Sometimes, Cairo, with all of its rich fullness and grainy texture, displaces the mind’s quiet.
As both vanquisher and subduer, al-Qahira fills the spaces between thoughts with its Life and Living.
You would imagine that in order to reclaim some of yourself, it would take a great many hours to escape the city’s penetrating charm.
Not so, as you spare just a pair and head out for the desert, along Korymat road, passing through the Helwan tollgate.
It takes an au fait guide to make the necessary u-turns and entries through the unofficial breaks in the concrete barriers of the dual carriageway.
With your back to the churning of industry, you follow on the tracks of camels, donkeys, 4x4s and motorbikes towards Wadi Rischrasch.
The landscape introduces itself by its wide grey plains. The valley soon narrows, drawing in the rocks and cliffs. The colours become earthier. Water has had its way here but you’d never tell by the shattered clay of the earth. But when the water comes, it comes, and the little starts of vegetation are that testament.
Between the hills that look like huts and pareidolic faces cut into the sides of the eroded mountains, stillness replaces what Cairo displaces.
This is where you can speak to yourself and listen.
Further on the way lies what used to be King Farouk’s hunting lodge. Located to perfectly capture and circulate the cooling winds of the wadi, this is where the last King of Egypt would come to find his own quiet (and hunt the gazelle collected, conveniently, for him).
The dovecotes make for quirky sentries and the buildings now function as a rendezvous for bedouins with business (apparently some hush-hush about hashish) and tourists who want a different story to tell.
While the insides of the stables and kitchen declare that Mohammad was here in 2004, the rocks outside bear more ancient graffiti. There are rudimentary depictions of cattle and gazelle you may speculate as being left behind by some keen, and bored, herdsmen hailing from pharaonic times.
If it weren’t for the fresh animal spoors, the wadi may soon trick you into believing you are the only breathing thing left in the world.
And the bedouins too leave their own tracks. Their motorbikes score doughnut rings in the dust and there is an alien packet of chipsys wedged under a rock next to shoes that must have trampled a hundred thousand miles. But this is detritus you can deal with.
The golden walls of the wadi lull and soften.
Here the skies are clear.
Your lungs are loose.
Your thoughts are your own.
More pics (and less windier words) on Naeem’s blog
Crossposted on Al Rahala.com
My hands cradle the rising beneath my navel.
Moon-breaths dictate this ebb and flow of my repose.
It has been just three months and the miracle biology in my belly has rendered my profile alien but soothing.
My fingers probe the extra flesh and for some seconds I am rewarded by a stirring; ah, there is work being done.
Yeah, that chicken was pretty damn good.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a handsome prince in a big castle by the sea.
When this prince was a little boy, he was cursed by an evil wizard who was jealous of the little child and all the wealth he would inherit.
Because of this curse, the handsome prince lost his voice and could only speak for a minute every day at midnight.
One day, a brave and beautiful princess rode by the castle on her magnificent white stallion.
She had just come back from battling a fearsome dragon who threatened the villagers in a nearby hamlet.
The princess was thirsty and just a little peckish, as dragon-slaying did have the reputation of building up quite an appetite.
She stopped her stallion at the little stream that ran pass the castle.
She and her steed were enjoying the refreshing waters when the stallion suddenly whinnied and looked towards one of the castle’s turrets.
It was then that the princess heard the most beautiful singing.
The voice was strong and rich, and reached the very heights of the heavens.
It was like something straight out of American Idol.
The princess said, “I don’t often say this, but this is easily the best performance I’ve ever heard. This guy definitely has the x-factor.”
She got on to her trusty stallion and dashed off for the castle gates.
The walls were fairly easy to climb and within two winks the princess had scurried up to the tallest turret.
She found herself in a dim and dusty room with only the glow from a fireplace as illumination.
“You’ve got some really bad feng shui going on in here. I’ll give you the number for my guy, he’s really good,” the princess said.
The figure in the corner stared at her in amazement and coughed.
The prince had never seen anything as beautiful as her.
But how would he tell her? His minute was up.
The princess gave the prince a quick once-over. “Not a bad looking chap,” she thought. “With a shave, a new haircut and some styling, he’ll be fit for royalty.”
She nodded at him and said, “You’re a quiet fella aren’t you? I like that. I will marry you.”
The prince reached for his notebook and pen and quickly scribbled, “Er…ok. But what about this curse?”
“Curse, shmurse,” she said. “This is a blessing. A husband who doesn’t nag? What more could I want?”
And with that she slung him over her shoulder and jumped out of the window to land squarely on her waiting steed.
She lived happily ever after.