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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What is it about Ancient Egypt? Why are we regularly inundated (pun not originally intended) with TV and documentary programs showing dried out smelly looking mummies and views of decrepit pyramids? Anyone would think that there were no other ancient civilisations besides Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of the magnificent ruins and monuments, many meticulously restored, of Ancient Greece and Rome. I bypassed Egypt because you can see it anytime on TV, and quite frankly the endless expanses of desert are quite depressing.

Bored of the same old, same old? Interested in discovering a living, but very old civilization? (The Greek, Roman and Egyptian ones don’t look too healthy at the moment). Then you can’t go past the vibrant and colourful Airyanem civilization, currently well and thriving… but struggling to regain its freedom in the Middle East.

Funny name that you haven’t heard of before? Yes, and it’s been a well-kept secret that today’s Kurds (those of Saddam Hussein’s attempted and partly successful genocide attempt) are harbouring the cultural gems of their past and present which they are more than willing to showcase  to the world.

So spit the Egyptian dust out, forget the horrors of the Colosseum and the crowds at the Parthenon and visit Ancient Media, the cradle of Middle Eastern Airyanem civilization, with its aqua blue rushing rivers, and its sparkling snow-capped peaks whose spring poppies and daisies covered the land of Queen Vashti, wife of King Astyages who later married Queen Esther of Jewish Purim fame.

Never heard of Queen Vashti? Not surprising, how many campaigners for freedom and human rights have disappeared mysteriously (or obviously) amidst more dominant and violent cultures?

Not unlike today’s female Kurdish guerrillas, Queen Vashti gave everything in her fight for women’s rights in the Ancient Median Empire, now Kurdistan. Others of her descendants still make their black woollen tents and festoon their horses with multi-coloured tassles matching their ornate jewellery. But sadly huge circles of elaborately dressed dancers accompanied by plaintive music no longer celebrate in the great Imperial Sar Kali palace, now partly buried under the city of Hamadan, Iran, while its residents rest entombed on nearby Mount Alvand.

Set in the pivotal era of King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, Cyrus the Great’s Persia and the Jewish exile, the novel Vashti Queen of the Ancient Medes follows the struggles of the Medes to protect their young empire from internal and external threats. (Sounds very familiar to Kurds today.)

Torn between her family’s expectations and her reluctance to commit to marriage to the wayward yet alluring (really ‘hot’) heir to the throne, Vashti succumbs to her love for Astyages and her desire to be queen.

The story of the Hilary Clinton of the ancient Middle East has been uncovered by Kurdish American Hamma Mirwaisi and written by Australian Alison Buckley. When you’ve read it, please recommend it to Mrs Clinton for her retirement reading, not forgetting your culturally starved and historically uninformed friends, family, fellow facebookers, twitterers, bloggers, racing pigeon enthusiasts, smoke and morse code signallers and all your other socially networked acquaintances.

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