PIRATE AND MERMAID
Some years ago a tall tower stood at the extreme end of Cape Marabata; the Christians called Torre Blanquilla (White Tower) and it was known to the Mohammedans as El-Minar. All day long the tower looked out on the sea; at night it was lulled to sleep by the murmur of the wind on the water. It was an ancient tower whose walls were covered with gnarled vines; scorpions hid between her stones, and evil jinn gathered nearby at nightfall. The gypsies, who knew about all things, said the tower was built by the Portuguese who came here to fight against the Mohammedans. The mountaineers of Andjera are better informed; they say the tower was built by Lass el-Behar the pirate in order to hide his treasures within its walls.
Lass el-Behar came from Rabat. He was a skillful navigator; and skilled at an even more difficult art- that of commanding men. The Spaniards and Italians knew his name only too well. El-Behar's frigate was slender and light as a swallow; the oars of a hundred Christian galley slaves made it skim swiftly over the waves. The ship was greatly feared because of the boldness of her sailors and her many cannons, each different from the other, which the pirate had captured from Christian vessels of various nationalities.
Lass el-Behar was young, handsome and brave. Many a captive Christian woman fell deeply in love with him as did the daughters of rich and powerful Mohammedans. But he rejected the love of Christians and mohammedans alike, for his ship meant more to him then the beauty of women. He loved his ship, the companionship of his valiant warriors, and the glorious battles which were later to be celebrated in songs & poetry. Above all, it was the sea he loved; He loved her with so deep a passion that he could not live away from her, and he spoke to her as men speak to their sweethearts. His warriors would say that at the hour of prayer he would turn his eyes away from the direction of Mecca in order to gaze at the sea.
On the day of Aid el-Kbir (sheep sacrifice), Lass el-Behar, who was in the village of El-Minar with his companions-in-arms, declined to go to Tangier to hear the sermon of the cadi and to pray in the company of the devout.
“Go if you must” he said to his men. “As for me I shall rest here.”
He shut himself up in his tower; from there he could contemplate the sea and the ships as they moved slowly on the horizon. The charqui, more breeze than wind, made the water dance under the warm summer light. “The best sermon of the cadi,” thought el-Behar “could never equal the beauty of this scene? What prayer, be it ever so perfect, could equal the sweet murmur of rippling waters? What on earth is as powerful as the sea, which stretches from one shore of the world to the other? Oh would that the waves were a woman so that I might marry her, and the ocean a mosque in which I might pray.”
As these thoughts were running through his mind a storm gathered in the west; it swept over the plains and the mountains, and roared about the tower. The sea gulls cried out in fright and flew away; flocks of sheep ran frantically to their enclosures. The tempest lasted a day and a night.
When the wind quieted down and the sea ceased to bellow like a thousand oxen, Lass el-Behar descended from his tower. On the narrow band of sand which lay between the rocks and the water he saw a woman lying stretched out, white and cold. He approached closer.
“She must be a christian,” He said to himself, “for her hair is the color of new gold.”
He lifted her up and took her in his arms.
“Perhaps she is still alive.”
The woman opened her eyes; they were green eyes, green as the algae that grows in the cracks of rocks. She was a bahria, a jinniyeh (female genie) of the sea. Her beauty was magic and el-Behar fell madly in love with her. He neglected his warriors; he forgot about his swift galley, his glory, even his prayers to Allah.
“I love you more than anything else on earth,” he said to her, “more than my life and my salvation”
During the equinox the furious sea again hammered at the tower and threatened the village nearby. Her waters mingled with those of the Charf River and even reached the garden of Tanger el-Balia.
“The ocean is going to smash our tower,” said the pirate to his beloved, “let us flee to the mountains.”
“Why fear the ocean?” asked the bahria with a smile. “Don't you love her above all things? Aren't you constantly praising her force and her power? Don't you turn your head away from the direction of Mecca in order to gaze out to sea? I am a daughter of the sea. I came here to reward you for the love you bear her. Now the sea calls me back. Farewell, Lass el-behar, you shall never see me again.”
“Don't leave me,” implored the pirate “don't leave me, I beg of you. Without you I shall never know happiness.”
“Happiness,” answered the bahria, “belongs only to those who fear Allah and honor him. I must leave you. I dare not disobey the voice that calls me, but you may follow me if you wish.”
The jinniyeh wandered off with the tide and Lass el-Behar followed her into the murky depths of the sea. Nor was he ever seen again. He sleeps under the waves between Tarik Mountain (Gibraltar) and Cape Tres-Forcas. He will not waken until that day when men will be judged for their actions and the earth will be a shadow of a shadow which will finally disappear.
For Allah is the Almighty One.