“I sought refuge with you from my fears when I got freaked out, not knowing that fate was faster than me to you. My heart was rejecting you while fully in love with you. It was showing prejudice against you while fully running to you.. Listen Phlomis to my grief and tears to see. Listen to Zenobia to lead thee to talk her heart. “
-From Zenobia’s soliloquy of her killed husband prince Phlomis
Women’s world is a mysterious boat. Humanity spent centuries attempting to understand its secrets, and attempts to describe them in a collective pattern. The novel Zenobia Queen of Palmyra by the Egyptian writer Muhammad Farid Abu Hadid, is only one of those attempts. It tried to find an answer to this question: Have the social sites of women’s entity and her weakness, courage, fear, boldness and intelligence? Can a woman forget her femininity in the momentum of events and conflicts today? And what would a victorious Queen do in her first night in her mansion in front of her mirror?
Zenobia, is a novel about a woman, a queen and a wife with different faces, where the tribulations and the loss of her husband were so hard to bear by most women. However, she soon regains her power as Queen of Palmyra. When the news of her enemies standing at the gates of her kingdom come to her, she overcomes the ordeal; and her kingdom allows her to think of herself as a female where there is peace in her kingdom.
Zenobia was one of the first historical accounts in which women have a major and effective role in making crucial decisions of the state, or what can be called the political role of women. Her husband, King Othayna, consulted her in all issues big and small. She was a strong woman, a compassionate queen, determined and capable of showing strength and making important state decisions and locked in the political and major conflicts.
A Competent Writer
The Egyptian writer Muhammad Farid Abu Hadid was born in July 1893 in the northern city of Damanhur, in Egypt. His father’s grandmother came from a tribe migrated to Egypt fromHijaz in the early 19th century during the rule of Mohamed Ali. He was graduated from the Teachers College in 1914, he started his career as a school teacher. He was gradually promoted in different educational positions in the ministry of education. He was appointed as thegeneral secretary of Alexandria University in 1942. The Director of the National Library (Dar al-Kutub) in 1943, an Advisor to the minister of education and then the technical advisor of the Ministry of Education until 1954.
He had contributed to modern Arabicliterature since his graduation in 1914, as he wrote in magazines such as the (Al-Siyasa weekly), and (Al-Hilal). He was one of the founders of the magazine (Al Risala), then the magazine (Al-Thaqafa) and became the editor-in-chief of the latter from its early days. In many of his articles he discussed cultural and educational issues in Egypt and called for spreading the religious culture and promote literary and artistic thought implantation and eliminating illiteracy in the country.
He also participated in the establishment of the committee for the authorship, translation and publishing in 1915, which published books in several fields of science and literature, and contributed significantly to the revival of Egyptian culture. Abu Hadid translated several books for this committee, including “Arab conquest of Egypt,” by Alfred Butler, and translated “Macbeth” Shakespeare, also he wrote a book on “Saladin”. Moreover, he participated in the establishment of the Egyptian Association for Social Studies in 1937. He was also appointed a member of the Arabic Language Academy in December 1947, and participated in the founding the Story Club in 1953.
Muhammad Farid Abu Hadid’s mother was one of the relatives of ShaykhSalim Al-Bishri, the Shaykh of Al-Azhar. His mother represented the most important element in shaping his character and building pride in him. Being the source of blood relation to the Sheikh of Al-Azhar represented the first pride space in his life. Besides, the writings of Abu Hadid addressed the pain of women and their leading role in building his different published characters.
Perhaps this is why women have occupied a great deal of his interest, as if he carried the message of showing the role of women in making events, and to correct the wrong image that they have beenalways marginalized in history. Yet, they are females immersed in the auctioneer and ornament. All these characteristics emerged in the leading novel “Zenobia Queen of Palmyra”
The writer was fond of highlighting the psychological aspects of the deaf historical events. Perhaps the most prominent scenes of mastery and diving into detail, was his portrayal of the moment of the first defeat of Zenobia and the death of her husband. Later, she was captured by the hands of the emperor, who deliberately insulted her, while trying to keepher pride intact, believing she has a close return to revenge. The Author says:
“The captured Zenobia stood in a loose pride, surrounded her neck in a golden chain and put her hands in the heavy restraints. The emperor exaggerated in his cynical retaliation, dressing her in her full royal jewellery with a slave walking by her side. She walked with her head down where her heart was filled of grief and indignation as she lived to enter Rome decorating the victory parade of her rival Emperor.”
A Literary Plot
Historical events are usually a heavy resource for novel work, but the danger is always in the transformation of the novel into a boring history book that delves into historical narratives no more than the maturity of the artistic aspects of literary work. However, the author of “Zenobia Queen of Palmyra” managed to handle the character of the novel and its events skilfully.
The writer succeeded in exporting the image of Zenobia as the greatest woman figure who ruled Palmyra and Egypt together; cleverly where reflected her cultural awareness of people and languages. Anyway, she made a mistake in engraving the image of her son the heir to the money and circulating it in the kingdom of the Romans, increasing the hatred of their ruler over them. Moreover, the commander of the army’s cooperation with the Romans caused her fatal end and death as well as the extermination of the people of Palmyra by the Roman Emperor Orlian.
Many details between the lines, including Abu Hadid distinctive, rich culture of knowledge and style. Using special philosophical expressions performed on the tongue of Zenobia, and her mentor “Longines”, are all over the lines of the novel. They are said in an easy-to-understand language; which addresses the heart more than the mind the habit of women. The novel is full of dialogues that are in the very depth, superiority and extravaganza.
Dropping a Politician
Despite the clarity of the novel’s objective, however it has a more ambiguous part in its pages. That is the period in which Abu Hadeed lived (between 1892 and 1968). It was a very dangerous historical period where the Arab world emerged from the Ottoman Caliphate to conquer to the British and French power. That made the region face constant conflicts with itself for unity, and with the outside world for liberation and independence.
This is what the novel tried to reflect through its events, by highlighting the presence of small Arab kingdoms on the borders of the Roman and Persian states and the rivalry between them, and their quest to collect the conflicting tribes and their struggle with these two countries, which were extending their influence on these divided Arab kingdoms, .
It was written in 1940, when the Second World War was at its peak, where the international deception and competition in the Arab region was in its facets, and where the reading of this historical narrative can suggest many projections of the Arab present in the life of Abu Hadeed. This dilemma naturally reflected on our present days, which does not seem to have differed very much.