November/December 2017 Current Moscow Time: 06:51:29
15 December 2017

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Glossary for the Novel

Confused about a term which appears in the novel? Here is a useful list of foreign terms compiled by translator Liv Bliss. 


  • Some of these terms had a different meaning outside the world of the novel and others have changed their meaning over time.
  • Transliteration (the rendition of one language’s script in the script of another) and the conversion of one language’s pronunciation system into one accessible to another language are not exact sciences; several of the terms below will appear differently elsewhere.



shawl-style cape


the caliphate’s messenger/postal service, which also served as its intelligence network


leader of a caravan


hireling soldier, bodyguard


circular raised structure used in the Zoroastrian religion for the exposure and ultimate disposal of corpses


a silver coin, worth less than the dirham and the dinar


scribe or secretary



denarius (pl. denarii)

a coin used in the Roman Empire


a coin of considerable value, usually gold


a coin, usually silver, worth less than the dinar


an army


a spirit in  Islamic mythology


the light that confers divine favor


the pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim is urged to perform at least once in a lifetime


wheat stew


one of the lovely maidens traditionally claimed to be promised to faithful Muslim males in paradise


fire demon, a variety of djinn


“prince,” official title of a Sogdian ruler


cord holding the keffiyeh in place


poll tax levied on non-Muslims


tunic, often quilted, worn as inner or outer wear


military camp


quilted jacket with sleeves or open tunic


reed or wooden writing implement


tall cap, usually wrapped in a turban


head-covering usually fashioned from a scarf




lump-sum duty levied on the land of conquered peoples (a form of tribute)


female consort (wife, sister, or other relative) of the Karluk Yabgu; also a female Karluk ruler


variant of “kaftan,” a robe






the Islamic official who calls the faithful to prayer at prescribed times of the day


deputy or second in command


the Zoroastrian New Year’s celebration


stringed instrument similar to a lute


unit of distance, now indeterminable




master or leader


ancient Chinese stringed instrument


broad trousers


an honorific roughly meaning “chief”


a long-necked lute


followers of Mohammad


supreme leader (male) of the Karluks, a powerful nomadic tribe


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