tales of the caravanserai

I wrote this story a few years back, one of my first,  so I decided to include it-  a folk tale
tales of the caravanserai

with  tributes to Oscar Wilde, the Childe Ballads, Ozimandias, Scheherzade, and to the great deserts and those who wander on them.  

Thanks to the Story Warrior Institute,  J. Hayduke and Asmira McConnell, and all imaginary realms, tellers of tales and dancers on the sand.

Illustrations by CybeleMoon

The old man arranged his robes and sat by the fire. He dipped his flat bread into the communal pot and shared a meal with his desert hosts. Afterward as all looked toward him expectantly, he began to speak…..desert city2

 As Salamu Alaykem!

I must tell you a story. It is one I heard while travelling through the far kingdoms, a tale of a beautiful woman called Roxanne Abal, who was known as The Desert Rose,  and of a powerful warlord and king named Sa’ed, the lion of the dunes.

A mighty warrior of a powerful desert kingdom,  Sa’ed ibn Fardin loved the fair Roxanne, daughter of a neighboring Amir.  Her lips were the colour of pomegranates, her eyes had the light of two emeralds, her hair shone like golden wheat, and her skin  was as radiant as an opalescent pearl.

Her only blemish  was a birthmark which glowed like a smouldering  rose on the inside of her upper thigh.  None, but her mother had seen this mark at her birth.  It was with great apprehension and a sense of foreboding the woman had quickly covered  the child up,  uttering many prayers  and supplications to keep away evil djinns and spirits. Yet in spite of her fears, her daughter’s early years passed without incident  and the child grew up in beauty, wit, and grace.

Although many sought her hand, Sa’ed paid a high bride price to her father, and even Roxanne  seemed pleased with the match.  Though her new husband was much older, she quickly became devoted to him and he in turn showered his young bride with many gifts of gold and jewels.He indulged her every whim, for his heart found great joy in her youth and charm, and they spent their nights in loving conversation and affectionate caresses.  

The King  was a righteous ruler as well as a renowned warrior.  He was often away defending his borders against brigands  and administering justice throughout the desert tribes. His lovely consort he left to wander the palace and gardens alone with only her servants and guards for company.  He had forbidden her to leave the palace,  for he had enemies who might try and capture his precious prize to bargain for power or demand ransom.

It was always with  eagerness and relief that he returned to find her waiting in the lush courtyard gardens, her arms like the petals of the rose opening  to embrace him, and her sweet laughter spilling into the air like water from the tiled fountains. He was content.

However,  time passed,  and it was during these periods of his absence that Roxanne proved to be as false as she was lovely. A restlessness inside her soul  burned like the flame that stained her pale thigh, and she had begun to feel imprisoned and bored within the limits of the palace walls. She longed for a small adventure of her own. She finally decided to bribe some of her personal servants to aid her in a small and harmless ruse to disguise herself in the cloak of a serving girl . In this manner she was able to sneak away and visit the market place for a few hours without the ever watchful guards.

It happened on one of her market adventures that she spied a young man,  a commoner  who was an apprentice to a metalworker.His name was Hassan and he was as handsome and sure as if he were a prince of royal blood.She would pause at his stall  pretending to adjust her shoe or cloak and they both would cast furtive glances at each other.  She felt a stirring at the sound of his voice when he first addressed her.  He was also smitten and he began to watch for her as she made her way gracefully  through the streets and market stalls of the Souq.  


One day by the heat of the forge and while pretending to inspect his workmanship, she accidentally brushed up against him.  It was then that the mark on her thigh truly caught fire, and her knees buckled. Afterward  the touchings became more deliberate.They were falling in love.  They eventually planned an assignation at a deserted caravanserai  in the nearby hills , There,they could quench the fever that had begun to addle their faculties of reason and thus their fear of consequence. Roxanne had by now, revealed her deception to Hassan, but it was too late, their kismet had already been sealed.


What they did not know was that Sa’ed had a trusted slave who worked for him as a scribe and a keeper of his accounts. He was a man so observant and astute that Sa’ed depended on him for information of the goings on in his court; such as who might be stealing amongst his servants or who might speak against the king while he was away.This slave was  called Aziz, and Aziz had  a seed of festering and grudging covetousness, a smoking ember  in his heart  which  in time became a blaze of jealousy and longing. He dreamed of  being a free man with  prestige and wealth of his own.  Thus he was only too happy to take on the mantle of spy and seek out what ever base deeds and calamities he could uncover that would enhance his own position and worth in the king’s favour.

He became suspicious of his master’s companion and began watching her closely.He eventually uncovered her ruse and stealthily followed her to her tryst.  With his eye to a crack in the wall he saw Hassan and his master’s bride engaged in their wild love play and   locked in each other’s embrace.  The very room though dark, seemed  to ignite around the lovers but whether by lamp or passion he could not tell.   

 To show the uncompromising loyalty of his embittered heart,  Aziz  was only too eager to tell his master of the infidelity.  Whether it was in the hope of currying  some greater favour or prominence, or  of at last winning his freedom -I do not know except that he desired both. He sent a courier to reach Sa’ed’s caravan with  a plea for him to return at once as treachery was afoot. When Sa’ed arrived at the palace  Aziz revealed Roxanne’s adultery. At first the king disbelieved but finally Aziz described the birthmark no one else but her mother and himself had seen, and so Sa’ed had no choice but to accept the word of his reliable slave.

A black rage descended over his mind and Sa’ed felt his chest ripped open as if in the talons of an eagle. His heart became an inferno of pain and wrath which devoured all sanity

He ordered the personal servants whether guilty or innocent to be summarily executed.  He had the  apprentice Hassan arrested and tortured, and after confessing to the crime, the ill fated youth was dragged before him and the faithless,weeping Roxanne. In spite of her plea  for mercy Hassan was slaughtered like a dog with one stroke of the sword in front of all present.  Although the grief stricken Roxanne begged forgiveness  and tore her hair in woeful penitence,  it was commanded that her unblemished thigh bear the brand  of slave and harlot, and with that  curse of burning shame she was sold to a passing Numidian caravan  that very night.

>As for Aziz, he had misjudged his master greatly and he was borne no gratitude for his revelation. The king granted  him the freedom he had sought with such desperate diligence, but  first it was ordered that Aziz  be blinded in the offending eye that had seen what was not to be seen and his tongue cut out that had spoken the unspeakable. He was allowed the clothes on his back,  and after being given a horse and a bag of coin  he  was escorted to the city gates  to be turned out and banished forever.


Roxanne has long since disappeared into anonymity or death, whether  in the harims or the slavery of powerful men, I know not. In the ensuing years Sa’ed became ruthless and cruel,  and though he took wives as he pleased, he had forsworn love from that fateful day forever.  His servants and subjects alike feared him.  The once beautiful gardens became fallow and the fountains crumbled and dried  up.

 I later heard that he had become careless and was gored to death by a wild boar on a hunting expedition. At least that is what his servants  said although amongst some there were  whisperings of an assassination.

 minaret I further heard  that in the months preceding his death, he had been detaining  the caravans that passed by the city gates. He  was overheard asking all wayfarers, traders and strangers  if any in their travels had come across a woman of surpassing beauty who bore the mark of a flaming rose on her thigh, –

 but the answer had long been lost in the  seductive dance of an oasis mirage  and in the  mournful wail of  the dunes as they are created and destroyed by the desert winds.  

In those last days he was seen standing ever watchful on his palace walls, his eyes searching the shifting shapes of the landscape, until the day folded silently into the dark and hungry cloak of the desert night.   

I cannot help but think  that whatever the manner of his death it must have come as a welcome release  from the torment and thirst of his parched soul.

And still the caravans in ancient procession and on unknown quests,  journey by  the towns and oases . They  pass over old stones and  forgotten temples, many of which lie buried beneath the desert that ultimately claims them all.  

Aziz still wanders the hills and villages, a half witted, half blind and dumb beggar,   muttering wordless prayers and curses, but he too will be gone soon, dissolved into the pitiless sands, and when I am gone, perhaps another poor wanderer will tell the tale until he is gone, and all  will fade like a shadowed dream into the dust of the desert winds, as do all the vanities and  deeds of men.

These are my words and so, ya a sadiqa, beware!  Love is a chain of  misfortune and madness,  but a vengeful  wrath is a funeral pyre that when spent  leaves only the crumbling bones of sorrow and regret  in it’s bitter ashes–  

but let our own hearts be unfettered  like the wind, wild and free!!   Inch’Allah!

desert sand

Song of the desert click to play


as salamu alaykem- the peace of God be upon you

ya a sadiqa – oh my friends

Inch’Allah– if it is God’s will

52 Comments Add yours

  1. milliethom says:

    A beautifully written story, Cybele, full of wonderful imagery and atmosphere. I could so easily lose myself in the opulent palace or feel the shifting sands around those desert villages as the caravans pass by. Your characterisation is excellent, too. It’s a tragic story, for all involved, including Aziz. Your concluding summary regarding love and vengeful wrath is wonderful. Very well told. (Was your name Scheherazade in a past life?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so happy you enjoyed the tale Millie!! Thank you so much for your wonderful and enthusiastic comment. I like that name Scheherazade!! 😀 I wrote that a few years back and revised it before posting in 2014. It was a memory of previous travels. A desert caravan is so evocative as is the romantic notion of the Berbers and Tuaregs, and the lost city of Ubar!


  2. My words cannot do justice to your writing, Hannah. This was such a beautiful emotional story. You have such talent, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda I am so pleased you read it and liked it!! Many many thanks!!


  3. Hannah, I loved your story. I became engaged right from the start. It’s a great human drama and a cautionary tale I think because all of those involved paid a price. Beautifully sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am thrilled that people are still reading it since it was first posted and now by your very thoughtful comment. Very honoured. Thanks so much for taking the time and enjoying it Pam.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure 😊.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. DG MARYOGA says:

    I’m mesmerised by the tragic plot of your tale,your rich imagery and your descriptive account,Cybele.You use strong epithets to express the dimension of love,primitive passions and secret desires that are hidden in the complex human soul.The Arabic music and the setting where the dramatic story and the intrigues take place,excite the reader and evoke various feelings.Imaginative work,with romance,action and obvious elements that refer the reader to classical prose xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so honoured by your enthusiasm for the tale Doda!! Sad as it is but with a moral like all the old tales. A touch old fashioned but I think you like the old fashioned stories too!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. DG MARYOGA says:

        Why old fashioned?I consider the genre rather timeless xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Kerena says:

    Ah, Cybele! I was captivated by your story. You drew me right in and the intertwining of various mediums to enhance the story telling was brilliant. Is there such as thing as Immersive Storytelling? You’ve done it, that much I know. Love the story, the manner in which you told the story and the timeless message it tells so well. Kudos dear one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your read and such a lovely and thoughtful comment Kerena!! So encouraging. I like that immersive storytelling! It’s challenging and works well in this case. I don’t do that in all my stories!


  6. Fascinating tale Cybele, at first I was thinking Arabian Nights, then I imagined something much darker afoot, but I soon got dragged into the story. A cracking read 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you liked it Ed!! Thanks for such a great comment!! Very encouraging!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Cybele, thanks so much for mentioning this story to me! I have spent the most delightful 10 minutes immersed in this poignant, beautifully written story. Your words created amazing images in my imagination, bolstered by your animated pictures, all against the background of that haunting music. What a sensory-filled experience! I am in total awe!!


    1. I am thrilled you read it!! I so appreciate your comment and support Stacy. I am honoured!!


  8. Wow! You are a terrific story teller Cybele!! Sometimes a person’s personality changes for a reason… be it happy or sad, as it did with Sa’ed. The imagery used was also great and blended nicely with the story. This was a delightful read.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. sheldonk2014 says:

    When your heart is not part of your love only bad things come

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so very true! Thanks for reading Sheldon!


  10. Oh my, what a tale! It jumps right out of my screen and come to life. So vivid and colorful, I truly enjoyed it.


    1. I am so glad you read and like it Lore!! It’s a multi media event too 😀 Actually It is one of my favourites and my heart bled for the lot of them in their heavy mistakes!! 🙂 Thank you Lore for your support!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Peter Nena says:

    Wow! Why did I miss this story? Your narrator’s voice is deeply felt. The treacherous wife, the vengeful husband, and the snooping fellow got his reward–what a reward!
    Treachery is no good. Neither is vengefulness. They are both double-pointed swords. Hurting both ways. And that snoopy Aziz man–he must have learnt that there is no favour to be found in a cruel heart such as the king’s.
    Something I have learnt is to always watch out for how a person treats others. Even if he’s my best friend. For sooner or later he’ll treat me in the same manner.


    1. I’m thrilled that you liked it Peter!! It was even a bit racy for my usual subdued emotional style. lol!! Yes, I’m glad you liked the moral of the story though I felt badly for the King. He allowed darkness to take over his heart because of his disillusionment!! And Roxanne! Her punishment too terrible and then the king regrets much later when he ends up alone and vilified. It is a rather depressing story lol but I wanted to give a sense of all being illusion and nothing can be held or owned!! Thank you Peter for your insightful comments always!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This reads so professioally. You give us splendid details and leave enough still for us to imagine. Sexy! I like your reference to your inspiring authors, too. The animation and images, with music, bring several arts together for quite a sensory experience. Superb!


    1. I am so absolutely honoured that you enjoyed this Sky!!!Thanks so much for your feedback! I wrote this quite awhile ago but have since revised it and tried to clean it up!! Yes I do like mulitmedia!!! Did you notice!!? 😀 my one four challenge relates to this story so the image I did for it is inspired by the story though often the reverse can happen as you know and an image inspires a story!! Thanks again for you lovely comment!!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow! What a story! And I really enjoyed watching your pictures move with the music!


    1. It’s a thrill when someone actually reads my stories! 😀 Thanks so much for enjoying it and commenting Crow!! I’m glad you liked the gifs, They are a pain so I don’t do too many!!


  14. jessyh19 says:

    This was such a wonderful storytelling. I was gripped from beginning to the end by this tale of woe. Poor Roxanne, and poor servants

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jessy. It is quite a tragic tale. I seem to lean a bit that way sometimes as per the other I wrote which is basically a true story “Canticle for Meg”. Tales of the Tuatha are more whimsical! I enjoy wrtitng them and I’m glad you enjoyed reading that one.


  15. jleos69 says:

    Wonderful story!! I enjoyed the imagery used to describe the lovely Roxanne. What a tragic fate for Roxanne and the servants.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks for your great comment!! I’m glad you liked it!!


  16. aishasoasis says:

    By the way, I forgot to say that music clip is wonderful too! I have tried to embed music clips but it wasnt successful and I thought it was because I’m using an android tablet and it wasnt compatible or something, but your clip played great! Can you please share how you did that? I mean for example, what site did you pull it from, what file format is the clip, and what shortcode did you use? I’d love to be able to embed music clips, this is great! ♥♥♥ ; ^)


    1. I have had a few problems between using google chrome and/or IE. Sometimes one won’t work on the other!! Go figure. Sometimes SoundCloud is an option but they won’t let you publish everything. On Tales of the Caravanserai I used Mediafire. I download songs there and use the share link (not the embed). It hopefully will embed into the post on the visual edit like mine. Try it and let me know!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. aishasoasis says:

        I will definitely try on my next post, and let you know, thanks for the great tip! ♥♥♥ ;^)


  17. aishasoasis says:

    What a great story, and really well told, I fell into it like the Arabian Nights, it’s so full of wonderful images, too, I love what you did here with the gifs and your words to make a magical experience for your readers! Bravo! ♥♥♥ ;^)


  18. lizziegudkov says:

    A story told in the true manner of tales spoken in the wind. I loved it! It was captivating, moving, and it did teach quite a few lessons about life, as all true tales do. 😀


    1. I’m so glad you liked it!! Your words are so encouraging. I think I do write in an old fashioned style lol.


  19. Alana says:

    I love the style of this piece. Really well written and a tragic tale. Beautiful.


    1. Your comment means a lot. Thank you!!


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