Stairway to Heaven


I walk down crowded alleys trying to dodge the fireballs the sun flings at us humans as soon as it has made itself comfortable in the canopy of heaven. The pungent aroma of incense that wafts toward me smacks of the past. I take my time climbing up the seemingly never-ending stairs. The stone steps have been worn smooth by all the people who have traced this route before me. I stop to look around. The views during the ascent never cease to amaze me. The buildings’ facades are adorned with stucco arabesques that crown the wooden windows. Their bright whiteness resembles that of the jilbabs kids wear. They stand in stark contrast to the rest of the colors of the facades, and to me, they look like the halos of stars. They definitely invite observers to sneak a peek at building interiors.

There is a stunning girl leaning out of one of the windows of a building opposite me. She has big almond eyes and scarlet cheeks. She is wearing a dreamy expression as her gaze drifts down the streets and her braids swing with the morning breeze. On my way to the top, she recedes from view every time I pass one of the windows that is spaced along the side of the tower that faces her, and each time I fear I might have lost her for good. Thus, I pick up my pace.

When the only way up is a spiraling path, one has to tread firmly to put one’s mind at ease about moving in the right direction despite the spinning motion. However, when I hear the neighborhood children laugh and the elderly utter their morning prayers, all my fears subside, for my mind reassures me that everything’s in its proper place and that I have always—since the beginning of time—belonged here. I feel loved and wanted. The certainty of being exactly where I am supposed to be boosts my confidence and pushes me to conquer the world.

I move forward by inertia as my feet take me to the most popular café in these parts. It’s located on the ninth floor, and it boasts a magnificent view of the entire city. I sit down on a wooden chair whose design matches that of the surrounding architecture and order a coffee. The waiter brings it to me, and I start drinking it in sips while watching the city rise and wipe the sleep from its eyes. Another day lies ahead, offering the beast that hides behind the appearance of a beauty another shot at turning our lives upside down.

Against all odds, she is still there. A blustery wind has picked up and is buffeting at her face. Her braids flutter like the wings of a sparrow that has been caught up in a cyclone. She seems intent on beguiling me. She entices me to stand up, leave the café, and go for a walk around the city. I lean out of the balcony and contemplate the surrounding buildings. The masterfully crafted, colorful arched windows would add distinction to any edifice and thus raise the already magnificent buildings they are a part of to a whole new category, making them worthy of being considered architectural gems.

The city’s splendor blinds me, and for a moment, I lose sight of the girl with braided hair. I am so afraid of losing her again that I lock my gaze on her. In fact, I am so fixated on the girl that I forget about my own two feet, lose balance, and almost fall. I then cast another look at Sanaa’s old city. The girl, the café, where am I? What happened to you, Sanaa? The grandeur of your old buildings attests to your level of advancement and impact once upon a time. But now those glorious times seem to be long gone. Building windows are covered in dust, and the air is filled with the stench of death. In this urban jungle that you have become, life is merely a matter of survival.


Written by Anwar Muhammad Alseraggi.

Choose your own adventure

The art of contemplation is a fine one. It calls for a heightened sensitivity that only few can afford to

a) develop.

b) display.