"The Tahari is perhaps most beautiful at night. During the day one can scarcely look upon it, for the heats and reflections. During the day it seems menacing, whitish, shimmering with heat, blinding, burning; men must shade their eyes; some go blind; women and children remain within the tents; but, with the coming of the evening, with the departure of the sun, there is a softening, a gentling, of this vast, rocky harsh terrain. It is at this time that Hassan, the bandit, would make his camps. As the sun sank, the hills, the dust and sky, would become red in a hundred shades, and, as the light fades, these reds would become gradually transformed into a thousand glowing tones of gold, which, with the final fading of the light in the west, yield to a world of luminous, then dusky, blues and purples. Then, it seems suddenly, the sky is black and wide and high and is rich with the reflected sands of stars, like clear bright diamonds burning in the soft, sable silence of the desert's innocent quietude." (Tribesman of Gor p.169-70)
Tribesmen of Gor, the tenth book in the Gorean series, details Tarl Cabot's journey to the the Tahari region of Gor, a vast desolate area containing a large desert and surrounded by several villages and cities. This region is located in the southern hemisphere of Gor. Tribesmen of Gor concerns itself with both the city dwellers of this area, the nomadic tribesmen, and the inhabitants of the various oases. The peoples and customs of this area share similarities with the Arabic cultures of Earth, especially the Bedouins. Some, though far from all, of these similarities will be mentioned in this essay. Plot wise, this novel depicts an insidious scheme by the dreaded Kurii to destroy the entire planet of Gor.
The Tahari region is located southeast of Ar, below the eastern foothills of the Voltai Mountians and to the south. To the west of the Tahari region, you will eventually encounter the Plains of Turia. To the east of the Tahari, little is known. The Gorean expression for the Tahari translates as the "Wastes" or the "Emptiness." This region is shaped like an enormous, lengthy trapezoid with eastward leaning sides. This area is hundreds of pasangs in depth and maybe thousands of pasangs wide. Much of its terrain is rocky and hilly, "…that dry vastness, almost a continent of rock, and heat, and wind and sand." (Tribesman of Gor p.36) The exception is the dune country, which is primarily sand.
A hot wind blows nearly constantly in the Tahari but this wind is still usually welcomed as it makes the desert bearable. The wind usually blows from the north or northwest, which causes few problems. But, in the spring, if the wind shifts to the east, or in the fall, if the wind shifts west, there can be trouble, leading to terrible sand storms. Water is very scarce in this region and there are some areas where it has not rained in hundreds of years. A primary source of water are the scattered oases, fed from underground rivers, tributaries that flow southeast from the Voltai Mountains. Some communities have also dug deep wells, some extending over two hundred feet in the earth, to reach a source of water.
There are several cities, towns and villages located on the perimeters of the Tahari. At the northwest corner of the Tahari region is the opulent city of Tor. Further west of Tor, at the juncture of the Lower Fayeen and Upper Fayeen Rivers, is the city of Kasra. The Lower Fayeen and Upper Fayeen, both being sluggish, meandering rivers, are tributaries of the Cartius River. Kasra is a major port for the embarkation of the salt trade. The famed red salt of Kasra received its name because this is commonly the port from which the salt is exported out of the Tahari region. If you travel from Kasra up the Lower Fayeen River, and to the east, you will reach the village of Kurtzal. Kurtzal, located north of Tor, is little more than a loading and shipping point for mercantile commerce. Commercial goods being sent from Tor to Kasra are sometimes taken overland to Kurtzal and then sent down the Lower Fayeen to Kasra. Turmas is a Turian outpost, merchant station and kasbah located at the southeastern edge of the Tahari. It is not to be confused with the Stones of Turmus, another Turian merchant fort. Teehra is a district located southwest of Tor and bordering on the Tahari. There are likely other such districts but they have not been named or identified in the books.
The city of Tor is a wealthy city, famed for its multitude of available pleasures, comforts and luxuries. The word "Tor" translates as "bright" or "light." Tor is the principal supply point for the various oasis communities of the Tahari. Thousands of caravan Merchants are headquartered here and much of the city is organized to support their trade. For example, there are numerous walled and guarded warehouses where goods can be stored. There are also many craftsmen and artisans, of various Castes, located in the city, plying their trade. Besides the Merchants, craftsmen and artisans, the city is often filled with visitors from many different cities, either there on business or pleasure. In the city of Tor, the hottest part of the summer is between the Fourth and Sixth Passage Hands. This may be the slowest and quietest part of the year in Tor as few caravans are willing, because of the intense heat, to traverse the Tahari region during this time. Tarnsmen appear to be uncommon within Tor, maybe due to the generally hot climate. When Tarl journeyed to Tor, he did not wish to arrive in the city on tarn as he knew a tarnsman would be conspicuous. If many tarnsmen visited Tor, that would not have been an issue case so seems logical that tarnsmen are uncommon in Tor.
The numerous Merchant caravans obviously require the use of many kaiila, the mount and beast of burden of choice in this region. Thus, there is a large industry of kaiila tenders, drovers and such to cater to these needs. Such tenders and drovers often live in close proximity in some of the hundreds of hovels in the city, forming their own district. The kaiila pens are located outside the south gate of the city. Though Merchants tend to know and retain, even between caravan treks, their caravan guards, their tenders and drovers generally come and go, not being retained between journeys. Tenders and drovers do not make a substantial wage. Their wages for a caravan trip, which often takes months, will only last them about ten to fifteen days, a little longer if they are frugal. Then, after a couple days of recuperation, often from a hangover, the tenders and drovers will seek out another caravan. Tenders and drovers are most often hired by random selection, allegedly to be fair. But, the true reason is to protect the caravans from the chance of hiring an entire gang of thieves and brigands who might later attack and rob the caravan.
The city of Tor was constructed in concentric circles, broken by many, narrow and crooked streets. This was a function of the radius from the wells. The city's water supply is primarily located in the center of the city, which is also the most protected area of Tor. A typical well has broad, flat and worn steps, in concentric circles, that leads down to the water. It rarely rains in Tor so water is very precious. The water in Tor, like all of the Tahari, is slightly salty and unclear, yet it is still safe to drink. Despite the scarcity of rain, a number of homes have well-watered gardens. The water for these gardens usually must be carried by chains of male slaves from the wells to the homes, where it will be emptied into house cisterns. Later, house slaves will take water from these cisterns and carefully water the gardens. Water sellers also wander the city streets, carrying a filled verrskin bag with a number of small cups, over their shoulder. A cup of water usually costs one copper tarsk, which is what a cup of paga costs in many cities. Abdul the water carrier, well known in Tor, lives near the east gate which is close to the shearing pens for verr.
The buildings in Tor are generally constructed from mud brick and are covered with colored plaster, though that plaster often becomes flaky after some time passes. These buildings have high, narrow windows that a person could not fit through. This is a common practice in much Gorean architecture. The buildings are rarely more than four stories high, which is a practical measure as that is about as high as a building made of beams and mud brick can be safely built. This is also partially due to the city's irregular topography as it is located on a hilly, rocky area. The city streets are like deep, walled alleys and in the center of each street is a gutter to collect waste. At night, many of the streets are unlit and thus very dark.
The city has a large bazaar, a place of hundreds of small merchant stalls vending a wide variety of wares. There are also market streets located near the bazaar, each street commonly bearing a variety of related businesses. For example, there is a weapon maker's street and a street of caravan tables located near the bazaar. Small, hovel-like compartments, in plastered, mud-brick buildings, are located near the street of caravan tables and they are available for rent. The bazaar itself is most commonly reached through the market gate. Merchants usually arrive early in the morning at the bazaar, vying for a spot near the market gate. Thus, it appears that many of the Merchants do not have set places within the bazaar. Their position within the bazaar can vary, dependent upon when they arrive in the morning. A number of these vendors come from villages located outside of Tor.
It seems that instead of paga taverns, you will find over fifty cafes in Tor but they serve basically the same functions as paga taverns. "In the cafes, as in the paga taverns of the north, one learns the realities of a city, what is its latest news, what is afoot in the city, what are its dangers, its pleasures, and where its power lies." (Tribesman of Gor p.47) The Silken Oasis, known even as far away as in Ar, is an extremely expensive cafe in Tor. In the middle price range are such cafes as the Golden Collar and the Silver Chain, which are both owned by the same man, a Turian named Haran. Some good, inexpensive cafes include the Thong, the Veminium, the Pomegranate, the Red Cages and the Pleasure Garden. The dancers at the Pomegranate are said to be superb. The Café of Six Chains is another café but little is mentioned about it. The Golden Kaiila is known to have gaming tables. Many of the cafes hire children to advertise their establishments. These children wander the city, trying to lead people to the cafes, and commonly receive a copper tarsk for each customer they bring in.
A popular diversion in Tor, and the entire Tahari region, is a game called Zar. Unlike Kaissa, the books contain complete rules on how Zar is played. Thus, this game can be played by anyone who creates a board and pieces. The rules are easy to learn though it may take time to under the strategies involved. "Between them they had, in the crusts, scratched a board for Zar. This resembles the Kaissa board. Pieces, however, may be placed only on the intersections of lines either within or at the edges of the board. Each player has nine pieces of equal value which are originally placed on the intersections of the nine interior vertical lines with what would be the rear horizontal line, constituted by the back edge of the board, from each player's point of view. The corners are not used in the original placement, though they constitute legitimate move points after play begins. The pieces are commonly pebbles, or bits of verr dung, and sticks. The "pebbles" move first. Pieces move one intersection at a time, unless jumping. One may jump either the opponent's pieces or one's own. A jump must be made to an unoccupied point. Multiple jumps are permissible. The object is to effect a complete exchange of original placements. The first player to fully occupy the opponent's initial position wins. Capturing, of course, does not occur. The game is one of strategy and maneuverability." (Tribesman of Gor p.265)
To protect the citizens, residents and visitors, the city police of Tor are easily visible, garbed in their white robes with red sashes and wielding scimitars. Obviously with so many Merchants in the city, thievery can be a significant problem. Thus, it is harshly punished to actively discourage such illicit activities. A male thief, even on a first offense, will have his right hand severed and such hands may then be publicly displayed on a wooden board. Female thieves avoid such dismemberment but are instead enslaved, even for a first offense. Not much else is said about justice within Tor in the books.
As it is in many Gorean cities, slavery is a substantial industry in Tor. "Certain cities, like Tor, dealt in slaves, commonly buying unsold girls from caravans, and selling them at a profit to other caravan masters. The city's warriors, too, were paid a bounty on women captured from enemy cities, customarily a silver tarsk for a comely female in good health." (Tribesman of Gor p.19-20) Such incentives to Torian warriors is conducive to raiding. Municipal slave masters, with their public slave pens, will buy and sell slaves cheaply. They exist primarily as a service for caravan masters, buying unsold girls and selling them later to Slavers. This is a service and is not designed to be very profitable for the city. It is likely that the city only recoups their expenses, and maybe a small bit more, if even that. The public slave pens will also board girls for a copper tarsk a day though training does cost extra.
The rugs of Tor are very famous and are similar to the oriental rugs of Earth. Creation of such a rug can be a lengthy process. For example, it can take five women more than one year to make some of these rugs. The specific patterns are very intricate and usually passed down through families. But they are not written down, instead being memorized, sometimes even by men who are blind. (A passage in Tribesmen of Gor states that "callers" memorize the rug patterns but when the subcastes are discussed, the book does not mention "callers." Instead, "carders" are mentioned, a term which is not defined or otherwise mentioned. One of those two words could be a typographical error.) The rugs are made on simple looms and the pile is knotted onto the warp and weft. Some rugs may have as many as four hundred knots per square hort. Each of those knots is tied individually by hand by a free woman. Most of the dyes used on the rugs are natural dyes such as vegetable dyes, or others created from barks, leaves, roots, flowers, and animal products.
The Caste of Rug Makers is officially a subcaste of the Cloth Makers though they consider themselves a separate caste. This is similar to the situation of the Slaver Caste which is legally a subcaste of the Merchant Caste but which often considers itself a separate Caste. The Carders (or Callers), Dyers and Weavers are all subcastes of the Rug Makers. This is one of the only, if not the only, example of a subcaste of a subcaste. Other such cases may exist but the books do not mention them. We could speculate that others exist, such as within the Scribe Caste. One subcaste are lawyers, and there could be subcastes of that for each legal speciality.
The Gorean series also contains some varied, miscellaneous items concerning Tor, its citizens and related matters. Here is a selection of some of these items.
While traveling in the Tahari region, Tarl Cabot used the alias of Hakim of Tor.
- A century ago, Administrator Shiraz, then the Bey of Tor, ruled the city.
- Kassim was a rebel pretender to the throne of Tor. He was eventually torn to pieces and killed by the sleen of Hassan, the famed Slave Hunter. It is unknown when this incident occurred though we know Hassan is alive during the events of Kajira of Gor.
- There was a Kaissa tournament held in Tor held during the Second Passage Hand of the third year of the Administrator Heraklites. It is unknown what year this occurred.
- Quintus of Tor is a famed Kaissa player, a Master of the game.
- The Torian Defense is a well known Kaissa defense, a response to Yellow's initial move of Ubar's Spearman to Ubar Four, a common Opening. Red then responds with Ubara's Initiate's Spearman Four.
- At the time of Tribesmen of Gor, Harif is thought to be the finest swordsman in Tor.
- Andreas of Tor, of the Caste of Poets, fell in love with one of the Silver-masked women of Tharna. He was subsequently enslaved and sent to the silver mines. He eventually escaped, aiding in the revolution in Tharna, and reunited with the woman he loved.
- The Torian square is a military formation for infantry and may have originated in the city of Tor, and thus its name, but the books are not clear on that point. The phalanx used to be the primary infantry formation on Gor but it is difficult to maintain its cohesion over rough terrain. The Torian squares though had superior mobility and regrouping capacities, making the phalanx largely obsolete. Few Gorean cities still use the phalanx. The use of cavalry would eventually alter the conduct of warfare so even the Torian square became much less useful, though it is still sometimes used. The books do not describe the make-up of a Torian square. We can speculate that it may resemble the ancient Roman maniple or cohort, both formations that were created due to the disadvantages of the phalanx and which provided superior mobility and regrouping capacities.
"In the Tahari," said Hassan, "it is well to be of the Tahari, if one would live." (Tribesman of Gor p.175)
Survival in the Tahari can be very difficult, if not impossible, unless one is cognizant of the ways of the desert, unless one properly understands the intricacies of desert survival. As an initial issue, this region can be extremely hot. When the sun beats down upon the sand, the surface can attain a temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Though shaded areas can offer some respite, the temperature can still sometimes reach as high as 140 degrees. But, what many may not realize is that only a foot below the surface the temperature can drop by as much as 50 degrees. Thus, one survival trick involves the excavation of a shelter trench, to provide shade and cooler temperatures. Such a trench may be about four to five feet deep but it is usually narrow, only about eighteen inches wide. "The trench, of course, is always dug with its long axis perpendicular to the path of the sun, that it provides the maximum shade for the longest period of time." (Tribesman of Gor p.21)
But the key factor to survival in the Tahari region must center on water. "One does not, alone, without water, move on the sands during the day. Interestingly, because of the lack of surface water, the nights, the sun gone, are cool, even chilly at times. One would, thus, if not in caravan, move at night." (Tribesman of Gor p.21) It rains very rarely in the Tahari and some areas may not see rain for many years. When rain does fall, it is sometimes very fierce and can turn the terrain into a muddy quagmire. As there is little rain erosion, there are few natural paths to direct the water toward specific areas. Instead, when the water falls upon the flat land in the loose dust, with no where else to go, it can create thick mud. So, when the rains fall, the men of the Tahari will seek high ground to avoid being trapped within the muck. In addition, following the rains, great clouds of dormant sand flies sometimes awaken and become nasty pests.
Most of the water in the Tahari is unclear and slightly salty, though safe for consumption. The people of the Tahari may leave water arrows, markers that indicate the direction of water holes, underground cisterns or oases. This allows others to locate water sources that they might otherwise miss. They also sometimes dig up rocks at night, clean them and leave them out so that dew can form on them in the morning. They will then lick the dew off the rocks in the morning, though this has limited use. "One cannot pay the water debt, of course, with the spoonful or so of moisture obtainable in this way. It does, however, wet the lips and tongue." (Tribesman of Gor p.94) Because of the paramount importance of water, the destruction of a water source is the most heinous crime that exists in the Tahari. It is an almost inconceivable offense, beyond even the accepted methods of war. Where in the cities of Gor, poisoning a well might be acceptable in warfare, it would never be tolerated in the Tahari. The crime of destroying a water source will unite the tribesmen and nomads against any offender who will suffer prolonged torture before public impalement.
"The conservation of body water is the crucial parameter in survival. One moves little. One sweats as little as possible." (Tribesman of Gor p.21) One wants to minimize perspiration and to retain as much moisture as possible that is lost through perspiration. The men of the Tahari men usually move slowly during the hottest hours, engaging in little unnecessary movement. Their garments tend to be loose and voluminous yet closely woven. Their outer garment is almost always white so that the color reflects the sun. The looseness of the garments acts as a bellows in movement, circulating air over damp skin and thus cooling the body by evaporation. The close weave maintains much of the moisture within the garment, preferably condensing it back onto the skin. When water is in short supply, they may not eat as the act of digestion requires a lot of water. Proteins, meat, kaiila milk, vulo eggs, and verr cheese all require much water for digestion. It can take weeks to starve but only two days to die of thirst.
An additional hazard in the desert are sand storms which can make travel difficult, if not impossible. But, such storms seldom really bury anything as the sand is usually moved away as soon as it is deposited in the desert. "In the desert, decomposition proceeds with great slowness. Bodies, well preserved, had been found which had been slain more than a century before. Skeletons, unless picked by birds or animals, are seldom found in the desert." (Tribesman of Gor p.22-3) To better navigate the desert, and to avoid getting lost, most caravans and travelers rely on the wheel, a special type of search pattern. "Herdsmen, guards, kailla tenders, leave the camp along a "spoke" of a wheel, spacing themselves at intervals. The number of men in the caravan determines the length of the "spoke." No one in the caravan departs from it by more than the length of the wheel's spoke, pertinent to the individual caravan." (Tribesman of Gor p.21) If someone does get lost, the men can more easily search along the spokes. "As the "wheel" of men turns about its axis, the camp, at intervals the men draw arrows in the dirt or sand, or, if rocks are available, make arrows, pointing to the camp. When the search is discontinued, after success or failure, these markers are destroyed, lest they be taken by travelers for water arrows,…" (Tribesman of Gor p.22)
Still another hazard of the desert are mirages which come in at least three different types. These illusions can be a man's doom if he believes in their reality. The most common mirage is the interpretation of heat waves that shimmer on the desert like ripples in water. When the sky is reflected in this shimmering, it is even more striking. The surface of the illusionary lake then seems blue and even more like water. The second type is the misinterpretation of a mixed terrain, such as rocks and scrub brush, mixed with rising heat waves, as an oasis with water, palms and buildings. The final type is where an actual oasis, which is distant, is reflected in the mirror of the air above it and then reflected downward again, away at an angle. This illusion makes the oasis seem much closer than it actually is.
There are many secrets in the desert, and they are jealously guarded by the fierce inhabitants of this region. "The men of the Tahari kill those who make maps of it. They know their own country, or their districts within it; they are not eager that others know it as well. Without a guide, who knew the locations of water, to enter the Tahari would be suicidal." (Tribesman of Gor p.101) Thus, without a knowledgeable guide, visitors will have extreme difficulties. This is common though within many Gorean cities, where laws may exist prohibiting outsiders from making maps of the city. Such is often a protective measure against potential invaders. In the Tahari, caravan schedules, inventories and routes are also carefully guarded. Such information would be invaluable to avaricious brigands who desire the wealth of the many Merchants that travel the area.
Within the Tahari, there are two main groups of peoples, the more permanent residents of the oasis communities and the bands of nomads. Though they share similarities, there are also differences between these two groups, sometimes significant ones. For many travelers to the Tahari, they will most likely encounter the inhabitants of the oases, especially as the oases are where such travelers will most often find water. If they encounter nomads, it often may be when such nomads are seeking to sell or buy something. Or if they are being attacked by nomadic raiders.
Within the Tahari region, west of Tor, are numerous oasis communities. Each such community numbers from about a hundred to several thousand people. They are often located hundreds of pasangs from each other. These communities depend heavily on Merchant caravans to supply many of their needs. These caravans most often come from Tor though sometimes from Kasra or even from distant Turia. The caravans usually travel along the western or distant eastern edges of the Tahari, where the caravans have to deal far less with the difficulties of trekking into the interior. Within the dune country, as the oases are small and infrequent, often over two hundred pasangs apart, little but salt caravans will traverse that area. Merchant caravans bring to the oases a multitude of wares, including: rep-cloth, embroidered cloths, silks, rugs, silver, gold, jewelry, mirrors, kailiauk tusk, perfumes, hides, skins, feathers, precious woods, tools, needles, worked leather goods, salt, nuts and spices, jungle birds which are prized as pets, weapons, rough woods, sheets of tin and copper, Bazi tea, Hurt wool, decorated and beaded whips, kajirae, and many other things. Sereem diamonds and opals, rare in the Tahari gem trade, are thus highly prized.
The oasis communities also rely on the caravans as purchasers for their own limited exports. The principal exports of the oases are dates and pressed-date bricks. A date palm may grow to over one hundred feet tall and it takes about ten years before the palm can first bear fruit. But, once it is capable of bearing fruit, it generally continues to yield fruit for more than a hundred years. A date palm annually yields about forty to two hundred pounds (one to five Gorean Weights) of fruit. A pressed-date brick is long and rectangular, each weighing about four pounds (a Gorean Stone).
Water sources in an oasis are usually located at its lowest point. Residences are commonly erected on high ground as well as on land where nothing will grow. If land is capable of growing food then it is too precious to be wasted on housing. The oasis valley will be irrigated, usually by hand or sometimes with wooden machinery, to support their vital agriculture. The oasis communities grow a multitude of fruits, vegetables and grains, including Sa-Tarna, apricots, beans, berries, carrots, katch, korts, larma, melons, onions, pomegranates, radishes, suls, tospits, and turnips. Katch is a type of foliated leaf vegetable. Korts are brown, thick-skinned vegetables that are spherical, about six inches wide. Their interior is yellow, fibrous and heavily seeded. Due to the warm climate in the Tahari, there generally are two growing seasons so the communities have little need to import food. Rep is also grown, to use for cloth, though it seems they do not grow significant amounts as most of their cloth must be purchased from caravans.
Here is a listing and description of the oases that are named in the books. Remember though that there are many other oases in the Tahari as well.
Oasis of Farad: Little is mentioned about this oasis. We do know that Zad, a caravan master, comes from this oasis.
Oasis of Lame Kaiila: Little is mentioned about this oasis. We do know that it is a tiny oasis. When Tarl is more than two hundred pasangs northeast of the Oasis of Nine Wells, he comments that the closest oasis to his position would be the Lame Kaiila.
Oasis of the Battle of Red Rock: This oasis, under the hegemony of the Aretai, is considered an outpost as the region to its west and south is the domain of the Kavars, enemies of the Aretai. It is also located on the border of the dune country and is the last major oasis for over two thousand pasangs eastward. The pasha of this oasis is Turem a'Din, who is also the commander of the local Tashid clans. The oasis has a kasbah with four towers at its northeast rim, and it flies two flags on these towers, that of the Aretai and the Tashids. There is a single gate into this kasbah. The oasis has five palm groves, with a pond between two of the groves, and some pomegranate orchards that lie to the east.
There is a large shelf of reddish sandstone located behind the oasis, north by northeast from its lowest point and center. The battle that gave the oasis its name occurred here in 10051 C.A. in the sixth year of the reign of Ba'Arub Pasha, the Tashid leader, when Aretai attacked. The cause of the war is long forgotten but its deeds are still talked about to the current day. The reason why Hammaran, an Aretai commander, came to Red Rock is also unknown. Hammaran used the shelf of sandstone as a vantage point during the battle. During a crucial point in the battle, Hammaran's cavalry and seventy bodyguards entered the fray and turned the tide of the battle garnering the Aretai victory. The Tashid commander, Ba'Arub, died on the shelf with ten men as they tried to reach Hammaran. It is said that Ba'Arub came within ten yards of Hammaran.
This battle did not even need to occur. When the Aretai attacked, Ba'Arub could have easily retreated into his fortified kasbah. This would have meant that Hammaran would have had to siege the kasbah, an extremely difficult endeavor. In all likelihood, Hammaran would have simply left instead of attempting a siege. But, Ba'Arub did not choose this option, preferring to engage the Aretai in battle rather than hide within his fortress. Since their defeat at this battle, the Tashids have been loyal vassals of the Aretai.
Oasis of the Four Palms: Little is mentioned about this oasis. It is a Kavar outpost located far south of Red Rock and it is farther from Klima than Red Rock
Oasis of the Nine Wells: This is a major oasis, held by Sulieman of the Aretai, one of the largest in the Tahari. About 20,000 people live there, mostly small farmers, craftsmen and their families. It has an inn with stables, two public baths, and a public well located near the chamber of justice. Sulieman's palace is a lavish structure with lush Pleasure Gardens. In its great room, the entry portal is carved and turret-shaped, while the floor is composed of red tiles and there are great arched windows. Little else is known about this oasis.
Oasis of the Sand Sleen: Little is mentioned about this oasis except that it is a Kavar oasis.
Oasis of the Stones of Silver: Little is mentioned about this oasis. We do know it is under the hegemony of the Char, vassals of the Kavar. The oasis received its name centuries ago when a group of thirsty men came upon it at night. The next morning, the dew on the rocks made them seem to be made of silver.
Oasis of Two Scimitars: Little is mentioned about this oasis. We do know that it is an isolated and obscure oasis, far from the established trade routes, that is under the control of the Bakahs who were once a vassal tribe of the Kavars. Its ruler is Hasaad Pasha.
There are two high tribes within the Tahari, the Aretai and the Kavars, and they appear to be the only two high tribes. The term "high tribe" seems to indicate that these two tribes have conquered a number of other tribes, thus creating a larger entity. There are some tribes in the Tahari that are neither vassal or conquering tribes. They are essentially independent tribes and seem to be much smaller than the high tribes. A vassal tribe is essentially a military unit that is subordinate to a conquering tribe. Though there are usually some token tributes involved, the vassal tribe is, in its own areas, almost completely autonomous. It will possess its own leaders, magistrates, judges and warriors. Its primary significance is as a military ally, supporting the conquering tribe when needed with warriors, kaiila and supplies.
When an enemy tribe is conquered, it will then become an ally of the conqueror. "The man of the Tahari, conquered, stands ready, his scimitar returned to him, to defend his conqueror to the death. The conqueror, by his might and cunning, and victory, has won, by the right of the Tahari, a soldier to his cause." (Tribesman of Gor p.177) The vassal tribe will swear various oaths, over water and salt, to the conquering tribe. This system tends to assist in the pacification of large sections of the Tahari, leading to far less conflict and war. Battles between vassal tribes are not unknown as the oaths are specifically only made to the conquering tribe. In addition, those oaths do not require the conquering tribe to support its vassal tribes in battle. So, if a vassal is attacked, the conquering tribe is under no obligation to come to their defense. They may do so if they wish, and probably will, but it is not mandatory.
The high tribe of the Aretai are led by Suleiman, the Ubar of the Oasis of Nine Wells, master of a thousand lances, and high pasha of the Aretai. The term "Ubar" is used here more like it is used by the Wagon Peoples. It does not indicate that the Aretai have a Warrior Caste like the cities of Gor. "Sulieman was a man of discrimination, and taste; he was also one of high intelligence." (Tribesman of Gor p.93) Shakar was a captain of the Aretai and Hamid was his lieutenant. During Tribesman of Gor, Hamid tried to kill Sulieman by stabbing him, setting up Tarl to take the blame. The Aretai tribe tends to wear a black kaffiyeh and white agal.
The minor vassal tribes of the Aretai include the Raviri, Tashid, and Luraz tribes. Four other minor tribes allied with the Aretai are the Ti, Zevar, Arani and Tajuks. The Arani and the Zevar have some dislike for the Tajuks, as the Tajuks are not actually a vassal tribe. Thus, the Arani and Zevar see themselves as superior to the Tajuks, and get bitter when they feel that the Tajuks are treated better than them.
The Tajuks are a culturally united, but mixed-race, tribe. Many of them have an epicanthic fold. Tajuks are a touchy, arrogant, proud, generous, and capricious people. Over two hundred years ago, a wandering Tajuk was rescued in the desert by the Aretai. The Aretai treated him very well, giving him water and even a kaiila. Since that time, whenever the Aretai summon their vassal tribes, the Tajuks also come. As they are not true vassals, the Aretai do not possess any right to summon them and they do not actually call them to battle. Instead, an Aretai merchant will visit the tent of the Khan of the Tajuks, their leader. After some trading and tea, the merchant will mention that the Aretai are gathering for war. The Khan will ask him where and then the Tajuks will arrive there later. When they join the Aretai in battle, the Tajuks always hold the front lines of the Aretai left flank, which irritates the Zevar and Arani tribes that the Tajuks hold such a prominent position.
In the type of warface most common in the Tahari, the left flank is the most critical flank. In this type of warfare, the lance and the scimitar are the primary offensive weapons while the primary defense is a small round buckler. There is a tendency, once opposing forces clash, for the formation lines to drift to the right. This creates a problem that the left flank eventually becomes outflanked by the opponent's right flank. There are numerous ways to counter this problem, such as deepening the ranks in the left flank, using tharlarions in the left flank, using archers and slingers to hold back the opposing forces, choosing terrain that will impede the right flank, abandoning uniform lines, etc. But, in the last two hundred years, since the Tajuks have been holding the left flank, it has never been turned. That is proof of the prowess of the Tajuks and an obvious reason why the Aretai has always keep them at that crucial position.
The high tribe of the Kavars is led by Haroun, their high Pasha. Haroun's vizier is Baram, Sheik of Bezhad. In the Kavars, when a boy reaches puberty, he has his left forearm tattooed with a blue scimitar. The point of this blade curves to the outside, thus toward their enemies. The pennon of Haroun is scarlet and white and the color of the Kavars appears to be white. Their vassal tribes include the Ta'Kara, Char (red is their color), and the Kashani (yellow is their color). It is customary for the men of the Char to be veiled. The Bakahs (purple is their color) used to be a vassal of the Kavars, after their defeat in the Silk War of 8110 C.A. Then, for more than two hundred years, they remained a vassal. Though they are no longer a vassal tribe, they still fight with the Kavars. The Kavar and their vassals can field about 10,000 kaiila riders.
Mixed in with the Gorean titles, such as Ubar and Administrator, the Tahari region uses terms such as pasha, bey, sheik and vizier. (KHAN?) But, the books do not provide much of a definition or explanation of these terms. We can research these words, of Turkish and Arabic origin, to attempt a better comprehension, correlating our knowledge with the little information provided in the Gorean books.
Pasha, a Turkish word, was once used as a title for military and civil officers, especially in Turkey and northern Africa. It was given under the Ottoman Empire most notably to ministers, provincial governors, and army officers. Pashas governed territories called pashaluks or eyalets. Pashas ranked above beys, but below viziers. In usage, the title followed the given name. Such usage is followed in Tribesman of Gor as evidenced by references to "Sulieman Pasha" and "Hasaad Pasha." The pashas in Tribesman of Gor are mainly the leaders, the sovereigns, of oases. It may also indicate the leader of a tribe. Some men may be referred to as both Ubar and Pasha.
Bey, a Turkish word for "chieftain," was traditionally applied to the leaders of small tribal groups and has also been a general title of respect used by Turkish peoples since ancient times. It was later used by the Ottomans to denote a provincial ruler. The title eventually became hereditary. The regions or provinces where beys ruled were called beylik, roughly meaning "emirate" or "principality." As with pasha, the title of bey followed the given name. In Tribesman of Gor, we basically only have one example of a bey, Administrator Shiraz who was also the Bey of Tor. Which tells us little about Gorean usage of that term.
Vizier, which may also be spelled wazir, is an Arabic term for a high-ranking religious or political advisor, often to a king or sultan. In Tribesman of Gor, we basically only have one example of a vizier, Baram, who is the vizier of Haroun, high pasha of the Kavars. Baram is apparently an advisor to Haroun.
Sheik, also spelled as Shaikh, Shaykh, and Sheikh, is an Arabic term that generally refers to an elder or revered old man. It may also refer to a religious official, a leader of an Arab family or village, or the traditional title of a Bedouin tribal leader. Baram, who is also the vizier of Haroun, is referred to as the Sheik of Bezhad. This could mean that is the leader of a village named Bezhad. It also shows one can have multiple titles, such as Sheik and Vizier.
The nomadic tribes of the Tahari commonly travel through the Tahari, moving from one area of verr grass to another or from one water hole to another. The smaller water holes are used in the spring as they will be the first to go dry in the hot summer heat. Grass generally does not grow at these holes because of all the animals that graze there. They are little more than muddy ponds with a few stunted trees. Though kaiila and verr can be found at the oases, they usually are not found in great numbers. Herds of such animals are mainly kept by the nomads. These nomads do trade with the oasis communities, commonly exchanging meat, hides and animal-hair cloth for Sa-Tarna grain and Bazi tea.
When nomads establish a camp, if possible, they settle close to a tree for shade and will also hang their goods from the tree. They will also try to locate their camps on high ground. At night, the kaiila will be hobbled, using a simple figure-eight twist of kaiila hair rope above their paws but below the knees. The kaiila will then be put into circles of ten and fodder will be placed within each circle by kaiila boys. Kajirae will also be hobbled. Nights are chilly so their tents will usually be situated east so that the rising sun will warm them in the morning. A typical nomad tent is about ten feet in depth and ten to fifteen feet wide, supported on wooden frames. The ground within them is leveled off and covered with mats. At the back of the tent, the cloth is low, stretched to the ground, and this is where goods are stored. Household articles and possessions of the women are kept on the left side, and the goods of men, blankets, weapons and such are kept on the right. Goods are commonly kept in leather bags of various sizes. These are made by the women and are often fringed, of various colors and beautifully decorated. Chronometers are rare and the people of the Tahari often calculate time by such matters as the speed of the kaiila, the circle and the stick, and the sun. Sand clocks are used sometimes as well.
Sa-Tarna is the main staple of the nomads. Most people are familiar with the normal yellow Sa-Tarna grain that is the staple of much of Gor. But, there is a hybrid brownish variety that was adapted for the heat of the desert and grows in the Tahari region. Nomads eat little meat as their animals are too precious to them for their hair, milk and trade value. Raiders though eat much meat as the animals mean little to them and can be acquired cheaply in raids. Tea is very important to the nomads, and many others of the Tahari. It is usually served hot and heavily sugared, in three small cups, carefully measured. Each cup might hold about two ounces. The tea gives them strength, in virtue of the sugar, and cools them, by making them sweat, as well as providing some stimulation. Verr and kailla milk are common in the Tahari region. Kaiila milk is reddish and has a strong, salty taste as it contains much ferrous sulphate.
Most people in the Tahari savor strong tastes and smells, such as hot peppers and tangy spices. Even their children enjoy them. In the Tahari region, there is a "kebob" style, meat and vegetables roasted on a metal rod, such as chunks of verr, with slices of peppers and larma. Black wine, a Gorean drink very similar to Earth coffee, is drunk in the Tahari. It is very strong and bitter, thus many drink it either mollified or by a few drops at a time. It is usually mollified by sugars, creams and milks. It is traditionally served with sugars and powdered bosk milk (though maybe not in the Tahari), in tiny cups. It may only be available in the wealthiest of oases. There is a scene of a silvered pot of black wine, with a tray of spoons and sugars. Tiny spoons, their tips no more than a tenth of a hort in diameter, are used to place four measures of white sugar and six of yellow sugar in a small cup. Different spoons are used to stir each sugar. The slaves holds the cup to the side of her cheek to check its temperature and she kissed the side of the cup before serving it. Two girls contributed to the serving, one pouring the black wine and the other adding the sugars.
The primary mount in the Tahari region is the sand or desert kaiila, similar but not identical to the southern kaiila, used by the Wagon Peoples. Sand kaiila suckle their young while the southern kaiila are viviparous. They are also omnivorous unlike the carnivorous southern kaiila, and must feed more frequently. Sand kaiila have a long neck with a long graceful head, bearing fanged jaws and triple lidded eyes, the third lid being a transparent membrane to help in storms. Sand kaiila are almost all tawny colored though there are some black ones. They stand about twenty to twenty-two hands at the shoulder. They are smooth gaited and as swift and agile as a cat but are also high-strung and viciously tempered. Their paws are much broader than southern kaiila, and their digits are webbed with leathery fibers and heavily padded. This enables them to better traverse the desert region. With incredible stamina, a kaiila can travel six hundred pasangs, 420 miles, in a day under ideal conditions. Though in the dune country a kaiila that travels fifty pasangs, thirty-five miles, is doing well. Desert kaiila are also good at locating water. Their hair is never sheared though it will be gathered once it sheds. The most prized hair is a soft fine hair found on its belly. There is an undercoating of hair that is soft too, but coarser, that is used for most cloth. The long outer hairs are the most coarse and used for ropes and tent cloth.
Kaiila may be either trained as war kaiila or pack kaiila. "The caravan kailla, incidentally, both those which are pack animals and those used as mounts for guards and warriors, are muchly belled. This helps to keep the animals together, makes it easier to move in darkness, and in a country where, often, one cannot see more than one hundred yards to the next dune or plateau, is an important factor in survival." (Tribesman of Gor p.22) Kaiila saddles are high, light saddles and highly prized. Men carry their own saddles and generally will not allow a slave to carry them. Markings on the saddle can denote one's tribe. At night, saddles are brought into the tents and placed at the right rear of the tent.
The kailla rein is a single rein, very light, that is plaited of various leathers, often ten to twelve strips of tanned, dyed leather. Each strip is little thicker than a stout thread. Such strips are cut with knives and require great skill to do. The rein is tied through a hole drilled in the right nostril of the kailla. It then passes under the jaw to the left. To guide the kaiila to the left, you simply draw the rein left. To guide the kaiila to the right, you simply draw the rein right with pressure on the left cheek. To stop the kaiila, you draw the rein back. To start or quicken the kaiila's speed, you will either kick it in the flanks or use the three-foot long kailla quirt.
One creature associated with sand kaiila, are zadits, small, tawny-feathered, sharp-billed birds. They are insectivorous, feeding on sand flies and other insects. Zadits will often land on kaiila and eat the insects that infest this animal. But, their sharp bills leave small wounds on the kaiila. If these wounds become infected, they will become sores that the drovers must then treat with a poultice of kaiila dung. Another bird of the Tahari is the desert zad, a large, broad winged, black and white bird. It has a long, narrow, yellowish, and slightly hooked at the end, beak, useful for probing and tearing. It is a scavenger like an Earth vulture. It likes to tear out the eyes of weakened victims. Zads swallow some flesh and carry it back to the nest to disgorge into the beaks of fledglings. Zads often follow the marches of the salt slaves to Klima, waiting for slaves to die on route. There are other animals within the Tahari region, but many of them are uncommon, existing only in small numbers. For example, sand sleen and some species of tabuk can be found within the Tahari.
There are several types of flora that are indigenous or common to the Tahari region. The flahdah is a narrow-branched tree with lanceolate leaves. The trunk leans like a palm tree so that it looks like a flat-topped umbrella on a crooked stick. They do not grow more than twenty feet high. Desert veminium is a small purplish flower, that grows on the edges of the Tahari, that may be used to make perfume. The flowers are boiled in water and the vapors are then condensed into an oil. In the Tahari, this oil may be added to water and used to wash the eating hand before and after dinner. Telekint is a Tahari plant, its roots, mashed and mixed with water produce a red dye. Kanda grows primarily in the desert regions and is a shrub that yields a toxic poison by grinding and drying its roots. The green leaves of the shrub are relatively harmless though. They can be formed into strings and chewed or sucked. But, they are addictive. The poison can be made into a paste and applied to a weapon. The softened residue of the glaze will look white on a blade.
One of the most important exports of the Tahari is salt. Various types of salt exist on Gor including white, red and yellow varieties. There are areas on Gor where salt is used as currency. The most extensive and richest deposits of salt are in the Tahari region. Its deposits account for about 20% of all salt and salt-related products on Gor, such as medicines, antiseptics, preservatives, cleansers, bleaches, bottle glass, and tanning chemicals. The greatest protection of the Tahari salt industry lies in its remoteness, the long caravan journeys required to transport it and the difficulty of obtaining it without much knowledge of the desert. The most famous of the Tahari salt is the red salt of Kasra, red due to the ferrous oxide in its composition. "The red salt of Kasra, so called from its port of embarkation, was famed on Gor. It was brought from secret pits and mines, actually deep in the interior, bound in heavy cylinders on the backs of pack kaiila. Each cylinder, roped to others, weighed in the neighborhood of ten stone, or some forty pounds, a Gorean "Weight." A strong kaiila could carry sixteen such cylinders, but the normal load was ten. Even numbers are carried, of course, that the load is balanced. A poorly loaded Kaiila can carry far less weight than one on whom the burden is intelligently distributed." (Tribesman of Gor p.20)
One of the major sites within the Tahari for obtaining salt are the brine pits of Klima. Klima is hidden deep within the dune country and its location is closely guarded. It is located roughly southeast of the Oasis of the Battle of Red Rock and the Salt Ubar's kasbah. Similar pits exist in other parts of the dune country and their location is equally as secret. "At Klima, and other such areas, salt is an industry. Thousands serve there, held captive by the desert." (Tribesman of Gor p.238) Slaves are taken to the mines on foot, hooded and chained. The salt crusts are white and the glare from them can blind men. The march is made in the sun so that only the strong will survive the difficult journey. On route, the slaves are given little to eat but plenty of water for even the strongest men will die without water. The marches are not made in the summer as that intense heat would destroy even the strongest of men. "To be a salt slave, it is said, one must be strong. Only the strong, it is said, reach Klima." (Tribesman of Gor p.220)
For its thousands of male slaves, escape from Klima is nearly impossible. "From the secret pits of Klima, it was said, no slave had ever returned." (Tribesman of Gor p.117) The salt slaves are technically free to leave Klima whenever they want. But there is no where to go as the desert surrounds Klima for more than one thousand pasangs on all sides. Kaiila are not permitted at Klima, even for the guards. There is a well there but no other water for about a thousand pasangs. Plus, there are few water bags at Klima, and those that do exist can only hold one talu, about two gallons. Water is normally carried in narrow buckets, on wooden yokes, with dippers attached, for the slaves. Though Klima has its own water supply, it is dependent for food on caravans. Such food is delivered to scouted areas some pasangs from the compounds where salt slaves will retrieve them up later. Women are not permitted at Klima so that men will not kill each other to possess them. At the mines, slaves must have their feet bound in leather up to the knees as they will sink through the salt crusts. The salt would grate and burn unprotected flesh. A work day is from dawn to dusk and some men kill others for lighter assignments.
When you come upon Klima, it seems to sit in a vast, concave bowl, many pasangs wide. It is surrounded by white salt crusts. There are numerous low, white buildings of mud brick, plastered like most Tahari structures. The flag of Klima contains a whip and scimitar. There are far more than just salt mines and pits in Klima. "Besides the mines and pits of the salt districts, there are warehouses and offices, in which complicated records are kept, and from which shipments to the isolated, desert storage areas are arranged. There are also processing areas where the salt is freed of water and refined to various degrees of quality, through a complicated system of racks and pans, generally exposed to the sun. Slaves work at these, raking, stirring and sifting. There are also the molding sheds where the salt is pressed into the large cylinders, such that they may be roped together and eventually laden on pack Kaiila." (Tribesman of Gor p.240) "Needless to say, Klima contains as well, incidental to the salt industry centered there, the ancillary supports of these mining and manufacturing endeavors, such as its kitchens and commissaries, its kennels and eating sheds, its discipline pits, its assembly areas, its smithies and shops, its quarters for guards and scribes, an infirmary for them, and so on. In many respects Klima resembles a community, save that it differs in at least two significant respects. It contains neither children, nor women." (Tribesman of Gor p.240)
The keep at Klima is a squarish, fortresslike building which houses the residence and office of the Salt Master, the leader of Klima. Weapons are also stored here. Within this keep is one vaulted room with cool tiles of blue and yellow on the floor. The current Salt Master is T'Zshal, who was also a slave at Klima. Ostensibly he was known to most as the Master of Kennel 804, concealing his true position. The only way to become a kennel master is to kill the existing kennel master. But, many do not desire such a position, knowing the threats such a position brings with it. Great change would eventually come to Klima after the near war between the Aretai and Kavar and the defeat of the Salt Ubar.
Salt on Gor may be found in solid form or solution. In the Tahari, the solid form can be found either above or below ground. Salt found above ground can be worked like an open mine or quarry, and sometimes can be found in mountains over six hundred feet high. Salt found below ground may be located deep below the surface, requiring men to live down there, for maybe weeks at a time, while they mine. At Klima though, most salt is in solution in brine pits. This salt can be obtained in two ways, by drilling and flush mining, or in the deeper pits by sending slaves to manually gather the brine. More details on the two systems of drilling and flush mining can be found in Tribesmen of Gor, p.239. There are two main types of brine pits, open and closed. Open pits may be exposed on the surface, where they are fed by springs from underground rivers. Those same springs also pass through salt-free strata and provide Klima with its fresh water. Slaves though do not last long in the open pits, as they are exposed to the elements. In closed pits, men wade into the brine or traverse it on rafts. A person cannot sink in the salty brine pits. The slaves fill their vessels and then pour them into lift sacks. These sacks are on hooks and are brought to the surface by windlasses located above ground.
In the larger closed pits, which could be over four hundred feet below the surface, large rafts are used to cross the briny water. A typical raft is about twelve feet wide and about twenty-four or twenty-five feet long. At each corner of the raft is a small, oil-fed lamp on a pole that provides the only light in the pits. Each raft has a low frame within are placed the retaining vessels, large wooden salt tubs each about three feet high and four feet in diameter. These tubs may be arranged in a lateral or square formation in the center of the raft. The lateral is more convenient for unloading but the square provides a more convenient distribution of deck space. There will be a number of rafts in the pit at the same time, separated from each other by as little as a couple hundred yards or as far as pasang or more away. The height of the ceiling in the pits will vary as well, sometimes as little as a few feet above their heads to over one hundred feet away.
A typical raft will hold eight slaves, including three harvesters, four polemen and one steersman. The harvesters and polemen periodically swap positions. The steersman guides the raft by a sweep at the stern. He also carries a lance, in case of predators. The polemen move the raft using twenty-foot long poles that are weighted on the bottom. This weight allows them to more easily remain submerged and thus cause less fatigue in the polemen. As the water is often only about ten to fifteen feet deep, poling is usually not a problem. But in certain areas, the water gets much deeper and the poles become useless. In those instances, paddles are used, each raft possessing four. But such paddling is a slow and arduous process. The harvesters toss a metal, perforated cone, tied to a line, into the water. They then pull back the cone and empty it into the salt tubs.
After filling the tubs, the raft will proceed to the salt docks in the pits. The salt tubs are then lifted off the rafts by a system of pulleys and counterweights. While they are suspended in the air, the tubs are tipped over and the sludge is then scooped and shoveled into wide-mouthed lift sacks. These sacks are then drawn and pushed on carts, fitted onto wooden, iron-sheathed rails and transported to the hooked lift ropes. At the surface, men operate windlasses and lift the sacks to the surface. The salt will then be taken to the drying tables. Once dried, the salt will be molded into cylinders and eventually carried by the slaves to storage areas in the desert where the salt is tallied, sold and distributed to caravans. Such salt is divided into nine qualities and each cylinder is marked with its quality, the name of the district, and the sign of that district's salt master. No details are given on the differences between the nine qualities of salt.
The brine pits of Klima are not devoid of life, certain animals having adapted to the unique conditions of those pits. Such creatures as lelts, salamanders, crayfish, and even salt sharks live there. Most of these creatures are harmless though the carnivorous salt sharks can be very dangerous, which is why steersmen carry lances. In Klima, there was a salt shark known as the Old One, a large, nine-gilled creature with a broad, blunt head and no eyes. The shark was white in color, with a long spine and tail. On its back, near its high dorsal fin was a long scar. Part of the dorsal fin itself was also torn and scarred from previous lance attacks. Because of the saline content of the brine pits, salt sharks, when not hunting, often swim half emerged from the water. Their gills are located below and at the sides of their jaws, a salt adaptation which conserves energy which might otherwise by constantly expended in maintaining an altitude in which oxygenation can occur. The Old One had apparently killed a number of salt slaves in the past. But, it is eventually killed by Tarl Cabot and some other salt slaves, including Hassan and T'Zshal. T'Zshal nearly dies as well.
One of the most powerful men in the Tahari was once the Salt Ubar, also known as the Guard of the Dunes. His kasbah was located northwest of Klima, at a secret location. Only a few merchants in the salt trade knew of its exact location. Its walls were over seventy feet high and it had seventeen square battlements that climbed to ninety feet. The front wall was about four hundred feet long and the side walls were four hundred and fifty feet long. It possessed a great gate, its doors opening in the middle. It was a very opulent kasbah and was about two pasangs away from another kasbah, that which belonged to the bandit chieftain Tarna. There was an underground tunnel that joined these two kasbahs. The money to finance the Salt Ubar's kasbah was derived from fees supplied by high salt merchants, which they simply added on to their wholesale pricings to lesser distributors.
The Salt Ubar administered and controlled the salt districts primarily by regulating access to the districts, checking the papers and credentials of merchants, inspecting caravans, keeping records of the commerce, etc. "There are those who say, and I do not doubt it true, that it is he, and not the merchants, who controls the salt of the Tahari." (Tribesman of Gor p.209) He was nominally a sheriff of the merchants and within his territories he held the right of law and execution. Many salt caravans traveled only between the districts and local oases, while others traveled from the oases to distant points, like Kasra and Tor, usually accompanied by the Salt Ubar's men. The Salt Ubar's men were customarily veiled, in red veils, as their allegiance was supposed to be to no tribe but only to the protection of the salt.
About five years prior to the events of Tribesman of Gor, a man named Abdul infiltrated the Salt Ubar's kasbah and deposed the existing Salt Ubar. Abdul assumed his position and also adopted the alias of Ibn Saran, a salt merchant of Kasra. As Salt Ubar, he wore a scarlet sand veil, scarlet kaffiyeh and gold agal cording. Abdul was also an agent of the dreaded Kurii, and part of his mission involved trying to start a war between the Aretai and Kavar. The plot was eventually revealed and united Tahari tribes attacked his kasbah. Abdul was able to muster about 2500 mercenaries in his defense but he was ultimately defeated. It was also revealed that he was actually one of the brothers of Haroun, the Kavar high pasha. Abdul would be subsequently killed in a duel with Haroun.
Around this same time, Haroun also sent weapons and supplies to Klima, to T'Zshal. This enabled the salt slaves to unite and win their freedom. Without the Salt Ubar, changes would now come to the salt industry of the Tahari. T'Zshal and many of the former salt slaves would remain at Klima, negotiate with the local pashas and help to regulate the salt trade. There would no longer be a Salt Ubar. Klima itself would be transformed, adding taverns and cafes. It would eventually become like any other community in the Tahari.
A kasbah is a fortress in the Tahari. The walls are commonly several feet thick, formed of stones and mud brick. The walls are then covered with a sheen of whitish-pink plaster. The plaster will eventually flake off due to the heat and sun. A number of these kasbahs can be quite opulent. At most oases, there are numerous buildings of red-clay, which should last for many years. The floors of the more opulent of these structures are often covered with expensive rugs. Because of this, to prevent undue wear, the rooms are seldom crossed directly. There will be runners on the edges of the room which are used by the normal residents to cross the room unless guests are present.
If you first enter an inn at an oasis, it is customary to empty your extra water into the inn's cistern. When you leave the oasis, you are then supposed to refill your water bags at the public well and not at the inn cistern. As many oases have public baths, many men in the Tahari can swim. Such baths provide a place for both cleaning, usually with oils and towelings, and swimming.
In the Silk War of 8,110 C.A., men fought over the control of certain caravan routes and for the rights to levy raider tribute on traveling Merchants. It was called the Silk War because at that time Turian silk had first began to be imported in bulk to the Tahari. It then traveled northward to Tor and Kasra, and then on to Ar and points north and west. The Bakah tribe was defeated during this war and has since been a vassal tribe of the Kavars. Raider tribute is no longer commonly levied. As men now control the watering points and oases, it is unnecessary to do so. The local pashas generally exact a protection tax from caravans, though only those of a certain size, normally more than fifty kaiila. The tax helps to defray the cost of maintaining warriors. Most pashas though have a heritage of raiders and they are proud of that fact.
Raider camps are concealed among scrub brush and boulders, often protected by a corral of thorn brush. Their tents are made of tawny, inconspicuous Kaiila-hair cloth. There are no free women or children at these camps. "The kailla of raiders, incidentally, are never belled." (Tribesman of Gor p.22) Men usually do not fight on foot because to do so in the desert usually means your death. They fight from kaiila back with scimitars, a curved blade, as a short sword is useless due to its size. The scimitarus is a two-handed scimitar though it is unknown whether it is actually used in the Tahari or not. Men wield the blade in their right hand. The right hand is also considered their eating hand as they will only eat with the hand that can draw blood with steel. Also while on kaiila back, the warriors will carry a small buckler, for defense, and a lance. This slim lance, about eight feet Gorean in length, ends in an extremely narrow point, lanceolate in shape, that is about eleven inches long.
Tahari men, like Goreans in general, are patient, extremely proud, easily offended men, with a touchy sense of honor. They enjoy war. A rumor of an insult or outrage, not inquired closely into, perhaps by intent, will suffice to excite them to war. Most large scale Tahari battles devolve into a melee of individual combats. The names of leaders do not figure into the war cries of the Tahari tribes for it is the tribe that is significant. The cry of the Aretai is "Aretai victorious" and that of the Kavar is "Kavars supreme." It is difficult to maintain a lengthy siege in the Tahari as food supplies at an oasis are short, except for the stores in the Kasbah. Supply lines are also long and difficult to defend. Thus, sieges are rare. "The forms change but, in the Tahari, as elsewhere, order, justice and law rest ultimately upon the determination of men, and steel." (Tribesman of Gor p.151)
The people of the Tahari speak Gorean but they use a different written language, Taharic. Their alphabet is correlated to Gorean phonemes so it is little more than an incomplete cipher to one who already knows Gorean. Taharic only possesses signs for four of the nine vowels. The vowel sounds, which are explicitly represented, are symbolized by tiny marks near the other letters, rather like accent marks. They are not full fledged letters. The other five vowels must be inserted by the reader. At one time, Taharic had no vowels at all and there are still some Taharic scholars who refuse to accept vowel signs. They regard them as neccessary only for illiterates. Taharic is a very graceful script and there are no distinctions between capital and small letters, and little distinction between printed and cursive script. Men form their letters very carefully and beautifully, being fond of them. A man who hastily scribbles Taharic, or takes little care in his script, is seen insensible to beauty.
There are several types of clothing indigenous to this region. In the cities and villages, free women are often garbed in haiks. A haik is commonly a black outfit that covers a woman from head to toe. It may be simply decorated, such as with a line of silver thread. At the eyes there is a bit of black lace so she can see through the outfit. On her feet, she would wear soft, black, nonheeled slippers with curled toes. Sometimes slaves are also put into a haik. "Haik" is an Arabic word and generally refers to a large piece of cotton, silk, or wool cloth that was worn, by men and women, as an outer garment in northern Africa. In the Tahari, it seems only women wear the haik. Some nomads veil their free women and others do not. Some girls also decorate their faces with designs, often drawn in charcoal.
Men commonly wear a djellaba, a striped, loose, hooded and long-sleeved robe. The striping denotes its area of origin such as a city, tribe or oasis. Djellebas though would not be worn during a war or in raiding as the sleeves could get in the way of using your weapons. Instead, a man would wear a burnoose. A burnoose is simply a sleeveless, hooded cloak. As your arms are free, you can more easily ride and wield weapons. Some people wear colored sashes with their djellaba or burnoose. For example, some merchants will wear sashes of ostentatious colors, like yellow and purple, to draw attention to themselves. Kaftans, a sleeved, full-length tunic, are also worn.
Men also wear on their heads the kaffiyeh and the agal. "The kaffiyeh is a squarish scarf, folded over into a triangle, and placed over the head, two points at the side of the shoulders, one in back to protect the back of the neck. It is bound to the head by several loops of cord, the agal. The cording indicates tribe and district." (Tribesman of Gor p.20) The cording can also indicate one's city. Some men, generally in the cities, may wear a head scarf, a wrapped turban of rep cloth. This protects the head from the sun and does not permit sweat to escape. Among some Low Caste men, it can also provide a soft cushion for carrying boxes and other burdens. You simply steady the item atop your head with your right hand. In doors, men commonly wear soft, heel-less slippers with extended, curling toes. While in the desert, men may wear sand veils, as protection against for their faces from the elements.
Slave girls in the Tahari may be garbed in any common slave clothes though there are some more common forms of garb. There is a slave djelleba, a black and white striped robe made of rep-cloth which is brief, coming high on the thigh. A fancier dress may be the chalwar and vest. Chalwars are baggy pants of diaphanous silk, gathered in closely at the ankles, and worn low on the hips, several inches below the belly button. They are similar to what we know as "harem trousers." A silk vest often accompanies the chalwars, leaving a bare midriff.
Some girls also are made to wear a slave veil, a small triangle of diaphanous yellow silk, fastened by a tiny gold string. It is worn across the bridge of the nose and covers the lower half of the face. It is a parody of the veils worn by free women. "The slave veil is a mockery, in its way. It reveals, as much as conceals, yet it adds a touch of subtlety, mystery; slave veils are made to be torn away, the lips of the master then crushing those of the slave." (Tribesman of Gor p.70) Among the upper classes in the Tahari, it is scandalous that a woman's mouth not be concealed. "The mouth of a woman, by men of the Tahari, and by Goreans generally, is found extremely provocative, sexually." (Tribesman of Gor p.69-70)
Tahari free women have a certain place in their society and learn particular skills which are considered appropriate for their gender. These skills include such matters as making rope from kaiila hair, cutting and plaiting of reins, weaving of cloth and mats, decoration and beading of leather goods, use of the mortar and pestle, use of the grain quern, preparation and spicing of stews, cleaning of verr, milking of verr and kaiila, carrying of water, herding of animals and the churning of milk in skin bags. Use of the pestle is a strenuous activity as the the heavy, rounded-ended pestle is about five feet high and more than five inches at the base. It weighs about thirty pounds and is used in a heavy wooden bowl that is more than a foot deep and eighteen inches in diameter. "Set on rocks, boards of metal some two feet in length, and six inches wide, are sometimes used by the nomad women in frying foods." (Tribesman of Gor p.21)
Women, free and slave, are commonly transported in the Tahari in a kurdah. A kurdah is a semicircular frame of tem wood, about a yard in width at its widest point and four feet high. It is an open-fronted, flat-bottomed, half-globe. The frame is covered with layers of white rep cloth to reflect the sun. The front closes by a curtain of white rep-cloth. It is light and can be carried by a pack kailla, strapped to the animal and steadied on both sides by braces against the pack blankets. The inside may have silk cushions, depending upon the nature of the occupant. It is not necessary to chain a kajira within the kurdah as the desert serves well enough as a cage.
Some women in the Tahari use items that would be more likely found on slaves elsewhere. Free girls, of the age ready for free companionship (the specific age is not mentioned), may signal their availability by belling their left ankles with a virgin bell. The bright and clear note of the virgin bell is easily distinguished from the more sensual sounds of slave bells. Sometimes a group of free girls, as a prank, don slave bells beneath their haiks and walk through the city. Unfortunately for them, they sometimes end up captured and sold. "A beautifully measured gait is thought, in the Tahari, to be attractive in a woman." (Tribesman of Gor p.45) Thus, slaves often use light walking chains that tether their ankles, the chains being adjustable for a range of two to twenty inches. There is dispute as to most desirable length of the stride and it likely varies with the size of girl as height and hip width vary. Free women, usually outside, may also measure their stride, sometimes with silk thongs or even a chain, though they keep the key.
Slaves in the Tahari are commonly branded with the "Kef" though the letter is written in Taharic. They also use the printed letter and not the cursive, though it still looks floral. "Cold, white-skinned women are of interest to the men of the Tahari. They enjoy putting them in servitude. They enjoy, on their submission mats, turning them into helpless, yielding slaves. Too, blue-eyed, blond women are, statistically, rare in the Tahari districts." (Tribesman of Gor p.44) Such women can fetch a high price in this region. In some kasbahs, one might find a "circle of assessment" where slaves are displayed. One such circle was a seven-foot, scarlet marble circle. Men in the Tahari also do not prefer slaves that are too skinny. "In the Tahari a woman is often stuffed with food for days before her sale, even force fed, if necessary. Many of the men of the Tahari relish soft, pretty, meaty little slaves." (Players of Gor, p.219) Following merchant law and Tahari custom, a prisoner does not become a slave until they have been branded, collared or performed a gesture of submission. Slaves may be made to perform on submission mats, very coarse mats. There are other rough-fibered slave mats that are not as coarse. Slaves, both male or female, may be kept in a seraglio, which is a term that means "harem." It is considered a horrible degradation to make a Tahari woman, free or slave, dry a man's feet with her.
Men in the Tahari, like most Gorean men, enjoy watching slave dancing. Many girls in the Tahari may use zills, finger cymbals, while dancing. Zills are commonly worn on the thumb and index finger of both hands. Common names for dancers in the Tahari include: Feiqa, Aytul, Benek, Emine, Faize, Mine, Yasemine, and Yasine. It is also common for them to use some type of dancing chain. "She wore a golden metal dancing collar about her throat, golden chains looped from her wrists, gracefully to the collar ring, then fell to her ankles; there are varieties of Tahari dancing chains; she wore the oval and collar; briefly, in readying a girl, after she has been belled and silked, and bangled, and has been made up, and touched with slave perfume, she kneels, head down in a large oval of light gleaming chain, extending her wrists before her; fastened at the sides of the top of the oval are two wrist rings, at the sides of the lower loop of the oval two ankle rings; the oval is then pulled inward and the wrist and ankle rings fastened on the slave; her throat is then locked in the dancing collar, which has, under the chin, an open snap ring; with the left hand the oval is then gathered together, so the two strands of chain lie in the palm of the left hand, whence, lifted, they are placed inside the snap ring, which is then snapped shut, and locked; the two strands of chain flow freely in the snap ring; accordingly, though the girl's wrists and ankles are fastened at generous, though inflexible limits from one another, usually about a yard for the wrists and about eighteen inches for the ankles, much of the chain may be played through, and back through, the collar ring; this permits a skillful girl a great deal of beautiful chain work; the oval and collar are traditional in the Tahari; it enhances a girl's beauty; it interferes little with her dance, though it imposes subtle, sensuous limits upon it; a good dancer uses these limits, exploiting them deliciously; for example, she may extend a wrist, subtly holding the chain at her waist with her other hand; the chain slides through the ring, yet short of the expected movement; the chain stops her wrist; her wrist rebels, but is helpless; it must yield; her head falls; she is a chained slave girl." (Tribesman of Gor p.215)
Sometimes when a girl is to be disciplined in the Tahari, she will be commanded to go to her alcove, where she will later receive her punishment. Naked, she must go to her alcove on her kness, prohibited from rising to her feet. She must carry a whip in her mouth and cannot speak. Dropping the whip will earn her an extra twenty lashes. Obviously she is quite vulnerable at this time, and thus might be accompanied by a man who acts as her guard and caller. The intent of his guard duty is not to ensure that the girl does not flee, but it is to protect the girl from other slaves. He will carry a strap or coiled rope, most often using it to ward off other slaves. His duty as a caller requires him to do the "whip song," a series of calls or announcements intended to summon other slaves to witness the girl who is on her way to discipline. These slaves will form a gauntlet through which the girl must crawl. The other slaves will spit upon the girl, calling her names and even striking her. The guard ensures this does not get out of hand. These slaves though generally do not witness the actual whipping. That is most often done privately.
There is a very low infant mortality rate in the Tahari. Nomad children are commonly suckled for eighteen months, much longer than other areas do, about twice the normal length for Earth infants and half again the normal time for Gorean infants. The children are secure within their families. They are generally sturdy, outspoken and self-reliant. The adults will always listen to a child as he is of the tribe. Small children are frequently bathed, even if only with a cloth and cup of water, though the adults though may go months without washing. One grows used to the offensive smells and accumulated sweat and grime. Children do not even wear clothes until they are five or six years old. They won't leave the shade of the tents during the day but at night they will go out and and play. Their mothers teach them written Taharic, drawing the characters in the sand.
There are a number of other customs in the Tahari.
When they greet someone, or say good-bye, they commonly bow twice and brush the palm of their hand against the palm of the other person.
Parting words are commonly "May your waterbags be never empty" or "May you have always water."
A person bows their head in courtesy when acknowledging a compliment.
"In sharing their water I had made myself, by custom of the Tahari, their guest." (Tribesman of Gor p.143).
At one point, Tarl gives a Tahari boy a gift of a chronometer. The boy takes the item and offers it to his father who gives it back to the boy. The boy then offers it to all his kinsmen who are present and they also give it back to him. It is unclear whether this is an obligation just for children or for all who receive gifts in the Tahari tribes.
"Let there be salt between us" states an intent to form a close bond with another, a brotherhood of sorts. Salt is placed on the back of each man's wrist. The two men then dip their tongues in the other man's salt. This bond is apparently even stronger than the bond of a man to his tribes. "It is a hard choice you impose upon me," said Hassan, "to choose between my brother and my tribe." Then he said, "I am of the Tahari. I must choose my brother." (Tribesman of Gor p.277)
A person accused of a crime may be made to kneel on a "circle of accusation."
Here are a few sayings of the Tahari:
"More real than the law is the heart," said the girl, quoting a proverb of the Tahari." (Tribesman of Gor p.146)
"A good fight, I have heard men of the Tahari say, licking their lips, justifies any cause." (Tribesman of Gor p.177)
"The desert is my mother, and my father." (Tribesman of Gor p.264)
One area not really addressed in the books concerns the religion of the Tahari region. There may be Initiates in the cities but it is doubtful they would also live in the Wastes. One thing we do know about the Tahari is that they have some of their own superstitions. One involves the djinn, also known on Earth as the jinn or genie. In Earth folklore, djinns were powerful spirits who could grant wishes. To the people of the Tahari, djinn are spirits as well. But they were not always benevolent. There are stories on Earth of similar beings called ifrit which are basically malevolent djinns. If the Tahari knows of djinn, then it would seem likely that they are aware of related spirits such as ifrit.
One of the more controversial aspect of Tribesmen of Gor involves the character of Tarna, a female bandit chieftain. She leads a band of four to five hundred brigands and wields a scimitar. Tarna is stunningly beautiful with long dark hair and very dark eyes. She is also described as graceful, slight and vital. Some people use her as an example to justify the viability of female Warriors on Gor. A more thorough examination of Tarna's role though should help to invalidate such a justification.
Tarna was placed in charge of a raider band by the Salt Ubar. She did not earn her spot through her skill of arms. She was but a tool of the Salt Ubar who was also an agent of the Kurii. Once her usefulness was over, Tarna would have been enslaved. Tarna's kasbah is located about two pasangs to the west of the Salt Ubar's kasbah. Her kasbah has a male seraglio where she keeps her male slaves. Two slave girls, Ali and Fina, are dominant in this seraglio, imposing order upon the kajiri. They are supported by the armed guards outside of the seraglio. Tarna is even eventually relieved of her command by the Salt Ubar. Tarna's origins are shrouded in mystery but she seems unaware of some of the customs of the Tahari. For example, she seems unaware of the correct war cries of the high tribes. She and her brigands also destroy wells, a heinous crime.
Were there other such female bandit chieftain in the Tahari? Evidence suggests not. "And strangest of all," said the merchant, leaning forward, looking at us intently, "is the fact that the Aretai raiders were led by a woman." (Tribesman of Gor p.158) It is clear that such a woman is an aberration, far from the norm. How skilled was Tarna with a scimitar? Tarna claims to be more skilled with a scimitar than any man. Yet that is not supported by any evidence. No one else echoes her sentiment. It is unknown how she learned to use a scimitar. She engages in a duel with Tarl Cabot and he states: "She was not unskillful." (Tribesman of Gor p.329) But he also does not defend with his full strength so as to not tire her arm. He eventually tells her that: "You are not a match for a warrior," (Tribesman of Gor p.329) He notes to himself that most male warriors could easily best her. It is also interesting that Tarl compares her only to male Warriors. For if female Warriors existed, then surely he would have compared her to them. By failing to do so, it seems logical that such female Warriors do not exist.
The plot of Tribesmen of Gor centered around a dire plan by the Kurii to destroy the entire planet of Gor using a single mighty explosive. To avoid detection, this explosive was hidden deep within the dune country of the Tahari. Agents of the Kurii then tried to start a war between the Aretai and Kavar tribes so that the ensuing conflict would prevent anyone from entering the desert and happening upon their explosive. But, Tarl Cabot, investigating clues that led him to the Tahari area was not dissuaded by the possibility of war. Agents of the Kurii tried to stop Tarl, including enslaving him, but he was able to outwit them. Eventually, with the assistance of a rogue Kur who did not want to see Gor destroyed, Tarl was able to thwart the destructive intentions of the Kurii. In addition, he acquired a special Kurii device, a ring that rendered its wielder invisible. This ring would later figure into the plot of Explorers of Gor.