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 I am lounging on a rocking chair reading the papers to ask me:
“Daddy, I can’t believe I am actually getting to see my homeland for the very first time! What should I pack for such an occasion?”
“Go ask your mother,” I reply with a beaming smile.
After a while, my wife, Marwa, comes to announce that she has finished packing for all of us. She sits down next to me and grants me, after all the grouching she has done about my decision, that she has been looking forward to the trip as well.
“But weren’t you a proud Moroccan?” I tease her.
“Well, Egypt’s culture and traditions are more related to those of my own country than to those here, so I guess it is good enough a destination for the time being.”
“I was just kidding. Let’s go to bed, we have to wake up early tomorrow.”
In bed, I close my eyes and before falling asleep, memories of my journeys across the Arab World come flooding back, memories of the Luxor Temples and the Giza Pyramids, which have triumphantly defied the cruel passage of time; of the city of Latakia and the Golan Heights, with its lush green valleys engulfed by ice-capped mountains, on whose slopes forests stretch; of Baghdad, which has played an important role in history ever since it belonged to the Akkadian Empire; of Mecca, the Prophet’s hometown; of the cosmopolitan and multi-confessional metropolis of Jerusalem; of Petra, Jordan’s desert flower; and of Alexandria, the jewel in the crown of the Mediterranean coastline.
The next morning, we rise early and head to the airport. Chills run down my back when, already aboard the plane, I spot a scary-looking bearded man. But then I sit down and let my mind take me back to the place I left behind so many years ago. Suddenly, my boy tells me he loves me. I tell him that I also love him and pat his head.
Moments later, an explosion in the back of the plane catapults me into the skies. Still attached to my seat, I find myself plummeting to the ground rapidly.
“Why did the Arab terrorist blow up the plane?” I ask myself. “Why would he want to drag the reputation of his kin through the mud? How can he not see the damage he inflicts on future generations? Why does he not allow the Western world to discover Egypt’s beauty? Why did he kill me and my family, seeing that we are also Arabs? What a faithless schmuck!”
In my last seconds of life, I give up hope of at least landing in my country. I wish I could have done more for it and the image it projects to the West. Then, I enter Paradise and confirm it: it looks just like Egypt.
Written by Mahmoud Ayman.