The eyes of the oryx between Rusafa and Jisr/ Have brought on a desire whose source I both know and know not.

—Ali bin al-Jahm

In field research, Dr. Larissa Conradt and Professor Tim Roper discovered that the only democratic society—amidst a sea of authoritarian animal groups—are herds of red deer. This was made clear to the two researchers through the use of a computer model to compare decision-making methods that determined the behavior of different groups of wild animals, and their effects on individual animals. This unique democratic group moves out of its grazing area only after 62% of the deer have raised their head from the grass once they’ve had enough to eat. Similarly, when this species of deer finds another group grazing in a particular location, it will calmly and peaceably look for somewhere else to graze. The deer collectively agree on taking these peaceful democratic decisions through special agreed-upon signals, via body language among members of the group.

—Focus Science Magazine


The Marines entered the palace after a long night full of the lightning of bombardments and the thunder of explosions, the noise of destruction and the crackling of flames. They entered with the first rays of a dawn muffled by thick smoke and the smell of burning corpses. They were exhausted and hungry, but drunk on a victory they hadn’t imagined they would achieve so quickly. It only increased their feeling of hunger and drove them to comb through the presidential palace and its gardens in search of something to eat. That’s where they found the deer, and the lions too.

The deer were paralyzed with terror, hugging the hedges that ran along the walkways of the palace gardens. The Marines had no difficulty catching them and dragging them to where they were celebrating in the president’s reception hall, where a fire for grilling had been lit from the wood of chairs hand-carved by the most skilled furniture-makers in the world and covered with layers of pure French gold-leaf. Some other Marines discovered the lions while searching through the rest of the palace. Four lions in gleaming rust-free steel cages. They were hungry and pacing back and forth in their cages, growling with throats wracked by hunger, smoke and dust. The lions had been the president’s adopted children, and reportedly he would feed them the flesh of those who had angered him. Some of the Marines proposed keeping some of the deer meat in reserve, so they could amuse themselves by feeding the lions after the feast was over.

The suggestion was lost amid the victors’ clamorous uproar, and amid the luxurious odor of grilled deer meat from twenty of the plump white Arabic oryx species, and ten of the singular desert gazelles that seem as though they were created from a breeze adorned with flower-buds. By the time the sun had fully risen, all these deer had been transformed into charred white bones, flecked with a few remains of grilled meat. After they had had their fill, many of the Marines dozed where they were on comfortable seats. Others remained awake, and carried the bones to the lions’ cages, unaware that lions won’t touch cooked meat. And would lions lick the ashy remains of bones?