The Sea’s Memory

A beach in Alexandria: the sea in Egypt, with birds and waves

I was just taking my usual stroll along the sea, but the sea itself was behaving in a rather peculiar fashion. I stopped walking in an effort to better identify what exactly was weirding me out. Bingo! The stormy weather did not seem to be affecting the sea, which was looking as beautiful as ever, as if it were posing for a painting in which the navy blue was to be blanketed in a layer of sky blue and sedulously sprinkled with the white that was to depict both clouds and waves while lending the outcome a harmonic, magical air. I looked at the sea and a sensation of peace took hold of me. Suddenly, even though I tried to block them out, memories I believed I had rid myself of a long time ago came flooding back.

“Sea, what a mysterious creature you are! For thousands of years you have been by our side, listening to our stories and witnessing how our lives go by. All the same, you still somehow manage to strike us as both enticing and terrifying. How many people over the centuries have stood in the exact same spot as me and spoken to you as I am doing right now?”

– – –

From Egypt’s coastline, Alexander scans the horizon trying to catch a glimpse of the other side. He stares at the water and sighs, brooding over the extent to which things have changed since he defeated the Persians. There are no words to describe how much he wishes to return to Macedonia. He pines for his old life. But since we as humans do not write our own destinies, he must continue leading his troops into battle to fight a war with no end in sight. Despite all the victories he has notched up over the years, he does not feel he has completed his mission in this world. However, for now, he just wants to return home. He turns on his own axis and studies the provided backdrop. Deep in thought, he says to himself, “I hope to someday transform this place into one that reminds me of my beloved homeland. Here I may build a new capital for Egypt, one that bears my name and thus will always remember me.”

– – –

After the city had been invaded and the emblems of its greatness had been destroyed, Cleopatra regarded the ships that berthed at the Alexandrian docks as beasts huddling together on the city’s already weak heart. However, the devastation wrought by the war did not keep her from enjoying the beauty of the sea, which is impervious to the deeds of humankind.

She gazed at the sea while saying to herself, “And to think there was nothing I wanted more than to see Egypt return to the way it was before Ptolemy Lagides shattered Alexander’s dream. . . The city may have lost some of its past glory, but it still has a lot to offer.”

– – –

The sky was slowly turning gray. The seas roared; they were getting mountainous. But that did not discourage Mr. Sayed Darwish. That day marked a new phase in his life. He was traveling to Cairo to sing with Sheikh Salama. He himself, like the waves, was giddy with excitement.

He allowed his eyes to linger on the raging sea and said, “I might not see you for quite some time, but you will always breathe through my songs.”

Thereupon, he started singing:

Ya habibi, I beg you not to spoil me out of arrogance with the attentions you lavish on my uncouth visual taste. / When I am far away from you, my heart melts, burning with desire to see you once again. / My dearest, my love, you know better than anyone else how susceptible I am to beauty.”

– – –

The festivities that were taking place all over the country, and that had everyone jumping for joy, had not reached the strip of land on the sea traversed by funeral processions that were mostly military in nature.

King Farouk looked at the crowd that had gathered to gauge his mood and determine whether he was capable of maintaining his composure while leaving his palace and relinquishing his position. Then he turned his eyes toward the sea to revel in the sight of it for one last time.

How strange is life! Overnight he had been banished from the country where he had ruled as a king. He cast another glance at the sea and got onto the ferry.

– – –

I plunged my face into the cold waters of the sea to sober up from daydreaming. It was not until then that I noticed it had gotten cold outside. I raised my head and raindrops started to trickle down my face.

I hugged myself in order to retain some of the warmth in my body and started walking home, hoping the sea would stamp my image on the memory he kept of the day’s events.


Written by Radwa Magdy Amer.

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Choose your own adventure

Let’s hope Triton doesn’t feel that the mermaid has a crush on

a) the morning breeze that rides the waves.

b) him.