Friday, May 30, 2008

Suleyman the Magnificent: Birthday Celebration - Part 1

The Birthday Celebration

“Mater, Thank you again for being so thoughtful in introducing Lady Hurrem into my life. She is a joy to behold and to listen to. I think we spoke through the Music. We may even be friends already. I hope she attends the feast you have planned and prepared for me,” said a breathless Suleyman as he escorted his Mother to the Great Hall, which would be the scene of the celebratory events marking his 15th birthday.

“Indeed my son I have invited the Lady Hurrem. Her three companions will accompany her. I have asked Lady Maryam to escort her to the Great Hall. The Sultan himself has sent word that he will drop by after the dinner to watch you blow out your tall beeswax candles,” she confided.

“I can’t believe Father is coming. I wonder why?”

“Not for you to question Suleyman, only to take into account and reflect deeply,” replied his mother cryptically.

“Oh, one more thing, Could we hold a celebration for Lady Hurrem? I understand that she turns thirteen today. Is that not uncanny Mamushka? We share the same birthday. I hope it is not to much to ask of you at this late stage,” he gazed at his Mother with flushed cheeks.

“What you ask is very doable. Maryam and I have ensured that Hurrem of the Golden Laughing Eyes shall have a memorable birthday fete in Istanbul."

"Mater, you are generous and kind. I am proud to have you for a mother."

"My darling, we must not tarry and walk as fast as we can. You don’t want to be late for your guests. That would be rude. A future Sultan must always think of the welfare of others. He must always be punctual for all his appointments. Be they war campaigns, political negotiations or family reunions."


I need to hurry through this corridors and hallway. To keep the Host and Hostess waiting is not only impolite but also imprudent, thought Golden Laughing Eyes.

"Remember to make an imperious entrance but do not overdo it. Your attendants will be right behind you. Lady Maryam will escort you to the Great Hall,” Princess Hafsa whispered into her delicately formed ears before departing on the arms of her son.

The paintings on the walls are so opulent in their Islamic simplicity I keep stopping to admire their intricate designs,’’ Hurrem spoke out loud.

She heard footsteps darting loudly through the corridors.

“Our Lady Hurrem! Where are you?”

Ah! That must be Zelfa, Suheyla and Zahira. “I am (I think) just around this hall.”

They spotted her and sprinted towards her.

There you are. Please come quickly. We haven’t much time. You need to change into your party robe and select the jewels which the Princess Mother has gifted you on the occasion of your birthday,” said Zelfa with anxiety in her voice.

May God bless Princess Mother Hafsa. I am not worthy of such bounty. But then, who am I to wonder about the mysterious ways in which God works?

Hurrem gazed at her three attendants whom she hoped would be her friends for all time. “Fine, hold my hand Zelfa and Suheyla and let’s make a dash for my suite. Zahira, please lead the way. One, Two, Three, Go!”

Well, a girl will be a girl I suppose. I’m willing to wager that holding a marathon through the hallways of Hafsa’s villa was Hurrem’s idea, mused Lady Maryam as all four girls panted into view.

Hurrem stopped in her tracks but did not appear to be embarrassed.

"You see Lady Maryam; I think I may be late and running as fast as Atalanta was the only way to reach my destination."

“Now you are sweating and need to shower quickly, before the gold and white robe can be placed on your person,” she explained patiently.

A shower? What is that?

“Girls, please show Lady Hurrem the spouts in her bathroom which come from the fountains in our gardens.

Hurrem studied the porcelain spouts placed above her head and around the walls of a stall covered in lapis lazuli. She found herself devoid of clothes and gently pushed inside. And then her attendants/slaves turned gilded tulip circlets towards the right and she was sprayed with water, which, came from all directions

“Ooh, this feels like hundreds of droplets of rain are coming down upon me. It feels delicious. If it wasn’t for this splendid dinner party I could stay here all night,” she exclaimed.

“Not this time girl,” chuckled Maryam.

“I am well aware of that. It was just a rhetorical statement,” gurgled Hurrem with her eyes shut, as she let the water splash down on her still unripened girlish body.

I am more than ever convinced that Hurrem is going to turn out more than Hafsa or any of us has bargained for. Truth be told, she had not haggled with the Armenian merchant. Her Greek eunuch Demetrius who was her most trusted accountant had simply placed two huge sacks of gold in front of the slave trader’s greedy nose.

“Princess Hafsa is offering you the sum of 20 thousand gold florins for the young Russian girl and her father the Bishop. This time there will be no haggling. You are free of course to refuse the offer, in which case you must leave Istanbul and relinquish your license to sell slaves throughout the Ottoman Empire for ten years.”


‘Tonight, I am going to be veiled throughout the duration of the fete. I think it’s rather mysterious. Besides I may as well grow accustomed to it.

“Let me see, which robe shall I choose? All are comely. This is a difficult task.

Lady Maryam and her attendants remained silent.

“Let us see what Hurrem comes up with. How marvelous to be thirteen years old again and the most pressing thought on your mind is which extravagant and luscious robe to adorn yourself with.”

She studied them all with care. One particular robe struck her. It seemed to speak to her. It was sun yellow entirely surrounded by hand-embroidered tulips in a lemon yellow.

“I shall wear this magnificent robe and no other. The matching veil will be breathtaking. I would like the Al-Amira on my head as a tall turban that will cover all of my hair. Which of you knows how to create one?”

I shall drape a most unusual turban for you,” said Lady Maryam.

“Shall we line your eyes with a little kahol?’ asked Zelfa.

“No thank you. It’s too soon to wear cosmetics. I would like to wear the gold pectoral with those flowers again which I have never seen in Russia.”

“They are called tulips. Prince Suleyman has financed a vast horticultural project to produce these large tulips. Originally they grew wild in Anatolia and Circassia as small flowers that caressed the slopes of the mountains. We are the only ones in the world to have developed tulips,” replied Lady Maryam. She could not hide the pride in her voice.

“I presume that tulips are white and yellow. By the time I am ready to be seen in scarlet I hope that Prince Suleyman’s experts will have developed tulips of that color.”

“That is correct Hurrem of the Golden Laughing Eyes, our breeders are very close to a breakthrough. Prince Suleyman is following their progress closely,” said Lady Maryam.

“Tulips it shall be. I pray that I will be granted an opportunity to see these tulips which so remind me of a chalice.” Hurrem declared still admiring the robe.

Zelfa placed a lacey support to hold her small breasts. Suheyla buttoned it down her back. Then Zahira slipped on a form fitting linen chemise, which came to her ankles. She stepped into her splendid yellow robe barefoot. Zelfa did the tiny buttons that matched the fabric while Suheyla worked on the top ones. Zahira brought forth a 7-centimeter belt intricately carved in golden tulips. She cinched this over Hurrem’s waist.

“I’ll place the turban that I have draped on your head. Keep your eyes on the full-length mirror. I think it’s very becoming. Do you like it?”

“Yes, yes and yes! “ cried out Hurrem in delight.

Zelfa placed gossamer socks on her feet and Suheyla inserted golden babouches decorated with golden tassels.

The gauzy veil was inserted inside her turban at her forehead and pinned with golden tulips; Her matching golden pectoral covered her neck and her breasts.

This is amazing. I can see 360 degrees in detail, but those gazing at me will only catch a glimpse of my good looks. Papa here I come. I am putting on the most beautiful face. It is so beautiful and solar that no veil on earth can stop Prince Suleyman from discerning what lies behind the veil.

Lady Maryam adjusted her own veil and straightened the five-pointed star of Turquoise she worn over her emerald green robe embroidered in blue roses.

Are we all ready to enter the Great hall, Hurrem, Zelfa, Suheyla and Zahira?


Ayy! I didn’t realize that they are waiting for me to reply.

“But of course my Lady Maryam. My compliments to you and to my three new friends for all the assistance you have given me.”

And then Laughing Golden Eyes took a long and deep breath.

Yes. I am ready to face the unknown. Let us not keep Kismet waiting any longer.”

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