Sirdabi Caliphate

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The Sirdabi Caliphate is one of the preeminent powers of the lands surrounding the Adelantean Sea, encompassing numerous provinces and emirates spanning Near Ruleska and northern Idiri. It represents the community of the Azadi faithful, united under the rulership of the caliph who is considered the successor to the Prophet al-Azad. Perhaps the most cultured society in the known world, the Sirdabi Caliphate is renowned for its poetry, literature, and calligraphic art in addition to its faith.


The Sirdabi Caliphate was founded by the tribal peoples of Rahoum who had come to accept both the spiritual and secular leadership first of the Prophet Azad and then of his successors. Formerly a land of numerous small tribal nations, Rahoum gradually became united in the Azadi faith under the leadership of the Prophet, whose vision of a community of the faithful living in accordance with the Song of God had largely come to fruition by his death in the year 52 BD. Although the leadership of the community was disputed after his passing, leading to a series of small-scale conflicts known as the Women's War, eventually a settlement was reached in which Alaman bin Darush, the prophet's brother-in-law, was unanimously chosen as the leader of the new Sirdabi Caliphate.

As time went on the Sirdabi people spread out across the entire Idiri and Ruleskan portions of the Adelantean basin, seeking to bring the whole world into the chorus of the Song of God and to help each people to discover the unique expressions of the Song native to their land, which would in turn increase the faithful's own understanding of the fullness of the Song. While often combined with more secular aims such as expansion of territory, the chastisement of old enemies, or the pursuit of new economic opportunities, nevertheless the fervent sincerity of the Sirdabi's faith led numerous lands to quickly fall under their dominion through both military conquest and propagation of Azadi worship itself.

Though beset by numerous troubles both internal and external, and confronted with the rising power of other lands in Ruvera and beyond, the Sirdabi Caliphate remains a powerful player on the world stage and still boasts a flourishing culture of the arts and sciences that is among the most vibrant in Avaria.

The Sirdab

The name of the caliphate was drawn from the Sirdab, the lovely garden shrine near the center of Rahoum which had been the center of pagan worship and pilgrimage for time out of mind. Much honored and beloved, the importance of the shrine had already led many in Rahoum to refer to their homeland as the Land of the Sirdab, and when the Verses of Oneness were revealed to Azad in his meditations there the Sirdab assumed the utmost importance to the new Azadi faith as well. The Sirdab was later the site at which the successor to the Prophet, the Caliph of the faithful, was elected by the Azadi community, and the new capital of the caliphate was built up around it. The formerly disparate tribes of Ruleska came to collectively call themselves Sirdabi, as most peoples of Rahoumi heritage continue to do today.


The Sirdabi Caliphate is made up of the heartland of Rahoum and its nine provinces, along with two emirates that operate with some degree of independence but ultimately owe allegiance to Sirdab.

  • Rahoum, the Sirdabi heartland, land of vast deserts and rugged coasts, home to numerous nomadic tribes as well as the great capital city of the caliphate.
  • Marzum, land of kingdoms and heroes of legend, a narrow strip of high mountains and fertile coastal plains overlooking the Sea of Sala'ah.
  • Saramat, the mountainous border province that has long been on the front lines of conflict between Sirdab and the Kalentoi Empire.
  • Irzal, a former great empire and still the source of much learning and refined culture, though currently plagued by unrest and barbarian incursions.
  • Raziya, gateway to the Idiri continent and home to many mysteries, as well as the great port metropolis of Omrazir.
  • Zalawi, a powerhouse of maritime commerce on the eastern coast of Idiri, and the source of the caliphate's finest iron.
  • Amunat, another great kingdom of ancient times, still renowned for the piety and pride of its people who call the River Tamarat their mother.
  • Ifru, a province reliant on the fruits of trade through the eastern Hazari Desert, and otherwise considered something of a backwater of the caliphate.
  • Tessere, a realm of harsh deserts and temperate shores, and the heartland of the free-spirited Tessouare people.
  • The Emirate of Eladje, a withdrawn and somewhat mysterious land centered upon the large freshwater lake called Mir Eladje.
  • The Emirate of Koumbasi, a wealthy nation of northwestern Idiri, as rich in the learning of its universities as it is in gold from the trade routes it controls.

Major Cities

City Province Approx. Pop. Chief Products Landmarks
Sirdab City Rahoum 200,000 Caliphal Palace, Circle Gardens
Al-Sabiyyah Tessere 210,000 Gold, jewelry, clockwork The Ark, Shrine of the Well
Alheri Raziya 25,000
Fazhali Irzal 190,000 Carpets, silverwork, dishware
Kneph-Nabhet Amunat 230,000 Papyrus, grain
Koba Ifru 80,000 Marble
Laascana Zalawi 170,000 Spices
Omrazir Raziya 120,000 Books, black pearls Elucidarium, Magisterium, Temple of Storms, Plaza of the People
Qaysum Marzum 110,000 Incense, perfume, marzite
Sibela Saramat 45,000 Timber, furs
Suurmi Rahoum 60,000 Scimitars
Zaloudri Zalawi 100,000 Pottery, textiles


The caliph is the supreme political and spiritual leader of the Sirdabi Caliphate, being the successor of the Prophet Azad and therefore the leader of the whole community of the Azadi faithful. In some eras the caliph has been a man of significant power and wisdom, respected or occasionally feared by all; while in others he has been little more than a figurehead, as more forceful and ruthless personalities in the court manage to wield power from behind the scenes. Generally the state of affairs lies somewhere in between, with subordinate officials possessing extensive power but still following the dictates of the caliph as he chooses to make them.

The position of the caliph is not a hereditary one, as according to early Sirdabi tradition he is supposed to be elected by a special council who choose from a pool of candidates deemed suitable. Suitability is meant to be determined by such considerations as age, wisdom, piety, dignity of demeanor, and adherence to the key virtues of Azadi, irrespective of social station. In practice, however, the caliph tends to be drawn from a few ascendant families, though these have not remained constant through the entire history of the caliphate. Due to the intense intrigue and ambition which the appointment of a new caliph tends to generate, assassination, usurpation, and the violent overthrow of entire regimes have more than occasionally been involved in the process. Given that the Kalentoi Empire generally operates much the same way, this is not viewed as anything exceptional by their chief rivals, although each regularly maneuvers to take advantage of the internal unrest suffered by the other at such times.

The bureacracy beneath the caliph has tended towards stability even as the caliphs themselves come and go. It consists of three divisions or divans: the divan of the chancery, responsible for producing official documents and correspondence; the divan of the treasury, responsible for supervising the assessment, collection, and expenditure of the caliphate's revenues; and the divan of military records, responsible for keeping the accounts and records of the caliphal armies. Each divan is led by a vizier. Above all of these lesser viziers, and acting as the head of the caliphal administration overall, is the grand vizier. There is also a court chamberlain, or hajib, who controls access to the caliph and is in charge of courtly affairs, including acting as a master of ceremonies for court functions. Both the grand vizier and the hajib may hold significant power, and there is often a rivalry between them as to who is the preeminent government functionary.

This organizational scheme is mirrored in each of the caliphate's provinces, where the bey, or governor, of the province acts as the caliph's local representative and heads up his own court. The complexity, luxury, and influence of these provincial courts vary from one place to another. In provinces such as Raziya or Irzal, the provincial court is only slightly less splendid than the caliph's own, while those of Saramat or Ifru are considerably less grand and more utilitarian.

Military & Policing

The standing military force of the Sirdabi Caliphate is the Lion Guard. With its mix of infantry and cavalry units, along with a much smaller component of artillery and engineers, the Lion Guard is capable of being an effective and lethal force for the defense of the caliphate. The home Lion Guard of Rahoum, often referred to as the Pride of the Caliphate, serves under the direct command of the caliphal government in Sirdab City. Below that, each province has its own local Lion Guard that answers to the court of the local bey, usually under the leadership of the amir, or provincial general. Rahoum has its own provincial guard separate from the Pride, likewise under the leadership of the Rahoumi amir, but this is the smallest of the provincial Guards despite Rahoum's vast territory -- it being deemed too dangerous by caliphs past to have a separate military force of any great size stationed so close to their own exalted person.

Besides acting as the caliphate's permanent military, the Lion Guard performs policing duties in both cities and towns, and patrols major thoroughfares in an eternal effort to stamp out banditry. In some places the Lion Guard is the sole provincial police force, while in others it shares this duty with local organizations such as the Omrazir Customs Authority. Wherever it serves, the Lion Guard draws its ranks entirely from outside the borders of its own province. This practice is meant to decrease local control over the caliphal forces and help dampen corruption, local favoritism, and conspiracy. While this may contribute to the exercise of impartial justice, it also tends to make the Lion Guard somewhat irksome to at least part of the population it polices.

The Lion Guard is overall an effective and well-trained fighting force, but its numbers have been allowed to dwindle over the past relatively peaceful century. With the caliphate's age-old enemies -- particular the Kalentoi Empire -- occupied with their own troubles, and with provincial borders more or less secure, revenue has been diverted from the military and towards funding peacetime pursuits. This slow hollowing out of the Guard has begun to be more seriously felt in recent years, as incursions of mounted barbarians have suddenly begun to plague the Irzali borders and unrest in sub-Hazari Idiri has begun to spill over into the margins of the western caliphate. Unable (or perhaps in some cases still unwilling) to reverse their military declines so quickly, the governments of the caliphate have come to rely increasingly on hired mercenaries and, especially, the more subtle and devious means of spying and assassination to keep their rising enemies in check.

Life in the Caliphate

Although the caliphate is home to diverse peoples and cultures, a number of customs are common throughout the realm. Many of these are associated with the practice of Azadi, but others are simply traditional practices common to many parts of Ruleska and north Idiri.

Birthdays & Coming of Age

Birthdays are certainly celebrated throughout the caliphate, though traditions vary extremely widely. The most typical ages for birthday celebrations are at three or four years (when a child has survived many of the greatest perils of early childhood), seven or eight years (typically when a child starts to take on more responsibilities, including the proper observance of Solitary), and sixteen years (when a youth is considered close to an adult). Celebrations are usually a combination of festive good cheer with a more solemn acknowledgement that the child is now moving into a different and steadily more adult phase of life. There is usually some kind of special food involved, the singing of songs, and often small gifts as well.

Coming of age events are even more important, unsurprisingly taking place in the years of early adolescence. Traditions can again differ hugely, between rural and city and nomadic cultures, between rich and poor, between traditionalists and the more modern-minded, and from region to region. Wherever these events are observed, however, it is always the case that these youths are considered to have made an irrevocable transition from childhood to the first stage of adulthood, and their behavior is expected to change accordingly. Usually this means conforming more closely to the stereotypical roles expected of women and men in behavior and dress, and a growing concentration on mastering adult skills. Many young people receive a gift deemed suitable for one entering on adulthood, such as a weapon for a male, or a set of implements for cooking or sewing for females. Among the Sirdabi both men and women often receive a jambiya at their coming of age.


The staple diet of the caliphate is heavier on grains and vegetables than meat, with variety added by whatever fruits happen to be in season. Wheat and barley are widely available and are commonly used to bake bread -- typically flatbread -- and small cakes. However, they must be transported in bulk from the caliphate's chief agricultural regions to the more arid and rugged parts of the provinces that can grow them only on a small scale or not at all. Many provinces grow their own local grains which are better suited to local conditions, especially small-seeded species like teff and millet. Besides being cooked and eaten as part of a wide variety of dishes, teff and millet can also be used to make flatbreads that are sometimes locally preferred to imported wheat or barley. Millet is also very commonly used to make a much beloved treat called mahani -- puffed millet shaped into cakes sweetened and stuck together with honey and date syrup.

The meat consumed in the caliphate primarily consists of lamb, mutton, breel, goat, and various types of domestic and wildfowl, with beef and camel available locally or during feasts. Pork is not eaten, being proscribed by Azadi; the flesh of carrion-eating creatures is also forbidden. All animals slaughtered for their meat must be killed and prepared in the proper way, with due care and mercy shown to the animal, and the carcass drained of blood. Blood is likewise a forbidden item of consumption among Azadi. Duck, goose, partridge, pigeon, and many other birds may be eaten, but eating minglefowl is generally considered taboo though not actually proscribed. Although these dietary practices are based on religion, they are common throughout the caliphate's populace regardless of faith, simply due to long custom and the limited availability of non-Azadi foods.

Alcohol is also generally given to be a proscribed item of consumption, but various intoxicating drinks are consumed around the caliphate nevertheless. Strict Azadi will not touch them, but those of a more moderate bent may partake in small amounts occasionally, and in some regions of the caliphate (especially Amunat, with its heqet, and Irzal, with its wine) the proscription on alcohol is not very well observed at all. But abstinence and sobriety are very accepted ideals in the caliphate, so a great variety of non-alcoholic beverages are readily available, from coffee and tea to countless fruity drinks.


The people of the Sirdabi Caliphate boast what is perhaps the most extensive formal education of any people in the known world. All but the most isolated populations are literate on at least a basic level, and even the nomads of the furthest desert reaches can recite large portions of the verses of the Song of God by heart, even if they cannot read them from the pages of a book.

In rural areas and villages, traveling teachers make seasonal visits to teach the children of families who reside too far from a school to attend. In towns and cities the children of the poor and middling classes are sent to an elementary school called a maktab, where they receive instruction in reading, writing, figuring, literature, Azadi ethics, and the Perfected Song of God. Schools for the poorest members of society may not feature extensive education in all these subjects, but even a child from the most impoverished family has the chance to be instructed in literacy and the Azadi religion. Many wealthier families prefer to have private tutors educate their children, but not all do so. Maktab schools may be headed by teachers of great learning and fame, and there are few families that are not enticed by the prospect of sending their scions to learn under such a master. Even where such exalted teachers are not present, it is argued that there are other advantages to educating children in a public maktab, including the value of competition and collaboration with other students. A maktab typically teaches children from as young as four years of age up to sixteen.

Once a young person has completed their education from a maktab or private tutor, they may consider pursuing more advanced studies at a university, or madrasa. These establishments may be found in any city of the caliphate, and though all teach a similar basic curriculum each madrasa will have its own advanced fields of study in which it particularly specializes and excels. At a madrasa students may delve more deeply into literature and religious studies, or they may study law, mathematics, mechanics, astronomy, astrology, natural philosophy, or, in some places, even more esoteric topics such as alchemy and magic theory. Many young people aspire to become physicians, and will supplement or replace their education at a madrasa with studies in the educational wing of a bimaristan. Advanced education does not cater only to the wealthy, as scholarships or mentorships are available to poor but promising students from the maktab. Women, too, may enroll in the madrasa or bimaristan and pursue studies alongside male students. Nevertheless, the typical madrasa student is male and of the middle or upper classes, simply because wealthier young men tend to have greater social opportunities to pursue a higher education and also more opportunity to practice a career after graduation.


The most common mode of dress across the caliphate is more or less that of the Sirdabi people themselves. This standard 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. Styles and embellishments can vary considerably based on regional custom, the traditions of different heritages, and the local climate, but most parts of the caliphate still incorporate some portion of this basic style or simply modify the elements of it some degree.

Men and women alike generally also wear headscarves when out of doors or in public, which serve to protect from the elements as much as to maintain standards of modesty. 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. Some cultures will replace or supplement the headscarf with a hat typical of their region, such as the Razi hat of the Razmani, or the kolah namadi of the Irzali.

Jewelry is popular throughout the caliphate, particularly though not exclusively among women. Women often wear large numbers of bangles on arms, wrists, and ankles, which often double as a portable form of wealth and barter. Men prefer rings, including elaborate signet rings, and may wear multiple rings at once without attracting undue notice. Piercings are largely the province of women, and ear piercings are the most common type. Nose piercings are also fairly common in Amunat, usually on either the right or left nostril rather than through the septum. The jewelry associated with these may be small gems or studs, or hoops and rings. In cities like Laascana and Qaysum, which are strongly influenced by Jalanit culture, nose piercings are even more common and may also feature chains connecting them to earrings or hair ornaments. Among men piercings are most common among the Salawi, especially seafaring individuals. It is in fact possible to find men around the caliphate wearing small ring-type earrings, but this is considered a bit dandyish.

Tattoos are a much less common form of bodily adornment than jewelry, but some of the nomadic tribes of Rahoum and north Idiri do practice tattooing of the face and hands. Use of kohl, on the other hand is widespread among both men and women, being considered at once attractive and healthy for the eyes.

Gender & Sexuality

In many ways life in the Sirdabi Caliphate is strongly gendered, with males and females taking on strictly defined roles and even occupying different social and domestic spaces. Men tend to dominate the sphere of government and politics, while women exercise strong authority inside the home or in local enclaves. It is especially accepted for women to be artisans and crafters, to prepare food at home and in bakeries, to work as healers, and even to act as administrators of charitable estates and enterprises. Around the caliphate, many women do run their own business and it is not uncommon for them to travel widely in the course of their business dealings. However, Sirdabi women in particular are supposed to maintain certain standards of modesty and decorum, and their independence can often be restricted by their families in various ways, particularly among the well to do.

While Tessouare men and women also have social roles strongly defined by their gender, these roles are more often perceived as equal and complementary, rather than as the manifestation of one gender's superiority over the other. But as the Sirdabi Caliphate was founded as a Sirdabi institution, and Sirdabi culture tends to dominate in the government and other formal social structures of the realm, it is these gender roles that prevail. That said, many of these gender ideals did not originate in native Sirdabi society either, but have been slowly adopted by the caliphate as it has grown more stratified and hierarchical, and followed the prevailing social practices of its age-old cultural rivals, the Kalentoi and Irzali Empires.

For all its emphasis on different roles for men and women -- or perhaps because of it -- there are subtle outlets for the expression of alternate gender identities, particularly in the slightly subversive world of the largest cities. Here it is sometimes possible for women and men to pursue alternate identities through cross-dressing and disguise, with the hours of deep night being considered a liminal time in which boundaries may be discreetly crossed and traditions flouted -- until day breaks once again. The caliphate has no real notion of a third gender beyond simply male or female, but some individuals make a practice of floating between one and the other as circumstance allows. While this is certainly not an opportunity for everybody, it does allow, for a few, a potential release valve from the pressures of traditional male and female stereotypes.

Sexuality in the caliphate is heavily influenced by its strict ideas of gender, and men are typically expected to take the more active role in pursuing relations with women, while women are expected to defend their virtue strenuously and not give into demands of sex outside of marriage. This is of course the ideal to which there are exceptions, and as in the case of many other cultural traditions, mores tend to be more strictly observed in rural and village communities compared to cities. Even so, diversions from the norms generally occur very discreetly, so even where pre-marital sex occurs it is not something one would want to admit to or have become generally known.

Adultery is condemned for men and women alike, but due to the idea that women are the chief repository of an entire family's honor and virtue, the condemnation tends to fall most strongly on women. Even so, men are not exempt from these standards, and in particular a man who knowingly has an affair with a married woman will tend to find himself heavily ostracized if this is found out. Despite the limitations imposed by gender roles, most people of the caliphate are not prudish, and sexuality is accepted by many with an earthy relish even if extramarital intercourse is a source of moral discomfort.

Attitudes towards same-sex relationships are complex within the caliphate, and vary from place to place and among different heritage groups. There is nothing in Azadi that explicitly forbids these relationships, so attitudes are largely based on local or regional culture and tradition. For most people anything that exists at the margins of "normal" experience is a little suspect, and relationships between men and women are what is considered "normal". So homosexuality may be the subject of jokes and a source of discomfort, but in the caliphate this does not tend to go so far as any kind of real persecution.

Marriages are strictly between men and women, and one would not tend to speak openly of having a relationship with someone of the same sex -- though the strong friendships that women and men are typically expected to have with others of their own sex can provide a convenient screen. If such relationships are pursued discreetly, and do not cause neglect to one's spouse or family, they may be tacitly accepted. In the cities deviation from "normal" is also more accepted, while smaller towns and villages have more conservative attitudes. Young male crossdressing dancers called kuchaks are also popular in cities, and sometimes (though not always) provide sexual services as well. Among some nomadic tribes, where male-only bands often travel long distances for raiding or trade, homoerotic relations between men (and between the women left behind with the tents) are accepted but again seldom actually spoken of. In short, same-sex relationships can be acceptable as long as little attention is drawn to them, but broader society is not entirely comfortable with them even while being well aware they exist.


In the lands of the Sirdabi Caliphate, marriage is exclusively between men and women, but may be either monogamous or polygamous. Polygamy is a traditional part of many of the cultures of the caliphate, particularly among the Sirdabi, Irzali, and Tessouare. Among these peoples having multiple wives is the ideal, but it is somewhat less common in practice. This is because a man must pay a bride price for each new wife, which can make taking multiple wives an expensive business. According to Azadi ethics, it is also the case that a man can only have multiple wives so long as they may all be kept in equal comfort and treated with equal affection and respect. Polygamy is therefore most prevalent among families of greater wealth and status (however wealth and status are defined by their particular culture), but it is nevertheless accepted practice in most parts of the caliphate. Multiple wives are not just a status symbol for their husbands, but are felt to provide a household and its children with additional security and stability. Polgymany is less common among the Amunati, particularly among its Kalentic and pagan populations. Among the Salawi polygamy is often used to ensure that wealth and status both reside in a family. Razmani are almost strictly monogamous.

Marrying for love is not unheard of, but it is far less common than arranged marriages. Ideally even these contain some measure of liking or esteem on the part of bride and groom, but occasionally marriages occur between a man and a woman who are complete strangers to one another. Marriages typically are arranged between the parents of a prospective bride and groom, sometimes with matchmakers or other go-betweens who might be relatives or friends ( either of the parents, or of the prospective couple themselves). The husband-to-be has to pay a bride price to the family of his prospective wife, the amount and nature of which can vary widely. The wife also typically brings some dowry of her own, whether this is clothing, jewelry, money, or livestock. Weddings are big affairs even among the poor, and a wealthy person's wedding could have hundreds of people at it. Food and money are also supposed to be distributed generously to the needy as part of a wedding.


Physicians and laypeople alike subscribe to the theory of humors to explain good and ill health, and to devise ways to treat the latter. Bleeding and cupping to remove an excess of blood is one such practice in the caliphate, but this is only one technique in a fairly large arsenal. There is a great deal of emphasis laid on diet, both to maintain health and to treat illness, and environmental factors (air, soil, weather, etc.) are also frequently considered to be important factors in health and general wellbeing. Overall Sirdabi medicine tends to be holistic, and focused as much on preventive medicine as diagnosing and treating ills.

There remains considerable debate concerning the transmission of disease, and it is explained variously by miasmas and other environmental causes, divine will, the action of jinn or other malign spirits, and pure contagion from one individual to another. A strong emphasis on the value of a clean environment free of noxious odors has long been an aid to good health and an obstacle to contagious disease, though epidemics take their share of lives in the caliphate as elsewhere.

The relatively academic practice of physicians is not the only kind of medicine in the caliphate. Traditional herbalists have their place, especially in village and countryside, and while some physicians scorn the more rustic version of this knowledge, the professional apothecary is better esteemed. Talismans and amulets, often incorporating written verses from the Perfected Song of God or other powerful formulae, may be used by educated and uneducated alike to ward off disease and cure it. Special bowls likewise inscribed with lines from the Song, and often filled with water taken from a local sirdab, are also important in healing. Since the stars, moons, and planets are believed to play their own role in influencing human health, medicine can have an astrologic component to it as well.

Good health itself is considered a blessing from Annur, but given the complex understanding of the causes underlying it, most people prefer to take some action to preserve and restore it, and not to leave everything to the will of God. As the old Azadi proverb says, "Put your trust in God, but tie up your camel first."

Mortality & Death

While even the most deeply devout do not generally look forward to the end of life, death is nevertheless a familiar visitor to most people. The caliphate boasts a strong tradition of skilled medical practice and knowledge of healing is at a relatively high level, but not all ailments come with easy remedies, and the threat of accident is ever present. The most dangerous time of life is in infancy and early childhood, and a woman who has many children in her lifetime will not find it unexpected to lose at least one of them. This does not make the death of a child any less deeply felt, but grieving parents attempt to resign themselves to the will of the God.

If an individual survives their youngest years, they may have hope for a reasonably long life. Epidemic illness is perhaps the greatest source of fear and mortality, and plague or fever may break out periodically at any place in the caliphate, though the great trade emporia are the most vulnerable. Death may also come through accident or violent death -- long-distance travel can be perilous, and the provincial frontiers may be subject to attack by enemies. Even daily life has its dangers, and burns, infections, falls from mounts, and similar troubles can result in injury or death. Childbirth, too, can be a fearful source of mortality for both mother and child. Despite such common threats as these, ready access to medicine and the services of skilled physicians and herbalists help to keep the populace of the caliphate relatively healthy, and life expectancies overall are good. An individual who has reached their sixties would certainly be considered an elder, but it would not be uncommon for them to have another decade or more of life ahead of them at this point.

No one claims complete certainty as to what happens when a person does pass away. It is generally believed that the souls of the deceased travel to the Otherland and take up residence in one or another of its many levels. The souls of the virtuous are thought to go to the Eternal Sirdab that lies close to the heart of existence and God. Unbelievers and the unvirtuous have their own, separate realms within the Otherland. The most virtuous of all -- holy women and men, and those who have led truly exemplary lives or died for faith and community -- enter in upon the innermost core of the Dream and dwell with the God Itself. Many mystics believe that the death of one sufficiently enlightened will allow one to merge with the true substance of Dream and Dreamer and literally dwell within the divine.

Funerary Practices

When death comes, it is supposed to be greeted with heartfelt but dignified mourning suited to the circumstances of one who has left behind all mortal troubles to dwell closer to God. There should be no ostentatious displays of grief, and funeral processions should be sombre but low-key. White is the color of mourning in most of lands of the caliphate, and clothes in this color should be put on in honor of the deceased. It is also common for close kin to cut their hair short as a sign of mourning, and sometimes for men to shave their beards.

Most people in the caliphate bury their dead, and the official practice is do so quite simply. Sirdabi corpses typically go straight into the ground with nothing more than a winding sheet to cover them, and a few prayers are sung over them to send them off to the afterlife. Grave markers should be very modest, and may not even have the deceased's name inscribed on them. Classic Sirdabi style markers are low and oblong, shaped from adobe and limewashed meticulously. Many of them feature upwardly projecting corners like small towers, which makes these markers resemble diminutive buildings. Many of the peoples in the caliphate employ this style of headstone. The other most common style of marker is that which originated in north Idiri; where many markers have a vaguely anthropomorphic shape with an arched "head", constricted "neck", and rectangular "body". These headstones are also typically unembellished, and are usually made of stone or wood. Tessouare markers often feature a cutout in the "head" portion of the stone, in which windchimes have been hung to make a melody in the breeze -- sometimes said to be the voice of the departed speaking through the Song.

While Sirdabi and most other peoples in the caliphate tend to be buried, Irzali Azadi more commonly practice cremation, a tradition of their homeland that dates back several hundred years. The ashes of the deceased then may also be interred, or they may be placed in free-standing urns or in niches within a columbarium. Irzali tend to be more ostentatious overall in their customs, with sometimes lavish funeral processions and very elaborate grave markers and urns. Even among orthodox Azadi, it has long been common practice for holy men and women to have a mausoleum constructed to house their remains. Some of these may be very austere structures, others dazzlingly ornate. In either case, they often become associated with a mosque, school, or hospital which is built off the mausoleum itself, and thus become a locus of charity and learning. In the case of Tessere lands, the mausolea of holy individuals often becomes the nucleus of waziya, sanctuary towns where travelers and pilgrims are welcomed in peace and all violence is forbidden.


The practice of slavery is prevalent throughout the caliphate, and the labor of enslaved people is a vital part of the economy and of daily life. Slaves may be employed as domestic servants, agricultural laborers, soldiers, entertainers, or even civil servants. They may be lowly and abused, or they may ascend to great power and influence in the service of the caliphate or even in a private houseland. An enslaved person may even rise to the post of vizier in the provincial government, or may serve as a trusted bodyguard in the exalted Manes units of the Lion Guard. Wealthy families often have quite a few slaves serving their needs and wants, but even households of moderate means typically have at least one or two.

Slaves in the caliphate are taken chiefly from Ruleska, the Gilded Plain, and the islands of the Sea of Sala'ah, though they may be brought from further afield by Kalentoi and Jalanit traders. It is forbidden to keep fellow Azadi as slaves, or it is generally accepted that the other people of the Song (Kalentoi and Yehani) should not be enslaved either -- though in some cases this happens anyway. But the vast majority of slaves are pagans, many obtained through local conflicts on the caliphate's borders, others through slave raids carried out by trading partners.