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The Sirdabi are the dominant ethnic group of the Sirdabi Caliphate, descended from nomadic desert tribesmen of Near Ruleska. Many have roots in the home province of Rahoum as well as the immediately adjacent regions, but the bloodline is well dispersed across the caliphate. Dwelling not only in large cosmopolitan cities but also in oasis villages and deep in the desert wastes, the creative and commercial-minded Sirdabi may be poets or merchants or anything in between -- or sometimes both at once.

The religion of Azadi originated among the the Sirdabi from the teachings of the prophet al-Azad, and the term "Sirdabi" is also often used to refer to anyone of Azadi faith living under the sovereignty of the caliphate. While they are generally tolerant of those with different beliefs who live within the caliphate, Sirdabi themselves tend to be devout and conscientious practitioners of their faith. Theirs is a highly literate and generally well-educated society, with even modest villagers and farmers skilled in the basic literacy that allows them to read, memorize, and then recite their holy text, the Song of God. Although formal education fails to reach those who still live a nomadic life in the heart of the desert, it is these tribal wanderers who have the strongest love for the spoken poetry that is popular even in the opulent courts of the caliph and his provincial governors.


A people of hot and sunny climes, Sirdabi generally have light brown to deep coppery skin, brown to black hair, and eyes drawing from a spectrum of earth tones from sandy beige to nearly black. Both women and men often have aquiline features and strong dark eyebrows, as well as thick eyelashes that are a boon in lands of bright sunlight and blowing sand. Sirdabi tend to be of medium height and build, with the nomads of the desert often a little taller than the people of farm and city.


Being spread out across the caliphate, the Sirdabi mode of dress can vary somewhat from one region or province to another. However, the standard Sirdabi costume consists of multiple loose layers: a long shirt (for men) or dress (for women) called a thawb, worn over loose ankle-cuffed pants usually referred to as sirwaal, often with the tunic-like kaftan layered on top as an outer garment. An additional cloak may be added, for extra modesty or protection from the elements. For women this is typically the abaya, while for men it is the bisht. Outer garments are usually solid and sometimes somber colors, with black, white, and brown being common. But the lower layers of clothing can be brightly colored and patterned for both women and men, and often feature elaborate embroidery and fancy braid. Men and women alike generally wear headscarves when out of doors or in public. Men often wear theirs wrapped intricately around the head as a turban, while many women add a veil that may cover all or only part of their face. Wealthier urban women generally conform to more rigorous standards of body covering, and are more likely than others to go out with all but their hands covered.

Hairstyles for both sexes tend to be fairly simple. Women almost exclusively wear their hair long, often in braids or a bun, while men may wear their hair either long or short but generally keep it tied back if the former. Most men wear a beard, usually well trimmed whatever the style, which varies from place to place and according to individual taste. Untrimmed beards are often seen in members of ascetic or mystical sects of Azadi. Being clean-shaven is less common, but is most often seen in the north Idiri provinces or in younger men.


The native language of the Sirdabi is simply Sirdabi, which most are as proficient at reading and writing as speaking. Comprehensive capacity in the Sirdabi language is considered essential to the understanding of the Song of God, the holy text of the Azadi faith, which has led to widespread literacy throughout the lands of the Sirdabi Caliphate and wherever else Azadi is the dominant religion. The Sirdabi script has been highly developed to create a beautiful visual aesthetic fitting to express the Song of God, and as a result it is frequently used as a decorative motif in architecture, manuscripts, ceramics, and various other visual arts whether religious or secular.


From their very beginnings the Sirdabi people have been organized along tribal lines, with every tribe and each clan within it descended from some eponymous ancestor. Among the nomadic tribes the clans are further divided into bands who tend to travel together, their members typically a combination of close kin and more distantly related families who have shared a long association and enjoy one another's company. Even in cities tribal ties are strong and can have significant influence on one's associates and career. The Sirdabi have no hereditary nobility and their ideals retain some of the old tribal egalitarianism, but in practice certain tribes and clans possess more prestige and power than others, due chiefly to descent from the families of the Prophet al-Azad's wives and close companions. While there are no direct descendants of al-Azad from any of his wives, the families to which they belonged are still greatly respected in Sirdabi society.

The most prestigious tribe of all is the Banu Shirayd, the tribe of the Prophet al-Azad himself. Its members are still found largely in Rahoum and Marzum. They are also still renowned for their commercial interests, particular in the incense trade, and may be not only wealthy merchant "princes" but also the wiliest guides of the desert caravans.

In northern Rahoum and southern Irzal, the Banu Tawwal, tribe of the Prophet's second wife Rima, are the most important tribe. In central and southern Rahoum, the Banu Anshar'a of the Prophet's first Companion are influential. Western Rahoum is home to the Banu Seghoura, the people of the last Companion, many of whom are great teachers as well as experts in Azadi law.

In the province of Raziya, the Banu Beshaliq are a powerful tribe centered in the city of Omrazir. They are especially known for their role in the administration of the Elucidarium and its library. The Banu Nebbu, often found involved in martial matters, are also important in Omrazir and northern Raziya. The Banu Rania are a small but widely dispersed tribe, found in southern Raziya, northern Zalawi, and scattered parts of Amunat and Ifru.

In Amunat proper, the Banu Hiroun is the most notable tribe, consisting of descendents of the great Seeker Hiroun al-Birabi.

In the province of Zalawi, the Banu Anzul have intermarried extensively with the local Salawi and are widely respected throughout the province. They are especially prominent in Zaloudri, and have ties to Marzum as well. The Banu Bahri are another mixed Sirdabi and Salawi tribe heavily involved in the trade with Jalanjhur.

In Ifru and Tessere, the Banu Tifr are the most important tribe, except for in the city of al-Sabiyyah, where the Banu Masharah wield great if often subtle power in the provincial court.


The origins of the Sirdabi people lie in the deserts of Rahoum, where many of them lived as nomadic pastoralists, traders, and warriors. In fact a significant number of Sirdabi still do live in this manner, spread sparsely across the arid landscape and keeping largely to themselves when not trading in towns and cities or conducting caravans through the wastes -- or raiding them instead. Many tribes are nomadic only part of the year, having sunk roots into scattered oasis communities where a few small gardens or groves of date palms are tended, and where horses and other stock may be raised. However, most people living around oases or in villages are fully settled communities of farmers, artisans, and shopkeepers, who view their nomadic neighbors with distrust which occasionally heightens into fear or open hostility. The nomads, for their part, tend to feel disdain for sedentary folk if not outright contempt. Both, however, rely on the other in order to maintain their very different ways of life.

Outside the home province of Rahoum, most people of Sirdabi heritage live in the cities and larger towns of the caliphate, and indeed a great many Sirdabi in Rahoum itself likewise dwell in urban areas. Urban life is highly developed in the caliphate, and the culturally sophisticated lifestyle of the great cities constitutes the Sirdabi ideal of a good life. However much the urban Sirdabi may romanticize their tribal origins and the courage and freedom of the desert dweller, their greatest love is reserved for city life and the many opportunities for learning, commerce, and high culture which the urban environment fosters.

Sirdabi society is strongly patriarchal, with men serving as heads of both families and states and wielding most of the power in domestic and political spheres alike. Property and possessions are handed down along paternal lines, and family prestige likewise tends to reside within the paternal lineage. Across much of the caliphate, particularly in those lands most heavily dominated by ethnic Sirdabi, vastly more men than women hold posts of real power, though it is not unheard of for women to wield power more subtly from behind the scenes. Women are also held to higher standards of modesty and propriety than men, and it is generally felt that a woman's personal virtue is reflected and amplified across her entire family or clan. In some sense this is also true for men, whose observance of or deviation from Sirdabi codes of honor redounds to his entire social unit. But it is women's behavior that has come to be most sweepingly restrained and policed, to the point where the strictest codes require women to refrain from all contact with unrelated men and, ideally, to keep themselves apart from society either by cloistering themselves within doors or dressing in such a way to keep themselves from view even when in public.

It is a matter of some debate whether this represents the natural way of things, or a departure from more ancient traditions. The Song of God simply calls for modesty and humility among all the faithful, without dwelling greatly on details. Some scholars also note the important role of women in the early days of the Azadi community, and remarks made by the Prophet Azad commending the intelligence of women and calling for them to be treated with respect equal to men. At the same time, remnants of customs as well as founding legends among the desert tribes suggest that women once possessed greater freedom and prestige in early Rahoumi societies. In any case, women of poor to middling means are far less restricted in their behavior than are women among the well-to-do and powerful, as are those belonging to nomadic tribes and rural farming communities where it is impractical to keep women cloistered and idle. Many women find a calling in in crafts such as weaving, herbalism, and even jewelsmithing, and as long as they maintain proper standards of modesty they may even run their own shops and rent booths in local souks and bazaars.

Among people rich or poor, urban or rural, settled or wandering, the most treasured form of culture in Sirdabi society is poetry. Books and manuscripts of poetry are circulated freely and enthusiastically throughout literate society, and most settled Sirdabi society is in fact literate. But however valued such books are, to Sirdabi poetry is truly meant to be recited, not read. The poetic tradition arose far back among the wandering tribes, long before the days of reading and writing, and every man, woman, and child would both listen raptly to the poems of others and compose their own. This tradition continues to this day among the nomads of the desert, but has spread in ever more refined forms into every level of Sirdabi society. The courts of the caliph offer the most exalted venue for poets both amateur and professional to air their latest compositions and find fame and patronage for themselves, and the various provincial courts of the beys furnish the same opportunities around the caliphate. The best poems of court and street alike are shared across all social strata, and even street urchins can usually recite a few lines of the most famous poetry of the realm. In fact, a gift for poetry remains a means by which even society's poorest and most marginalized may rise to power, wealth, and fame.

Although they have vast respect for the traditions of their faith, and great love for the old tribal practices such as poetry recitation and lavish hospitality, Sirdabi are generally less inclined to look back to the past than are other heritages of the caliphate such as the Irzali or Amunati. They tend to be far more interested in looking forward to the future, or investing themselves in the absorbing schemes of the present. Less confined by nostalgia and the demands of ancient tradition, Sirdabi are often original thinkers and clever inventors, eager to embrace new ways of doing things and adapt them for own purposes. They are curious about the world and its peoples, and are happy to borrow new ideas and technologies from others as well as come up with their own. It is this kind of mindset that has made the universities of the caliphate such fruitful places of debate and innovation, and also brought the Collegium of Mages to the Raziyan city of Omrazir.


Perhaps unsurprisingly given their history, nearly all Sirdabi throughout the caliphate are Azadi and worship The One True God, according to the revelations conveyed through the poetry of the Prophet al-Azad. Although old pagan practices lightly flavor Azadi among some of the more remote desert tribes, the only Sirdabi who are not Azadi are the Sarmatiyyans of the province of Saramat. These proud and stubborn peoples continue to follow the old pagan deities once honored at the Sirdab shrine in ancient times, and call themselves the Friends of the Gods. But the Sarmatiyyans are the odd exception to the rule.

Most Sirdabi are quite devout, yet matter-of-fact in their practice of the faith. They endeavor to pray the prescribed three times a day, at dawn, noon, and dusk, but if circumstances make it necessary to miss a prayer they are content to double it at the next hour of observance, or even the next day. Going to the mosque, daily or weekly, is a comfortable and comforting routine, both for the spiritual sustenance it offers and for the pleasure of society among others of the faith, who often mingle and converse following the prayers. Azadi not only provides a solid moral foundation by which to live, but also offers numerous practical guides to daily life, from dealing with difficult neighbors to conducting ethical business deals, and Sirdabi law is based on a combination of traditional practice and careful interpretations of the Song of God and the Remembrances of al-Azad.

While some Azadi are more zealous in their faith and will speak strong words against the Kalentoi, Yehani, and other religions in their midst, many more are tolerant and have no particular desire to persecute others who do not believe and worship as they do. This does not, of course, prevent them from seeing these others as misguided and foolish, or even occasionally pernicious in their practices. But overall Sirdabi Azadi are content to mind their own business and let others mind theirs, especially where there is business to be conducted or learning to be done.

In contrast to these more pragmatic and worldly practitioners of the faith, some Sirdabi do turn to more mystical or purist sects. While they do not completely turn their back on the world, the mystics tend to focus on meditative practices and on cultivating their own deep relationship with Annour and the Dream. Others demand, from themselves and often from others, a return to the original tents of Azadi, emphasizing the rejection of wealth and luxurious pleasures and focusing on the equality of all the faithful and the importance of each individual in the eyes of the God.

See also