Ladies Solarium

A ladies' solarium hosted by Juana Inez and her cousin Lady Zacaria

Gentle ladies, pray join my cousin and I in the hareem of our villa “Medinat al-Zahra” in sunny tranquil Al-Andalus. Should you be from the northern countries and unused to our gracious ways, the hareem is a room for noble and well born ladies to rest and play undisturbed by vulgar men’s eyes. The hareem will be guarded by a eunuch, who will be changed for a fresh one every hour (because no one can stand the sight of so much beauty without going mad) You will know him when you see him because he wears a feather to hide his shame. But you must know before you enter our delightful home you must first surrender to the major-domo any contraband items. (such items as cucumbers or other objects not fitting for ladies) .

My dear chef mamelukes will have for us prepared a light tea of such dishes as:

Beverages Comestibles

Flatbread will be provided for use as trenchers. We expect you to eat with your right hands like civilized people, but if you wish to use those infernal little tridents you must bring your own. We will provide rosewater to wash your hands. (for such is our way) You may also wish to bring a vessel to drink from, one preferably that takes hot or cold drinks.

Of course, ladies must always have a friend who worships them. My messenger mameluke will be ready to deliver notes to and from the hareem. Bring your pen (if you can write) or have a mameluke write it for you. He won’t tell anyone. And for our further entertainment we will have a contest for the writing of “jarchas,” the lovely arab-spanish custom of naughty two line poems….you must listen to one my compatriot wrote. It goes like this… “I will not love you until you make my anklets touch my earrings.” So charming. So refined! But I am sure my guests even more talented than she. We will have prizes for the Naughtiest, the Holiest, the Merriest, and the most Virginal poems. For your further delight we will have on hand a female mameluke who will apply henna (my family’s secret recipe) to those ladies who wish it. And little bottles of our own house perfume, Medinat al-Zahra. And of course my dear singing boy (he is not a eunuch but yet so young he is still allowed in the women’s chambers) will entertain us with his guitarra. Of course, if you wish to leave your lover outside the door, and have him sing for us that would be well. But remember this—no men must be allowed in the hareem. Any men who dare sneak in will be dealt with by the eunuch on guard.

So my dear ladies, please come and call on my cousin and I at Medinat al-Zahra, about the hour of 2 of the clock. You will know us by the sign at the gate.

I have the honor to be
Juana Ynes de Balzan

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