>Zisa- The King’s Summer Home and Haven, Harem
It was William I, who had the original idea, a Summer home near Palermo. He brings the best architects, they bring stories and examples of the work done in Egypt. These architects were good with water. It was the Arab engineers that buried the two rivers allowing Palermo to grow. I actually saw the riverbank, the ridge of the riverbank while standing on a street just outside a Church in Palermo.
Unfortunately, William I died while his palace was being build. It was William II who really lived there with his Harem, (officially the women were silk weavers). There was clearly cross culture appreciation. The structure seemed to have several living quarters, like small condo units. These architects would call the structure “Zisa”. In Arabic al-Azīz, meaning “dear” or “splendid”. It is written that William II was not interested in governing, rarely even rising to sign documents.
The Palace has no doors, it was wide open orientated to the pools of water and the garden in front of the Palace. Air moved freely in the Palace, which has special vents for pushing the warm air up and out of the building. The floors are thick. To make them lighter but stronger there was an air space between the floors. And in the space there were many upside down vases. They acted, spreading the load between the floors and filling the air space between the floors.
The Palace was three floors with high ceilings and some interesting 3D characteristics in the stone above the windows on the inside of the room.
On the third floor there was in effect a sewage removal passage utilizing captured rainwater. The closest to a flush toilet you will find in 1160 AD.
I haven’t found or read too much about William II’s Harem. Walking through the Palace I could imagine different living quarters within the structure. Getting to an image of William II or one of the women of his Harem is much harder for me. I could imagine feeling the evening breeze from the sea pushing cooler air into the Palace. And there I was, sitting there with the breeze coming from the sea. And feeling a certain contentedness.
I could also imagine William II, as a man trying to please many women in different parts of his Palace.
What are the stories that we tell ourselves about human interactions?
I could imagine William II, as a gentleman, in how he treated the woman around him, a man far ahead of his time in his treatment of woman.
He also could have been a tyrant, treating woman dismissively. I could imagine a slightly pornographic soap opera for daytime TV. “William II’s Household”.
He could have been a lover of books, scrolls brought from Egypt from the Alexandria Library, at first by Tutors for young William II and later by agents hired by the King to borrow/barter for the documents. He had a sizable library. Three days a week he spends with the scrolls. This was a very regular routine for William II.
Or, imagine, William II who died young, was kept in a weakened state through herbs put in his food. His digestive track was a mess. One of the woman was able to manipulate the King simply by feeding him herbs to upset his system. She was like a witch and had her hand with the herbs.
Some history books say he had a nervous disorder.
The flush toilet was special. A way of flushing away waste.
We know that during William II’s time the Normans lost territory which finally led to the end of the Norman period in Sicily. There was a long period of uncertainty after his death.