Michael Divine

Anyways, we stopped there at alabaster factory again. Got the hard sell. Refused to get out of the van. We were hungry and stubborn. We didn’t feel the need to be ‘nice’ by buying something. It was however a bit uncomfortable and brought the cynic in me out.

The sun was setting and we pulled away in the white Japanese minivan, driving through a dirt clearing where kids played soccer. The van drove through their game. A girl held the ball. She looked at me with a deep gaze from her dark dark eyes and though she was maybe 12 at most, her face looked like a 40 year old woman. Not hardship necessarily, though she looked hardened, but age… age and time. It was haunting. There was no innocence to her gaze. It was dark and beautiful and humbling.

We drove back quietly in the setting sun, making our way back to the Nefertiti Hotel where we ate a delicious meal. Violet headed back to grading papers for a while (certainly no fun) and I sat quietly in a chair alongside the alley courtyard in raised row of wicker chairs, under the soft yellowed lights, and settled in to drawing – the echoes of the temples and ruins fresh in my mind, the cool air on my cheeks, and the sounds of this Egyptian city – car honks, sales man shouts, calls to prayer, quiet conversations of caftan robed men passing through in the evening, a child, a kitten, the breeze.

Along with me there at the wicker tables and chairs, sat Luna, Mohammed, and Aladdin. Mohammed was a sweet fellow with a trusting faith, a big heart, a family – a wife and two kids – and a deep faith in his religion. His eyes were wide and trusting. They hid nothing. He was a very genuine fellow and I really appreciated his trusting, honorable manner. Aladdin was a bit different. No less genuine, trust worthy, or honorable, he was simply more reserved. Aladdin, the owner of the Nefertiti Hotel, was really a remarkable person who I wish I had spent more time talking with. He told me that he was amongst the first 100 people into Tahrir Square during the first wave of the revolution. He has helped to organize for the local chapter of the liberal-leaning political party. He has intelligent and calculating eyes.

One morning I was sitting outside there in the alley court yard drawing in the morning light and he was there in front of me with a sharp cream colored suit on. ‘Nice suit,’ I looked up and saw this sharp looking fellow with a stubbled head of hair and said, and smiled. ‘Looks sharp.’ He smiled charismatically because he knew that I meant it. ‘I wear a suit often,’ he said. ‘The past few days I’ve been more casual.’

A suit makes people take you seriously. If I’d had more time, I would have found a tailor to make me a sharp suit.

Politically, the hot topic of the moment was the new constitution which was about to be voted on. It was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood and some saw it as another step in the wrong direction. Aladdin voiced this opinion. It is what happens, you see, when economics sour. People just want stability and then the Brotherhood tells them that a vote against the constitution is a vote against Allah and the uneducated – the farmers, whoever – they simply listen. It is difficult. It is like forcing a big stubborn camel to change it’s direction.

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