Page 137. " On the third day "

The Resurrection
Public DomainThe Resurrection - Credit: Andrea Mantegna
In Christianity, the day of resurrection.   Santiago is about to "rise above mortality" through his understanding of spiritual life.

Page 139. " it was called the sirocco "
Sirocco from Libya
Public DomainSirocco from Libya - Credit: SeaWiFS
The Sirocco is a powerful, dusty wind originating from the Sahara that reaches hurricane speeds across North Africa and Southern Europe.  It is also known as the qibli, by which name it is described in the film The English Patient.
Page 141. " the simum "

The simum has been described as a "poison wind", being dry and very hot, sometimes in excess of 55 ºC. "Soum" is Arabic for poison.

It is mentioned by James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Stephen's heart had withered up like a flower of the desert that feels the simoom coming from afar.

And in the film of The English Patient, Almasy describes the simum in violent terms:

...the Simoon, which a nation thought was so evil they declared war on it and marched out against it in full battle dress.

Page 142. " on the fifth day of creation "

The Fifth Day of Creation
Public DomainThe Fifth Day of Creation - Credit: Hartmann Schedel
The Fifth Day:

And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky."       Genesis 1:20

  The Creation

Page 144. " we always strive to become better than we are "
Ad-Din Rumi
Public DomainAd-Din Rumi
In this way, love offers us the key to alchemy and the realization of our divine self. The poem, The Alchemy of Love by the Sufi mystic Rumi addresses just that:


You come to us from another world...

You transform all who are touched by you...

You are the master alchemist...




Sufi dancers at Rumi's Tomb
GNU Free Documentation LicenseSufi dancers at Rumi's Tomb - Credit: Intension
  Sufism is a branch of Islamic philosophy which emphasizes the mystical, spiritual dimension of the religion.  Both Sufism and Rumi were strongly linked to the practice of alchemy.



Page 146. " a Coptic monastery "

St Abram with Coptic Cross
Public DomainSt Abram with Coptic Cross
The Copts were descendents of the ancient Egyptians and early adopters of Christianity. Today the term refers to all members of the Coptic Orthodox Church, including Ethiopians and Eritreans.  There are over ten million Copts in Egypt, and another million in the USA.

Page 149. " Emperor Tiberius "
  Tiberius (42Bc-37AD) followed Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome.  He was Octavian Augustus's step-son and became a brilliant general, with a series of great campaigns along the Northern Frontier.  But his rule, from 14AD, was less successful.  For the last 11 years of his life, he turned his back on Rome and withdrew to the island of Capri.  He was succeeded by his adopted grandson, the infamous Caligula.


Tiberius by Allan Massie