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9 The Competitive Feasts of Qasim and Dhu’l-Faqar Beys In the Damurdashi group of chronicles and in al-Jabarti’s narrative, an alternative origin myth appears that does not draw on the tradition of Sudun and his sons. According to this myth, the Faqari and Qasimi factions originate in two beys named, naturally, Dhu’l-Faqar and Qasim, whom Selim I appointed pilgrimage commander (am¥r al-÷åjj) and financial administrator (defterdar), respectively, of Egypt. According to the myth, “Qasim Bey loved buildings, and Dhu’l-Faqar Bey loved numbers.” The story, as reproduced by al-Jabarti, continues: It is agreed that . . . Qasim Bey built a reception hall in his house, decorated it lavishly, then prepared a great reception in it for Dhu’l-Faqar Bey the pilgrimage commander. [Dhu’lFaqar ] came to his [house] and dined there with a small entourage . Then Dhu’l-Faqar Bey said to [Qasim], “You, too: be my guest tomorrow.” And Dhu’l-Faqar gathered his mamluks that day, sancak beys and emirs and officers (ikhtiyåriyya) of the regiments. Qasim arrived with ten men from his entourage, and two personal servants (khawåƒak)1 behind him and some messengers and a valet (sarråj),2 and went into the house. Dhu’lFaqar ordered that no one should disturb them . . . until they had finished their feast, and sat down with [Qasim], at which Qasim Bey asked, “What about the sancak beys and officers?” Dhu’l-Faqar replied, “They will eat after us. All of them are my mamluks; when I die, they will pray for mercy for me. When you die, will your hall pray for you? You have wasted your wealth on bricks and mortar.”3 143 144 A Tale of Two Factions Whatever the “truth” behind it, this story is clearly very much a story; indeed, it resembles in form and tone a fable or parable. I am reminded of another parable from seventeenth-century Cairo, a variation on the familiar “Country Mouse and City Mouse” fable that the late S. D. Goitein found in the Cairo Geniza and, somewhat reluctantly , published at the insistence of his colleague, the late Gabriel Baer.4 The Geniza document consists of a dialogue between two characters , one of whom extols the virtues of life in the countryside, the other who speaks in favor of city life, with specific reference to Cairo. The final portion of the dialogue has not been recovered, so that we cannot tell whether the fable ends with a resolution in favor of country or city. In our chroniclers’ parable, Qasim Bey could be the Country Mouse and Dhu’l-Faqar Bey the City Mouse (or vice versa)—with this difference, however: this fable comes down in favor of Dhu’lFaqar Bey’s preference for amassing mamluks rather than building grandiose halls. To create an enduring household, the tale seems to tell us, buildings are not enough; the important thing is to have large numbers of clients who will carry on the household after one is gone. This, at least, is the conclusion that scholarship on Ottoman Egypt has consistently endorsed.5 This chapter, however, takes a closer look at this alternative myth. After first determining from internal evidence that the myth probably dates to the period of the factions’ desuetude in the early eighteenth century, we proceed to an alternative interpretation of what this myth intends to convey. Dating the Myth A crude version of this tale, featuring two nameless grandees, was apparently circulating by the late seventeenth century; in this barebones form, the story’s parable-like quality would have been especially evident.6 When it is specifically linked to Dhu’l-Faqar and Qasim Beys, however, the tale seems not to be pointing a moral truth so much as explaining, implicitly, why Dhu’l-Faqar, and hence the Faqari faction, was ultimately more successful and longer-lived than Qasim and the Qasimi faction. This leads to the suspicion that this version of the parable must date from the early eighteenth century, like the chronicles in which it appears. Only by about 1730 was it clear that the Faqari faction had indeed outlasted the Qasimis. This was the date of the Faqaris’ decimation of the Qasimis after the assassination of Ismail Bey b. ˜Ivaz and the death of Çerkes Mehmed Bey. By then, the Qasimi faction was already in deep trouble, having divided against itself as a 145 The Competitive Feasts result of the rivalry between Ibn ˜Ivaz...


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