Ammar Awaniy, Magdeburg

The Rose of Jerichow

When I reached Germany 5 years ago, I was longing for a different life, away from the ruins of my lost past. I wanted to discover my internal peace and find a way to express myself freely. In Magdeburg, I fell in love with every little detail of my new reality. I embraced the ancient walls of the cathedral of Saints Maurice & Catherine and shared my secrets and my fears with the river Elbe. We talked and talked until we cried our loneliness away.

I met new friends on the Elbe, friends of the word and the book, friends of the stage and of traveling. I became a member of the Writers' Association in Magdeburg and a fellow for international literature projects at ICATAT. It was through this fateful coincidence that I went on my first and so far only trip as a fresh citoyen of Magdeburg abroad to Dobruja in Romania, where I was able to take part in an Anticus literary conference in 2018. We got to know writers and artists, Tatars, Armenians, Germans, hospitable, open, intelligent people, Dobrujans. Thank you very much to Taner Murat for the invitation that time and the invitation for the second time now, unfortunately only virtual.

In my text here, I tried to portray a different reality of my fortunate status in Germany. After a night I could never forget, I came home to my small apartment, having presented my first book to a large audience. I felt the euphoria of touching the red cover earlier that evening, the voices of friends congratulating me. But right there in that small space, alone in my room, I suddenly felt the sadness that hit me like a shock wave. I was forced to flee from the dark shadows of fear that surrounded me to a much better place, my dreams. I dreamed of my mother, of how she was always able to transform any room into a heavenly island of dreams. How my father's voice echoed in my consciousness to remind me of the past. The past before the war. And just like everything in life, every happy moment would come to an end. In my case, it was this extraordinary dream that ended at the very moment I needed it most to continue. "So close yet so far," I said to myself, longing for my parents' embrace.

In the other part of my reading at CLA-Fest Constanta, I aimed to shed light on one of the most inspiring projects I have ever worked on as a writer and translator, the book "The Pasha of Magdeburg". I recited a poem written by the Pasha himself, "Mehmed Ali Pascha" Ludwig Carl Friedrich Detroit. A poem in which he expresses through its words an everlasting love for his beloved woman.

He wrote it down in Ottoman language, but then a team of researchers led by Dr. Mieste Hotopp-Riecke came across the poem after more than a hundred fifty years and decided to translate it into multiple languages, one of which was Arabic, my mother tongue.

His fascinating story of how he left his hometown of Magdeburg to become one of the leading icons of the Ottoman Empire is a great introduction to the kind of stories to be expected in this book. Stories of migration, success, failure and hope accompany all the protagonists of this anthology. Finally, I should point out that the book was the product of hard work that took 5 years to blossom this incredible achievement. Many authors, translators and a motivated team of young people worked together and paved the way for a beautiful message of love that knows no borders.

Mehmed Ali Pasha[1]:

The Rose of Jerichow (German)


„Die Rose von Jerichow”

Geliebte, wenn einst gebrochen mein Herz

Nicht mehr für dich kann schlagen

Und dunkle Zypressen epheuumrankt

Über meinem Grabe ragen,

So will ich liegen und warten, bis

Man auch Dich in die Erde wird legen,

Doch dann soll mein vermodert Gebein

Tief unten noch einmal sich regen.

Und so oft von Deinem Grabe der Wind

Wird ein wenig Erde mir bringen,

Soll von meines Herzens Asche herauf

Ganz leise ein Klagelied klingen.


وردة يرغشو

محبوبتي ماذا لو هذا الفؤاد كُسر

وعليكي القلبُ لم يَعد يَعتصر

وشجرُ السرو حولَ قبري

أبَى إلا أنّ يُزهر

سأرقدُ في مكاني وحيداً وانتظر

أنّ نتشارك سَويةً أرضاً واحدةً

وننَصهر

علّ الروحَ تُرد لعظامي الميتةِ

وعلّ السماءَ تُمطر

ومع كُلِ نَسمة أملٍ تَزورني تِلكَ الرائحةُ وفي كياني تَنغمر

ورمادُ هذا الجسدِ

من تحتِ الترابِ يَستعر

وأغنيةُ حبُنا الأخيرة للأب


[1] A Magdeburg orphan boy of Huguenot origin escapes from his hometown and makes his career in Constantinople: Ludwig Carl Friedrich Detroit converts to Islam after his escape to the Ottoman Empire, he adoptes the name Mehmed Ali as the adopted son of the later Ottoman Foreign Minister. He is raised to a Pasha after successful trials as a General in the Russian-Ottoman Crimean Wars. As Mehmed Ali Pasha, he then heads to the Ottoman delegation in the Berlin Congress in 1878. He visits his native city of Magdeburg one last time and allegedly leaves there parts of the treasure of the legendary Sultan Saladin. In the same year he was murdered by rebellious Albanians. One of his grandchildren is Nazım Hikmet Ran, the national poet of Turkey. Todays Albanian folk songs sing about the Pasha from Magdeburg. See for more: Hotopp-Riecke (ed.): Der Pascha von Magdeburg. Der Orient in Mitteldeutschland. (with Co-Authors Ammar Awaniy, Nele Heyse, Stephan Theilig, Mady Host, Mandy Ganske-Zapf a.o.), ICATAT Series Nr. 7, Magdeburg: Ost-Nordost-Verlag / Icatat-Verlag, 2019, 324 p. as well as www.pascha-magdeburg.de