer’s attention were the unique – primitively made – jewellery she was wearing. She was a Bedouin, shunned by her hamula for refusing to marry the man chosen for her by her father. A story of a young woman, beautiful as the night, was carried by the sand of the desert, changing over the years. As a young girl, Anood’s hand had been promised to a much older cousin. But her father never imagined that the desert, with its vast expanses and freedoms, would settle in Anood’s heart and refuse to depart. She demanded the freedom of the desert for herself by refusing to be married. Here, the story branches into several versions. According to one, she fell in love with a Bedouin on a white horse who came to her tent at night. Another story has her father take her to the deep of the desert and leave her there with no water to die. Yet a third version has her rolled up in a carpet after she soiled her family’s honour and her brothers driving over the rolled up carpet in their jeep.

There are as many versions of the story as there are waves of sand in the desert. Anood was always on the move, surviving by selling her hand-made jewellery to tourists on their way to Eilat and Sinai. Where she got her raw materials and the Malachite Azurite Turquoise stones was a mystery.

It took Tayseer a whole week to locate her again, and a long desert evening of convincing and sand grains in the eyes until she finally agreed to meet Maisoon and teach her secrets of the desert jewellery. But it had to be done on her terms: Tayseer would drive her almost the whole length of the country to stay in Maisoon’s apartment in Haifa for five days.

At the end of the five days, during which neither Maisoon nor Anood emerged from the apartment, Tayseer made the trip of almost the whole length of the country again, to return the woman to her desert. Two days later, Anood was found dead by a young Bedouin boy; no trace of physical attack or injury on the body, no trace of jewellery in the dilapidated tent. No post-mortem was performed – Anood wasn’t important enough; however the coronary report noted the probable cause of death by dehydration. Anood must have known she was getting dehydrated; she’d been living, breathing the desert all her life.

Devastated by the news, Maisoon wouldn’t touch her work for days, the excitement of discovering an almost lost tradition of art fading in significance in the face of a tragic, lonely death. More legends would circulate through the sand dunes for years now – cruel Bedouin revenge angry lover broken heart destitution madness.

أربعون يوما من الحداد - forty days of mourning
After Anood's death, Maisoon refused to see anyone. For forty days, Maisoon was the only person who mourned the desert night beauty. Covering her worktable with a black cloth, she spent the day in bed in a blurry state of grief. For seven days, she was wholly invested in mourning, her days becoming indistinguishable from nights. On the eighth day, she was awakened at dawn by a disturbing dream. A black woman standing at the edge of water, smiling at her. A disembodied voice ran through the dream I gave you the art of the desert, now it is yours to take. Take it. Don’t let it get lost in the desert. It was an inhuman effort for her to crawl out of bed, her body not complying with her will. Uncovering her worktable, she gazed at the opened sketchbook where she drew the designs from Anood’s mind. Leafing through the pages, she saw the history of the desert spread before her and knew it couldn’t be kept on paper. Anood wanted her to take it.

- khulud خلود

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