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 the bridge, striding through its Islamic-style gates. At the other end, we found large gardens divided into different patches that all had unique monikers. The gardens were bursting at their seams: entire families were lounging on the grounds and eating salted fish; young girls loafed around with kittenish smiles playing across their faces; and children scampered and romped around, screaming with sunny dispositions.

After entering the gardens, my parents sat down under the shade of a tree and I went to have fun with my siblings. We rolled like logs down slopes and inflated balloons to later release into the sky. I bought cotton candy and my older brother took a picture of my sister and me with the sugary confection. We ate it and felt the urge to flurry about as our hearts fluttered with jubilant glee.

Then I played football with my younger brother and a girl his age. I spent the whole time squealing with delight like a little girl. At the end of the day, I had shouted myself hoarse.

My brother took a picture of me climbing a long staircase hewn of wood. He also took a photo of some curious trees whose colorful leaves brightened up the place, while we felt buoyed by the colored eggs that had smiley faces drawn on them.

My mother had painted the eggs with brilliant colors so as to entice my little brother to take a photo of her. She was captured smiling.

One passerby took a quick shot of us trying to mimic the smiley faces drawn on the eggs.

Today, the faces from those pictures have changed. Our wizened countenances get now all covered in wrinkles every time we smile. In the fashion of our faces, our bodies have aged as well.

With an unsteady hand, I return the photo I was examining to the old album. I close it, exert myself to stand up, plod across the room to the shelves, stick it in the empty slot, and shut the cabinet doors.


Written by Doaa Gamal.

Choose your own adventure

She just wanted to curve her mouth into a smile; instead, it sagged open

a) in awe at the well-proportioned world.

b) in automatic response to the stimulus of regurgitating rainbows.