Who Turned on the Tap?

The Egyptian Forensic Medicine Authority in Cairo, Egypt

What is that sound? It seems to be that of running water. However, I just went through the whole building to check that all the taps were turned off. It should be just me and the deceased in here. I strain my ears to identify the direction the sound is coming from. The autopsy room seems to be the source. I know it can’t be, because I was just in there, all the taps were turned off and nobody would have been able to enter the room since. I could swear I left it locked. Regardless, I go to the autopsy room once again and, to my surprise, find out that there is in fact a tap that has been left running. How can it be? There is no one there, other than the dead bloke lying on the examination table. He had been hit in the head by a stray bullet. Maybe it is his spirit, trying to drive ...Read more

The Room

TV in room

Every time I sit down to write, my hand reaches for the remote. I can’t help it, it is almost an instinctive reaction I have to blank pages awaiting eagerly to be filled with words. I wish I knew what it was that drives me to turn on that annoying TV. Although, on second thought, it seems only reasonable to expect that the straight and stiff lines on the paper might have a hard time competing for my attention against the lively images on the screen. But even when I try and force myself to turn my gaze away from the screen and back to the paper, I am faced with mutiny by the muscles of my neck.

I recently bought a larger TV screen to enjoy the cinematic experience at home. The problem is that now movie plots feel so real that I can’t watch anything even slightly upsetting if I want to be able to sleep at night. Writing is the only thing that helps when I ...Read more

The Road to Conviction

Al Ammar Al Kubra, Al Qalyubia Governorate, Egypt

Only the stern of the ship, the prow of the plane, and in between, the long strip plastered with her guilt over what she had not been able to see back then remain visible. The rest she has been able to scrub off the wall over time, by rubbing the surface with her shoulders.

“Stop! God help you if you don’t!”

She doesn’t heed the warning, puts the bin with henna sticks on the ground and searches for the keys to open the entrance door.

“What’s wrong with you? You either don’t see me as a threat or don’t value your life.”

The thick soles of her bare feet hit the ground with gritty determination and cool composure, and behind her every step drags the tail of her black outer garment, which engulfs her in every respect. She could wear her habit inside out and nobody would notice, for it had been sweeping dirt off the streets for ages. She put on a blank ...Read more

A Replica on Earth

Alexandria, Egypt

Every step I have taken so far has been towards the Occident, ever since I won a scholarship to continue my studies in France. I wept for joy when I learnt the news, because I had finally been offered an opportunity to see the outside world. I was determined to make a difference abroad and make my country proud of its people. I even took to picturing myself receiving a Nobel prize!

Now, after all these years, I have come to terms with what I will achieve in life in view of what I have achieved so far and think it’s time I returned back home. I want to leave the work of tiptoeing carefully across a white hall filled with sterilized equipment and glassware with highly reactive substances behind in the lab and try spending some time in the country that conceived me, nurtured me and equipped me for what the future might have had in store for me.

Hence, I book flights for me and my whole family. The day before our departure, my son Omar comes running to me while ...Read more

Dahab

Dahab, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

Dahab was headed to the city after which she was named. Her father was the one who had chosen that name for her. He had loved that city and had spent most of his time there when she was still a child, while she had spent hers anxiously awaiting his return, which he would never announce in advance and could therefore always be about to happen. In exchange for her infinite patience, he used to bring her a gift whenever he decided to show up again: a necklace made of sea shells, a stone with her face carved on it, a colorfully-embroidered Bedouin dress … His departures were as unpredictable as his arrivals, and one day, he disappeared and never came back.

Dahab: the enigmatic city that had stolen her father and whose name she bore. Her father had picked it to be the place where he could be all by himself, where he didn’t want to be found, which is why she ...Read more

A Million

Library of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt

“Right before firing me, my boss suggested I try my hand at another profession. According to him, journalism required a firmer grasp of reality than the one I had proven to have. He was not a man to mince his words.”

Much to his relief, they all laughed. He was at the signing event of his book “A Million”, whose 10th edition had just come out, and the room was full of widely recognized authors on whom he hoped to leave a favorable impression. To that effect, he had even chosen to wear a rose on the lapel of his suit.

“I have been laughed at and called a fool ever since I was a child, but that has never dissuaded me from continuing to do what I do best, which is to retire to my cloud-based kingdom, where everything falls into place, for there I can assign new meaning to what I have been able to observe in the outside world.”

A person from the audience raised ...Read more

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 ...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 ...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 ...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 ...Read more