Friday, May 9, 2014

Meet the characters - Haziyya al-Riyad

HRH Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco,
inspiration for Haziyya al-Riyad
In Sultana: The Bride Price, the love of Muhammad V's life is not his future bride Jazirah, but a woman of Tuareg / Berber heritage from the Rif mountains of Morocco. Haziyya al-Riyad, whose name translates as "garden favorite" is a purely fictionalized character. The histories I have of Muhammad V don't mention another wife or any concubines by name, but it is likely he had some favored woman or women at his side as his Nasrid ancestors did. When I was writing, I imagined Muhammad as a young ruler seeking not only the pleasures of women in his life, but a companion with whom he could share his life. Haziyya is a strong character, among other strong characters, with a Berber father and a Tuareg mother whose cultural dress and beliefs she favors.    

The physical description of the character was inspired by a photo I had seen of the royal consort of Morocco, Princess Lalla Salma, who is from the capital at Rabat. The queen is a natural redhead; a small percentage of people of Berber descent in the north of her birthplace have red and blond hair. Berbers were part of the first wave of Muslim invaders that Spain faced in the eighth century. One of the most famous rulers of  the country, Abd al-Rahman I of the Umayyad dynasty (whom I'll talk about much more in the future) supposedly had blond or reddish-blond hair inherited from his Berber mother. One of the Berber dynasties I have featured prominently in the novels of the Sultana series are the Marinids, who ruled Morocco from 1248 to 1465. In Sultana: The Bride Price, the Marinids are key allies of Muhammad V.

The Tuareg are a Berber people, who have typically survived in a nomadic lifestyle ranging throughout the Sahara. They have lived in the region for centuries, surviving Arab and later colonial incursions, while maintaining a fascinating culture with enduring rituals. They are sometimes referred to as the 'Blue People' for their garments often dyed a deep shade of indigo, which then rubs off on their skin. The men of their tribes veil their faces, but the women do not. For several centuries, the Tuareg held beliefs in the spiritual properties of plants and animals, but with the advent of Christianity and Islam, those later beliefs have been incorporated.

The character of Haziyya al-Riyad embodies the pride of the Tuareg people and a Berber heritage. Learn more about her in Sultana: The Bride Price. 


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