The Bystander is a mystery thriller set in Saudi Arabia where rivalries in the Saudi royal family, religion, and oil money intersect. In a kingdom built on sand, an ambitious and devious prince uses terrorism to disrupt the succession and become the next king.
The kingdom is looking east. Saudi Arabia is sending oil to China where it is refined. A quarter of its oil exports go to China. They have not increased production, something the West wants. Yet in the gulf, something is subtle happening between Qatar and Saud. Doha the capital of Qatar has taken a position on natural gas while Saudi has bet on its crude oil. Both countries look east to do more business with China as well as India. Qatar is betting on its liquified natural gas (LNG) supplies. While the kingdom today has stayed fast on only some increases in short- term oil production, time will tell if oil or natural gas reigns in the future. But know that times are changing.
A golf course is a long way from the desert where camels search for food, but they are one and the same, it is the desert. Today Saudi Arabia is alive with the co-joining of LIV and the PGA. The Saudi Public Investment Fund, with an estimated value of $600 billion is the driving force. With seemly unlimited funds they have forced LIV and the PGA to become one. In the long run it will benefit golf. But 9/11 and killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi journalist and columnist for the Washington Post, are images that will linger on. For those who wonder LIV stands for it is Roman numeral 54---a perfect score in golf with a birdie on every hole, and also the number of holes to be played in a LIV tournament.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is prepared for the largest Islamic gathering in history as the hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives. Friday, enormous crowds of worshippers thronged Mecca, Islam's holiest city, for the biggest hajj pilgrimage in years, with more than two million expected to brave the scorching Saudi Arabian heat as summer temperatures are expected to reach 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit). Pilgrims in white robes and sandals packed the ancient city, now dotted with luxury hotels and air-conditioned shopping malls, after flooding in on planes, buses and trains. Could break attendance records, officials said. More than 32,000 health workers will be on hand to help fend off heatstroke, dehydration and exhaustion. Rites include seven times circling the Kaaba, the large black cube in Mecca's Grand Mosque, praying on Mount Arafat where the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have delivered his final sermon, and throwing pebbles at three giant concrete walls representing Satan. Some 24,000 buses will be used to ferry the pilgrims, and 17 trains capable of moving 72,000 people every hour, officials said. Hosting the hajj is a matter of prestige and a source of political legitimacy for Saudi rulers, the custodians of the holy sites. The hajj and year-round umrah rituals generate an estimated $12 billion annually.
This was a bad week for Saudi-American relations. The kingdom got other OPEC producers to cut oil production by a million barrels a day and raise prices. The result was an increase of six percent. For the USA, working to reduce inflation and prevent a recession, this was a blow. Clearly, it shows the oil market in the Persian Gulf is not run by the USA.
Saudi Arabia is the world's largest exporter of oil and continues to manage the world's oil market. To do so requires the agreement of Russia, a necessary partner. This raises a question of who to be buddies with, since Russia backs Iran an avowed enemy of Riyadh's. Nevertheless, the Saudis know the era of oil is coming to an end or at least to a dribble. Their interest is to cash in at higher prices before the era ends, though it will be years before that happens. The money is also needed to fund the infra-structure the Crown Prince is building. He believes it will replace oil as a source of income. Is the era ending? Not in our lifetime --but one day, in the not-so-distant future.
In Yemen, seven years ago, the Houthis, backed by Iran, began a protracted civil war from the Northern section of Yemen. When that happened Saudi Arabia waged war on the rebel group. Then the Houthis targeted Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities and facilities in the UAE. Now the Houthis are saying Saudi and their allies have, in the last five years siphoned off $13 billion in oil that belonged to Yemen. UN special envoys have looked for a solution. The Houthis using Iranian drones have refused to agree to a settlement with the Yemeni government and Saudi Arabia. The fight goes on as the oil and gas wells keep producing.
Arabic coffee is called gahwa, and drinking coffee is part of the Bedouin tradition of hospitality. I love coffee and often refer to myself as a coffee-aholic. Arabic coffee was usually served in the desert with Saudi friends. First the beans were roasted, then crushed. Spices, as cardamom clove, nutmeg, and bits of saffron were added. The coffee was poured back and forth between pots until the host decided the light blonde roast was ready to drink. Served in small cups, the gahwa was smooth and had an aroma depending upon what spices were used. To me it was the best coffee I have ever had.
The UN and other international groups complain about Saudi Arabia not cutting emissions. In response, the kingdom says that when oil rich countries cut back on fossil fuels the price of oil will increase. The Saudis say that the demand for oil will be strong for the next decades and is spending billions of dollars to boost production. Additionally, many countries don’t care if the energy it uses is clean or not. The war in the Ukraine has increased the demand for fossil fuels. The increased cost for fossil fuels will help nations realize that their national security depends on switching to home owned clean energy
Todays' press, and yesterdays is all about the US president's trip to Saudi Arabia. The focus is oil and how to produce more in Saudi to support the American economy. Gone are the promotions of tourism in the kingdom. Oil has overtaken the conversation. Last year Saudi had over 17 million visitors, many of them to Makkah, but many are also seeing the rest of the country. Right now we wait and see, as the meeting between the president and MSB, and other gulf leaders will tell the future. Tourism may not be mentioned but the meeting will hold the future for visitors.
In 2021 Saudi Arabia ranked first in exporting dates. The value was about $320 million. The dates were exported to 113 countries. Pundits said this showed the interest in Saudi of building up non-oil exports. Whatever, the dates produced in Saudi were delightful. They are served chilled and delicious.The perfect food for a hot climate. And I have to confess I have loved dates since I was a little kid in the Midwest eating California dates.
The goal of the kingdom is to become a global tourism center by the end of the decade. To this end $100 million has been allocated to train 100,000 to work in tourism. Estimates are by 2030 over $800 billion will have been spent on tourism. The site of Ubar will become one of these attractions because it is where Hud a prophet mention in the Quran lived. His people were the people of Ad who took up idols. But not Hud. The area today is a wind-swept desert of sand.
Today in SA, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud announced that a balanced Global Energy transition would begin. For a country, hooked on fossil fuels, a disruption by renewable energy, as solar and wind, could create problems with supply and demand. SA, one of the world’s leading oil producers, needs to keep oil flowing to fund the kingdom. But SA has unbelievable amounts of wind and sun, and so is primed for renewable energy projects.
The Saudi government has taken steps to stop funds being sent from Saudi charities to terrorist groups. Private web sites to collect for charitable work, a disguise for terrorists, have been banned and stiff fines up to a million dollars have been assessed. Policies across the banking and financial sectors have been updated to stem funds going from these entities to terrorists.
How did Rashid provide cheap electricity? The how is not in the book but should have been that he developed wind power. Since the war in the Ukraine, all the gulf oil producers have more clout. Countries need to find a substitute for Russian oil. The Kingdom will do more to provide oil and is now committed to developing wind and solar power.
Such overt terrorism is not happening today between Qatar and Saudi, but something more subtle is. Doha the capital of Qatar has taken a position on natural gas while Saudi has bet on its crude oil. Both countries lean more towards business with China than they use to. Qatar is betting on its long- term gas supplies. Saudi has long term contracts with China suppling crude to a refiner in Northern China. While the kingdom today has stayed fast on only some increases in short term oil production, time will tell if oil or natural gas reigns in the future.
For Saudis in the middle class, the changes Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, has made are remarkable. Movie theaters allow men and women to sit together, (there is one in Riyadh), women may attend sporting events, and women may drive. Why now? MBS knows if the kingdom is to wean itself off of oil, women must become more productive in the society. What outsiders should realize is that these changes can only come from the King (or his crown prince MBS). The people are not trusted and must not advocate for change. Some things have yet to change.
Saudi Arabia is taking its time condemning weapons and wars outside its borders. Along with Egypt and the UAE, they have not taken a position on the current Russian attack on the Ukraine. The Middle East doesn't see Europe's wars as their problem. To them, it only means oil maybe scarce and that means the price will go up.
In this year, 2022, changes are being made in Saudi Arabia by the Crown Prince. Many Saudis welcome the liberal changes, to women's dress and allowing outdoor concerts. Many other Saudis believe the Prince in allowing moderation is rejecting religious fanaticism altogether. Many clerics are in jail. Some say the changes are being imposed from above and not at the grass roots level. The ability of the Saudi government to monitor its citizens indicates the changes will be difficult, not impossible, to change.
Saudi Arabia has announced plans to vaccinate for free all residents in the kingdom. First to get the vaccine will be those most exposed and next stages will be those over age 50. To date, the country has reported over 360,000 cases and 6080 deaths. This is since the lockdown which was implemented in May, has started to be lifted.
From the Bedouin to the Saudi royals a belief in spirits, called djinns is alive an well. How does this concept influence the governing of the country? It is a subtle influence. The to ask is where does it take the country in the future?
This week the Department of State published an article on the changing relationships of the the US and Saudi Arabia. The question is what will be the Americans influence in the Middle East in future years. The leadership and military protection provided by the US has been important to the stability of the region. If American withdraws, or its influence wans, watch what happens. It could mean Israel and Saudi Arabia are drawn closer together.
The Saudi death squad is alive and going after other targets that the crown prince wants to silence. This is still going on after the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. Fortunately the Canadian government screened the squad at the border and stopped any new executions in Canada. A former Saudi intelligence official who worked with the U.S. on terrorism is living there. The prince ordered him back to Saudi and he has refused. So he is a target. Life in the kingdom as it was centuries ago goes on.
Covid 19 and the drop in oil prices has forced Saudi Arabia and the other rich oil countries to halt plans to wean themselves off oil. The problem is they are still dependent on oil. The result is they are tasking their people to pay higher taxes, and taking away free subsidies for essentials like electricity. Suppression and unrest are sure to follow unless the royal families enlist the support of the people.
Four ballistic missiles and eight explosive-laden drones attacked Riyadh, Najran and Jazan from Iran-backed Yemen rebels as international efforts to end their five-year war have failed. Infighting within the Yemen government have complicated peace efforts. When will it end? No one knows. To date it has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The Covid virus has only complicated the suffering.The USA, the UN, everyone is trying to reach an agreement--so far nothing.
No black princes are called that in today's kingdom, but in June 2017, the nephew of the king and crown prince M. bin Nayef, seen as successor to his uncle,was deposed by his cousin M. bin Salman known as MBS, and the king’s son. Besides Prince Nayef there were other princes with more experience than MBS to be in the line of succession. The question of who will rule Saudi Arabia when the 84 year old King Salman, dies is one the world will be watching.
The economy of the kingdom is in trouble. The plan is to cut oil production by one million barrels. Ending the price war with Russia didn't raise the price of oil. Saudi Aramco's profit has fallen by 25% in the first quarter of this year. Now the government is considering raising the kingdom's value added tax to 15%. That is triple what it is at present. How will Saudi citizens, who rely on government subsidies respond? It is a new world for a nation whose economy is based on oil production.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. its date annually changes on the Gregorian calendar. Muslims tend to wait for the new month's moon to appear before they announce the first day of Ramadan. The date changes annually on the Gregorian calendar. Muslims wait for the new month’s moon to appear before announcing the first day. Healthy adult Muslims abstain from drinking, eating, immoral acts and anger from dawn until dusk. Muslims also believe the Quran was revealed in Ramadan. Saudi Arabia's grand mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the kingdom, said prayers during Ramadan, should be performed at home as the pandemic rages around the world.
Hospitality is part of the Bedouin tradition and expressed in drinking coffee, gahwa in Arabic. Yes coffee, almost my favorite drink. I often refer to myself as a coffee-aholic. First the beans are roasted, then crushed. Spices, as cardamom, clove, nutmeg, and bits of saffron are added. UNESCO includes coffee as part of the cultural heritage of the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and Qatar. The dalah, the traditional Arab flat bottom coffee pot, is often found on posters and imprinted on coins. My experience drinking Arabic coffee was usually in the desert with Saudi friends. The coffee was poured back and forth between pots until the host decided the light blonde roast was ready to drink. Served in small cups, the gahwa was smooth and had an aroma depending upon what spices were used. To me it was the best coffee I have ever had.
Saudi Arabia is a modern country with the usual traffic and pollution problems. How is the the kingdom handling COVIS 19? A 24 hour lockdown is imposed on the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran, and Hofuf. Earlier the government imposed a full lockdown on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. All entry to the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina have been halted, pending further notice.
Falcons, known as the Saker Falcon, are everywhere in the desert, in the markets and in conversations with the Bedouin. Their feathers are beautiful, their beak large with a sharp bill. Always they are tethered on a stand, or to their trainer/owner. On the hand and arm of the owner is gauntlet. It looks like armor. That hand is used to feed the falcon usually small birds, quail. Used in competitions the Saker falcon is descendant from an area that included northeastern Africa,the interior of southeastern Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Asia. In Hungary they are the national bird. The numbers in the wild have diminished and the bird could be an endangered species soon.
What is the truth about the original Qurans? They were hand written from about 568 AD to 645 AD when the prophet died. He was illiterate and learned men around him wrote his visions. The most famous are in the Topkapi manuscript in Istanbul, the Smarkand Kufi Quran in Tashkent, and one believed to be destroyed in an 1893 fire at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. Today others are in Sanaa, Yemen, Turingen, Germany (only a fragment), the Codex Pariisiun, parts in France, Russia, the Vatican, and London, and in Birmingham ,Uk (2 chapters from an older manuscript.
A recent music festival in Riyadh attests to changes in the kingdom. One thing remains the same. Saudi women at the festival still wore abayas and head scarves. Western festival goers were in various states of undress, ie not covered heads. So while the latest 3 day concert was a new leaf for Saudi, the old leaf, women's dress remained unchanged.
GPS is a necessity when your camping in the Empty Quarter, the world's largest sand desert. You have to know how to get in and how to get out.The first time we camped out the one problem with GPS became apparent. As the sun was setting, our modern caravan of SUV's was careening across the desert to the GPS spot chosen for our night of camping. I was in the second of 4 SUVs, when we screeched to a halt. None of us could see the problem until we got out. Then it was apparent. We were on the top of a huge sand mountain, and the GPS was taking us further south. No way could we go down this mountain. So we camped and the next morning walking found a less steep way to get to the GPS spot. Modern technology, ummm.
In Saudi Arabia the celebration of Thanksgiving is by the Anglos that live there. Once i attended a Thanksgiving dinner at the U.S. Embassy for the staff and American and European expats. The Americans provided the turkeys and stuffing. The many foreign national staff, Indians, Pakistanis, Kenyans, Syrians, Philippinos, each had a table with their native food (which of course their wives had prepared). For me it was one of the nicest Thanksgiving I have ever had, and remains in my memory forever.
We camped in the empty quarter, but our GPS had us on top of a 1000 ft dune. So we had to wait until morning to find a way down the immense dunes. That night i got up to do a camping out toilet. So i was squatting on the dune, when i heard this loud growl, really a roar. Spooked I almost rolled down the dune. Managing to stay on top, I turned around and about ten feet away was one of the largest camels I have ever seen, back up by a herd of a dozen. It was obvious. hey wanted to know what I was doing there in the Empty Quarter. I looked at them, and slowly they walked on by.
Night time is the most exciting time on the Arabian Peninsula. Because there are few population centers, you feel as if you can see as far as other galaxies. The impact of the sun, rising and setting, is very little because the peninsula is so close to the equator. Daylight savings is not used because there is so little difference in the rising and setting sun. Because I had been use to daylight saving time, all I ever noticed was about an hour or so later the sun set.
What's important about this excerpt is that Ace is going to get 3 visas for a price. Until recently, to get a visa required you to be visiting someone specifically living in the kingdom-they had to vouch for you. Recently, getting a visa has been revised to make it very easy to obtain. At least that is how the newspaper items portray the process. A visa is the first step--then what--you have to be on a tour if there is one, or have a contact in the kingdom. Will stay tuned to see if the process works as easily as it is described in the press.
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, has been making TV appearances in support of the Saudi response to bombings by drones, believed to be supported by Iran if not done by Iran. He is correct in saying the world would suffer if there was a war between the nations, the economy would tank. He is correct when he says his country has many borders and is the size of Europe. So it's difficult to defend. What is outrageous is his denial in personal involvement with the killing of Khashoggi in Istanbul. He says he is responsible but did not order it. In a country, a kingdom, where every decision is made by the king/crown prince, his words ring hollow.
An event happened this week in Riyadh that i wanted to highlite. --Her high heels clacking on marble tiles, a defiant Saudi woman turned heads and drew gasps as she strutted through a Riyadh mall -- without a body-shrouding abaya. Last year, de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hinted during an interview with CBS that the dress code may be relaxed, saying the robe was not mandatory in Islam. The abaya is "not linked to religion". "If it was, Saudi women wouldn't take them off when they go outside the kingdom," Change is coming, but it makes you wonder just how it is going to work out.
I must confess i always liked dates. When we lived in Iowa we would get dates from California. They were delicious and seemed so exotic. Decades later when I was in the Middle Eastern countries I found the dates to unbelievably good. They are chilled and the flavor is retained. To my delight, dates are a holy fruit and the Arabs serve them to show hospitality. Some have said the dates from Southern Iraq are the best. And that the Iraqis made more money from their dates than from oil. Who knows. The Saudi dates, (Medjool) were wonderful. When the dates were in season i went to the market and selected my box(you had to buy in bulk) took it home and with the help of plastic bags filled my freezer. I had wonderful dates to eat all year long. yum yum
What is a hawala? Oh, transfer dollars overseas, not a big deal. Until I saw how they were used, and was in awe. You can send money anywhere to anyone for a small fee I use a mail service in Aurora, CO, and immigrants from Africa and the Middle East use it daily to send money back to their countries. Low cost and safe, that's what makes it. Of course it is a nightmare for law enforcement agencies trying to track illegal transactions or funding to terrorist groups.
Djinns are part of the Bedouin culture and are in Muslim mythology. the Koran mentions them as an invisible spirit. They can be good and bad and take the form of animals. The Bedouin believe certain places in the desert are where djinns hang out. Sometimes they are teasing and sometimes deadly. For me, out in the vast beige on beige desert, believing in djinns and not wanting to anger them, was logical.
The Arabian Peninsula was formed with a network of rivers that ran through it. Today only the wadis, now dry river beds, remain. One exception is Riyadh, the capital, where water supplied by the Wadi Hanifah has been cleaned up and local residents enjoy picnics and bird watching. More often the water is underground under limestone cliffs. To me, so much water in the world's largest sand desert was a surprise. Today what you see, even surrounding an oasis, is a sea of sand.
News from Saudi Arabia focus on Mohammed bin Salman (know as MBS). The Crown Prince was selected by his father, the king, and skipped dozens of nephews and cousins, sons of past kings. Many of these royal princes were much more qualified than MBS. How will the royal princes accept MBS when the king dies? An interesting question and no answer today. Stay tuned.
It is impossible to live in Saudi Arabia and not be aware of the desert and its history. The sand is light beige, soft and gorgeous. What secrets does it cover? We will never know. But we do know for centuries the Arabian Peninsula was a main road for frankincense to go to Ethiopia and to China where it was used to embalm, and for other religious ceremonies. it also was burned and kept away insects, which reduced malaria. The city of Ubar does exist and it is buried in the sand. THE ROAD TO UBAR: Finding the Atlantis of the Sands, by nicolas clapp, was my inspiration for my book. I heard him speak when i lived in Riyadh and was fascinated. I hope you will be just as taken with the sand as I was, and am.
Saudi Arabia is a country where you can buy anything available in the world, with the exception of alcoholic beverages. Yet the social structure is still in the sixth century, although some say it is older than that. The Q'uran states the head must be covered. Even the males are required to wear head coverings. Nothing is said about the face. As with most religions sometimes the mores today are more stringent than the Prophet Mohammed intended.
"[An] unforgettable read.... Thriller fans, history lovers, and those who enjoy storylines involving treasure hunts will find this book appealing."
Seattle City Book Review
"The hunt for Nazi gold powers this humane,
history-minded thriller." Booklife
"Burlake excels at dialogue and setting a mood... Strong writing lends excitement to this mystery
with a side of history." Kirkus
In a current day suspense thriller, The Hunt for Raubgold is a story of mystery, intrigue, and the quest of millions who have searched for Raubgold-the gold Germany confiscated in World War II. In book three of the bestselling Amy Prowers series, Katherine Burlake reveals where the past becomes the present.
Nothing brings out the blood in a search as much as the word gold. This gold is different. It represents the souls of the millions of people who were killed in
WWII. The war ended seventy-five years ago, but the search for the gold has never ended.
Governments, treasure seekers, and political splinter groups have failed, since World War II, to find all the gold confiscated from concentration camps and
other countries Germany occupied. Today the gold could be worth over a billion dollars to whoever finds it.
Amy Prowers’s husband was obsessed with finding it. Did he leave clues behind before his mysterious death? A bag hidden for 20 years is uncovered by an avalanche that destroyed a wall in her home. In it is a map and journal. Now Amy intends to find the gold and vindicate his search.
Switzerland was neutral during World War II. In that role the country purchased large amounts of gold from Allied and Axis powers. The gold was exchanged for Swiss francs which like the US dollar was a currency every country wanted. For Germany, this exchanged financed their war effort. The Swiss acquired 79% of all German gold. That gold included what Germany had taken from the national banks of Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway. Some gold came from private persons and concentration camp victims. While the Swiss paid reparations worth millions they also have promised to identify dormant accounts with no heirs.
Germany needed gold or it would have remained an insignificant country. It needed gold because it lacked the natural resources to start, fight, and finish a world war. Gold brought the Reich oil to run tanks and bombers, and tungsten to upgrade iron ore to produce tanks and bombers. Swiss bankers, acting as middlemen, were essential in obtaining these resources. And the resources were necessary for self-sufficiency. Germany needed to stockpile the resources, so they were not dependent on other nations once the war started. This had happened in WWI and was etched in the German memory.
It is estimated nearly100 short tons of Nazi gold were laundered through Swiss banks, with only 4 short tons being returned at the end of the war. Countries today with the most gold. • United States: 8,133 metric tons ($480.84 billion) • Germany: 3,355 metric tons ($198.35 billion) • Italy: 2,452 metric tons ($144.97 billion) • France: 2,437 metric tons ($144.08 billion) • Russia: 2,299 metric tons ($135.92 billion) • China: 1,948 metric tons ($115.17 billion) Today the search goes on for the gold. it has never ended.
The search for the Nazi loot continues today. While gold and artwork are the top prizes, periodically other loot is found in unusual places. In 2017 in a suburb of Buenos Aires, police found over 75 Nazi artifacts in a passage behind a bookshelf. To date it is said to be the largest collection of Nazi loot found in the country. Some of the findings were a bust of Hitler, knifes with Nazi markings and a medical device used to measure the human head. The Nazis were very interested in studying proportions of the human body using the measurements to prove Aryan superiority.
Amy Prowers hadn't planned on jetting off to the Balkans. She hadn't planned on having her life turned upside down or being held hostage. .
No, Amy Prowers, hadn't planned on abandoning her career... and becoming a seeker of fulfilling her father's last request. The request that had the words attached: be careful who you trust.
Benton Prowers' death in a suspicious plane crash-and has changed the life of Amy. His words, be careful who you trust leads her on a quest to uncover the real Shroud and if it isn't in Turin as the Catholic Church believes... where is it?
In the second Amy Prowers novel, she is caught up in the web of deceit, scandal, and terror that threatens her and everyone around her.
Will Medak, the young monk at the monastery, help Amy understand the clues her father hid in the icon book... or should she trust him?
Will El Ben Alemien, the evil North African leader, know that Amy is pretending to know where the Shroud is hidden at the Gracanica Monastery?
Will Christianity as it exists today, be able to survive when the truth comes out?
In a sweeping current day global suspense thriller, The Last Request takes you behind the scenes in a tense drama-filled story that is enveloped in mystery, intrigue, and religion.
The ancient city of Dubrovnik began as a refugee center in the 7th century for those fleeing the Barbadians. A Catholic city, it was surrounded by Islamic and Orthodox people. The city came unto its own in the 13th century, hitting its peak in the 15th and 16th century. It was a crossroad for travel and trading with Genoa, Pisa, Venice, the Balkans, and the Ottoman Empire. Today, walking the streets, is like being back in those centuries. The walls remain and everywhere you look there is a spectacular view of the Adriatic Sea. Lord Byron called it ‘the Pearl of the Adriatic’. Bernard Shaw and Agatha Christi were impressed with its beauty. Your author cannot beat those kudos, it is a fabulous place.
In the icons of Eastern Orthodoxy there is no room for artistic license. Almost everything in the icon Color is important in the symbolic aspects of the icon. Gold is the radiance of heaven, red divine life, blue human life and white is the light of God used only for resurrection and transfiguration of Christ. Notice that in the icons of Jesus and Mary; He wears red undergarments with blue outer, and Mary wares the reverse.
The Coptic are the largest Christian community in the Middle East and in Egypt. They believe the church was founded in Alexandria, Egypt by the apostle Mark in AD 57. It is one of the oldest churches in the world. Copts are prominent in Egypt in banking and in other areas of the economy that Muslims ignore because of beliefs set in the Koran. In a way they are like the Jews in medieval Europe, indispensable, but not loved.
In the third century A.D. the Roman Emperor Gordian III, age 29, was killed in a battle near Circesium now called al-Busayra located near the junction of the Euphrates and Khabur rivers in modern day Iraq. The Roman fortress was always an issue for the Muslims because of its location between Syria and Iraq. Julius Caesar was the first ruler to put his head on a coin. The face on the coin was a means of controlling soldiers and citizens, and a valuable propaganda tool. To the ruler, it was a way to give them more power. Archeologists are able to track the history of Roman conquests, often because of the coins they find which are easy to date.
I appreciate the reviews my readers have written. They are well traveled and understand the Middle East.
The location of Alexander the Great’s tomb is one of the mysteries of the ancient world. Shortly before his death, he said he wanted to be buried in the Siwa Oasis, about 348 miles southwest of Cairo. The oasis was the home of the Oracle of Ammon and Alexander traveled there to worship the deity. When he died in Babylon, he was at first buried in Memphis, south of Cairo. Then he was reburied in Alexandria where Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Augustus visited his tomb. It is believed that tomb had been destroyed by the 4th century. In the past century the Egyptian Supreme Council for Antiquities official recognized over 140 search attempts for his tomb focusing on Alexandria. He is mentioned in the novel because the trip Veilkov and Medak take is in the general direction of the oasis and Alexander's trip..
The tradition of the Eastern Orthodox believes Christian images date to the first days of Christianity when icons became a tradition. Since the 3rd century images that survived are quite different from the later ones. In the Greek language icon painting is the same word as writing. Most icons have some graphic art usually telling the name of the person or event in the icon.
The novel makes no decision on if the Shroud of Turin is really the burial cloth of Christ. What is known, is that over the centuries when thousands of pilgrims have visited the Shroud, the cloth takes on the energy of the pilgrims and becomes a religious relic. This is true of holy sites in all religions. Since her father copied the Shroud during WWII, our heroine, Amy Prowers, is determined to return the real Shroud to Turin. She doesn't believe in the legend of the Shroud and isn't sure she can find it. Therein lies the plot of the Last Request.
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