The Palace of the Azure Hall, or simply the Azure Hall, is a palace in Utica, seat of Government of the Ilkhanate and, due to the Ilkhana of Utica being the Sultana, seat of government of the Sultanate of Kyrenaia. NEEDS TO BE BROUGHT INTO FORMAT!!!
- 13th century: The Fortress of Utica becomes the Seat of the Ilkhan of Utica, declared by the Khan of Khond.
- During the 3rd Civil War: Destruction.
- 18th century: Rebuilding.
- Construction starts: 1736
- Ceiling frescoes: 1753-1755
- Ilkhan of Utica takes up residence at the Palace again: 1760
Modern State Visits welcomed at the Azure Hall
The Palace of the Azure Hall spans 69 hectars, placed atop a large hill in the centre of Utica, dominating and overlooking the sprawling city. It is apparent, that it was formerly a fortress. The Utica International Airport is eight kilometres away.
Many of the cupolas are golden.
- Chief of Security: Captain Fara al-Tabar.
Entrance: The Golden Portal into the Outer Courtyard
Actually bronze, 15m high, 10m wide, flanked by two towers
Outer Courtyard/Public Gardens (8 hectars): Mosaic along the main street depicting the creation myth, a bit over 200 metres long, walkways and bushes and plants stretch out, green as far as the eye can see until it reaching the walls, marble benches inviting people to sit, even a small, semi-circular theatre inviting people to linger
Silver Portal into the Silver Courtyard
Forecourt of the Main Building, the centre of Kyrenaia, tessellated
Flight of wide stairs leads up into the Main Building's Entrance Hall, flanked by statues depicting various animals endemic to Kyrenaia.
Wall of the Silver Portal simple without decoration, side walls with arcades, front directly into the Entrance Hall
Circular (square from the outside and the air, the additional room houses service rooms and hallways), 20 metres in diametre, walls and dome decorated with Zellij Tiles, geometric patterns to confuse the eyes as to where walls ended and dome above them began, where there were pillars and where not, floor is tesselated (tiles in many different shades of blue creating a feeling as if one was walking on the surface of the ocean)
Directly Opposite: Entrance to the Azure Hall, the Throne Room
To the sides: Ogee Arches, left leads into the living wings, right leads into the administrative and service parts
Can be used as an impromptu ball room
The Azure Hall
Doors creak, thone opposite to the entrance
Roughly square, tiled in a four-coloured checkerboard pattern of blue marble, lapis lazuli, linarite and connelite, creating a sheer endless pattern of blue and azure tones, complimented by pillars of dark blue with their arcs reaching up to the ceiling, nearly black stone, which held the vaulted ceiling.
The thirteen frescoes
- A city, with marriage ceremonies going on, torch-lit streets onto which beautiful and chaste brides were led to the sound of song and dance on the squares, where the young men danced to flute, pipe, drum, the young ladies watching with awe.
- A market place, where the wise of the village sat as a court of lay assessors, judging with wisdom and fortitude, even if it wasn't liked by the people, who were listening.
- Opposite to the mass wedding, showed a city at war, surrounded by an army, as the women and elderly manned the walls, while the men were at war.
- Opposite to the market place fresco, the men at war, riding steeds of magnificence, wielding bows and arrows against an army of soldiers, led by a woman on a white steed with a mane of fire.
- Next to the market place scene, showed sheep and goats being herded, sheared and milked.
- Cows, opposite to that on the sixth image, ploughed the fields and the farmers guiding them were welcomed at the other end of their fields by girls, giving them cups of water to drink, as the sun was beating down.
- Seventh, a feast to celebrate a good harvest and eight, prayers of starving people for a good harvest, rain, anything to lessen their pain, never loosing hope.
- Ninth, a craftsman, a potterer working his clay into the shape of a cup for a nobleman or a commoner alike, one could not tell, while opposite to him, tenth, a blacksmith beat iron into steel and shape.
- The elenth image showed a herd of sheep and a herd of goat, on opposite banks of a small river, the two herdmen, or rather a herdsman and a herdswoman, standing in the river and holding hands, while opposite to them, on the twelth image, a city was celebrating with the youngsters dancing and singing to harp and flute.
- The Lioness of the Azure Hall: A thirteenth was right above the throne, unbroken by arcs, the image of a large Desert Lioness, not as a mighty animal roaring at her enemies, but as a tender mother, tending to her children, her cubs, many different species representing the many people living in the Sultanate. Painted between 1753 and 1755.
Stable Garden Hallway
left exit of the Entrance Hall, a hallway running along the Private Gardens, open to one side, with the stables of the Azure Hall
Large Private Gardens and Stable
Hallway characterized by the Fresco on the right, telling a story:
- In it, a beautiful Warrior-Maiden from a rather bellicose tribe living deep in the Dry Marshes, set out to travel to the young Sultan, who demanded them to stop the violent excursions into Kyrenaia. She was supposed to speak in her father's name about them and their future relations to the Sultanate. On her ways, she rescued a Caracal, a mighty feline predator, who would be her companion from then on, walking by her side, as she is on her way, sleeping by her side, as she rested, eating by her side, as she ate, fighting by her side, when she had to fight.
They depended on each other, as partners, as friends, but still as mistress and subordinate.
- In this version of the story, she learned a valuable lesson: Loyalty, even between a lord and a subordinate, was a two-way-street and one depended on the other. When she, over a calming Shay, told the young Sultan about her conclusion of her travels, he laughed, praising her wisdom.
- And the tribe? They got integrated into Kyrenaia peacefully, as did the Dry Marshes, as the young Sultan had found a wife in the Warrior-Maiden. Even the Caracal got a happy ending, having found an opposite at the Sultan's Court, with whom he had many kittens.
- The last image was of the Caracal, settled down by a child's crib, with the child playing with his kittens.
The Quarters of the Lone Tree
Little garden, with a lonely tree
Quarters itself with an atrium, marble floor
Current Head Butler of the Quarters of the Lone Tree: Ilia Khadim.
- In the end, it made little to no difference, both parts of the Quarters were of the same size and layout: When entering from the Atrium they were currently in, one stepped into a small receiving room, which was furnished with a shin-high table, cushions around it, the walls bedecked with tapestries, while one window led out to the gardens of the lone tree, which they had just passed. Three doors went off, one into a simple, unlavish bathroom, which was more utility then luxury, with a shower, which was rather unusual in Kyrenaia (Hammams were more usual).
- The door next to it went into a far more lavish bathroom, with one door leading into the bathroom from there.
- There was a simple, yet ingenious bed-construction in the centre, surrounded by a canopy and silken curtains, the bed itself being a four-footed wooden frame with a surface made of interwoven lengths of cloth, covered in colourful sheets, all colours of the rainbow displayed on the comfortable bed. It was well aerated from beneath, better then a bed with a matress, without humidity collecting there, ideal for hotter climates.
- Also in the room were a dresser with a small stool in front of it, a wardrobe and a tall, golden framed mirrow, which gave a full-body view. A window went out to the gardens as well, but this time to the rose-bushes, which stood in full bloom, flowers in red, yellow, white, blue and pink displayed, the pride of the house's staff. The last door from the receiving room went into a study, a massive desk with a comfortable chair behind it and a row of bookshelves to the side. These shelves were carrying a few books, important groundworks of Kyrenaian culture and history, as well as a few novels (on Prince Okan's insistance). A group of sofas stood in the corner to the right of the door, around a shin-high table.
- The table in the receiving room was home to a basket of fruits, which gave off a nice aroma, while the table in the study had a small vase with roses. On the desk, however, a small booklet instructed a visitor on how to get the own electronic device, for example a laptop, hooked onto the Azure Hall's WLAN-network.
- All in all, they were comfortable, luxurious rooms, where one could stay for a while.
History of the Quarters of the Lone Tree
- "They are long and storied, these Quarters.", he said and motioned to all of the garden, "As you may know, the Palace actually began its life as a fortress guarding an important crossing of two trade routes. What later would become Utica was originally a small caravansary at the foot of this hill. We are currently sitting, where, in the original fortress, one of the two armouries was. Lots of bows, crossbows, slings and ammunition for all three, spears and sabres and a whole lot more. Over there..." He pointed to where the small guardhouse was set into the wall. "...was actually the blacksmith's shop. Archaeologists also found traces of a small shrine to Manat around that area."
- He let a beat pass.
- "In the 13th century, the Khan of Kond declared himself as the Ilkhan of Utica, the Sultana actually directly descends from him, and made this his seat of power, a sizeable city and a larger fortress by now. The workshop and the armoury were still at the same place, though. They would stay there, until the Fortress was expanded from 1587 to 1592. Now, where we sit, there was a barracks structure for a cavalry unit, the stables where the actual quarters now are." He pointed to where the Atrium was. "Over there, records say, was the birthplace for many foals and a small shrine - to Rhiannon, a Selkie-Goddess, which leds to the theory, that these horsemen were actually Marcach, Selkie-Horsemen and Mercenaries."
- Another part of the story was over.
- "Then, in 1594, the Third Civil War started and, from 1610 to 1614, Utica was besieged. When the attacking troops finally breached the walls, they set everything ablaze, which they set their eyes upon, slaughtering thousands of people in a manner barbaric to even the vilest person you may know - and I know, that you know, a lot of people you fancy as vile, but you do not wish to read the records of what these people were accussed of."
- That chapter done with, he smiled slightly.
- "But in 1633, the Civil War had ended merely a year ago, fought to a point, where no one knew, why they fought in the first place, Utica was resettled by people fled from here, even the HGA and TBA moved back to the Old Academy, which burned down in 1685. It soon began to prosper but the Fortress Hill, this hill, was still in ruins until 1736, when the construction of the fortress began, this time as a palace, what would later become to be known as the Palace of the Azure Hall." He let a beat pass. "During the first few years the Quarters of the Lone Tree housed workers cleaning away the rubble, a dangerous work... it is a sad part of our history, and of this palace's history, that not only many of these people died here for various causes, but also that they were slaves. Yet it is all the more beautiful, that Ilkhan Tarek, who they call the Liberator, promised the slaves involved in the construction their freedom, should they finish building the Palace, a promise he kept. Acoording to records, most of them ended up in 'state-service', building roads as free men." He motioned to the table. "As the rubble was cleared away, the actual construction began and the workers moved to where the Administrative Wing is nowadays, this place becoming a place for the artisans and engineers involved. Where we now sit was actually the shed of the man behind the Large Hammam, which, as you might now, is below the Palace. Where the actual quarters are, the man responsible for the Entrance Hall and the Azure Hall itself was housed together with the artists responsible for the mosaics and frescoes. Where the tree is now served as their dumping ground for broken pottery. Dig deep enough and you might still find some!"
- He grinned at that.
- "In 1758, the engineers and artisans moved to where the helipad is today, leaving this area to be remodeled. Ilkhan Tarek wished this to become a house for his brother, Prince Okan, who historians call 'the Mad'. He indeed was a bit bonkers, but media of course made a man with a few ticks into a complete madman.", he added with a small shrug, "Anyway, the Guardhouse and the entrance to the garden were built back then, the house itself was larger, going up to... indeed around where we currently sit. I believe, that the Jumping Room was around here."
- He smiled.
- "In 1760, Ilkhan Tarek took up residence in Utica again, moving into this Palace and, in a grand ceremony, liberated all the slaves, who, I quote, 'were moving at least one stone aiding in the completion of this grand Palace', which were thousands of men and women." He smiled for a moment, then turned sad. "The Quarters of the Mad Prince, as they were known back then, burned down with their occupant in 1766, causing a small blaze, which was quickly under control. In 1770, a replacement building was completed, an archive and library, which still wasn't the current structure. But the tree was planted back then." He bowed to the plant. "Rever him, for more then two centuries provide shade to you."
- He rose again.
- "When the archive began to be a bit too small, it was emptied and for a while, it housed ill people from Utica, a small hospital - actually said to be one of the best in the world, as the physicians of the Ilkhan and of the University of Utica honed their skills there, service being completely for free.", he explained, "In 1809, it was closed, however, after a beggarman killed several of the doctors, nurses and patients, the rest handing in their resignations. It stood empty for a bit, then became a barracks for a decade, then was demolished yet again. The tree, and the small hill it stands upon, stayed. In 1867, the current building, which is known as the Quarters of the Lone Tree, was finished, a guest house for high ranking guests of the Ilkhan. Usually, that meant other Ilkhans, sometimes even the Sultan or the Sultana or both. It is said, that Sultan Mahmet XII., Mahmet the Fisherman, was conceived in these quarters in 1873." He shrugged. "From there on, many important people were housed here, from heads of state and government to ambassadors and even the odd artist and musician, Duchess Marcella and Princess Gisella being one of the most recent examples. The who would later become Sultan Dschafar, was housed here by the parents of, at the time, Princess Razia during their courtship."
Changing Room: simple door of dark wood, cozy little room, two rows of shelves to either side of the small room (wicker baskets for clothing and silken towels), a long slit window above that, crowned by a vaulted ceiling with a pattern in tesselated form, a pattern like the grand blue sky.
Warm Room: Dark blue sodalite floor, octogonal room, edges have small channels with cold water, bridged by small stone bridges, small stools providing seating for bathers. In the centre of the small room with the high domed ceiling, which was well aerated, a small group of four white marble benches stood, a low table between them.
Hot Room: Steam wafted through the air, obscuring that this little room was far less lavish then previous one, the centre cominated by a marble circle of raised 'benches', similar to the ones in the previous room, but this time without a table between them. The floor was tiled, the walls decorated with a beautiful mosaic, showing animals relaxing in a bath scene very similar to this one, not only animals from Kyrenaia being there, all of them soaking up steam. And that was the main point of this room, soaking up steam to helpo with blackheads and other maladies, promoting better blood circulation - one had to be careful, though, if one had sensitive skin.
Going downwards into the Hill, beneath the Entrance Hall and the Silver Courtyard
Changing Room: Half as large as the Quarters of the Lone Tree, the floor tiled with natural blue stone, not polished, but well trampled upon, with benches and shelves hammered out of the rock, baskets ready to be filled with clothing, holding blue silken towels ready for bathers. Light was provided by fire bowls, with buckets of water ready to kill them should they get out of control for some reason (there was also a fire extinguisher in one of the cabinets).
Cold Room: Cool enough to get used to the outside temperatures, dominated by two major features: One, a tirplet of large support columns keeping the palace above them from falling onto their heads, all three of which stood in the large swimming pool in the centre of the room. Swimming pool was a bit of a wrong term, it was a pool, where a normal sized man was emerged to his hips when standing, at the edges and around the columns with benches for sitting, being to shallow to indeed swim in it. The pool was filled with hot water, in stark contrast with the air outside, the water being heated, but the floor was not. The water was fed to the pool by the way of a number of fountains all along the walls, shaped like the heads of various sea and land creatures from all around the Sultanate and its former colonial empire, which spewed their hot water into a series of small rivers leading into the pool, crossed by small bridges.
Warm Room: It was less of a room and more of a hall, a series of candles emitting a pleasant smell and light for the hall, the polished stone of the walls glistering under the flickering light, which showed a long hall, the walls lined with alcoves. Some of those alcoves were already occupied, signified by the closed curtains, while others were open. Driven into the stone, these small cells had a stone bench on all three sides and a low table between them, which could be used as a massage table. The hall itself, held by six pillars, had small seating groups all along the main room, where young men and women sat, conversed, sweated, dozed or, in one case, showed off a massage trick.
Office of Prince Damir ibn-Razia
Antechamber: And on they went, towards a specific section, which was set aside a bit, behind a large door. An office lady sat behind it in a small atrium, looking up for a moment, nodding. Benches lined the wall with the entry door, two doors to either side of her desk, leading into a conference room and an office, Fatima knew that. A plant stood in one corner, vines creeping up the wall.
- The Alrunjat Nuris on a cruise: Opposite to it, a painting hung, showing a sailing vessel in calm seas, underway by its own power. It was a Kyrenaian vessel, clearly recognizeable by the trapezoid sails in a deep orange-brown, built of wood, with sailors in the rigging and on deck. It was not a military vessel, no gunports being visible, but a civilian fishing vessel, as one saw with the nets dragged behind it. A calm and peaceful image, while the office lady spoke something in Kyrenaian into her intercom. This in question was a piece of driftwood, more in the foreground then the vessel, but small and half-submerged, dark-brown on the dark-blue of the sea. One could not make out many details, but it was for certain, that this piece of wood did not part with it's home voluntarily, nor that it was shaken off of a tree.
The Hall of the Sand Wolf
Alaya and Fatima, together with two men of the Tabardariyya, waited outside, while the guests were given the opportunity to take in the Hall of the Sand Wolf. It was less of a hall to begin with and more of a large room, dominated and named after a large mural opposite to the entrance doors.
It showed an animal, standing tall and proud, a canine with sandy fur and bright blue eyes, a Sand Wolf, who was accompanied by two smaller ones, his young, standing in a desert landscape and overlooking a herd of goat - but were they guarding it or waiting for a good moment to strike?
The middle of the hall was occupied by a low, around knee-high table, cushions for seating set around them, four in total, two were already occupied - one by the Sultana, sitting at the head, and to her right, Prince Okan, who retold her one story or the other, which caused the Sultana to burst out laughing as the two guests entered.
The Sultana's Tea Room
A simple, little room with a bit of a panorama over Utica, but in and of itself nothing special.
Mainly a few comfortable seat-cushions around a small table, the room had no murals, no tapestries, no electronics... but a sideboard, one half full of tea preparation utensils and the other half filled with utensils needed to have a relaxing smoke of herbs which definately were not tobacco. A small sink in the corner provided the water needed.
The Wheat Hall