Forbidden Zone: Soliloquies of a young Muslim

Soliloquies of a young Muslim
 

Walking barefoot on the scorching sand is not a trip one normally wishes to make. But is it hard to imagine these towering monuments to dead overlords who, even in their absence, ever-watch their subjects, were once built by barefoot men, snaking their way from the quarry to the ramp? I’m in Giza, mentally if not physically, feeling the heavy weight of history upon me. Lining the pathways stand Pharaoh’s spearmen, ensuring nobody rebels against the way things are. In Nature’s own records, there is no mention of slave or master. Everyone is born human, with choice, with hopes. But Egypt’s lot is to be guided by Pharaoh, the Morning and the Evening Star, and he decrees that some humans are less equal than others, and so their hopes are dashed, their choice crushed, their humanity taken.

***

The air by the pyramids was suffocating. Here, by the sweet Nile, I can breathe. Kings have come and gone, and this river continues to flow; the Nile is independent of the crown. She belongs to the people, down-to-earth, not penetrating the sky. From it, the Egyptian farmer waters his crops, the Egyptian worker slakes his thirst. Like them, She is naturally wild and free. Like them, she is never far from the gaze of Giza.

***

I see a sign pointing the way to Cairo, the city of proud minarets, skyscraping domes. The tour in Egypt’s long ancient past has taken me a while, but at last it is over, and I am ready to make the first great transition and enter the Islamic era of the history of the Egyptian people.

***

I am trudging along the road to Cairo. The sun is setting in its own blood, or so it appears on the sand dunes to the West. I set my eyes on the three man-made peaks, the unholy trinity, for the last time. They look considerably smaller from my distance, like mounds of dust. Not knowing better, I would have mused, ‘So unimpressive.But I know better. And so, with a bitter taste in my mouth, slightly resigned, utterly deferential towards a spirit which has held Egypt captive for millennia, I whisper my farewell, ‘Rest in peace, Pharaohs of the past, eternal watchmen. You have never ceased ruling over us.’                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Jebreil