The Farm: An Oasis of Calm

rsz_farm-at-ad-dilinjat-buheira-egypt-1024x768

I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like to spend time in the countryside. I love to see the greenery grow and watch the shadows cast by the haughty looking palm trees lengthen as the evening wears on. It’s my way of recharging my batteries, filling myself with positive energy and reaching the peace of mind I need in order to exude quality vibes when interacting with kindred spirits, to wit, other tender souls.

Indeed, I eventually bought a plot of land in poor condition, spruced it up, and planted some orange and lemon trees on it. Then a friend of mine got sick. After his recovery, I invited him and his family plus a few other friends to spend a day at the farm. But first I took several trips to the farm myself to ready it for their visit. I conducted a site inspection and figured out the shortest way to get there from the city.

The property has two entrances. One leads through a tree-lined path. Halfway on the route, one comes across a well and a sprinkler ...Read more

Hope Lane

Cairo Egypt

It’s almost 4 a.m. and I am lying on my bed unable to doze off. I rarely suffer from insomnia. My bed is my favorite place to be, but now it feels uncomfortable, as if it has shrunken all of a sudden. I walk out of my room and head for the house’s large balcony to gulp down some fresh air. I am hoping it’ll help me conquer my anxiety, my sorrow, and eventually, my insomnia.

A perfect peace has settled over the city, and it is only faintly disturbed by the occasional honk of a car driving along one of the neighborhood streets. The image of the street from the balcony will stay etched in my mind for as long as I live, because I have known it since I was old enough to remember. The street itself has witnessed much of what I have been confronted with in my own life: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I then decide to brew a fresh pot of tea. I bring water to a boil and add three cloves and a spoonful of honey to ...Read more

Home Sweet Home

desouk kafr ibrahim Egypt

After my stay abroad, I returned to my hometown, which I had missed sorely, and everything seemed even more splendorous than prior to my departure. The trees were tall and their flowers had bloomed. The birds warbled beautifully. The air was pure to such an indescribable extent that it served as a cure to several respiratory diseases. I had spent the better part of my halcyon youth and probably the best days of my life in this small town. While away, I had hankered to go back so strongly that I ended up having to bust a gut just to enjoy my stay abroad after a fashion. On top of that, one day I learned that my mother had fallen ill. There is nothing like knowing your doting mother is suffering while you are far away from her to make you feel less than enthusiastic about embarking on new adventures. I had just been offered a position as a physician in my hometown, and my new priority was to make certain that every resident received the best medical attention ...Read more

Eager to Die

Bridge Qasr al-Nil, Cairo

Mustafa was in his twenties. He had gone to university, where he had met Hayam as a freshman. She had been a classmate of his. He proposed as soon as he graduated and went to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Hayam’s father was a prominent civil servant and didn’t welcome the idea of Mustafa marrying his daughter since he didn’t have a job. However, at his daughter’s insistent bidding, he finally consented to their engagement.

Months passed, but the situation remained the same. Mustafa had been looking for a job but hadn’t gotten lucky so far.

One rainy night, his fiancée called him on the phone and told him that her father was intent on breaking their engagement. She also told him that she had no choice but to accept her father’s decision, because he had tried to strangle her.

Mustafa hung up, frothing at the mouth and feeling desperate. His fiancée was the only one who cared for him and supported him. He knew that she couldn’t just run away, because then she’d have to spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder. He ...Read more

Mercy Street

Khorshid_awaed Rd, Al Khodrah, Markaz Kafr El-Dawar, El Beheira Governorate

After the service was over at al-Hamd Mosque, I headed out into the street. I couldn’t bring myself to recall the subject the sermon had touched on. It had not only been long and repetitive, but also atrociously rendered to boot. However, it had at least allowed me time to psych myself up for my upcoming appointment.

I crossed the paved road that ran parallel to the Mahmoudiyah Canal and arrived at the beginning of Mercy Street. In 500 meters, I would have to overcome what had kept me away from him for 35 years. He used to glare daggers at me, to the point where I began dreading the very idea of stumbling across him. It was only natural that all these years later I cringed at the thought of seeing him again, especially after estimating the amount of rage that must have welled up inside him over time. I walked gingerly, minding the gap between the train and the platform. After all, time does not pass in vain, ...Read more

Nostalgia

El Qanater el Khayreyya, Egypt

On the morning of the Sham Ennisim holiday, peace reigned in our town, save for our house, which had been set in motion at the crack of dawn. I had been the first to jump out of bed and had then scurried from room to room to wake up my parents, my sister, and my brothers.

“Hurry up, it’s time to go!”

I packed a whole rucksack with sandwiches and put Pepsi and water bottles in plastic bags while waiting for the rest of my family to fully dress and primp themselves. Finally, my father finished using the john and we stepped out of the house, closing the door behind us.

At noon, we arrived at a bustling city. We left the car close to a long bridge whose piers lay underwater. I looked at my dad and asked him, “Are these the Benevolent Bridges?” He replied in the affirmative.

We stopped to contemplate the clear waters of the river and the bridge’s arches, which looked like doorposts with water flowing through them. Afterward, we crossed ...Read more

The Self of the Heart and Other Innards

Nile at night with boats, Cairo, Egypt

Sami was lolling in the garden of the Nile’s island that lays in front of the Egyptian Opera House. He was surrounded by tall buildings and big boats that threw a blue glow on the calm waters of the river, lighting it up at night. In the background, he could hear the deafening music that was always blaring out of the speakers installed inside the boats, which took not only tourists but also locals for a brief trip along the Nile; they gave all those racked with pain a short break from their everyday lives. For almost half an hour, they could lose the crosses they had to bear onshore. Sami, however, was not paying heed to the music of the boats. He had his headphones on and was listening to music he had downloaded from the Internet, which acted as a magical world of sorts. It stood in stark contrast to the real world where one was forced to comply with the allotted default setting when listening to music, when entering the labor ...Read more

The Stranger

Tombstone of Port Saids cemetery, Egypt

My city earned a place in the history books when the first strike from a pickax was delivered to dig the Suez Canal. The city became famous not only among Egyptians, but also among foreigners, who started to arrive at it, wound up living in it, and eventually died in it. On the western side of the city, close to where the “beautiful” beach begins to stretch, one may bump into the fence of the old cemetery of Port Said. It is divided into different sections: one for the deceased who hailed from the Commonwealth, another for those who were Catholic, and yet another for those who were Orthodox Christians. Besides that, there are five sections for deceased Muslims. It has recently been expanded to include five new sections in the suburban slums of Abu Auf.

Upon accessing the foreigners section of the cemetery, I saw a heart-rending epitaph written on one of the tombstones. It read: “Dear son, rest in peace in this foreign land, which lies so far away from your loved ones who grieve for you.”

That is ...Read more

My Father and Mansoura Corniche

sunset over Mansoura Corniche

Roughly thirty years ago, on an otherwise seemingly ordinary afternoon, he looked different. His narrow chest, gruff voice, and steely eyes struck me that day as belonging to someone else, someone one would have expected to find at the Mansoura Corniche of the ’80s. Even as the schoolboy I was back then, I was able to tell he had quite suddenly become barely recognizable. I felt a sense of distance from him. As I sauntered alongside my father, I suddenly felt that he was no longer the man he used to be. From time to time, we stopped walking and our eyes drifted over to the opposite shore.

A foreign-sounding voice cut through the silence. “That is the al-Banna mosque.”

I looked to the place where his eyes were lingering. The mosque’s dome shimmered in the fading sunlight. It glowed green and majestic, standing in stark contrast to the darkness that had already descended over Talkha, the neighborhood where it was located. His voice was soft, much softer than what I knew it to be. But that was not ...Read more

The Donkey’s Mother

hombre en el Cairo con sacos de arena de fondo

Like any other employee at the buffet, I obey the orders of my plump boss, whose rotundity I am sure more than one or two people must have mistakenly ascribed at some point or another to some fatal disease. He shadows me relentlessly, watching my every move. He is probably more thorough at said task than an actual shadow would be, for even shadows, I am sure, must get tired of being gummmed to a person’s ass and wind up cutting their enslaved owners some slack. As soon as the diners lay down their cutlery, I clear all the empty plates from the tables in the hall and head toward the rudimentarily furnished kitchen, which nobody has bothered to equip with the implements needed to get the dishes properly scraped clean.

“Screw them!” I think to myself and then carry on heaping “praise” of that ilk on them, while fetching dish after dish with my work-roughened hands. For the life of me, I can’t say why I keep putting up with all this crap. ...Read more

Choose your own adventure

Note that the canopy layer of the forest is thick.

a) If we do not have God to thank for it, how can we rely upon it staying as thick as it is now?

b) It usually blocks our view of all the phenomena that separate us from the sky.