I am researching and writing a novel set against the backdrop of the First World War. It is partly set in Australia: Margaret River and the Tumut Valley and in London and the Middle East. It is a time-split novel and has two casts of characters who are connected across time. And the research is a such joy!
One character is botanist and and another an artist who live a hundred years apart yet are connected by botanicals. The modern day botanist brings abandoned gardens to life and the hundred years ago artist paints images of the wildflowers she has collected.
One of my male characters joins the Light Horse Regiment (conveniently raised in Western Australia where part of the novel is set) and another travels to England and becomes a pilot.
The 10th Australian Light Horse Regiment AIF was the only AIF regiment recuited in Western Australia during the First World War.
My research lead me to the city of Damascus.
In 1917 the 10th Light Horse Regiment were part of the Desert Column that advanced into Palestine. The regiment participated in the bloody battles to break the Gaza-Beersheba line and helped capture Jerusalem. They participated in the Es Salt Raid in May 1918. In August they were one of the regiments re-equipped with swords and rifle boots, and retrained to take a more orthodox cavalry role. In their new role they took part in the rout of the Ottoman army in the Jordan Valley, a campaign the light horse referred to as ‘The Great Ride’. In September the 10th was the first formed regiment to enter Damascus.
I spent time in Egypt some years ago and felt a connection to the culture and the history of the Middle East so a great joy for me while researching was my discovery of the poet Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani and his exquisite poetry.
Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani (Arabic: نزار توفيق قباني, Nizār Tawfīq Qabbānī) (21 March 1923 – 30 April 1998) was a Syrian diplomat, poet and publisher. His poetic style combines simplicity and elegance in exploring themes of love, eroticism, feminism, religion, and Arab nationalism. Qabbani is one of the most revered contemporary poets in the Arab world.
Nizar Qabbani was born in the Syrian capital of Damascus to a middle class merchant family. Qabbani was raised in Mi’thnah Al-Shahm, one of the neighborhoods of Old Damascus.
Part of Verse 14: Damascus, What are you Doing to Me.
I put on the jubbah of Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-Arabi
I descend from the peak of Mt. Qassiun
Carrying for the children of the city . . .
And sesame halawa . . .
And for its women . . .
Necklaces of turquoise . . .
And poems of love . . .
I enter . . .
A long tunnel of sparrows
Gillyflowers . . .
Hibiscus . . .
Clustered jasmine . . .
And I enter the questions of perfume . . .
- A Syrian cat sitting behind a jasmine vine
Have a wonderful day (I am spending the afternoon with friends at a lovely house with a walled garden).