A Summer on the Nile
A Summer on the Nile is my first book of poetry, written during my stay in Egypt and over the course of the following year, my senior year in high school. That year was not a pleasant one for me, for the most part, so the poems are not all wonderfully uplifting, though some are.
Because I use special transliteration and Arabic fonts on both the Macintosh (and in WordPerfect 6, years ago when I used a Wintel PC), and it is difficult to use such fonts on the web, the rendering of Arabic words and phrases will be somewhat less than exact. Long Arabic vowels I can easily indicate with the circumflex (^), but strong consonants, which require dots underneath the letters, will have to wait for Unicode. The primary problem remaining will be differentiating between the `ayn and the hamza, or glottal stop. To this end, all `ayns (an English long "i" but from the throat) will be designated with a grave apostrophe (`) and the hamzas (the sound made between "uh-oh") will be acute apostrophes (´). Also, the special instance in the Cairo colloquial dialect where the qâf (hard "k" or "q") is silent will be indicated by a bolded apostrophe ('). This dropped sound is mostly not noticed, but occasionally sounds like a hamza.
For best results, set your fixed-width font size to ten point.
Titles in all italics are only descriptives for works without titles.
(It might be a while before all of these are on-line)
Jasmine and Turkey (an introduction)
An Egyptian Journey
For Kate wal-Qâhira (To al-telîfon)
The Head of Hasan
Shaykh `Umar's Thuluth
Footsteps of the Sphinx
al-Kasra al-Fasla (The Last Tic-Tac)
The Knight of Muqattam (a response to Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Kate")
Ha'î'a fî Harîm
On the Road to Jerusalâm
The Road to Heliopolis
Snellville Smells Like Cairo
Return to Contents.
Saturday, November 26, 1994 Here I am, sitting as a lonely man in my room on a cold, dreary, rainy day at the end of November. It is two days after Thanksgiving, and the pain of that day still lingers strongly as I bang out nonsense on this obsolescent machine, the electronic typewriter. It seems like only yesterday I was celebrating the Fourth of July in Ma`âdî with a group of people whom I hardly knew but were my best friends. What has become of us and our wonderful experience that we are like this: hearing only the clattering of the dinosaur as we remember . . . . Drifting away, the jasmine wafts through the crowded streets. People are talking everywhere. "Come to my shop!" "I know exactly what you want!" "Perfume, real cheap!" "Here mister! Leather, gold, silver! Come! Buy!" Even the Aussie fellahîn: "Ice cold Coca-Cola! Ice cold!" The sounds of trucks grinding through the twisted alleyways of Khân al-Khalîlî. People telling people to get out of the way. No one listening. Trucks stopping. Horns honking from Shâri`a al-Azhar. Boys on bikes, ringing their bike bells to let us know of their approach. Littler boys with pushing- or pulling-carts, using the same bell, alerting Kmart shoppers of the blue-light specials they bring on their pushing- or pulling-carts. The smell of exhaust from the bus stop on Shâri`a al-Azhar makes its way through the streets and alleyways too, just as Mahfûz would through Gamâliya. There's the smell of dust and trash, and even a faint whiff of Coca-Cola or shwerma from a vendor. If you're lucky, you'll come across a large, picturesque man carrying the drink vendor's equivalent of bagpipes. He colorfully tilts the selected side and fills up a cup with the desired beverage, flags on the contraption streaming. Or some man in a galabiyya will chase after you, grab you by the arm, and drag you into his shop. Maybe you want to escape the main strip and find some peace, or you want to see another part of the sûq. You turn down the side alley, through the scaffolding, and come upon an excavation/construction/restoration of a mosque all in one. You notice that they're always ready to bargain when you don't want the item, but that they never will bargain when you want it. Sometimes the quality is suspect, but you like the item. Do you buy it, or do you look for something better in another shop? What happens if you turn down one dark, twisted alley and find a shop, only then realizing ma`andish filûs, and that you don't remember how you managed to get so deep into the place and will never find it again. You also realize that the shopkeepers on the front must have designed all of the alleys so that you think you're going deeper in. But you never do; you just end up right back on the main drag again. Walking past a shop, you encounter a man outside who tries to sell you the top to a miniature minaret. Never mind that you came on a plane and could never get it home. "Buy it anyway." Or, "My pretty, I do something for you; now you do something for me," and the leather-salesman bends over for a kiss. One guy invites you into his tiny shop, room only for the six of you, and you all sit down. He tells the kid to go back and keep bringing in the t-shirts you want, but the kid never gets it right. You search all over for the perfect little clay man: not too big, not too gaudy, not too expensive, not too touristy. Gosh, everything is touristy! All the golds and silvers and brilliant colors in tourist-trapping fabrications. Not that reality is bland, but the items for sale looked like they had so much gold and silver on them, as if gold and silver were going out of style. "Come into my pap-ee-rus shop" they all say. "Come now because tomorrow I go to Amrîkâ for my brother's wedding." But later it's "the shop closes tomorrow for two months to draw more pap-ee-rus!" Funny how they always appeared to have plenty of unsold pap-ee-rus (or should I say, bananna rind). Or searching for full. Jasmine is the essence of al-Qâhira. You walk up and down the corniche in a group or with a girl, and you're besieged by boys selling full or roses. Go yourself in search of it for a surprise party for a girl's birthday, and not a bit to be found, save some that one soldier gives to another. Or you ask the traffic cop if you can take his picture (useless laziness of the police) and he shakes his head no. Or an off-duty soldier greets you on Shâri`a al-Azhar your first time in Medieval Cairo, (waiting for the rest) and tells you the real bazaar is the Street of the Tentmakers; Khân al-Khalîlî is the tourist bazaar, he says. You remember these things before they forever fade. Such is the power of a lonely, cold, dreary, rainy night in November.
Return to Contents.
An Egyptian Journey
This is not Cairo:
Five-Star Hotels on the Nile,
(Yea, though I was once part of it,
This is not Cairo; this is not Egypt.
Cairo is the smog and dust
It is al-Azhar Mosque,
Street vendors impoverished,
|Rice and corn
No lanes, Malish, inshâ´allah,
The Delta, the Canal,
The Desert Road.
The Coptic Church, "Santi Bishoi"
Seventeen million crammed into a city.
Life and death in the same place.
Beef Pepperoni at Pizza Hut,
Friends waiting the Hotel
(The Last Tic-Tac)
Called from the minaret of Qâytbây,
I have no choice;
Hardship and truth have stolen my voice.
A disposable society is not the way to go;
Our systems of morals we give, throw upon throw;
Too many times we've fallen in this trap
Passing from one to another form of sin.
So let us return to the truth
Echoing now from the towers of Qâytbây
Thus he returns to khamsa wa `ishrîn to pray
Return to Contents.
Snellville Smells Like CairoSnellville smells like Cairo;
I wandered through the city
Around the courthouse
Danced ghostly images of Midân al-Tahrîr
The city is my home.
Yesterday, Cairo came home.
Return to Contents.
|al-Qâhira fî Amrîkâ Home | Egypt Pictures [no frames] | Summer in Syria 1997 | A Summer on the Nile | GSCL | Central Gwinnett HS Latin Clvb | About Me | Macintosh | Bookstore | Guestbook | About this Site | What's New | Model Arab League | Geocities TheTropics|