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Friday, 19 April 2024

Gilgamesh in Jericho

Columns

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER   

Drifting King of Uruk within sniffing distance of Abode of Noah?


The death of Enkidu weighed heavily on Gilgamesh’s mind. He just could not get over it no matter how hard he tried.   His sorrowing was two-pronged.  First, he had lost a great friend, in fact the greatest of them all. 

Second, he was again confronted with the reality of the enemy he hated and dreaded the most – death. The same dilemma of yesteryears laid siege to him again: why should he die like Enkidu when he was three-quarters Anunnaki, more than a demigod? No, he said to himself, death was something that he had to avoid at all costs ad with every fibre of his being. And if he was indeed to ward it off, he should not trace his way back to Uruk but soldier on to Tilmun, the Anunnaki spaceport in the Sinai Peninsula. There, he’d either plead his way into a space-bound rocket or seek Noah, the hero of the Deluge, to boost him with the Elixir of Youth. Then death would be banished forever!

Now, without a ship, how was he going to get to Tilmun? He could hike a passing ship, which would be all too easy for him being a renowned king, but suppose there was another sabotage shipwreck or chance shipwreck and this time around he died?  He just could not afford to take chances when he was on his way to possibly attain immortality. The safer route to take, he reckoned, was the overland one, bang on foot. It would be arduous and likely perilous given the vagaries of weather and the beasts of prey that roamed the vast expanse of the mid-eastern wilds.  To get to Tilmun, he would have to traverse a distance of about 550 leagues, roughly 3000 km.

We’re talking months here, not mere days or weeks. But the task at hand far from daunted him. He had made lengthy overland ventures on foot in the past along with his father Lugalbanda as well as Enkidu himself and therefore was a seasoned adventurer. The only difference was that whereas in the past he had been with plenty of company, this time around he’d be all by himself. 

Salvaging what he could from the wrecked ship, in terms of both food and weaponry, the familiar bow and arrow and an axe, he set off alone, desolate with sorrow, on arguably the most daring journey of his life.   “To Utnapishtim (Noah) the son of Ubar-Tutu (Lamech), he took the road,” says The Epic of Gilgamesh.

THE TRAVAILS OF THE TRAVELLER

The journey was gruelling and bereft of certainty: every direction was a gamble. It was literally a leap in the dark. “He trod unbeaten paths, encountering no man, hunting for food,” the ancient scribes document for us.  "What mountains he climbed, what streams he crossed, no man can know.”

As he trudged along, Gilgamesh kept up a mental dialogue with himself and a constant invocation of his gods. During the day, he prayed to Shamash, the Sun God, and during the night, he prayed to Nannar-Sin, the Moon God. And all the while, Enkidu continue to sit astride his mind still.  “For his friend, Enkidu, Gilgamesh wept bitterly as he ranged over the wilderness.” At the same time, he implored the gods to keep death well at bay, to preserve his life as he journeyed along, as he was determined to reach the Land of the Living.

“With woe in his belly, fearing death, he roamed the wilderness … Must I lay my head inside the earth and sleep through all the years? he wondered to his gods. When I die, shall I not as Enkidu be? Let mine eyes behold the sun, let me have my fill of light, he begged of the gods.”

Although he ate frugally, the food he had carried in his haversack could not sustain him forever. When it ran out, he had only two possible means of sustenance – wild animals and wild fruits. That again depended on how hospitable a habitat was to flora and fauna. So far, he had been matching down generally barren land, with lizards and scorpions as the only creatures he encountered, both of which were not in the least appetising. 

During the day, the desert sun blazed down on him, severely taxing his energies, and during the night the extreme cold of the desert stung him to virtual immobility. But if his great friend Enkidu had passed on, boldness now was his friend. He swore to himself he would persevere for as long as he had   the merest ounce of energy in him. Occasionally, he’d encounter an oasis and would drink gargantuan quantities of water. Once in a very long while, he’d come across desertic plants and would greedily feed on the sap of their roots.   

GILGAMESH TANGLES WITH TWO LIONS – AND TRIUMPHS!

Amid his travails nonetheless, Gilgamesh was gaining ground and instinct – or was it his gods – was leading him in the right direction. He had unwittingly been heading due northwest.  “As day followed day, the terrain began to change: the flat desert wilderness, home of lizards and scorpions, was ending and he could see mountains in the distance. The wildlife was also changing.” This development gave him a tremendous fillip, only  for his spirits to sag yet again.

Having set foot in what he hoped was Nannar-Sin’s territory, that is Canaan, and arriving at a mountain pass at dusk, he from a distance spotted a pride of desert lions lying as if in ambush. He felt an almost numbing chill crawl up his spine.  He couldn’t run, for even if he still had the energy to do so, they would catch up with him anyway. And the idea of making a U-turn was simply out of question. He’d rather he was mauled by the lions than make a retreat.

The first thing he did was to pray to the god of the region, Sin. “To the place where the gods rejuvenate my steps are directed … Preserve thou me!” The prayers steadied his nerves and eventually  he fell asleep as he sat leaning against a rock. It was a sound sleep in that he dreamt. And the dream was all joy and happiness and not gloom and doom.

When he woke up in the middle of the  night, he was buoyed up as he interpreted the dream  to mean he would prevail against all odds. Thus inspirited,  he advanced to confront the still lingering giant cats, armed only with a  bow and arrows and a tucked in axe. He had to be pin-point accurate in his aim: the lions were quite a number and he only had a limited number of arrows.

He had his well-honed hunting skills to thank. “Gilgamesh like an arrow descended among the lions, striking the beasts with all his strength.” Unfortunately, he ran out of arrows when there were two more lions to take care of. To tackle these ones, he had to employ another weapon. Enkidu had taught him how to fight the fiercest beasts but since he wasn’t at full strength, engaging two full-grown  lions in combat at one go would be foolhardy.

Bravely inching closer, he drew his axe from his belt and squared up to fight them. He was indomitable.  He pole-axed the more menacing one first. When the other saw what he had done to its companion, it charged at him, but he dodged in the nick of time. Minutes later, man had triumphed:  the King of Beasts was slain by the King of Uruk. “He smote them, he hacked away at them,”  The Epic of Gilgamesh says.

The Gilgamesh feat was commemorated throughout the ancient world by artists who included the Hittites, the Cassites, the Egyptians, and the Mayans of the northern Andes in South America. A Sumerian cylinder seal, from circa 1700 BC, which illustrated scenes from the epic tale, shows a half-naked and unkempt Gilgamesh battling the two lions. The Old Testament’s Samson story – of him  killing a lion (JUDGES 14:4-6) – was modelled on the Gilgamesh story.

Having vanquished the lions, Gilgamesh first threw a  party,  exhilarated that his destruction of the two beasts, practically  with his bare hands, was a very good omen indeed. “He ate their flesh as raw meat, with their skins he clothed himself … It was an omen that he will  overcome all obstacles, he believed.”

GILGAMESH IN CANAAN AT LONG LAST!

Early the following morning, Gilgamesh proceeded to cross the mountain pass, trekking in a much more purposeful  manner now having traversed a distance of over 375 leagues, or 2100 km. A huge sense of relief suffused him when at the foot of the mountain he spotted two major landmarks. 

The first was a shimmering body of water, a “low-lying sea that looked like a vast lake” which he would later learn was “driven by long winds.”  Gilgamesh knew about what his people called the “Salt Sea” or the “Sea of the Waters of Death”. In the Bible, it is called Yam Hamelalb, meaning “The Sea of Salt”. Today, we call it the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the only one of its kind in the world. At 430 metres below sea level, it is the lowest body of water on the planet.  The sea is the world’s most saline (salty) and it is so saturated with dissolved minerals that it cannot sustain plant or marine life, the reason it is called a dead sea.

The second principal landmark Gilgamesh made out about 15 km into the plain adjoining the inland sea was a “closed up about” city “whose temple was dedicated to Sin”. This was a city fortified with a wall. In the Bible, the city is called Yeriho, meaning “Moon City”. This is Jericho in English. Jericho was named in honour of Nannar-Sin, the Anunnaki’s Moon God who was the overall god of   Canaan.  Jericho was Gilgamesh’s first encounter with civilisation after months of endless wandering. One of the oldest cities in the world, Jericho was in existence as early as 7000 BC and had been a flourishing urban centre since 3500 BC. The saga of Gilgamesh happened circa 2900 BC.

Skirting the Dead Sea, Gilgamesh headed in the direction of Jericho, at whose outskirts he saw what looked like  an inn. As he drew nearer, he saw a woman who was holding “a jug of ale, a bowl of golden porridge.” Gilgamesh’s unkempt appearance threw a shudder into her. "He is clad in skins … His belly is shrunk … His face is wind-bitten and battered. His face is like a wayfarer from afar.” Being all alone and concerned that he might be dangerous, she retreated into the inn and bolted herself in. 

For some time, Gilgamesh paced up and down the premises before he began knocking on the door intently. When she asked him who he was, he told her he was not a savage but was actually a monarch called Gilgamesh, the famous King of Uruk, and that there was no way he could harm her. In fact, he needed her help. Since he sounded gentlemanly, she unbolted the door and invited him in  but not without a residual sense of trepidation.

SIDURI CONFIRMS NOAH’S EXISTENCE

When the two sat across from each other, the lady introduced herself as “Siduri, the Ale Woman”. She was the owner of the tarvern she was running and brewed her own beer and Gilgamesh was quick to note that indeed there were   fermentation vats all around them. Siduri then asked him why he looked more like a tramp or criminal than a king. Gilgamesh patiently recounted to her all that he had been through, including encounters with Huwawa at the Cedar Mountains, the Gudanna at Uruk, the shipwreck in the Strait of Ormuz, the death of Enkidu, and the confrontation with the  desert lions at a mountain pass. 

 “I’m still grieving for Enkidu,” he said. “It was he who made me a better man many times over  and taught me a whole host of skills, including wrestling with beasts. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have had a prayer against those lions.” Since Gilgamesh wasn’t smelling that great, Siduri prepared him water to bath and whilst he was away she prepared food. About an hour later, Gilgamesh emerged from the bathroom.

Siduri was amazed at his wholesale transformation: he looked one hell of a hunk and almost as light-skinned as the gods – the Anunnaki.  She was now coming round to the conviction that he really did mean what he said: he was a king. It were months of hardship, the  caked dirt, and the dishevelled hair  that made him look so revolting and so disreputable. “I’m impressed,” she said as they ate together, looking at him admiringly now. “You look like a god.” 

Gilgamesh smiled. “I’m actually more than two-thirds god,” he said. “My father Lugalbanda was the son of the goddess Inanna-Ishtar. My mum Ninsun is a full goddess: she’s a daughter of the great god Enki and the great goddess Ninmah.”  “You surely have a great pedigree,” she said. “So what brings you here?”

“I come in search of my ancestor Utnapistim (Noah), the hero of the Deluge,” he said. “I’m given to understand that he’s still alive and he lives in the Land of the Living near Tilmun.  I’m hopeful that if I meet him, he’ll provide me with the Elixir of Life and I too will live forever like him, like the gods. My friend Enkidu was overtaken by the fate that awaits all mankind: he’s turned to clay. I want to avoid ending up like him.””

“Utnapishtim is very much alive  yes,” she admitted. “I have it on good authority that he dwells in the Land of the Living and has aged only marginally compared to the way he looked during the Deluge. So you seek immortality Gilgamesh? You too want to be like Utnapishtim?”
  “Correct. I don’t wish to die. After all, I have more of the gods’ blood in me than a mortal’s.”

GILGAMESH REFERRED TO NOAH’S BOATMAN

Siduri first laughed before she advised him to be content with his condition as a mortal and make the most of his sojourn in this world. But Gilgamesh simply was not persuaded. “What is the quickest way to Tilmun?” he asked. “Is it across the body of water or circling it overland through the desolate mountains?”

Siduri said the quickest route was across the Dead Sea but it  didn’t matter anyway: he’d never make it. “The Sea of the Waters of Death is impossible to cross,” she told him. “From days of long ago, no one arrived from across the sea. Valiant Shamash did cross the sea, but other than Shamash, who can cross it? Toilsome is the crossing, desolate is its way.  Barren are the Waters of Death which it encloses. How then, Gilgamesh, wouldst thou cross the sea?”

Paraphrased, what Siduri was saying was that only Shamash, the Lord of Tilmun, was able to cross the Dead Sea and that from the beginning of time, no mortal had ever been able to replicate his feat. The sea was so stormy and treacherous that even if Gilgamesh was to survive the ordeal of the crossing, he would still succumb to the poisonous Waters of Death.

For a while, Gilgamesh silently pondered what he had heard. It seemed there was no end to the obstacles on the way to Tilmun,  that every ray of hope was immediately nullified by a new road retarder. Noting that the man  from Uruk looked troubled, Siduri decided to lift his spirits a bit. She disclosed to him that Noah had a boatman who worked for him and his name was Urshanabi. Urshanabi, she said, lived in the forest where he kept custody of certain treasures of Noah.

He was the only mortal capable of navigating the waters of the Dead Sea. “Urshanabi comes across from time to time for supplies,” she said. “Go and wait for him, let him see your face. If it suits him, he will take you across the sea to Utnapishtim’s abode on a raft made of logs.” The revelation no doubt excited Gilgamesh. He straightaway asked for directions to Urshanabi’s cottage. Siduri did likewise, then said, with a suggestive wink, “If you don’t find him, please come back to me.” Clearly, the lone lady was smitten by the giant and good-looking royal. 
  
NEXT WEEK:  EUREKA MOMENT FOR GILGAMESH!

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GONE FISHING

28th March 2023

In recent years, using personal devices in working environments has become so commonplace it now has its own acronym, BOYD (Bring Your Own Device).  But as employees skip between corporate tools and personal applications on their own devices, their actions introduce a number of possible risks that should be managed and mitigated with careful consideration.  Consider these examples:

Si-lwli, a small family-run business in Wales, is arguably as niche a company as you could find, producing talking toys used to promote the Welsh language. Their potential market is small, with only some 300,000 Welsh language speakers in the world and in reality the business is really more of a hobby for the husband-and-wife team, who both still have day jobs.  Yet, despite still managing to be successful in terms of sales, the business is now fighting for survival after recently falling prey to cybercriminals. Emails between Si-Iwli and their Chinese suppliers were intercepted by hackers who altered the banking details in the correspondence, causing Si-Iwli to hand over £18,000 (around P ¼ m) to the thieves. That might not sound much to a large enterprise, but to a small or medium business it can be devastating.

Another recent SMB hacking story which appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerned Innovative Higher Ed Consulting (IHED) Inc, a small New York start-up with a handful of employees. IHED didn’t even have a website, but fraudsters were able to run stolen credit card numbers through the company’s payment system and reverse the charges to the tune of $27,000, around the same loss faced by Si-Iwli.  As the WSJ put it, the hackers completely destroyed the company, forcing its owners to fold.

And in May 2019, the city of Baltimore’s computer system was hit by a ransomware attack, with hackers using a variant called RobinHood. The hack, which has lasted more than a month, paralysed the computer system for city employees, with the hackers demanding a payment in Bitcoin to give access back to the city.

Of course, hackers target governments or business giants  but small and medium businesses are certainly not immune. In fact, 67% of SMBs reported that they had experienced a cyber attack across a period of 12 months, according to a 2018 survey carried out by security research firm Ponemon Institute. Additionally, Verizon issued a report in May 2019 that small businesses accounted for 43% of its reported data breaches.  Once seen as less vulnerable than PCs, smartphone attacks are on the rise, with movements like the Dark Caracal spyware campaign underlining the allure of mobile devices to hackers. Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission released a statement calling for greater education on mobile security, coming at a time when around 42% of all Android devices are believed to not carry the latest security updates.

This is an era when employees increasingly use their smartphones for work-related purposes so is your business doing enough to protect against data breaches on their employees’ phones? The SME Cyber Crime Survey 2018 carried out for risk management specialists AON showed that more than 80% of small businesses did not view this as a threat yet if as shown, 67% of SMBs were said to have been victims of hacking, either the stats are wrong or business owners are underestimating their vulnerability.  A 2019 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests the latter, stating that the majority of global businesses are unprepared for cyber attacks.

Consider that a workstation no longer means a desk in an office: It can be a phone in the back of a taxi or Uber; a laptop in a coffee shop, or a tablet in an airport lounge.  Wherever the device is used, employees can potentially install applications that could be harmful to your business, even from something as seemingly insignificant as clicking on an accidental download or opening a link on a phishing email.  Out of the physical workplace, your employees’ activities might not have the same protections as they would on a company-monitored PC.

Yet many businesses not only encourage their employees to work remotely, but assume working from coffee shops, bookstores, and airports can boost employees’ productivity.  Unfortunately, many remote hot spots do not provide secure Wi-Fi so if your employee is accessing their work account on unsecured public Wi-Fi,  sensitive business data could be at risk. Furthermore, even if your employee uses a company smartphone or has access to company data through a personal mobile device, there is always a chance data could be in jeopardy with a lost or stolen device, even information as basic as clients’ addresses and phone numbers.

BOYDs are also at risk from malware designed to harm and infect the host system, transmittable to smartphones when downloading malicious third-party apps.  Then there is ransomware, a type of malware used by hackers to specifically take control of a system’s data, blocking access or threatening to release sensitive information unless a ransom is paid such as the one which affected Baltimore.  Ransomware attacks are on the increase,  predicted to occur every 14 seconds, potentially costing billions of dollars per year.

Lastly there is phishing – the cyber equivalent of the metaphorical fishing exercise –  whereby  cybercriminals attempt to obtain sensitive data –usernames, passwords, credit card details –usually through a phoney email designed to look legitimate which directs the user to a fraudulent website or requests the data be emailed back directly. Most of us like to think we could recognize a phishing email when we see it, but these emails have become more sophisticated and can come through other forms of communication such as messaging apps.

Bottom line is to be aware of the potential problems with BOYDs and if in doubt,  consult your IT security consultants.  You can’t put the own-device genie back in the bottle but you can make data protection one of your three wishes!

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“I Propose to Diana Tonight”

28th March 2023

About five days before Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed landed in Paris, General Atiku, a certain Edward Williams was taking a walk in a woods in the Welsh town of Mountain Ash. Williams, then 73, was a psychic of some renown. He had in the past foretold assassination attempts on US President Ronald Reagan, which occurred on March 30, 1981, and Pope John Paul II, which came to pass on May 13, 1981.

As he trudged the woods, Williams  had a sudden premonition that pointed to Diana’s imminent fate as per Christopher Andersen’s book The Day Diana Died. “When the vision struck me, it was as if everything around me was obscured and replaced by shadowy figures,” Williams was later to reminisce. “In the middle was the face of Princess Diana. Her expression was sad and full of pathos. She was wearing what looked like a floral dress with a short dark cardigan. But it was vague. I went cold with fear and knew it was a sign that she was in danger.”

Williams hastily beat a retreat to his home, which he shared with his wife Mary, and related to her his presentiment, trembling like an aspen leaf as he did so. “I have never seen him so upset,” Mary recounted. “He felt he was given a sign and when he came back from his walk he was deeply shaken.”

The following day, Williams frantically sauntered into a police station to inform the police of his premonition. The officer who attended to him would have dismissed him as no more than a crackpot but he treated him seriously in view of the accuracy of his past predictions. He  took a statement and immediately passed it on to the Special Branch Investigative  Unit.

The report read as follows:

“On 27 August, at 14:12 hrs, a man by the name of Edward Williams came to Mountain Ash police station. He said he was a psychic and predicted that Princess Diana was going to die. In previous years, he has predicted that the Pope and Ronald Reagan were going to be the victims of assassination attempts. On both occasions he was proved to be correct. Mr Williams appeared to be quite normal.”

Williams, General, was spot-on as usual: four days later, the princess was no more.

Meanwhile, General,  even as Dodi and Diana were making their way to the Fayed-owned Ritz Hotel in central Paris, British newspapers were awash with headlines that suggested Diana was kind of deranged. Writes Andrew Morton in Diana in Pursuit of Love: “In The Independent Diana was described as ‘a woman with fundamentally nothing to say about anything’. She was ‘suffering from a form of arrested development’. ‘Isn’t it time she started using her head?’ asked The Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Mirror printed a special supplement entitled ‘A Story of Love’; The News of the World claimed that William had demanded that Diana should split from Dodi: ‘William can’t help it, he just doesn’t like the man.’ William was reportedly ‘horrified’ and ‘doesn’t think Mr Fayed is good for his mother’ – or was that just the press projecting their own prejudices? The upmarket Sunday Times newspaper, which had first serialised my biography of the princess, now put her in the psychiatrist’s chair for daring to be wooed by a Muslim. The pop-psychologist Oliver James put Diana ‘On the Couch’, asking why she was so ‘depressed’ and desperate for love. Other tabloids piled in with dire prognostications – about Prince Philip’s hostility to the relationship, Diana’s prospect of exile, and the social ostracism she would face if she married Dodi.”

DIANA AND DODI AT THE RITZ

Before Diana and Dodi departed the Villa Windsor sometime after 16 hrs, General, one of Dodi’s bodyguards Trevor Rees-Jones furtively asked Diana as to what the programme for the evening was. This Trevor did out of sheer desperation as Dodi had ceased and desisted from telling members of his security detail, let alone anyone else for that matter, what his onward destination was for fear that that piece of information would be passed on to the paparazzi. Diana kindly obliged Trevor though her response was terse and scarcely revealing. “Well, eventually we will be going out to a restaurant”, that was all Diana said. Without advance knowledge of exactly what restaurant that was, Trevor and his colleagues’ hands were tied: they could not do a recce on it as was standard practice for the security team of a VIP principal.  Dodi certainly, General, was being recklessly by throwing such caution to the winds.

At about 16:30, Diana and Dodi drew up at the Ritz Hotel, where they were received by acting hotel manager Claude Roulet.  The front entrance of the hotel was already crawling with paparazzi, as a result of which the couple took the precaution of using the rear entrance, where hopefully they would make their entry unperturbed and unmolested. The first thing they did when they were ensconced in the now $10,000 a night Imperial Suite was to spend some time on their mobiles and set about touching base with friends, relations, and associates.  Diana called at least two people, her clairvoyant friend Rita Rogers and her favourite journalist Richard Kay of The Daily Mail.

Rita, General,  was alarmed that Diana had proceeded to venture to Paris notwithstanding the warning she had given Dodi and herself in relation to what she had seen of him  in the crystal ball when the couple had consulted her. When quizzed as to what the hell she indeed was doing in Paris at that juncture, Diana replied that she and Dodi had simply come to do some shopping, which though partially true was not the material reason they were there. “But Diana, remember what I told Dodi,” Rita said somewhat reprovingly. Diana a bit apprehensively replied, “Yes I remember. I will be careful. I promise.” Well,  she did not live up to her promise as we shall soon unpack General.

As for Richard Kay, Diana made known to him that, “I have decided I am going to radically change my life. I am going to complete my obligations to charities and to the anti-personnel land mines cause, but in November I want to completely withdraw from formal public life.”

Once she was done with her round of calls, Diana went down to the hair saloon by the hotel swimming pool to have her hair washed and blow-dried ahead of the scheduled evening dinner.

THE “TELL ME YES” RING IS DELIVERED

Since the main object of their Paris trip was to pick up the “Tell Me Yes” engagement ring  Dodi had ordered in Monte Carlo a week earlier, Dodi decided to check on Repossi Jewellery, which was right within the Ritz prencincts, known as the Place Vendome.  It could have taken less than a minute for Dodi to get to the store on foot but he decided to use a car to outsmart the paparazzi invasion. He was driven there by Trevor Rees-Jones, with Alexander Kez Wingfield and Claude Roulet following on foot, though he entered the shop alone.

The Repossi store had closed for the holiday season but Alberto Repossi, accompanied by his wife and brother-in-law,  had decided to travel all the way from his home in Monaco  and momentarily open it for the sake of the potentially highly lucrative  Dodi transaction.  Alberto, however, disappointed Dodi as the ring he had chosen was not the one  he produced. The one he showed Dodi was pricier and perhaps more exquisite but Dodi  was adamant that he wanted the exact one he had ordered as that was what Diana herself had picked. It was a ploy  on the part of Repossi to make a real killing on the sale, his excuse to that effect being that Diana deserved a ring tha was well worthy of her social pedigree.  With Dodi having expressed disaffection, Repossi rendered his apologies and assured Dodi he would make the right ring available shortly, whereupon Dodi repaired back to the hotel to await its delivery. But Dodi  did insist nonetheless that the pricier ring be delivered too in case it appealed to Diana anyway.

Repossi delivered the two rings an hour later. They were collected by Roulet. On inspecting them, Dodi chose the very one he had seen in Monte Carlo, apparently at the insistence of Diana.  There is a possibility that Diana, who was very much aware of her public image and was not comfortable with ostentatious displays of wealth, may have deliberately shown an interest in a less expensive engagement ring. It  may have been a purely romantic as opposed to a prestigious  choice for her.

The value of the ring, which was found on a wardrobe shelf in Dodi’s apartment after the crash,  has been estimated to be between $20,000 and $250,000 as Repossi has always refused to be drawn into revealing how much Dodi paid for it. The sum, which enjoyed a 25 percent discount, was in truth paid for not by Dodi himself but by his father as was the usual practice.

Dodi was also shown Repossi’s sketches for a bracelet, a watch, and earrings which he proposed to create if Diana approved of them.

DIANA AND DODI GUSH OVER IMMINENT NUPTIALS

At about 7 pm,  Dodi and Diana left the Ritz and headed for Dodi’s apartment at a place known as the Arc de Trompe. They went there to properly tog themselves out for the scheduled evening dinner. They spent two hours at the luxurious apartment. As usual, the ubiquitous paparazzi were patiently waiting for them there.

As they lingered in the apartment, Dodi beckoned over to his butler Rene Delorm  and showed him  the engagement ring. “Dodi came into my kitchen,” Delorm relates. “He looked into the hallway to check that Diana couldn’t hear and reached into his pocket and pulled out the box … He said, ‘Rene, I’m going to propose to the princess tonight. Make sure that we have champagne on ice when we come back from dinner’.” Rene described the ring as “a spectacular diamond encrusted ring, a massive emerald surrounded by a cluster of diamonds, set on a yellow and white gold band sitting in a small light-grey velvet box”.

Just before 9 pm, Dodi called the brother of his step-father, Hassan Yassen, who also was staying at the Ritz  that night, and told him that he hoped to get married to Diana by the end of the year.

Later that same evening, both Dodi and Diana would talk to Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s dad, and make known to him their pre-nuptial intentions. “They called me and said we’re coming back  (to London) on Sunday (August 31) and on Monday (September 1) they are

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RAMADAN – The Blessed Month of Fasting

28th March 2023

Ramadan is the fasting month for Muslims, where over one billion Muslims throughout the world fast from dawn to sunset, and pray additional prayers at night. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self-control. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. As you read this Muslims the world over have already begun fasting as the month of Ramadan has commenced (depending on the sighting of the new moon).

‘The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for people, in it are clear signs of guidance and Criterion, therefore whoever of you who witnesses this month, it is obligatory on him to fast it. But whoever is ill or traveling let him fast the same number of other days, God desires ease for you and not hardship, and He desires that you complete the ordained period and glorify God for His guidance to you, that you may be grateful”. Holy Qur’an  (2 : 185)

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are: the declaration of one’s belief in Allah’s oneness and in the message of Muhammad (PBUH); regular attendance to prayer; payment of zakaat (obligatory charity); and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

As explained in an earlier article, fasting includes total abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, refraining from obscenity, avoiding getting into arguments and including abstaining from marital relations, from sunrise to sunset. While fasting may appear to some as difficult Muslims see it as an opportunity to get closer to their Lord, a chance to develop spiritually and at the same time the act of fasting builds character, discipline and self-restraint.

Just as our cars require servicing at regular intervals, so do Muslims consider Ramadan as a month in which the body and spirit undergoes as it were a ‘full service’. This ‘service’ includes heightened spiritual awareness both the mental and physical aspects and also the body undergoing a process of detoxification and some of the organs get to ‘rest’ through fasting.

Because of the intensive devotional activity fasting, Ramadan has a particularly high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship but there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating Allah’s commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so by claiming to be fasting yet eating on the sly. This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadan.

 

The reward Allah gives for proper fasting is very generous. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) quotes Allah as saying: “All actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I will reward it accordingly.” We are also told by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into heaven.

Fasting earns great reward when it is done in a ‘proper’ manner. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect. For example perfection of fasting can be achieved through restraint of one’s feelings and emotions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that when fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match. He teaches us: “On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: ‘I am fasting!’”

This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is considered as an act of self-discipline. Islam requires us to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in our physical desires. The purpose of fasting helps man to attain a high degree of sublimity, discipline and self-restraint. In other words, this standard CAN BE achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.

Fasting has another special aspect. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps to draw the rich one’s conscience nearer to needs of the poor. A Muslim is encouraged to be more charitable and learns to give generously for a good cause.

Fasting also has a universal or communal aspect to it. As Muslims throughout the world share in this blessed act of worship, their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins willingly in the fulfillment of this divine commandment. This is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings. As a person restrains himself from the things he desires most, in the hope that he will earn Allah’s pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature.

The month of Ramadan can aptly be described as a “season of worship.” Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, because people are more attentive to their prayers, read the Qur’an more frequently and also strive to improve on their inner and outer character. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel much happier in Ramadan because they feel themselves to be closer to their Creator.

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