filled her mind with thoughts of Burill and when she opened her eyes, she
stood in the center of an old town with tall buildings made of dried mud.
“This place is interesting. I’m in Yemen. I wonder what city this is. I know
one thing,” Fiona said after seeing women walk past and stare at her, “I’d
better dress like the locals. She bought herself a hijab, or black robe that
covered her from head to toe. She had to turn herself invisible, take one
her size and leave the money. The man would not have sold her anything if
he’d seen her.
“Well, don’t I feel in place now. I’d hate to wear this every day, but at
least it’s comfortable.” Fiona saw a sign. “I’m in San’a. I don’t see any
tourists. I guess I’ll just walk around and see what I can see. I wonder if
this used to be Burill. It must have because I was thinking Burill. I don’t
see any palaces or castles or anything.
As she walked through the town, she took photos, making sure none of the
residents saw her. She didn’t want to stand out. “Wow! This is a much bigger
city than I thought it might be. So, this is Yemen.” She spoke to herself as
she snapped shots of the buildings. “Elspet would have loved this. Look at
the buildings with the trim painted on them. How odd. I’m in the old part
of the city. Cool.”
Fiona saw the old wall that surrounded the city. “It is really high. It’s as
tall as Mrs. Butler’s oak tree. This place is filled with mosques and
minarets. All the buildings are tall with flat roofs. The windows sure are
pretty with the carvings around them. I like it here. I wonder if Burill
looked this way. I can’t wait to show these photos to Jimmy and the others.”
She was pleased that she was able to use her money in San’a. She purchased
some frankincense and myrrh for Elspet and a jambiya, a Yemeni knife for
Callum. “What do I buy for you, Mum?” Fiona wandered into the market.
She passed by bins holding
salt but also bread, spices, raisins, cotton, copper, pottery, silverware,
antiques, and a many other items.
“I’ll buy mum some of these
spices. She’ll love that.” She bought a bag of zhug, a typical Yemeni spice
She took a deep breath. “This place smells like spices. I love that gate.”
She wandered over to it. “The Yemen Gate, over 700 years old. Interesting.
There is al-Jami’a l-Kabir, the Great Mosque. Wow! It’s one of the oldest in
the Muslim world. This place is very exciting. Callum and Elspet would
really have loved this.” She took a few more photos and then walked back the
way she’d come. She saw an old man sitting with his legs crossed. He looked
like he was blind. Fiona walked over to him. “Hello,” she said in Arabic.
“Do you know any folklore about an ancient city, Burill, which used to be in
The man, missing most of his teeth and wearing dirty clothes, took her hand.
“You come from far away. You seek knowledge about Burill. I know the legend
well. Many centuries ago a city stood here. It had great palaces and the
king was a kind, generous man.”
“That’s King Rolfin. I know of him,” Fiona said, unable to control her
excitement. She looked around. So this is where Johnny, Jimmy, Jesse and the
others lived. I can’t wait to tell them I came here.
The man spoke again. “What you speak is truth. A great evil came to this
land and the king had to leave, along with his family and friends. Though he
left the people with wealth, the evil one came and destroyed the city. I
have something for you. I will give it to you because I know you know the
“Are you a magician?” Fiona looked at the man’s bent, crippled fingers.
“No. I am not a magician. I am a Wiseman though. I know things. I know that
you have good in your heart.”
“What is your name? I am Fiona.”
“You can call me Temani.” He reached into a bowl sitting next to his side.
He picked something up and held it in clenched fist. “Open your hand,
She did as instructed. “What is it?”
“It is precious. It has been passed down through the generations since the
days of Burill. You see, my ancestor lived in Burill. He escaped and hid in
these mountains for many years. After the city was destroyed by the evil
one, he came back and lived in the ruins. One day a caravan came by, with
many camels loaded with frankincense and myrrh. My ancestor, Qahtan, married
one of the man’s daughters and they stayed here, building the city back up
over many years. It was a resting place for weary travelers and finally grew
once again. Qahtan searched the ruins and found some gems. He saved them.
One day he was murdered by a greedy warrior who was on his way to battle. He
stole all Qahtan’s jewels but one. Qahtan’s son, Rabi, kept it with him and
passed it on to his son, and his son’s son, until today. I had no sons. So I
will pass it on to you.” He Temani put the jewel in her hand. Keep it always
and give it to your son when you have one. Tell him the story about my
“I will, Temani. Thank you. Can I take a photo of you, for my future son?”
Fiona stood and took his photo. She took his withered hand in hers and shook
it. “I must go. Thank you. I won’t forget you.” Fiona turned and left, not
looking back. She thought about Callum and Elspet and found herself standing
in front of them at Elspet’s home.