is brutally beaten by a stranger, leading Ali to impose an unusual
and permanent punishment on the perpetrator, one that can only be done
(The girl in the photograph is Yvonne DeCarlo from the movie "The
Slave Girl". The painting is
"Before Punishment" by Ferencz Eisenhut (1857-1903)
and is included here for its depiction of the dreaded ankle blocks.)
By mid afternoon we had settled in, and Ali told me that in the
evening we were to attend a large celebration at the home of a wealthy
merchant to mark the opening of the meet. “All the sheiks and important
traders will be there along with attending slave girls. I will be taking
you,” he said. “You will wear Ahmad’s blue chiffon.”
I was apprehensive and worried as we walked into town just as the sun
was setting. Ali had said that others would see me as part of some special
entertainment for the guests, and before leaving, he inspected me thoroughly,
checking my freshness, my mehndi and my body jewelry. In doing so, he
tightened the rings around my nipples so much that they swelled to the
size of small red cherries and hurt from the chafe of my choli as my
breasts bounced with my step. Was this to be part of the entertainment?
Ali noticed my discomfort as I hunched over to relieve the touch of
the cloth and mercifully, he pulled me into a darkened doorway, untied
the laces holding my choli closed, and carefully opened the rings and
took them off my distended nipples. “Too tight,” he muttered, “Talil
knows better how to fit these things.” I settled myself back into
my choli, retied the laces, and we walked on.
The door of the merchant’s house was almost a hole in a crumbling
wall and even I had to stoop down to pass through it. The doorkeeper
led us down a narrow corridor around a sharp bend that served to shield
the interior from the inquisitive eyes of passersby in the street, and
into a beautiful well-tended garden courtyard. From there we walked across
a central tiled court, flanked by tiled columns and curved arches, to
the beit al diafa (guest parlor), where the men sat on large
curved divans arranged around a low round table. A high ceiling of cedar
wood painted in red and gold, lent warmth to the room as well as beauty.
Never be misled by the poor outward appearance of the many windowless
dwellings lining the streets of Arab towns, for many were purposely built
that way. Many Arabs consider it poor taste to show wealth ostentatiously,
and this home was a fine example of that teaching. A modest exterior
may well enclose an extremely luxurious home.
Ali took his place on a divan and I joined other girls standing in
line to take turns serving the table. I returned to the guest parlor
with a silver samovar from which I served mint tea to the seated men
as they nonchalantly chatted and passed the hookah. All except one largely
ignored me; although I was dressed revealingly in a way I knew found
favor with men and had to lean low to pour.
Talented slave girls from the host’s harem danced, sang, and
played musical instruments to entertain the guests, and time passed quickly
and pleasantly, until the host moved to the center of the room and held
up his hand for silence.
“I welcome you all to my humble home this evening,” he
began “and may Allah grant many such visits.
“Last year, we agreed to add some variety to our gathering—some
more attractive company than ourselves—and I thank those who were
able to answer this call and bring with them a choice member from their
harem. And I will add that I have never before seen so much talent and
beauty under one roof; you have all surely brought your prettiest slaves.
Alas, there are fewer of them than us, so,” he clapped his hands,
followed by a loud call for “Baseema,” and an older slave
woman immediately brought a large volume of the Qur’an and lay
it before the sheik. “And so,” he continued, “we will
draw lots for the pleasure of their company.”
I was taken aback somewhat, to put it lightly. I had not anticipated
this! It made me realize, with an acute rush of feeling in the pit of
my stomach, exactly what I had done. I had contracted for this. I had
to do as commanded of me, without question, for I had bargained to be
a slave girl at the call of men.
“Let us commence,” said our host with a broad toothy smile
on his face. “Help the girls display their virtues, Baseema, so
that my guests may choose knowingly.”
She set out a row of candles on the floor before the guests and, one
by one, we were ushered forward to stand behind the lit candles, where
Baseema, with great ceremony removed our clothes. Our host made pointed
and sometimes lewd comments while we faced the scrutinizing and lustful
eyes of the men, and after our showing we moved to one side, clutching
our flimsy garments in our hands, where we formed a disorderly line.
The host held high the Qur’an, revealing white strips of paper
that protruded from between its pages. “Some of these are long,
some short. Those lucky enough to draw a long strip will have their choice
of companion for the night.”
“A blasphemous use of the Holy book,” I thought.
Ali had the honor of first draw, and the host, after a drawn out inspection
and much head shaking and feigned concern, conceded that Ali’s
strip of paper was indeed one of the long ones. Predictably, knowing
his predilections and his desire to pay credit to the host’s taste
in women, he chose as his night companion a striking black Nubian girl
belonging to our host of the evening.
I was sorely disappointed with the man who chose me—a small rakish
merchant of unknown nationality—and even more disappointed that
I was the seventh one chosen. Was it true that I was only seventh in
rank of desirability!
Two unlucky and impatient men, after talking to the host, escorted
Baseema—who, while older was still an attractive and generously
proportioned slave—in the direction of an empty room, loosening
her garments as they went, so eager were they to apportion her services.
And how would she be apportioned to their lusts, how would she accommodate
them, I puzzled to myself—both at the same time? Two men and one
woman yield several possibilities. A ménage a trois.
A few men chose to bide their time and wait for the privacy of their
own tent or house to spend time with their prize. Less patient ones took
their choice into one of many side rooms for more immediate gratification—a
gesture appreciated by the unlucky ones, as the girl could afterwards
be bathed and again given over to someone.
Behind me, voices rose above the din of the room. “I hear that
Sheik Ali Saalih is here. Who was the lucky one to get him?” My
head turned sharply around at the mention of his name to see two girls
talking to each other.
“That black Nubian,” I said, pointing out his choice as
I moved towards them to join in their conversation. “Why is she
lucky?” I asked, curious as to their thoughts about him.
“You haven’t heard about him?”
“Some—but what do you know?”
“He is wealthy beyond compare and lives in a huge palace and
has a harem of over one hundred women,” bubbled one of the girls, “and
he takes as many as ten before he goes to sleep at night.”
“It is said that he is so big and heavy that under his djellaba
he wears a solid gold pouch to hold it,” said the other.
“I wager the Nubian won’t be walking with that proud stride
after he has finished with her,” said the first. “And I wager
she won’t be hungry,” parried the other, crudely, amidst
“Who told you this about Sheik Ali?” I asked.
“Our keeper. She was with his father’s harem, but she looks
after us now because our eunuch died. She told us that on his fourteenth
birthday he was given fourteen virgins and that on every birthday he
gets again the same number as his years.”
As I turned to walk away, I said, to their amazement, “What you
say is true, he is a remarkable man. I know, because I am his haseki.”
My eyes sought Ali amongst the crowd of men across the room. They found
him, and held him, and within that short moment, something passed between
us…and I saw clearly in the dim light that I loved him. I knew
that there was no other explanation for my feelings, nor did I want one.
I longed for him frantically and unquestionably and wanted nothing more
than to end this ungodly separation and go back to the tent with him,
to tend his needs, belong to him—and let go of my secrets. Brave
thoughts soon swept aside by a rising flood of despair. Love was drawing
me recklessly into the unrest and hopelessness of an impossible
romance, one I new I could not possibly reconcile—I was a married
It was well into the night when the merchant decided to leave for his
own tent. As I hurriedly followed behind him, an unfamiliar and unpleasant
odor wafted back over me. He and a small group of friends had been drawing
heavily from a hookah all evening, and now his footsteps were unsure
with an occasional stagger and stumble.
Darkness and stale air laced with a sour stench greeted me when he
pushed me forward into his tent. There were no windows or openings of
any kind to let in fresh breezes—or a splash of moonlight—as
there were in Ali’s tent. He lit a lamp and I saw the source of
the terrible odor—numerous falcons dozing on perches in one corner
of the tent—clumps of white guano mottling the ground beneath them.
A loose bundle of rattan and an untidy collection of empty and partly
made birdcages littered one side of the tent, and a small rug and sleeping
pad lay on the sandy floor not far away. Two sturdy wood poles supported
the canvas roof, and ominously, hammered high into one of them was a
black iron ring. A chain with gaping open wrist shackles riveted to each
end dangled from the ring. A key hung from a small nail.
He first spoke to me in Farsi or Urdu, I thought, languages I did not
understand, and realizing this he spoke again, this time in poor Arabic
with a heavy accent. But words were not required, his intentions were
obvious and no surprise to me. Without pleasant formalities, he thoroughly
eyed me from head to toe, thought for a moment, and reached for a knife
in his belt. He approached threateningly, testing the blade of the knife
with his thumb, before he slid the cold curved tip of steel between my
breasts and brought it up sharply; cutting through the ladder of laces
that held my choli closed—thrrrr…up. He flipped the parted
cloth aside and threw the knife down.
He pressed closer to me, staring into my eyes and then at my uncovered
charms, while the smell of his stale clothing assaulted my nostrils.
His small rough hands—resplendent with uncut dirty nails—explored
my body and for one horrible long minute, I endured those grimy fingers
on my skin—poking, stroking, pinching and squeezing my breasts
and stomach until I thought I could stand no more. His breath was close
and foul in my face before his eager mouth found my breast, and pain
and revulsion so severe swept through me, that without thinking, I swept
my arms upwards, hitting him sharply under the jaw and sending him sprawling
backwards into the pile of empty birdcages.
“You, you will pay for that! I punish you,” he spluttered,
as he stumbled to his feet, pushing cages aside and brushing sand off
Viciously he grabbed my hair and slammed me against the tent pole.
Stunned and winded, I could not resist as he snapped the shackles around
my wrists, pushed my chest against the pole, and hoisted my hands above
my head. For a dazed moment, my bewildered mind called back with childlike
simplicity to the peace and tranquility of the palace courtyard back
in Makram. “Yasmeen will be annoyed with me,” my mind was
telling me. “She will tell me to be more careful with my clothes—and
then mend them for me.”
When I heard it, a swell of rising panic swamped these calming thoughts.
It was the unmistakable swish and thwack, that frightening sound of something
smacking into an open palm, something being tested for its heft and flex.
He tore away my beautiful pants, leaving them where they fell on the
dirty ground, and started to shuffle back and forth behind me, tapping
my bottom lightly now and again with something that was not his finger.
A white-hot sting flared across my buttocks. It extinguished in one
bright flash of my mind, any thoughts I had. The swish, thwack, and sting
were one; nothing separated them when he brought his instrument of chastisement
down sharply across my bared buttocks. In my shock, I did not cry out.
I would not give him that satisfaction. A resolve that was swiftly undone.
I danced like a marionette on strings when the second stroke hit home,
and I shrieked out in the vain unrealized hope that my cries would summon
help—that Ali would somehow hear me and come to my rescue. It was
a loud and piercing cry that echoed through the camp, more than making
up for my earlier silence.
“My name Sohrab, I rich and strong man, you a slave woman. I
hit you till noise you make no more. People sleep,” his slurred
voice dictated. For his pleasure, I must suffer in silence or be beaten
into unconsciousness so others may sleep. I clenched my teeth and held
my breath in fearful anticipation, as he bade his time.
His further judgment came down heavily, three or four more strokes,
laid down in brisk succession followed by a loud snap and something flying
against the tent side that startled his captive birds into a frenzy of
flapping wings. My body arched and collapsed, my knees buckled under
me, leaving me hanging by my wrists while my feet thrashed around trying
to find footing in the loose sand. The iron shackles cut deeply, and
my outraged shoulders burned under the separating weight of my dangling
“My stick break. You lucky this time,” he sneered.
Shackled by the Wrist
To my utter surprise, he keyed open one of the shackles, freeing one
hand, leaving me still tethered by the other. The chain, now out of
balance, pulled and rattled through the eye of the small ring—the
opened shackle rode up the pole, and the one still closed around my wrist
rode down, along with it my tethered arm and slumping body. An abrupt
and noisy clang signaled the end of travel and jolted me to a stop, leaving
me hanging awkwardly by one arm, with the rest of me sprawled in the
sand at the foot of the pole. I found my knees and knelt up high to
slacken the chain and relieve the cut of the shackle, while my free hand
soothed my burning bottom that throbbed painfully with every beat of
my pounding heart.
On his sleeping pad, a mere rug spread out on the bumpy sand, he undressed,
and amid cursing and fumbling, set up a hookah, and squatted behind it.
After several shaky attempts, he lit a small bed of fiber, the center
of which cradled a small black ball. For several minutes, he slowly inhaled
and exhaled the dense white smoke, until the little ball melted, shrank
away, and flared up and died out. Strings of acrid, pungent smoke, floated
in layers in the stagnant air of the tent and my nostrils filled with
the same unforgettable smell that had wafted over me when I had earlier
walked behind him. Unseen and unheard, I vomited onto the ground and
brushed sand over the splatter with my foot.
Although covered by my torn pants it caught my eye. I could see it
shining through the delicate blue chiffon. His knife. My mind sank to
new levels—a horrid part of me. I would stab him when he came close
to me again—kill him! “He deserved nothing better than to
die,” I thought.
But could I do the deed when the time came? The curved blade of the
knife was more suited to ceremonial dress and cutting through strings
than stabbing through human flesh. Besides, would my wrenched arm possess
the strength to plunge it into him? I flexed my free hand; it closed
If I only wounded him, it would serve no purpose. It would only enrage
the vicious beast within him, and his vengeance would be swift and thorough.
Still shackled and chained to the pole by one arm I would be utterly
at his mercy. Likewise, if I killed him, I could not escape. Others would
find me still chained to the pole, with the bloodied weapon at my feet,
and drag me to the town prison. There, no doubt, a brutal jailor would
unmercifully scourge me, as he would any common murderer, and after he
had done, he would take me to the public square for “beheading
by the sword”.
Wooden Ankle Blocks
There, face down on a long wooden table with my
ankles clamped in heavy wooden blocks, head hanging over the end, my
head would be severed—my exposed neck, taut
and pale, giving deadly aim to the sweep of the scimitar sword.
I took a deep shuddering breath and thought better of my plan to kill
When he next stumbled towards me, I was relieved to see he held nothing
in his hands, other than the key to the shackles. At least he did not
intend to beat me further; instead, he fumbled with the iron shackle
around my wrist springing it open. My aching arm dropped like deadweight,
my twisting shoulder protesting its release with a burst of pain. Grasping
the back of my neck, he pitched me towards his sleeping pad where I stumbled
and sprawled out, half on the pad, half in the sand, the flying sand
dusting and clinging to my damp limbs and sweat-beaded chest.
He tottered back to the pad, lay down on his back, reached out and
pulled in a saddlebag for a pillow.
I could only guess at what he had smoked with his hookah, opium maybe.
Whatever it was, it was truly intoxicating him. His eyes flickered and
rolled up into his head, leaving the sockets filled with grotesque jaundiced
balls—a toppled heathen idol. His loosely parted lips exposed teeth
that looked like a row of broken brown almonds.
Taking himself in his hand, he stroked for a few moments, then seized
me with his other hand and forced me to kneel between his spread legs
and replace his hand with mine.
His penis was thin, short and uncircumcised, and as I pulled down the
foreskin to free the head a smell of stale urine and unwashed skin revolted
my senses. He had not bathed for days, perhaps never in his life. With
my hand, I brought his sticky appendage to full hardness, and hurriedly
clambered on top of him. Nevertheless, I did not slip him into me. I
kept my hand on him and stroked him while I moved my body, pretending,
for his benefit, that he was in me. His breathing quickened and deepened
to short gasps as he released his issue, and in his drowsy intoxicated
state, it went unnoticed that I had used my hand.
I had no qualms about doing it to Jamaal or my Master. I enjoyed pleasing
them that way; they were always clean, sweet tasting, and appreciative.
This man, however, disgusted and sickened me so much that I decided that
if he did not chain me back to the post for the night I would sneak out
after he fell asleep and return to my Master’s tent. I would face
the consequences of leaving my night companion. Nothing could be worse
than pleasuring him.
When his breathing deepened in true oblivion, I picked up his curved
knife and my clothes from the floor, bundled them about me to stave off
the cold, and left his wretched tent.
Moonlight reflecting on the water of the oasis gave me direction, and
I headed downhill to the water’s edge weaving my way between tents,
daintily stepping high over ropes and pegs so as not to trip over them
and rouse sleeping occupants.
At the edge of the water, I knelt down and washed my hands thoroughly
using wet sand to scour away the lingering residue from my filthy encounter.
Splashing water over my face and body, I waded out until the water was
about my waist and waited for the cool water to douse the fire of my
buttocks. Then I flung his knife into the depths and returned to the
shore, dressed as well as I could in my torn clothes, and picked up the
path that led back to Ali’s tent.
A guard intercepted me, recognized my face, and after discreetly glancing
at my partially clothed body, allowed me to pass. I curled up outside
the tent under a piece of canvas and spent the rest of the night’s
cold hours in fitful sleep.
At dawn, I awoke to the sound of muffled voices coming from inside
the tent, sounds of laughter and lovemaking—and the sight of a
small turbaned man crouched on the ground not far away staring straight
at me, with a look of bewilderment on his face. I froze and lay motionless
beneath the canvas, intensely aware of my furiously pounding heart, but
I was of no interest to him, other than to his curiosity.
Shortly thereafter, the Nubian girl appeared in the entrance to the
tent, completely oblivious to my presence, and extended her arm in the
direction of the turbaned man. He rose, tied a rope around her wrist,
and led her away.
Scampering from my hiding place, I entered the tent to find my Master
reclined on his sleeping pad, obviously relishing the afterglow of a
“Sapphira! You are back earlier than I—what is that red
mark on the side of your face?”
“I bumped into a tent pole, Master, it is nothing,” I replied
“Look at your clothes!” he said, jumping to his feet.
He took me by the shoulders and held me in front of him, frowning,
and then lowered my tattered clothes that I had crudely tied about me.
Inspecting his goods for damage, his eyes traveled slowly from my head
to my toes. He saw the bite mark on my breast, made a muffled sound,
and then turned me around and found the angry red welts on my bottom.
“Who did this to you? Who were you with?”
“I don’t know. He told me his name was Sohrab, I think—or
something like that,” I managed to say, before my composure collapsed
and I burst into tears.
“That doesn’t tell me much; what did he beat you with?” he
demanded, after my tears had subsided.
“He was behind me when he beat me. I think it was with a stick.”
“It wasn’t a stick. The lines are too thin to be the work
of a stick; it was a cane. One, two…three, four, five…six
strokes. He’s a swine. And look at your wrist. He shackled you.
Where is his tent?”
“Up on the side of the hill, Master,” I sobbed.
“That doesn’t tell me much either. Could you find it again?”
“I don’t think so, Master, it was dark when I was taken
there, and dark when I fled.”
“Allah help us all! This is not the way it is supposed to be.
God gave women to men, but not the right to beat them, no matter that
she is a slave. He will pay for this abuse of God’s gifts,” he
said, muttering a few choice curses that I will not repeat.
“He is an animal. An ignorant foreigner no doubt. He does not
deserve to be a man. This treatment of you is outrageous. I will avenge
it; I can assure you of that. Next time, if there is a next time, you
will go with someone I know. And, as for him, when I find him, and I
will, he is finished as a man.
“May the curse of God settle on him.”
Turning away, he strode to the entrance and called sharply to someone
beyond, ordering something brought bring to the tent, the name of which
I did not catch. Shortly, to my immediate concern, Talil appeared…with
a vial of ointment in hand.
“Sapphira was caned last night. See to it that she is cared for
properly. Bathe her and spread the ointment where she has been hurt.
Be gentle with her and let her rest afterwards.”
“Yes, Master,” replied Talil.
Ali dressed, Talil walked behind him to the opening in the sidewall
of the tent, and saw him out and on his way for the day.
Talil turned to me. “What happened? What did you do that inflamed
the Master to this?” he asked angrily.
“It was not the Master. I was with another man last night. He
did it to me. I knocked him over. It was an accident, but he still beat
“Ah, now I understand, because Ali does not permit anyone to
be caned or whipped since we moved to Makram. Please turn around. Let
me see the place of your torment.
“Oh, may Allah comfort you. This is a terrible. This is the work
of an uncivilized animal with no talent or understanding. A girl has
to feel her master’s anger, of course, but never this severely
for an accident or small offence. A smack with the hand would be enough.
Small wonder the Master is furious. Your tormenter should have known
better than to damage the jewel of the harem.”
“Jewel of the harem? Who calls me that?” I asked, stirred
by pride and the thought that it might be Ali.
“Mustafa and I do, because since you arrived there is a new sparkle
about the palace that comes from you.”
“It comes from the name Sapphira,” I countered, with a
smile full of false modesty.
“It is more than just your name. We notice that Ali is settled
now and more thoughtful and passionate about life. You have refreshed
his being and we want to keep it that way. It is good for everybody.
“Come let me bathe you, and make you well again.”
His gentle caring was a complete surprise so far removed from my first
impression of him—my chilling encounter with him at my first showing.
He bathed me gently and continued his polite chatter.
“When you first came to the harem I imagined you would cause
trouble with the other girls, because at your first showing you stood
proudly and looked defiantly at the Master, almost with disrespect. But
you are not the kind of girl I thought you were. We are all delighted
to have you with us.”
“And you are not the kind of person I though you were,” I
replied, carefully avoiding the word man.
“What was your name before you were enslaved?”
“Mariyah,” I replied.
“You have two enchanting names. If I was to have a daughter I
would want to call her Mariyah.”
Talil bathed away any unpleasant thoughts from my night encounter,
and after he applied the ointment, he left me to rest. I lay on my front,
with my head on my arms, thinking of my Master and the concern he had
shown for me. Pleased with my painful achievement, I allowed myself to
wear a secret smile of satisfaction and dozed the morning away.
Ali returned shortly after noon and, after my assurances that I felt
much better, told me that he would take me for a leisurely walk into
town and buy our mid-day meal from one of the many street vendors.
“They do it in Europe you know.”
“Do what Master?” I asked.
“Take their women out with them.”
“It’s a lovely custom, you’re very modern in your
ways, Sire,” I said, in subtle flattery that he accepted with a
nod and proud smile.
“Before we go, let me see your welts. How are they? Are you well
enough to walk about?” He raised the hem of my skirt; I wiggled
my bottom imperceptibly—I thought.
“I see you are feeling better,” he chuckled, as he gently
felt the ridges before letting the hem fall back. “And so you should.
That ointment is expensive, we use it on our best horses when they have
been cropped too strenuously,” he added, bursting into laughter.
Horse medicine! Now, what do I make of that?
Next chapter in the book
A SMALL GIFT
I dressed in a burqa, covered from head to toe, because I
did not want my awful night companion to recognize me should our paths
cross. It would only cause a disturbance between him and my Master and
would spoil our outing. Ali, I knew, would handle Sohrab in his own way,
at his own time.
Free online love story Harem Girl