You Don’t Change Horses in Midstream is How the Old Saw Goes

White horse statue in Shaibet an Nakareyah Markaz El-Zakazik Ash Sharqia Governorate

She was muffled up in the warmest coat she owned—a leather one with a fur collar. Yet, the low temperatures and humidity didn’t encourage lots of dawdling outside. Hence, the lively pace with which she forged through the mud and the puddle-riddled road.

She reached the place where she had arranged to get picked up, tore out a few empty pages from the notebook she was carrying—which she immediately tucked under her coat to keep dry, for it had started to drizzle again—laid them out on the marble stone seat where she was expected to wait for her lift and sat down on them with crossed legs. She didn’t want her butt to get wet.

Time passed, the rain got heavier and the increasing delay of her pre-arranged transportation lead her to fear that she would have to hoof the rest of the way. At some point, she decided that she had waited all she could afford to, and thus, stood up and left.

The shops were closed and the streets were empty. She seemed ...Read more

White Chiffon

Soft Beach, Qesm Dahab, South Sinai Governorate

The bus he had arrived in took off and with it disappeared all traces of civilization. On that sand beach, the official means of transport seemed to be camels and horses. In front of him, was a long row of thatched-roofed wooden huts overlooking the sea. He advanced towards one, knocked on its door and waited for it to open. From up close, it seemed almost a miracle that the cabin was still standing, as the logs with which it was built looked rotten. Since nobody was answering the door, he went around the hut, which lead him to stumble on an open window. He couldn’t help himself and peeked through it. Climbing inside the hut through its narrow window probably wasn’t the brightest of ideas, but the interior, towards which he felt strangely drawn, didn’t seem to be serving as a living space, so he decided to trespass anyway. Inside, his gaze fell on an old man, who was napping peacefully in a chair. His face was red and swollen. He considered waking him ...Read more

What Never Got to Blossom

Jezmatiyeh souq, Damascus, Syria

Why I have never felt attracted to women is still to this day a mystery to me. I started buying psychology books when it first became an issue in order to try and figure out what was wrong with me that I didn’t fit into the definition of a proper man. After seeing that they weren’t helping me with my condition, I went to a physician, only to discover that I was already beyond recovery.

The house where I live, which is the same one I grew up in, lies in the Jezmatiyeh souq, which is one of the several markets of the old Damascene Al Midan neighborhood. Among the many places serving local cuisine on the busy street the window of my room faces, the two most famous ones are the restaurant called Abi al-Kheir and the patisserie Abou Arab Haidar.

Today I turn fifty, but I am not celebrating it. I haven’t done anything special for my birthday in the last fifteen years, since the day I saw Hala for the very last time. She was the sister of my ...Read more

Green Canopy

Green Canopy, Ain Shams University, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo, Egypt

He opened the old book he had found lying on the stairs of an abandoned school and started skimming through its pages. It reminded him of the days of yore, when smiles would visit his face frequently. Suddenly, a dried rose fell off its pages. “This looks like a scene from an old movie,” he thought to himself.

He had found the building by chance and would never in a million years have been able to anticipate the treasure trove that it turned out to be. On his journey blundering around in the darkness up and down the school’s central staircase, he stumbled on a cork notice board with the logo of the school, an ad for a trip, a short essay and a paper with a table breaking down the results of some class speaker election pinned to it.

Back home, he made himself a cup of coffee, which he wound up spilling everywhere, as was his wont, to drink and savor the memories that his stop at the abandoned school had stirred ...Read more

A Descendant of the Anunnaki

Great Ziggurat of Ur, Nassriya, Irak

What I am about to tell you happened a long time ago and it all began the day the first foreigner arrived to Nasiriyah, our holy city. He drove a fancy car, and wore French attire and shiny shoes. Not long after settling in, he began to evince an interest in objects of historical value. Soon, people were flocking to him to show him the articles of virtu that they had inherited from their forefathers, which ranged from ceramic pots to stone figurines and old paintings. He paid in American dollars.

The news about this antiques trade spread like wildfire, and before long, it had encouraged half of the city’s population to dust off their shovels in order to go profane and plunder the graveyards of their grandfathers, who had up until then been resting in peace for centuries. They were willing to pull out all the stops for the few simoleons they might earn from basically giving away the artefacts they had dug out from what their ancestors had decided to take to their graves. As soon as they had stripped the corpses of ...Read more

Impossible Love

Girl's Profile in Aden, Yemen

Suad distractedly looked out the window of her room. She had loud music playing in the background, but she wasn’t paying attention to the songs’ lyrics. She absent-mindedly wound a lock of her black hair around her finger and ran the other hand over her face. Suddenly, a memory made her bronze cheeks redden.

Today was her little sister’s wedding day. Her soon-to-be husband had been sending her so many gifts from the Emirates over the past few months that both Suad’s and her sister’s room had wound up piled with them. The warm winds that swept through the city at that time of year had just started blowing. Suad wondered whether she was destined to find happiness in life.

She lived at home with her parents. Her father worked at Aden’s water purification plant and her mother had retired recently after spending 25 years teaching at a high school in Crater. She was proud of her forward-thinking parents, who had instilled confidence in her and allowed her and her sister to have a lot of freedom while growing up.

The aroma of black henna wafted toward her ...Read more

The Morning Call

The sea at Alexandria, Egypt

The fierce eyes of the forlorn hope of building a bridge between the dawn and the dusk of civilization that is the city of Alexandria cast a plaintive glance over us as we went our way through the bustling streets. Like a mother, she carries us on her bosom, looks after us and decides for us. Regardless of how whimsical her will may seem, we have no choice but to bend to it.

Every year, our company, which is based in Cairo, organizes a week-long summer trip for its employees. Transportation and accommodation are arranged for us and our families, and the destination is chosen by a majority vote. This story is the one of how Alexandria became our journey’s end.

We were sick with excitement when we jumped into the bus, especially the children. If we had only known the fate that awaited us there.

We dropped our bags off at the hotel and rushed to the beach right afterwards. There, we spent the whole afternoon running around half-naked, playing soccer and beach volleyball with the kids. A light breeze came ...Read more

Foundered Reality

Sheep in Gaza, Palestine

The power was off and the night was cold and moonless. Silence prevailed; only the sobs of children and the whistle of bullets being fired in every direction dared to punctuate it. The Angel of Death had decided to sojourn in our town for an indefinite period of time and it seemed he had only just started making himself comfortable among us. We lit some candles and formed a circle around them. Our eyes were fastened on their faint glimmer. It was the only thing we felt we could derive a feeling of safety from and we sucked on it like unweaned babies.

I didn’t understand how some had managed to fall asleep knowing that they very well might not wake up again in the morning. I switched on my portable radio, which had seen better days, and gently, started turning the tuning knob in hopes of receiving a signal, preferably a God-sent and auspicious one. I couldn’t afford to be picky, though, for my old radio was hardly in a cooperative mood. The awful screeches it emitted told me that, ...Read more

Written on the Palm of Her Hand

The Treasury, Petra, Jordan

She said, “Tell me, about your city, about the people living in it, about the beautiful girls I have to compete with for your affection. I want to know it all.”

We were sitting on a wooden bench in front of the Treasury, in Petra. She was constantly checking to make sure that her cochlear implant stayed hidden behind her hair. The sight of it certainly didn’t bother me. I thought she looked ravishing regardless. I didn’t want to risk ruining the moment by making her read my lips, especially considering that I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything to say that would live up to her expectations. Thus, I drew her hand to my lips and kissed it in an attempt to answer all her questions in one shot.

She, however, insisted, “Tell me about how this place makes you feel, with the candle lights, the plants that can be seen growing between the stones and the roar of the wind. You can’t just expect me to want to throw myself into your arms without proving that ...Read more

Burying Memories

El Shatby Historic Cemeteries, Alexandria, Egypt

A saunter around the archeological site sounded like a marvelous idea. Walking takes your mind off things and only God knew how much I needed that. It had rained the night before and the sand felt soft under my feet.

Suddenly, I saw a heap of stones that caught my eye. The collection of relics was comprised of a series of white pillars, all different heights and forming a circle around a statue resting on a rectangular stone plinth. All the pieces were numbered. The statue was of two hugging figures wearing himations. Their embrace looked sad, almost as if it had arisen from the depths of despair. These historical gems rested on a platform about a palm’s length above the ground. Its surface was covered with short perennial plants whose green had been tempted by darkness.

I resumed my stroll. Walking had proven more effective than any drug in clearing my head. Then, however, I started to feel as though something was off. It seemed to me that the statues on the site were casting ...Read more