Badr and Esther – Part Three

“… we have began our descent to Frankfurt International Airport, where the temperature is 20°C. We will be in the gate in about twenty minutes. We’d like the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for arrival. Thank you for flying with us today…” Despite his efforts, the pilot failed to hide his thick German accent. His rough voice, coming out of the inter-com, woke Esther up from her light sleep.

The flight was exciting, at first. It was her first time on an airplane. But, after 4 continuous hours, Esther was bored of the same continuous blue sky. The captain had lit the seat-belt sign. And, as if it was their cue, the flight attendants began circling around making sure everyone complied. Esther quickly fastened her seat-belt. The faint metallic click didn’t comfort her fear of crashing down.

The plane was starting to lose its altitude. Now, the view from Esther’s window seat was breathtaking. Green fields were everywhere. The cities, mere grey patches from above, looked like beauty spots on the charming face of nature. She was glad she chose to study in Germany. Her creative mind naturally conceived memories that have yet to happen…

She could already smell the fresh grass, while a gentle breeze embraced her face. Her hands were already caressing the dark soil. Her bicycle would lay on the ground. And she would rest against an old tree, bathing in its shadow with a book on her lap… Esther was on the edge of her seat, eagerly waiting to get off the plane and explore the country she had been dreaming about for a year.

The pilot was now circling over the airport, waiting for clearance to land. After 10 minutes, he finally received the permission from the control tower. As the big Boeing 777 began loosing altitude, Esther clutched her seat, closed her eyes and prayed silently…


As he stood next to the luggage carousel, Badr looked around observing the strangers’ faces. It was one of his favorite “hobbies” from when was in Cairo. He would go to the bus stop and pretend to wait for a bus he’ll never ride. Instead, he’d sit for hours and subtly watch, trying to read body language and decipher the reasons behind every shaky hand, watery eye, fast pace…

Observing is a great way to understand a culture. Simply sit silently and watch the busy bee hive that is a city. It takes a lot of patience and skill, since every detail matters and every minor movement has repercussions on a higher scale. But, when you do master this beautiful form of consciousness, you’ll get a glimpse of the truth.

Badr knew that Men will utter the most horrible of lies in order to hide the truth. So he decided to stop asking questions and watch as their tormented subconscious strips them bare of every incoherent fable. Only then will you start seeing patterns. The great high-ways that everyone followed except each had his own lane and traveled at his own pace. Many tried to make their own roads, but the rocky ways were tiresome for most.

So far, he had found that the great Egyptians followed two paths. There were those who would greet you as they walk past you even if you have never met. They are the same people that will pray for you, your parents and your future children when you lend them a hand, or give you the greatest up-lifting, motivational speech when they see you water a plant or pick up street garbage. They were mostly elderly or people whose poverty deprived them from any contact with the complexity of our modern lives. So, they clung tight to the values they inherited from their ancestors. They led a simplistic life, kept their doors open for they trusted everyone, invited every stranger to lunch or to a delicious cup of tea. And as long as you respect them, you will be treated as a son, a brother and a friend. They are the ones who’d wake up at sunrise every day to pray in the street mosque and sleep just after the night prayer. They would break their fast together, in Ramadan, and share whatever they could afford with their poor wages ,with those who were even less fortunate. They were all just one big family.

On the other lane, however, one might find the exact opposite: those who covet money above everything. They have ruptured every bond with their past, forgot every tradition and adopted “modernity” as a way of life. They live in fancy west-like neighborhoods where everyone is a stranger and drive luxury cars that would occasionally hit a homeless child and gets away with it without a prosecution. They look down on the poor, take advantage of them and steal their money. They pretend to be pious but their actions tell a different story. Guilt has yet to find a way to penetrate their hearts. Sadly, the corrupt state protects them. That’s why many started to indulge in these unhealthy habits. They become haunted by the desire to earn more and more. It would pain them to give a spare Dirham to an old famished beggar, even though their great fortune won’t suffer. Greed traps them eventually and makes them unable to enjoy life, for their minds are always calculating their losses.

Then, there were those who are trapped in the middle, mostly young men and women like himself. They are torn between these two different worlds, not knowing if they should follow the strict traditions of the past or break free from every moral restraint. Poverty was a big problem in Egypt. And the new generation was eager to get rid of it, that’s why the “modern” life style seems so appealing. It’s the fast guaranteed way to money. Still, making that choice wasn’t easy thanks to their up-bringing. It was really hard to sever the ties and erase every lesson their parents have taught them. In fact, Badr was sure that most preferred the “old” way that left them unsatisfied. After a couple of years, few remained in the middle. Life forced them to make a choice. And to Badr, many seemed to be making the wrong one.

Badr finally spotted his bags. He clutched them as they slid beside him and headed towards the exit. A young brunette was pushing her luggage close to him. He let her go first through the exit. She smiled at him and thanked him. Badr followed her and found his host family waiting for him. As he shook hands with the people he’d be spending a year with, he noticed that the young brunette was doing the same. Was she an exchange student as well? The young brunette was in fact Esther.

Source: Stadt Frankfurt am Main, Photo: H.D.Fehrenz


Badr and Esther – Part Two

Out of exhaustion, Esther’s eyes had finally surrendered to sleep when a sudden cry woke her up. At first, she wondered where it was coming from. But as her eyes settled on the unfamiliar room, she knew it was just little Arieh. Her little cousin was just a couple of months old. So, it was sort of a miracle that he hadn’t spent the whole night crying. But, it wouldn’t have mattered anyways.

A tingling feeling of excitement crept through her veins and kept her wide awake. As if there was a devil trapped inside of her, she kept swiveling under the thin bed sheet, all night, utterly unable to relax. And, the fact that she felt like an intruder didn’t help.

She sat up and absently stared at the walls. The suns arrays were crawling in through the open window, slowly illuminating the guest room as if they expected a wretched witch hid in the darkness. The sun’s soldiers had reached Esther’s bare feet. And as if they feared for this gentle princess, they summoned their courage and quickly conquered the rest of the room. They found no lurking monster, but then again, they hadn’t ventured inside the other rooms…

The morning’s cool breeze woke her up from her reverie. But quickly, she relapsed into another. The words from yesterday’s argument with her father haunted her mind. She had barely stopped herself from causing a disaster hours before her departure.

She wanted to stay in Haifa but her father urged her to spend the night at his sister’s place in Tel Abib. Her flight was supposed to leave from the capital’s airport. So it was a reasonable suggestion. Non the less, she was prepared to do the 80 Km journey by bus, even though it would mean waking up at 4 AM. She realized that arguing further more would arouse her father’s suspicion. So, she finally agreed to spend the night at her aunt’s house.

Isidore, Esther’s father, had a great insight into personalities. Somehow, he failed to interpret his daughter’s reluctance to stay at his sister’s. His daughter had done a great job hiding her emotions. So, he presumed she was just shy. Esther never told him the truth nor does she plan on doing for it would only make him miserable.

Esther, unfortunately, didn’t have a great relationship with her aunt Leah. Her aunt loathed her ever since Isidore had brought her from foster care. She publicly disapproved of her brother’s decision. But, Isidore didn’t want to abandon his wife nor did he want to stay childless. So, he adopted Esther when she was three. For 14 years, Leah never accepted her as a part of her family. She never ceased to think of her as a shameful abomination to her world. Although, her grudge only surfaced when they were alone. Only then would Leah start calling her the most horrible of names, damning her birth parents and treating her like a slave.

Esther never said a word to her father. Not out of fear as Leah thought, but because she knew it would break his heart. This man had raised her under his roof and loved her unconditionally. Hurting him was not the proper way to return the favor. Esther was eternally indebted to this man and happily accepted her aunt’s vicious treatment knowing she was only protecting him.

Still, this house gave her the creeps.

Luckily, her aunt lived far away and rarely came to visit. Although her visits often gave her nightmares, Esther didn’t suffer from the traumatizing scars. In fact, she had led a pretty exiting life so far. Her unmatched intelligence and her unwavering honesty had got her in a fair lot of trouble. But upon realizing that a kind and friendly heart hid behind this firing spirit, people generally let go of any grudge and accepted the truth.

Isidore, was up as well, in the other guest room, reminiscing. He was proud of the girl he had raised. A girl that had a habit of challenging everyone’s beliefs, including his own. She raided everyone with questions that often confused them and made them doubt their own beliefs. Esther hated anyone that tried to impose a belief upon her without backing it up with the proper arguments. Isidore knew his daughter was natural born journalist. And so he tried to help her to the best of his ability.

His daughter was leaving for a whole year. His little birdie grew up and was ready to be released in the wild… You can’t blame a sleep deprived, nostalgic man for coming up with such a strange metaphor! As if to put an end to his torment, Esther’s alarm set off in the other room. It was 6:30 AM. Time was closing in.

Isidore got to his feet and went to knock on Esther’s door. She told him to come in and they both sat on the bed. He wanted to tell he loved her and how he was going to miss her… Yet, he couldn’t find the words. But his daughter knew why he had come, it was time to say goodbye. She hugged him tightly and told him that she loved him. Isidore returned her hug, and for a moment, they clung to each other…

An hour later, Esther gladly left her aunt’s house. And without a second look back, she jumped in her father’s car. A new adventure awaited her, a new country to explore, new people to meet and above all, new ideas to challenge her mind…

 Tel Abib. Source: Center Blog

Badr and Esther Part One:

Badr and Esther – Part One

Gentle footsteps caressing the tile of the floor… A tender knock on the door, one that can only come from a mother, was supposed to wake Badr from his sleep.

It was a minute past 5 AM. His mother was punctual as always. How ironic would it be that she would lose track of time on a day as important as this one? Of course, that was impossible. Badr can always rely on his mother. That was one of the few things he was sure of in this world.

Today, though, the wake-up call was useless, for Badr hadn’t slept. He had gone to bed quite early for a summer night. And for the first couple of hours, kept shifting endlessly, looking for a comfortable position that he never found. So, he finally got up and sat on the ledge of the window gazing up to the sky.

It was a full moon, called in Arabic Badr. It stood in the middle sky, reigning the mighty city of Cairo. He could see most of the city from his bedroom on the 4th floor. The moon was giving him a chance, thought Badr, a chance to say good-bye to the place that held him in its streets for 17 years, a chance to engrave a picture of the city into his mind.

To the west, glistening between two buildings, was the unmistakable Nile. The river held a mystical spell on Badr, unlike his Egyptian friends. Even though he had spent his entire life in Egypt, Badr didn’t call it home. He came from another land, a country he has never visited, but was the birthplace of his ancestors. Still, this beautiful city charmed him and he knew he was going to miss it.

Quietly, he opened the door. His mother greeted him with a smile that couldn’t hide her puffy eyes. Badr wasn’t the only one that had a sleepless night. His father was in the kitchen, trying to read a newspaper. Although, the way he threw it to the side, when he heard his son’s footsteps, proved he was clearly disinterested.

Rushing back to his room, he checked his passport and his Visa. He had a feeling they would be exactly where he left them 10 minutes ago. But, science was getting advanced; someone might have figured out a way to teleport them… No, they were still there, either science hasn’t reached such a point yet or maybe his documents weren’t important enough. One thing was for sure, his paranoia will soon drive him crazy.

A huge dish of Feta Cheese & Green Fava Beans with Crackers on the side awaited him on the kitchen table. There was noway this food was going to fit in his stomach but his parents tried non the less. Badr didn’t resist. He won’t be tasting his mother’s cuisine for the next year so he tried to get one year’s supply in one breakfast… By the time he had finished, the sun’s arrays had already conquered most of the sky. He was leaving soon.

His mother went to wake his brother and his sister. His brother Samir was sleeping in the same room, just like the old days. He had left years ago to work as lawyer in Alexandria. It was hard to get 2 days off work, but there was noway he was going to miss his younger brother’s departure. Jumanah, on the other hand, had just finished her first year at the nearby Engineering school and still lived at home.

At least, his parents wouldn’t be lonely, he thought. Deep down, he felt guilty for leaving his parents. Even though they kept saying they were proud of him, he knew his departure saddened them as well. Making his parents miserable was something his good nature refused to do, but still he wasn’t going to let this marvelous opportunity slip away.

That was the closest he ever got to selfishness or ever will. Or so, he promised himself.

His suitcase was already packed and stood in the hallway next to the door. His room was meticulously ordered. He had spent the majority of the past day pretending to clean it whilst he was really absorbing all the memories that were triggered by old photos, a diary he had from his early teen years, his scrapbook… He was reconnecting with his past because he was afraid he was going to lose his identity.

This wasn’t the time to do some soul-searching nor was it time to get cold feet. His flight left in 3 hours and the airport was one hour away. His brain was ordering his legs to move but his heart kept overriding the orders. And so he lingered. His father and his father took his suitcase to put in the car. Any minute now, they will return and he would have to leave.

Moments later, they came back. Everyone was standing in the hallway waiting silently for him to make a move. He took a deep breath for his heart was beating madly. And taking one last look at the flag hung on the wall, he left home.

6th October Bridge, from Wikipedia.