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

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

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

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

Echoes of Nostalgia

Meniet El Morshed, Egypt

Every time I during my daily stroll landed up at Izbat Al Milh, which is on the outskirts of Meniet El Morshed, my town, my heart pounded to the beat of a funerary march.

The relics of his Serene Highness Mohamed Attieh’s humble abode marked the entrance to the precincts of the neighborhood. They told a beautiful story, that of the sanctuary that place had become in the last half-century.

The shop with the big umbrella had been reduced to ruins and what it stood for was on the brink of fading into oblivion. People used to come here to take refuge from the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Sir Mohamed liked to sit down with his clients on the porch in his white tunic that, despite the fact that he spent all day handling food, always looked pristine, and a taqiyah made of the same fabric.

He was friendly to everyone twenty-four seven, and was always wearing a sunny smile on his face. The people that clustered together around him came from all corners of ...Read more

Homecoming

Helwan, Egypt

How many days had gone by since her return? She had spent the last fifteen years abroad and had only distant memories from back when she used to call this place home. She used to be a timorous little girl who wore her hair in braids. She had not only left the country on account of the area’s political and social unrest but also because she had needed to gain insight on how to deal with the world’s contradictions.

She never had the chance to break free from her mother’s vigilant eye back then, save for when she sprinted. Her mother chose to deck her out in short Sunday dresses so that it would look like she hadn’t gotten any older; she wanted her to come to the realization that she had become a woman as late as possible. Was her mother concerned about her welfare or maybe afraid of what she would actually become? That was yet another question she didn’t really want to know the answer to. She had her sanity to thank for the fact that she could come to terms with leaving questions such as those provisionally unanswered. ...Read more

Humanity, the Gist

Mosque at Al Moez Street, Cairo, Egypt

Lama was a very smart and curious nine-year-old girl, who despite her age was very cultured and knowledgeable about the world. Lately, the religious channels she watched on TV had been mentioning the word “humanity,” mostly apropos of charity work. She had also read the word on Facebook. It had been brought up in association with Daesh’s beheadings. Seeing it written and hearing people talk about it again and again made her ponder over the word’s meaning. She knew it implied something positive, but was there more to it?

She spent the rest of the day in a brown study, cudgeling her brain in an effort to crack the secret to what the word stood for, and before going to bed that night she went to her mother and asked her, “Mum, how would you define ‘humanity’ in a few words?”

Her mother smiled and replied, “That’s something that everyone has to figure out how to define for themselves. You know the meaning already. You just have to be reminded of it, like most of us nowadays. Think about what makes our country great and our ...Read more

The Yellow Building

1-4

It hadn’t changed much. The original yellow paint was peeling from its walls, which had gathered a lot of dust as of late. But, after all the paint had weathered over the years, it was well within its rights to decide to go into retirement.

Memories came flooding back as soon as I arrived at the school. I still remembered when I changed schools as a kid like it was yesterday. A government edict was issued that forced everybody to send their kids to the school closest to where they lived, and thus, since we had moved to a more rural area the year before, I had to transfer from my beloved old school to one that had recently been built around the block. Despite my best attempts, I couldn’t thwart the plans for me to attend the new school.

From the outside, the new school looked a picture. It was in the center of the village and was situated amidst lush vegetation. However, the inside had been swallowed up by an arid desert. It had no trees, no flowers, no birds, and no soul—just a concrete playground that was covered in yellow sand ...Read more

The Palace

Faculty of Veterinary, Idfina, Egypt

Have you ever dreamed of swapping lives with a king? I realize it sounds childish. After all, everybody knows that the prince charming who cajoles a beautiful lady into marrying him and riding on his white horse is just a numbskull with a mop of blond curls who is featured in a cartoon. However, even though in some cases it might seem like ages ago, who hasn’t been a child? There is a palace here in Idfina. It was one of the many palaces that belonged to King Farouk, who reigned over Egypt and Sudan until the beginning of the 1950s.

My mother’s side of the family lived in Idfina, and every time we went to visit them when I was a kid, my uncle took me to his workplace: the palace. Back then, it housed the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. I reveled in the thought of one day discovering all the treasures that I was sure were hidden somewhere inside the building. First, my eyes always fell on the gates, which faced the rank-and-file houses. The path leading to them ran parallel to the Nile and ...Read more