A Dotted Sky

Bayt al-Suhaymi, Cairo, Egypt

The sun warmed her head. The asphalt boiled under her feet as she treaded warily down the street between rows of warped buildings which seemed to bend towards her, as if wanting to squash her, syncopate her and thus turn her into an expression that has lost its meaning. She was indeed already feeling the symptoms, for she could only think in phrases with a mangled syntax that impaired her ability to interpret her surroundings and left her standing in awe. She rubs against reality with every step she takes. She has become a weathered rock, whose alligatored surface has blackened over time. It was meant to happen; at some point she had to wind up getting used to the stench around her. She used to have high hopes for the future, in the past, and would have never thought she might one day turn into stone, the type one finds anchored to a bathroom wall.

She gathered her speed and arrived at the pedestrian street of Al Moez, which belongs to Cairo’s old city center. The ground under her feet didn’t burn as badly as before. She wagered things would start to make sense again at any moment. Or did she actually mean, if only, one day?

She continues walking and turns right into the narrow and dark tunnel through which one gains entrance into the courtyard of the House of Suhaymi, in the district of Darb al-Asfar. She felt born again every time she crossed through that particular divide. She looked up to the lattice balconies of the houses, so meticulously adorned, she wondered what they were meant to keep from coming to light. Signs reading something like “Come in peace” hang on most of the doors in the neighborhood. She reached her destination, grabbed the door knob, smiled and thought, “Sorry, not this time.” She relied on her statement to carry her inside.

She cast her gaze at the dakkah at the center of the courtyard, but didn’t sit down. Instead, she strode toward the courtyard in the interior of the house. As she entered it, she tried to avoid looking at the mill; it stirred up too many memories. She headed directly to the corner on her left, the one under the colorful vault. She was surrounded by palm and bougainvillea trees, as well as yuccas. Walking carefully, as not to get pricked by their thorns, she crossed the courtyard and placed herself under the vault. She looked up and smiled. The sun that streamed through the stained glass left a beautiful pattern on the floor. Pigeons had tried to build their nests on the crevices. “It’s funny how pigeons are allowed to change their name after taking to the skies,” she thought. She hoped they might consider rebaptizing her as well.


Written by Enas Mohamed Ali Eltorky.