Sunset by the sea in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt

I moved to one of the tourist enclaves in search of a job opportunity and was actually hired as a security guard in one of the Sharm el-Sheikh hotels. The new position was to cover the night shift and I was very happy about that, because what is more marvelous than being able to relish the beach in solitude with its turquoise hues blending together to paint a scenery of unique beauty?

Since the hotel was perched on a hill, it provided some amazing views to the sea lying underneath. Therefore, I told myself, “What an excellent job this is that wipes all traces of fatigue off my eyes and allows me to fly over the sea as if I were a bird!”

Nonetheless, I stayed constantly alert to ensure the hotel guests were not disturbed, especially since they were foreigners who had traveled from remote places to enjoy some peace over there.

One night, I saw a girl from afar.

I watched her go down some stairs, which I then realized led to the beach.

From that moment on, I was unable to focus on anything else.

My rapt attention stayed riveted on her the whole night, although she just sat down on a rock by the beach for the rest of the time. The moon graced the sand dunes with her shadow and, as if culled from an old legend, I thought of her as a mermaid frolicking about in the waves.

The night went by swiftly with my eyes glued to her. With the first sunlight, her silhouette became sharper. She stroked the waves with her feet as if they were a lost boat trying to find a haven.

The moment the sun began to rise, she clenched the camera that had until then been lying idly in her hand and took a photo. The sun was being conceived from the sea’s womb. Its light dazzled me the moment she let her long and golden hair ride a revolutionary gust of wind.

Thereafter, she climbed up the stairs. With every step, her traits gained definition. She then caught sight of me, came closer, and started to speak to me, mumbling words I was unable to understand.

I darted my eyes straight toward hers. It was as if the photo of the sun rising from the sea had just popped up in front of me. Her green eyes were slightly tinged with blue. While I gave myself over to delving into the depths of her eyes and the bewilderment the words that came out of her mouth prompted in me, she raised her hand and waved to say goodbye. Subsequently, she disappeared down the road that led inside the hotel. Later, my coworker came to me and said, “Hey, buddy, I am up now. You go rest.”

I obeyed and went up to my room but something inside me kept thwarting my attempt to get some sleep.

I whispered to myself, “This girl has bewitched me.”

Finally, I fell asleep and was able to unload some of the weariness I’d been burdened with after the many hours I’d spent awake the day before.

I rose with the sunset, like the birds returning to their nests. Immediately after swapping places with my coworker, I saw her arrive. She did not go down the staircase this time. Instead, she came right to me and handed me a book.

She then kindly caressed my hand and, with a smile as graceful as fluttering gull wings, thrust her words into the world, whispering, “My name is Alessandra.”

For the first time, I felt something staggering in my heart.

She left without waving goodbye or turning around.

I hastened to open the book. Inside I found a red rose. It flung its aroma at me, and I saw words written in Arabic.

“I want you to learn Italian for me.”

They also detailed how she was flying back home that same day and would return next year.

She disappeared at warp speed and my eyes shed a tear in farewell. It was the first droplet I sprinkled her rose with. I hugged the book as if it comprised the guidelines that would allow my heart to find happiness.

I buckled down to reading the book and studied day and night. In a few days’ time, I had learned her language and from then on hoped for the sluggish remaining months to expire at full tilt.

So a year passed by at the rate distant planets spin around the earth.

One day, I saw a girl climbing down to the beach. I was on my toes and my heart throbbed with excitement several steps ahead of me.

The sun was born from the sea.

The click of her camera made me shout, “Alessandra!”

The moment she turned around, the clock that had kept time for the whole year stopped ticking. She said to me in Arabic, “I like you very much.”

“I like you even more,” I replied in Italian.

She smiled and embraced me.

At that moment, I felt that the sun had ceased rising.


Writer from Sharm al-Sheikh, Abdallah Ashmawi Muhammad

The author, Abdallah Ashmawi Muhammad Khilaf:

Who am I in this vast world if not a faint haze of smoke that sways in the breeze, reveals itself, tempestuously blows a kiss goodbye and then vanishes? I am nobody.

Choose your own adventure

Ten years later, she cringed at the memory of the summer fling she had once had with a pretty clingy guy overseas.

a) Good thing he hadn’t understood a word she’d spoken.

b) It had been unfortunate that he hadn’t expected her to utter anything comprehensible.