This story is inspired by the history of the castle that lies in the vicinity of the city of Belmour, which was called Thamascani during the Roman Empire.
May God bless you, Sidi Okba, you magical city. The daughter of the Romans sings and dances to the beat of the morning breeze rustling the grass in the fields. She knows her wishes are her father’s commands. What is it this beauty will want next, the oil from the olive trees that grow in this neck of the woods or the fish of the sea? Rejoice, you lucky bastard, for you can have it all. Sleep, Sidi Okba, and don’t worry, because we will watch over the land handed down to us and cultivate it with the seed of our dreams.
The castles of the area have weathered all sorts of calamities in the past and have withstood the passage of time with dignity, the kind maintained over generations by those who inhabit these parts. Bella is smitten with the taste of their pose and asks her father, Tary, the one always about to strike you with a dirty sandal, to build her a castle that resembles the ones of Sidi Okba, in the land of Cerez, sorry, I mean, the land of Thamascani. He refuses at first, but then winds up yielding to her plea, for how could he deny anything to his sunshine?
With a pack of beast-like hombres, he starts building the castle on top of a hill covered in forests; also, with the same strategic mind that has led him to teach his daughter the iron-fist approach he takes in governing his people, which included my grandparents. For the castle’s erection, he uses the stones the Romans have left behind, who, all being said, haven’t been all that considerate towards our ancestors either.
Suddenly, the construction of the castle, which has settled into a steady rhythm, is brought to a halt. Alawa has found a golden spoon in the ground. He summons Tary and her daughter to show it to them. Bella is struck dumb by his discovery and voices her speechlessness screaming, “This land produces gold! Dad, can we stay here forever?”
“Of course, my dear!” replies her dad without a second thought.
Alawa bites his tongue. He is fuming at his utter lack of spine. Also, why on earth do they get to stay despite being so nasty to everyone around them? He would rather die than see that happen. And so, he raises his shovel.
He didn’t mean to hit Tary, at least not that hard. He just needed him to break free from his stupefaction, become aware of the repercussions of his actions and lack thereof, and acknowledge that there is another force to be reckoned with: the legitimate owners of what he has come to think of as his private playground.
It seems like the blow he sustained to the head served its purpose. Daughter and father get down on their knees and beg for forgiveness. Alawa seizes the opportunity to pledge his fealty to his kin, “This is the land of my forefathers and I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep it that way.”
“Roger that, Alawa,” Tary rejoins, scared stiff of his spiritedness.
Written by Ahmed Belgoumri.