The narrator for Part Two is Prince Mahmud, Son of Omar, and the Wali of Tyre.
2. Describe one advantage to the reader of having a second narrator. Why do you think the author uses this technique?
One advantage of having a second narrator is that the reader gets to see the story from a different perspective. The author uses this technique to help the reader perceive Buran as a man, Nasir. Since Prince Mahmud is introduced to Nasir as a man, and since Mahmud is narrating, the reader has an easier time seeing Nasir as a man, rather than Buran dressed as a man.
3. Besides using a different first person narrator, the author of this book also uses a different time sequence in which to relate the story – flashback. Reread the introduction to Part Two. Who is telling the story, to whom, and when is it being told?
Prince Mahmud, Son of Omar, and the Wali of Tyre is telling this story to his secretary, al-Katib. This story is being told after Nasir/Buran leaves. Mahmud says he is telling his secretary this story so that al-Katib can be witness to the fact that the words came out of Mahmud’s mouth so that al-Katib can tell Mahmud’s father what happened if Mahmud disappears one day.
4. How do Nasir and Mahmud first meet? Who introduces them?
Amin tells Mahmud that he has a “gift” for him after their time in the bathhouse. Mahmud asks how that is possible since Amin is always out of money. Amin explains his “gift” costs nothing and that his gift is a friend. Amin and Uthman take Mahmud to Nasir’s shop in town and Amin introduces Nasir to Prince Mahmud, son of the Wali of Tyre. Nasir, Amin, Uthman, and Mahmud proceed to sit and have a conversation about how Nasir became a merchant. It is revealed by Amin that Nasir became rich by selling medicinal herbs “wise women in the country” use to stop bleeding and ease congestion. All the men agree that Nasir is a genius to figure out that these cures do not exist in towns and that he can make a profit out of selling them.
5. Describe Amin and Uthman. What is each man’s relationship to Mahmud?
Amin – Amin’s only physical description mentions that he has a “goat-like beard”. While Amin is of the same social class as Uthman and Mahmud, he seems to always be out of money. Uthman scolds him for his money belt constantly being empty but Mahmud rarely mentions it. At least once a week, Prince Mahmud lends Amin money. Uthman is never expected to lend money to Amin, only Mahmud. Amin highly entertains Mahmud with his constant jokes and Mahmud likes Amin very much. Amin makes fun of Mahmud for being in love and tells him to take a cold shower at the end of Part 2 which makes Mahmud very angry. Mahmud says one day he will forgive Amin.
Uthman – Uthman is the son of a jeweler named Abu Uthman. His father is very rich because he is a dealer in gold and precious gems. Mahmud thinks Uthman’s father is probably richer than his father, the Wali because Abu Uthman has sold several elaborate pieces of jewelry to Mahmud’s father for his many wives. Uthman has a very serious personality and rarely jokes. Uthman offers to go with Mahmud to find Buran/Nasir at the end of Part 2.
6. Where do Amin and Uthman want to take Nasir that (s)he refuses to go? Why does (s)he refuse to go?
Amin and Uthman want to take Nasir to hunt with them, go to the bathhouse with them, or to look for girls with them. Nasir says he does not hunt because he grew up poor and never learned how to hunt and even though he has the money now, he does not have the time to learn. Nasir says he does not go to the bath house because to him, bathing is simply a matter of keeping clean and he does not have the time to make bathing a “social occasion”. With regard to “looking for girls” Nasir points out that Mahmud does not go with them to look for girls either. When Amin and Uthman point out the Mahmud does not “need” to go look for girls, Nasir admits that “Perhaps, then, in that respect, I am not a man”. Nasir calls Amin and Uthman’s bluff by saying if they don’t want to be his friend because of that then that is fine with him.
7. How does Mahmud first come to think that Nasir is a woman?
During one of Nasir’s and Mahmud’s walks, Mahmud says that it is possible that Nasir knows more about women than Mahmud does. Nasir confirms this with the comment of “more possible than you know”. When Mahmud asks what Nasir means by this comment, Nasir says “I’ll tell you…some day”. During a chase soon thereafter, it becomes apparent that there is a “spark” between Nasir and Mahmud. In hindsight, Mahmud spends a lot of time thinking about whether Nasir is a woman or a man. After a discussion with Uthman and Amin, Mahmud decides to test Nasir to see if Nasir is a man or a woman.
8. What are some of the reasons that Amin and Uthman give to Mahmud for why they feel that Nasir/Buran is or is not a woman?
Nasir is a woman: Nasir never goes to the bath house with them; Nasir never hunts pigeons or gazelles with them.
Nasir is NOT a woman:Nasir is a GREAT merchant, other men have limited interest in women so it is possible that Nasir just happens to be one of these men, they have never heard of a woman making 20,000 dinars in 6 months, women do not have minds to make a successful business, women are never brilliant. (p. 112)
9. What test do Amin and Uthman give to Nasir to try to prove that (s)he is a woman? What are the results?
Amin, Uthman, and Mahmud create 3 tests over Part 2 to test Nasir’s gender. First, Amin suggests challenging Nasir to a game of chess because there is not a woman in the world who knows how to play chess. Uthman agreed with Amin that women do not have the skill to play chess and he has never heard of a woman who could play. Mahmud ambushed Nasir at the gaming house by having a game of chess set up to play before Nasir arrived. To everyone’s surprise, Nasir was excited to play chess and beat Mahmud in the chess game pretty badly (pp. 113-115). The second test was to take Nasir to the vault where Mahmud’s father kept all the jewels and armor. If Nasir is more interested in the jewels rather than the armor, clearly, that would make Nasir a woman. To the men’s surprise, Nasir was indeed more interested in the jewel encrusted swords taken from Bedouin warriors rather than in the jewelry (p. 117). The last and final test was forcing Nasir to go to the bath house. If Nasir refused to go, clearly that means she is a woman. To everyone’s surprise, Nasir disappeared rather than go to the bath house leaving only the message, “I came for a purpose and I left for a reason” for Mahmud, along with the white queen chess piece telling Mahmud that she is indeed a woman.
At the end of Part Two, Nasir leaves Mahmud with a message through his servant. “I came for a purpose, and I left for a reason”. Explain this riddle.
Nasir “came for a purpose” to the city. That purpose was to become a merchant and open a store to make money for her family. Nasir was very successful in her “purpose”. Nasir made herself very rich as a merchant and she saved a lot of money for her family. Amin and Uthman even discuss that Nasir earned 20,000 dinars in 6 months which is quite a lot of money. When Nasir says she “left for a reason”, she may be implying that she is taking the money back to her family, or maybe that she knew that her gender had been discovered and she wanted to escape before getting in trouble for pretending to be a man. Perhaps her reason for leaving was because she had fallen in love with Mahmud and she was afraid if she did not leave right then that she would never be able to make it home with the money for her family. Interestingly, Nasir takes a boat to Alexandria which is where she knows Hassan, her cousin, has gone. Perhaps Nasir has gone to seek out Hassan (pp. 131-132).