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

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 ...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 ...Read more