A debt owed. . . (a forward for the game of Mehen)
It is a very strange dream . . .very strange. A man, an Arab, stands in the desert before me, dressed in flowing robes and turban a cross between Sean Connery as the Lord of the Riff in The Wind and the Lion, and Anthony Quinn as Auda Abutai of the Howitat in Lawrence of Arabia; a fabrication of my minds eye surely, but very convincing.
Who are you? I ask. "Why are you here? Why am I here for that matter?"
He laughs, a twinkle in his eye, folds his arms, and replies, My friend, you trouble me. How can you not know me? I am your teacher, your benefactor, the founder of your culture . . . you have drunk from my wells, eaten of my fruit, rested in my shade, and yet you have not even invoked my name to your own God, let alone Allah.
What! I say back incredulously, Founder of my culture?! My culture in rooted in Greek thought and Roman know-how and ---- Exactly!, he cuts me off abruptly.
Exactly!, he says again, and who preserved these for you? Who protected this knowledge for you, and extended it, down the long dark centuries before you were ever born? . . . It was I! I prepared the way. While your ancestors wallowed in fear, mysticism, and chaos, I conquered Alexandria, absorbed the knowledge there, and gathered even more, translated it, and interpreted it. I captured Chinese at Samarkand, and using their knowledge of paper and its making, spread this gathered wisdom to the ends of the earth. I have been a river of knowledge unto to you, and yet you do not understand, nor are you grateful.
But you burned the Library . . . The Library at Alexandria!, I counter.
Hah!, He replies, that is a myth, a fabrication, a lie! The library was burned long before I got there . . . by infidels, Christian zealots perhaps . . . perhaps like you!. You see once again I protected this precious knowledge from those who would destroy it. I picked up the pieces, brought together what scattered works remained, and established great universities, where in the spirit of faith, people could embrace learning and education for the greater glory of Allah. When your people drove me out of Europe, I left not burned out cities, nor ruined landscapes, but libraries and schools filled with knowledge, learning, and research. That is where your ancestors began . . . already standing atop my shoulders . . . my shoulders!
But, but . . ., I sputter. Lifting his finger to silence me and raising his brow he continues, Do you not know that a thousand years ago the only places in the world where competent medical help was to be had were in my cities? Yes, my cities! Yet it is not only medicine I bequeathed to you . . . but algebra, trigonometry, geometry, physics, chemistry, astronomy, logic, ethics, philosophy, poetry . . . all these things you love, do you not?
I nod my head sheepishly. Well then, he continues, do you not think it proper to show me at least some gratitude for all of this . . . some remembrance?
He looks away from me, past me, into the heat of the desert, and sighs, "No Arab truly loves the desert . . . we love water, shade, green trees. . ." Then his gaze shifts and his eyes look through me, as if fixed on the distant past. His voice grows strangley soft as he muses, "How I do long for the hanging gardens of Cordoban . . .". Then abruptly, the trance broken, he turns to go.
But then he stops, and turns back toward me.
"Oh, I almost forgot, he says, one more thing I have preserved for you -- the reason I'm meeting you like this. An ancient Egyptian game . . . the knowledge of which had been thought, by many, to have been lost centuries ago . . . but not so. I have preserved it for you, like so many other things. Im sure youll know what to do with it.
He smiles, turns, and walks away to disappear into the landscape of shimmering dunes.