She was created out of an imagination that had been seduced by foreign lands. The Russian ballet had arrived, and the West was suddenly awash in colors as deep and mysterious as the ocean, in movement that was caught in unbridled symmetry. Bakst’s designs redefined the stage, Nijinsky’s passion redefined artistic courage.
Russia, Turkey, Persia, India, Egypt: in the mind of “civilized” society these countries merged to create a single distant horizon: the East. A rich, savage, fertile apparition, it bred stories of suns that melted into boiling oceans, of panthers that slept by their mistresses, purring ferociously – of spices that glittered with powdered gems…stories created out of fear, ignorance and yearning. She was born out of a desire for vice and beauty; provokingly clothed in silks and and a deadly mosaic of tinted pearls.
“Judge for yourself – compare MURAD with any 30 cent cigarette”
For what reason was this name used? There were four Murads: Murad I, the first ruler to use the title of ‘sultan’, pushed the burgeoning Ottoman Empire further and further west: creating ambitions of Christian glory for a new generation of Crusaders. He was assassinated in 1389 by a messenger, whom, as he knelt to whisper into the sultan’s ear, slit his throat.
In 1421 Murad II was laying siege to Constantinople. He had his 13-year old brother executed after discovering that he was in league with the Byzantines and planning a rebellion. When Murad III become sultan in 1574 he had his five younger brothers strangled. Despite the removal of such familial threats, his reign was undermined by the more formidable politics of his harem. Murad IV – ironically – banned alcohol, tobacco and coffee in Istanbul. He would patrol the streets, and anyone caught breaking this law he would kill on the spot. Terrifyingly strong, his favourite weapon was a two-handed broadsword, weighing 110 pounds. He died in 1640 from cirrhosis of the liver.
There is too much history here – mad and bloody; audacious and cruel – to be contained in a single cellophane-wrapped box. The sultan’s cigarettes, as well as the girl, are products of truth, innocence and foolishness. They are a collision of fact and imagination that whets the appetite for their delicious past and embraces their exotic promise.