At any given time, most cities are inhabited by citizens, who live there permanently, and visitors, who are there only temporarily.
Not so the city of Sivana – everyone there is a visitor. The merchants, selling their wares on the market, after having crossed the desert with their caravans. The poor servants, who, every morning, walk seven miles from a nearby slum to their master’s palace in the city, and seven miles back, every night. The guardsmen, on shift in the city for a few weeks, before being rotated to a different part of the empire. The foreigners, scouring the bazars for rare artifacts of exotic beauty to impress their countrymen at home with. The rich women on holiday from across the empire, enjoying their afternoon tea on a terrace. The burglars, in town for a heist, who, within a fortnight, will leave the city, either as wealthy men, or as cripples. The old men, dying of pneumonia, who come to have their pain relieved for a few weeks in the city’s famous thermal baths, and then die.
If you ask anyone in Sivana who the inhabitants of the city are, they will point at everyone around them, never at themselves. “I am here only temporarily”, they say. And yet, the city is never empty. In Sivana, temporary citizens fill temporary roles, living temporary lives, until they are replaced by other temporary citizens doing the same.
This city is inspired by my experience moving to Berlin, a city where everyone seems to be a visitor of some kind. I have met people from dozens of different countries here, each with a different background and their own unique story, but I have yet to meet someone with deep roots in this city.