01-29 Qasr al-Hayr al-Salim Academy – Egypt

Content warning: Nudity


Arabian and Middle Eastern Music


The Arabic Republic of Egypt

Dawn over the desert Madinah…

With only a one hour stop-over in Cairo, Granny almost misses the connecting flight to Luxor. Sometimes it’s good to be an elder, she muses, being whisked through the long corridors on an airport cart with a driver who scatters frightened passengers in his wake as he accelerates, angrily barking into a walkie-talkie in Arabic. She even had the time to buy some sunscreen in the tax free perfume shop.

If it was warm in China, there’s no description of the weather in Egypt. It’s only eight in the morning when Granny steps off the plane into the dry desert heat, adjusting her sunglasses. She follows the other passengers into the airport building, queues though the passport formalities and takes a taxi to her hotel. The AC provides a nice contrast to the unusually warm weather for the season. She calls reception for a taxi and takes a quick shower while she’s waiting.

There are no roads to the school compound, and she has the choice of hiring a jeep, or ride, which is not really an option. The taxi drops her off at the outskirts of the little village, and she has to walk along a dirt track to arrive at her destination. “Moussa Location”, the big sign can’t be missed.

A jeep vanishes in a cloud of dust as she turns around the corner. To her dismay it was the last vehicle. An elder woman introduces herself as Uuma Moussa, the owner’s wife. ‘We only have three jeeps. Two are already hired and the third is at the garage for service. It will come back tomorrow or the day after…’

Which will be too late for Granny.

‘But we have horses – beautiful Arabian horses. Look!’ The owner’s wife, assures her that they are extremely gentle and that she won’t have any trouble riding to the school complex.

‘To discover Egypt from a dusty, noisy car cannot be compared to discovering our ancient and magnificent country from horseback. You know Lawrence of Arabia? Yes? Exactly the same.’

Granny is dubious. She watches a horse prance away with its rider, knowing full well that she won’t be able to stay on the back of something as full of energy.

‘You shall ride the grey mare. She is old and steady, and she knows the way. Just make sure to keep the pyramids on your right, you won’t get lost. My grandson, Aziz, will get her ready in an eye blink.’

‘Aziz! Bring out Mahbouba!’ she shouts, making the stallion in the next enclosure rear and gallop away in a burst of energy. ‘That is Malik – the King. Beautiful, eh?’

Granny can feel her stomach churn. ‘Ahem. Yes. Magnificent. My… err… granddaughter would love it here. She’s always asking about a horse or at least riding lessons,’ Granny says, trying to hide her fear of the horses..

‘You bring her and she will ride, too.’ Uuma beams at her. ‘Aziz will teach her.’

‘Yes. I might very well do so…’

They are interrupted by a black clad woman bringing some delicious looking pastries on a platter.

‘Samosa,’ Uuma says. ‘Taste. It is good. Only vegetables inside.’

Granny takes a bite and nods. ‘You are right, they taste delicious,’ she says her mouth full, smiling and nodding politely to accentuate her satisfaction. The samosa is also terribly spicy, and she can feel her face go bright red.

The black clad woman purses her mouth and looks her over, saying something to Uuma. Uuma nods thoughtfully, pushing away the horse who tries to have a bite, too.

‘I will be right back,’ she says to Granny, disappearing around the corner followed by the woman in black.

Granny is now sweating profusely. She could use a glass of water or even better, a whole bottle. She looks around her for some help, but there’s only the young boy, Aziz, who is deftly tacking the grey mare. He notices Granny watching him, and explains that the horse’s name means “Beloved” in Arabic.

‘Beloved?’

‘Na’am, yes. You will love her, too.’ He throws the reins over the mare’s neck and gestures for Granny to mount. ‘Do you need help?’

Granny looks at the scrawny boy and shakes her head. She decides to acquaintance herself with her ride, but the grey mare assigned to her doesn’t seem to want to be ridden. She doesn’t look gentle at all, snapping at Granny she stomps her tiny hooves and tries to look menacing.

Aziz laughs merrily. ‘She will never get on the horse without help,’ he says in Arabic to his grandmother who arrives carrying ankle boots and something green. She shushes him sternly.

‘Aziz. Stop making fun of our guest and take Mahbouba to the bench.’

Granny has not understood a single word, apart from Mahbouba, but she starts following them when Uuma stops her with a hand on her arm. ‘Your shoes. They are not appropriate for riding.’

She lets go of a pair of brown ankle boots, letting them fall into the dust in front of Granny. Uuma is right. Her peek-a-boo shiny red shoes aren’t even suitable for marching on the dusty village roads. Gratefully she accepts a pair of socks before kicking her shoes off and putting the boots on. ‘Thank you.’

‘Yes. They are not expensive. ‘1,500 E£.’

‘What? How much is that in dollars?’

‘How should I know? It is not important. They are 1,500 E£ or you cannot ride.’

‘But I have to get to the school today!’

Uuma frowns. ‘Or… we can change. I keep yours.’

Granny doesn’t hesitate. ‘OK. That’s not exactly fair, but OK:’

‘And you must wear this.’ Uuma waves the green silky cloth in front of her, making Mahbouba nervously back away. ‘It is hijab for adult women. It is not appropriate to be uncovered.’

Granny nods. So that was what the black clad woman had wanted. She takes the green cloth from Uuma. She can always put it in her backpack as soon as she’s out of sight. ‘Err… I don’t know how to wear it.’

Uuma helps her, clucking her tongue satisfactorily. ‘Much better. And it will protect you from the sun and the dust.’

Appropriately outfitted for a trek in the desert, she is ready to mount. Mahbouba is patiently waiting in front of a low bench Granny understands is to be used to get on the horse’s back easier. Aziz gallantly offers her his hand to help her and this time she accepts it. Painstakingly, Granny puts a foot in the stirrup and heaves herself up.

‘Easy girl… Still now…’ she murmurs a little nervously.

Even with the additional height of the bench, she has trouble swinging her leg over the croup. Heavily she sits in the ornate traditional saddle. Aziz and Uuma looks at her expectantly from very far under. What if she falls off? There’s no way she could get up on Mahbouba’s back again without help.

‘Ma’a salama! Goodbye!’ The young boy slaps the mare’s hind quarters and she jumps forward and sets off, galloping out from the yard.

‘Aziz! You crazy boy! Inshallah she doesn’t fall off and sue us!’

‘Oooooh!’Granny shrieks. Grabbing the saddle with both hands she closes her eyes in fright.

It is lucky for her that she doesn’t see the other horse entering the yard. Trying to avoid Mahbouba it stops net, sending its rider flying over its head.

Granny is doing her best not to fall off. Mahbouba speeds out of the village, keeping to the dirt track. Suddenly the grey mare veers off to the right. Passing over a rolling sand dune, Granny gets her first glimpse of the Pyramids.

Not that she has the time to enjoy the view, she’s struggling to stay on the horse. Granny’s backpack bumps against her back, pulling her backwards. She doesn’t realize that her posture helps her keeping her balance. Not daring to let go of the saddle she leaves the reins free. She doubts that she could have guided the careening horse anyway.

She tries to adapt to the rolling motion of the cantering horse, reassured to see the pyramids to her right.

They slide down a dune and stops so abruptly Granny is projected forward. She taps her face on the horse’s neck, hurting her nose.

Mahbouba stands stock still, breathing heavily. Granny doesn’t dare move but she can’t very well stay like this. Slowly she straightens her back. Mahbouba just snorts and scratches the ground with her front hoof.

Granny takes advantage of the sudden calm to look around. They seem to have stopped at a crossroad, but the wooden signs pointing in opposite directions are of no help. Written in Arabic, they are pleasant to the eye but incomprehensible.

‘I think we should try this way. Or that.’ She waits for the horse to react. Uuma had said the mare knew the way, hadn’t she? She grabs the saddle with one hand, anticipating the sudden surge forward that will surely come when she urges the horse forward. She has never, ever ridden before, but she has seen John Wayne movies and it didn’t seem very difficult, they all used just one hand anyway. She tries to urge the horse on by lifting the reins with her free hand and waving them a little, urging the horse on with clucking sounds. The mare perks up a little, the ears pointing forward.

Granny smiles grimly. Who needs riding lessons?

But the mare doesn’t budge. She is staring fixedly towards a huge boulder behind some bushes.

Granny gestures forward. ‘Hey. Move.’

Mahbouba starts walking backwards. Suddenly she rears and Granny takes back everything she thought about how easy it is to ride. Holding on for her life, she sees in the corner of her eye a cobra Naja strike.

If she had been scared galloping across the desert before, it was nothing compared to the flight of the scared horse. The fluid movement from a few moments ago is gone, left is only hooves pounding hard on the ground, the roughness of the pace menacing to dislodge her at any moment. She loses her stirrups, sways hither and dither, finally grabbing the horse’s long mane to hold on to.

Fortunately the mare soon gets tired of fleeing. Or maybe she knows that the snake can’t follow them this far. However, she settles for a slow but steady lope, and after a while they’re just walking. Granny starts enjoying the ride and regrets using up all the camera rolls in China. She even ventures to take out a bottle of sparkling water.

She makes sure she always keeps the pyramids on her right side as Mrs. Moussa had advised her to. The little grey mare seems to know where they are heading and doesn’t hesitate.

Almost two hours after leaving “Moussa Locations”, they enter the oasis sheltering Qasr al-Hayr al-Salim Academy. A teenager is heading out from the oasis with a flock of sheep. He kindly directs her to where she can find water for her horse before setting off after his bleating horde.

Granny finds the village fountain and dismounts in front of a group of curious onlookers.

‘Ouch… I wonder if I can let you drink directly from the fountain?’ she mutters, rubbing her aching back.

Before Granny has the time to ask anyone, a young boy jumps off the wall from where he has been sitting, gleefully commenting her arrival in Arabic to some other kids.

‘Ahlan sadiqati! Hey friend! I take good care of horse, Madam! It safe with me! I am Masud, and I feed it and water it. Only 20 pounds! For 50 I brush, too! You OK? 50 pounds? Yes?’

Feeling giddy at having safely arrived, Granny laughs at the young boy’s enthusiasm. ‘I’ll give you 100 if you show me the way to the Academy!’

’100? I show you the village and the mosque, too!’

‘The Academy will do just fine, thank you.’

Masud looks around him, then he gestures to another, smaller boy trying to catch a gecko on the wall, admired by some girls. ‘Samy! Come take horse! I give you one pound – feed it and water it! I have important business with the lady!’

Samy gives up his attempts at catching the little luck bringing animal and comes scurrying.

With a grin missing both front teeth Samy lisps something in Arabic to her, grabs the reins and before she even has the time to utter a single word, he clucks his tongue and leaves. With a worried frown she watches the little boy who can’t be older than Taïga run off with the big animal, the Arabian horse’s tiny hooves seeming huge next to the boy’s flip-flops.

The other boy, Masud, is already running away in the opposite direction. ‘Hey! Wait! We had a deal!’ Granny waves desperately, shouting as hard as she can after him.

‘Come! I show you the way. Come! Asre’ee! Hurry!’ Masud slows down, calling over his shoulder as he vanishes under some flowering hibiscus bushes. ‘Ta’alay ma’ee! You follow?’

Granny follows, to the general amusement of the group of men watching.

Staying just out of reach, Granny works hard to keep up. The Hibiscus bushes seem to be everywhere, and she waves her way through the heavily scented flowers trying not to lose sight of the agile boy. He turns left again, and again and again.

Out of breath, Granny turns a corner, staying clear of a branch. ‘Wait! You must stop, or-’

The boy has finally stopped. ‘Onzori! Look! You have come to entrance Academy!’ he announces proudly. ‘100 pounds, please!’ With a wide gesture he shows her a worn staircase leading up to some familiar ornate double doors. She also recognizes the men sitting on a bench a little further away.

What??? Granny’s jaw goes slack as she takes in the whole picture.

‘You little thief… We’ve just made a complete tour of the building!’ Reluctantly Granny digs out a purple banknote with the distinctive sphinx from her purse and hands it over.

‘You didn’t ask!’ Masud shrugs and holds the banknote up towards the sun to check if it is false. With a quick glance at an approaching man, he stuffs the money into the pocket of his worn sweatpants.

‘Shokran! Araki fi ma ba’d – see you later!’ With a happy wave, he cartwheels away.

‘I just hope he won’t steal the horse,’ Granny mutters to herself, but she can’t help admiring the quick mind of the boy. It has at least taught her something – she mustn’t forget to ask questions before agreeing to pay for something.

‘As-salāmu `alayki. Welcome to Qasr al-Hayr al-Salim Academy. I’m Baniti Fahad Badawi, can I be of assistance? I teach at the Academy,’ he adds.

Granny turns around. A stocky, bearded man is standing with his hand outstretched in a welcoming gesture. She recognizes him as one of the men quietly watching her getting tricked by the young boy. Granny hesitates, struggling between the urge to tell off the man and the need to give a good impression. ‘Wa `alayka s-salām,’ she says painstakingly, taking his outstretched hand. ‘I have an appointment with the director… Sekhmet Hawas.’

‘You must be Assayeda Grey? We were waiting for you.’ The man wrinkles his nose. ‘Maybe you would like to… wash your hands? It’s a long ride from Isna…’

Granny gets the hint. ‘Yes please, washing my hands would be… lovely.’

Steering her towards the market place, he explains that the plumbing is being done at the Academy, but that it will be finished in a few days. Then he continues by assuring her that her horse is in good hands, the whole monologue interspersed by frequent inshallah’s. They stop in front of a low building with the international blue restroom sign. ‘Mr. Hawas will receive you when you are ready, Madam Grey. Inshallah.’

She nods, shakes his hand again and pushes open the creaking wooden door. As soon as she is inside the rudimentary bathroom, she sniffs her armpits.

‘Yuk… He’s right, I’m reeking!’ Quickly she opens the door slightly to see if there’s anyone in sight, but the street is empty. The only sound is the faint, melodious call for prayer. ‘Good. Let’s take care of my appearance.’

She unwraps the hijab, trying to arrange her hair, but it is impossible. The rough ride has totally ruined her hairdo.

She goes through her backpack, swearing when she doesn’t find what she’s looking for. She has to empty it on the counter – passport, perfume, chapstick, agenda, wallet, magnifying glass, two bottles of Perrier – she empties one while she continues going through her things. Oh, her credit card has slid out of the wallet. She puts it along with the key to the hotel room next to her passport. She mustn’t forget to put them back into her wallet…

But first she has to find her wand. Chewing gum, fresh mints and a wad of Egyptian Pounds. Where is it? She is sure she put it in there somewhere. Irritated she shakes the bag upside down and a carefully wrapped little parcel falls onto the floor.

She picks it up and puts it next to the washbasin. Then she strips off her horsey clothes and places them next to the parcel. She pulls out her hairpins, passing her fingers through her tousled hair before reverently unwrapping her wand. It had taken a long time to repair it, finding a suitable tree to graft it on while it recovered. She had used it for the first time packing her things and it seems to work relatively fine. At least on minor spells. It is getting more powerful for each time it is put to work. She concentrates on the pile of dirty clothes, waving the wand.

‘Tiny grow and big reduce

Become something I can use’

She waits for something to happen, but there is only a faint amount of magic sparkles. Disappointed, she realizes she doesn’t have enough force to get a fresh change of clothes.

She is reduced to use the black soap next to the sink to wash off the travel dust. It makes her feel a little better, even though she has to put her horsey clothes back on. She sprays Estée Lauder generously all over herself, picking up the wand again. She has to fix her hair somehow…

Using her last ounce of energy, she uses her wand to fasten her hair in a stylish bun.

Unfortunately there’s no magic way to get rid of her aching back, or the slight nausea that seems to accompany her spells nowadays. If it wasn’t for her ill-being after throwing a spell, she would have used her wand more intensely to build up its power until it was as potent as before the zombie destroyed it. She has to contend herself with an aspirin and Perrier, that she shakes the sparkles out of first.

When she, finally, is ready to face the school administration, Fahad is nowhere in sight. So is no one else. She walks outside into the blinding sunlight, but where the place was filled with people only minutes ago, there is now emptiness. Lifting her eyes towards the high minaret, she understands why. Everyone is at the mosque, praying.

If only she could find the administration office, she would wait there. But not even Masud and his friends are anywhere to be seen. She tries to retrace her steps, but is soon lost. The compound is really big and when she stumbles on a noticeboard, she finds that it is not as easy to read the many notices as it was in China. Here everything is written in Arabic, and even though there’s a detailed map, she doesn’t understand what is written on it.

She decides to ask in the nearest school building and pushes open the door, only to quickly back away when she sees the people prostrated on praying mats facing Makkah. She continues up the stairs in the hope of finding a terrace, but she’s cautious to listen at the door before opening it.

The door leads onto the flat roof. She steps over the threshold with caution and walks over to the low wall in the hope of seeing the administration building from up here. The site is magnificent. The numerous school buildings are nestled in an oasis of greenery, surrounded by high mountains within sight of the pyramids. She tries to make out which direction she came from, with no success. She presumes the horse will find its way back home, as all horses do. After all, it brought her safely here.

She stands still, admiring the sight of the historical monuments, listening to the peaceful melodious chant of the muezzin. Her eyes stray towards the silhouette of the minaret against the blue sky and in awe she watches the rhythmical movements of the Muslims praying in the street.

Standing…

… bowing…

… prostrating…

… and finally sitting on their knees.

Their murmur in response to the muezzin reciting the glory of Allah is carried by the faint desert wind up to the roof where she’s standing, unable to move.

She’s not much of a believer. In fact, she only believes in the Goddess, of course, but this place and the clear voice of the muezzin singing the prayer with almost hypnotical effect, make her travel in time and glimpse the ways of the past. She squints, sheltering her eyes. Is that what she thinks it is? A line of camels advances slowly on a dune. A caravan. Granny sighs contentedly, almost expecting to see Lawrence of Arabia come charging…

The caravan disappears out of sight and she walks over to the other side of the terrace to try to get a sight of it again but the only movement comes from the street below. Baniti Fahad Badawi.

‘Mr. Badawi! I’m up here! I’m lost!’

The teacher waves for her to join him and with a last, longing glance at the disappearing caravan, she hastens downstairs.

He escorts her, walking briskly in spite of the heat, across the yard to the school’s office. The prayer is over, and people are milling about just as when she got here not half an hour ago. The heavy double doors closes with a thud behind them, shutting out the heat. With satisfaction she lifts her burning cheeks towards the air moved by the large ceiling fan.

A young man with a prayer mat rolled under his arm comes forward to greet her.

‘I will see you later, Madam Grey. Inshallah.’ Mr. Badawi bows and leaves her with the young man.

‘Marhaban, you must be Madam Grey. Welcome! I’m Hadji Hawas, I’m a student here. Please have a seat, my grandfather will receive you in a minute.’

The minute extends to five, then ten. After about a half hour of waiting, Granny falls asleep with the magazine she had tried to read still on her knees.

The cleaning woman who is mopping the floor chuckles when Granny’s mouth goes slack and she starts snoring lightly.

‘Madam Grey? Welcome to Qasr al-Hayr al-Salim Academy.’ An elder man looks benignly down at her, his hand outstretched. It must be the Director who has come to greet her himself.

Granny blinks a little disoriented. Discreetly she dabs drool from the corner of her mouth. ‘Mr. Hawas? I’m sorry, but I must have fallen asleep.’

Mr. Hawas shakes Granny’s hand warmly. ‘I am the faulty one, Madam. I was in an important meeting that took longer than expected. Business.’ He shakes his head, escorting her towards his office.

It is a pleasant surprise to find the office air-conditioned. Mr. Hawas indicates her to have a seat in a comfortable armchair in front of the old desk. He fusses over her, serving her a glass of mint tea, while politely asking her about the journey. Granny sips carefully at the hot beverage, but it’s the extreme sweetness that makes her gasp, not the temperature.

‘You don’t like, Mrs. Grey?’

‘Oh, but I do. It’s unexpectedly good.’

Sekhmet Hawas leans back in his chair, sipping at his tea. ‘We have Internet access by satellite, very modern!’

‘Uh-huh. Yes. That’s good.’

Granny can’t help overhearing Gahidji Hawas through the open door, talking to a young child, ‘What are you doing here, Fukayna? You know you mustn’t come to see grandfather when he’s working! Now leave. Asre’ee! Hurry up!’

Sekhmet Hawas gets up to close the door, but not before Granny hears his granddaughter complain about how he had promised her how to play Tumblebugs on his new computer She smiles to herself, focusing on the director again.

While Sekhmet Hawas goes on and on about the advantages of a good computing system, Granny looks surreptitiously around her. The office is spacious, mixing old and new, Oriental and Occidental. It opens on a small but well-kept garden. There are jasmine and hibiscus, honeysuckle and wisteria are climbing the walls all the way to the roof, and clusters of red carnation peeks out here and there. The sweet, yet musky smell of the flowers is almost overpowering. She remembers reading in her Egyptian travel guide that the ancient Egyptians believed that the intense scent of flowers indicated the presence of a god…

Her eyes are drawn to a movement in the large terrarium in the corner. She can see a furry little mouse in a corner. Fascinated she watches a snake rise behind a green bush. It opens its hood and strikes, making her flinch. The poor mouse doesn’t stand a chance. She looks quickly away, shuddering. She wonders if it is legal to keep venomous snakes, especially at a school. She’ll have to ask Mr. Hawas…

‘… Abdelilah El Bayed! You know Abdelilah El Bayed? He was a student here. Al-ḥamdu lil-lāh.’ Mr. Hawas beams at Granny.

‘Abdelilah El Bayed? Eh… The chemist Nobel prize?’

‘Yes! And also Majed Al-Nour, who leads the Supreme Council of Antiquities. He graduated here, al-ḥamdu lil-lāh, and now his children are among our best students…’

Suitably impressed, Granny takes her leave, but not before having got some precisions about the snake. It turns out the snake was caught in the storage room, and will be released in the desert the day after tomorrow. Someone will come and take its venom first, for medical research, probably to make antivenin.

‘It happens sometimes, but so far no one has got hurt, al-ḥamdu lil-lāh,’ the director finishes. ‘That’s why I keep the terrarium. Such fascinating animals, don’t you agree?’

Granny nods noncommittally, letting him escort her over the courtyard to the canteen.

After a light lunch consisting of lamb Shawarma and spicy fava beans -Ful medames- with Taboon bread on the side, Granny follows the boisterous group of the teaching staff to the teacher’s room for yet another cup of sweet mint tea. They all take place on the u-shaped traditional sofa.

Some teachers are already there and after a quick introduction they go about their usual business, reading, marking papers, discussing and even napping.

Amina Ahmed, the responsible of the school library, declines the offer to have a glass of mint tea. She has been cleaning out the bookcase since early morning to make room for the voluminous tomes of the new Encyclopedia the school has just received. As the Internet is not as reliable as they would like, better have old school material handy. She has not even had lunch with the others but has had a quick falafel in the teacher’s room and the odor still lingers.

‘Just save me a pistachio baklava, please.’

Rania Rashid, Arabic literature and poetry, silently serves the tea, filling the tiny glasses with an elegant gesture before sitting down next to Granny.

Farid Kamel, the History teacher, is fluent in English and eager to talk to her. He explains to her that Ful medames dates all the way back to ancient Egypt and is staple food in the region of Cairo. He explains what is in every one of the multitude of oriental delicacies served on a silver platter insisting that Granny tastes them all.

From food the conversation jumps to America and how it is to live there, and soon they are having a heated discussion, debating the pro and cons of Ernest Simmingway’s “Another Shade of Sim”.

Granny is surprised that she doesn’t get the women’s support. They prefer to stay out of the heated discussion as they are not even supposed to have read such a sulfurous book anyway. Suddenly they are discussing E. L. James and Granny finally realizes she’s out on deep water. She backs down faced with such a misogynist reaction from several of the male teachers. She steers the conversation back to safe grounds asking what kind of souvenirs she should bring back to Romania…

Mena Lufti, the housekeeper, interrupts the debate about if she should bring fake papyrus scrolls or a miniature of the sphinx.

‘If you please come with me, Assayeda Grey, I will show you the lodgings.’

The rooms are newly repainted in a pleasant shade of blue and the beds seem comfortable enough, but most important – there is air conditioning.

‘Most of the students are like your granddaughter, Assayeda Grey – not used to the heat. They need a good night’s sleep or they sleep during classes,’ Mena tut-tuts and shakes her head. She is talkative, and her English is quite good. She makes Granny laugh a lot with her funny anecdotes about the students.

If Granny wants to get back to Isna before sunset she has to take her leave.

‘Shokran, we hope to see you soon, Assayeda Grey.’

‘I have spent a lovely day, very instructive. Can you show me the restrooms, please? And maybe help me with the hijab?’

Mena Lufti takes her to the headmaster’s private bathroom, which was the first to have the plumbing fixed. She helps Granny, explaining how to fold the scarf to create the particular look of the hijab. Granny thanks her, hoping the boys have brought her horse back.

She did not need to worry. Mahbouba is waiting in the shadow of a hibiscus, surrounded by children caressing her. They bring her a chair to climb, and in a gesture of gratitude, she hands them all her change and her fresh mints.

Samy speaks up, gesturing for Granny to give a polo mint to the horse.

Doubtful Granny leans forward, reaching out with the tiny white ring in her open palm. But Mahbouba takes it carefully, not even drooling. The candy crunches between the horse’s teeth and she shakes her head up and down.

Granny grins and leans forward, caressing the horse’s head. ‘She likes it!’ she says in wonder and Samy beams. He hands her the polo mints back, gesturing at the horse, saying something Granny doesn’t understand.

The other kids look disappointed, so she just takes two and stuffs them in her pocket for later, giving them back the sweets.

Happily chatting and singing, the kids lead the horse to the entrance of the oasis and Granny recognizes the palm trees and the well where she arrived this morning.

‘Marhaba! Have a good trip!’

The children’s happy laughter follows her as she rides out of the oasis. At a brisk walk this time, much more comfortable and reassuring. She even lets go of the saddle when she understands that Mahbouba isn’t going to embark her in a frenzy this time.

During the long ride home, Granny progressively relaxes, letting the steady calm movement of the horse massage her aching muscles. She stretches her legs, knowing the inside of her knees probably is bleeding. She talks to the horse and pets it, she would even be enjoying herself if she wasn’t so sore.

They keep close to the mountains, never really getting out of their shadow. The pyramids visible on their left, reassuring Granny they are on the right way back. The sun is setting and the shadows grow darker. Maybe they should hasten the path a little. The amazing landscape is suddenly growing menacing with the approaching dark, and she doesn’t want to get lost in the desert after nightfall.

Not during daytime neither.

She clucks her tongue, leaning a little forward, not very sure about how to make the horse walk faster without breaking into a gallop.

Mahbouba turns her head and looks inquiringly at her.

‘Yeah. I’m sure. Just powerwalk a little but not too fast, please.’ She grabs the saddle and clutches her legs tightly in anticipation and that sets the horse off.

The trot is more violent than the rolling canter, even if not very fast. Granny is tapping the saddle, hard, and her legs flail helplessly. Her uncoordinated movements drive the horse into a gallop, as if it could flee from the rider on its back.

It takes less time for Granny to find her balance this time, and the horse slows gradually down as Granny stops moving aimlessly on her back.

The sun is setting when they come in view of the village…

The next day, Granny wakes up so banged-up after the long hours in the saddle that she hardly can get out of bed. Moaning and complaining, she calls for some pain killers, but room service has got something better in mind.

The tube of Aspirin is delivered with a fluffy white robe.

The room service employee takes a protesting Granny to the Hotel Hammam, where she leaves the old lady sweating in a large, beautifully tiled, steam room together with several other women of all ages.

Acutely aware of her nakedness Granny hesitates but no one pays attention to her. Her eyes averted, she heads for the only free seat she can see through the haze of the vapor.

Granny closes her eyes, struggling to shut out the women talking in low voices. She tries to gather enough mental strength to stand up and leave, but is being discouraged by her lack of clothes. At first she doesn’t pay attention to the girl Taïga’s age who points to the fountain in the middle of the beautifully decorated rom. She says something incomprehensible and points repeatedly, but gives up when Granny demonstratively turns her head and closes her eyes again. Cold water on her feet makes her gasp in shock and she discovers the girl standing in front of her. Giggling she holds out a recipient with water, making a gesture for Granny to wash her face and neck.

She nods a thank you, forcing a smile at the attention to the watching women. She dips her hands into the fresh water, splashing some onto her warm face, which apparently is what was supposed of her. The women nods their approval and goes back to their discussions while the little girl picks up another bowl and returns playing with the water, leaving the half full recipient by Granny’s side. Thankfully she uses the rest of the tepid water on her warm body.

Slowly her aching muscles seem to unknot. She is even starting to enjoy the warmth when a Tellak comes to fetch her.

She accompanies the hammam attendant to an adjoining room, where she lays down on a hard marble table and gets doused with tepid water before her hair gets a rhassoul mask and every inch of her body is covered in black soap. The Tellak then starts on exfoliating her body, wearing a kessa glove. The whole ritual ends with her being doused in water smelling strongly of roses.

She prefers to go straight to her room, declining the offer to stay in the lounge area where Egyptian delicacies are offered. When she exhausted staggers upstairs with a cup of mint tea in her hands, she has never felt as clean before, nor as tired…

Before slumping onto her bed, she applies an unctuous cream she has made herself, rich with healing plants and a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

When she wakes up in the early afternoon, there is no trace of pain anymore. She quickly applies sunscreen and decides to visit the souk looking for some souvenirs. She would like to bring a little something back from Egypt and she is sure the numerous merchants have quite a lot of somethings. Maybe she’ll even get herself a new pair of shoes, she thinks as she laces the ugly brown boots. They aren’t exactly accessorized with her long blue skirt and shirt, but they’ll have to do. With her sunglasses securely on her nose and her worn backpack slung over her shoulder, she sets off. Her growling stomach pushes her to grab a kebab on the go from a hole-in-the-wall place. Munching on the surprisingly good sandwich, she hails one of the rickety old taxis painted in black and white.

After a frightful drive through the chaotic traffic, the madman driver leaning on his horn the whole drive to the old Citadel souk, he finally stops at a red light, insulting the traffic. Granny can see the medieval walls surrounding the souk and staggers out of the taxi before it gets a chance to start again. She decides to take the joyous “Khali, khali” seriously, stuffing her money back into her backpack. With a wave she briskly walks off from the astonished taxi driver.

‘It’s just a tradition! Come back!’ he shouts after her, honking his horn for the umpteenth time since he picked her up. Granny just waves again without turning her head. He almost got them killed at least a dozen times going through red lights, veering and hitting the breaks so hard she moved around on the backseat like some kind of ragdoll. Oh, no. She won’t pay him if he insists on her keeping her money – tradition or not.

The insistent honking slowly dies out as she proceeds farther into the meander of narrow alleys. The walls are all the same, yellowish brick and stone, with an occasional ochre façade. There are signposts here and there, but only in Arabic so they don’t serve her at all. The old town souk dates from the early middle ages, if she recalls it right. She stops at the base of some steep stairs and turns the pages. There it is. The 14th century. Now these must be the stairs the taxi driver had talked about. He had given her directions – allatool to the stairs, yemeen at the fish fountain and then shemal and shemal again. Her little tourist guide tells her that it means straight ahead, to the right, then left and left again. There is also a tiny map showing a web of thin lines that apparently corresponds to the alleys in the old Citadel. She turns it to try to get her bearings, but her sense of orientation is hopeless so she puts the book into her backpack again. The taxi driver had not mentioned where to go directly after finding the stairs, so she decides he must have meant up.

After walking around haphazardly up and down empty, sloping alleys, down some other stairs – or could it be the same ones? – she finally stumbles on some activity. Two kids are playing in a backyard, but when she hails them they run off. She stands for a while taking in the surroundings. An old donkey is chewing on some hay, looking at her with inscrutable eyes. Chicken are searching for seeds under the hugest wisteria Granny has ever seen.

Looking surreptitiously over her shoulder, she bends over to “steal” some of the seeds to bring back to Vulturu with her, when a scream interrupts her.

‘Haram! Haram!’

The sight of a wild-eyed black clad woman approaching, brandishing a broom, makes Granny drop the seeds and flee.

A few minutes later, she stumbles on two women who are busy hanging laundry on ropes fixed between the walls of the narrow passageway. Gratefully Granny approaches, asking for the souk. They just point their fingers forward, the gestures accompanied by a flow of Egyptian Arabic.

Allatool. Allatool.’

Granny thanks them and trudges on in her horrible shoes. She is starting to feel the signs of a blister on her left foot. The narrow passages are now bustling with female activity. Women are going about their daily chores or just discussing. Someone opens a door and sweeps sand and dust into the alley. Granny sidesteps, admiring the wonderful sehan (courtyard) hidden behind the wall before the ornate door slams shut again, protecting the family from prying eyes. A young boy cries something and Granny just has the time to flatten herself against the wall to let two braying sheep gallop past, followed by the young boy desperately trying to stop them. They turn the far corner and Granny can hear crashing and screaming. Apparently the sheep have turned over some pottery and there are shards and ripe peaches all over the street. She helps the women pick up the fruit and is rewarded with one.

Trying to eat the juicy peach as properly as possible on her way, she turns around a corner and stops. She is standing in front of a Moorish arch worthy of a Sultan. It must be the famous Door of Dreams. She regrets, again, the absence of a camera, promising herself to buy some postcards. She breathes in the heavy musky smell of the hibiscus planted next to it and discreetly throws the peach stone onto the dead leaves cluttering the roots.

She can see what must be the Fish fountain on her right, and behind it an open place shaded by a pergola of flowering wisteria. People are milling about, mostly men she notices and touches her uncovered head a little self-consciously. The personnel at the hotel had said that there was no law obliging foreigners to wear the hijab, but even though she can see other female tourists she feels singled out anyway. She tugs a little on her sleeves, making sure they reach her elbows. She jumps alittle when she realizes that someone is talking to her.

‘Huh? I’m sorry?’

‘Hand blown. Very useful,’ a stocky unshaved man says, gesturing proudly at his merchandise on a wooden cart pulled by a grey donkey.

She looks at the display of Demijohns in handwoven wicker casings. ‘Yes. Very useful – and bulky. Too bulky for me to carry around right now. Thank you.’ She makes a mental note about asking her sister where she is stocking hers.

She steps over a hen flapping past on its way to some breadcrumbs that a little boy sitting on the ground is throwing at it. He smiles up at her, leaning his back against the warm wall.

‘خَروف ḵarūf, جَدّة Jadda.’ He holds up a little handmade animal looking like a sheep.

‘How much?’

‘Three pounds.’ He holds up his fingers, making sure Granny has understood. She gives him five, and waits for the change. When she understands that there is none to come, she shrugs and continues towards the beautiful three leveled fountain.

There are two stone benches in the shadows and Granny longs to sit down and rest her blistering feet, but they are occupied by some smoking, animatedly discussing men, so she doesn’t dare take a seat. There must be a café or something in the vicinity…

She glances suspiciously at a wicker basket on a simple green rug, wondering if it contains a cobra. She shakes her head. She must stop seeing snakes everywhere. Of course there can’t be a dangerous snake in there, anybody could make the basket tip over and release the horror inside.

She makes a wide turn around the fountain, keeping her distance to the basket. She wonders what would have happened if the sheep had run past here, but the only animals in the vicinity are peacefully lying in a heap of sand, innocently chewing the cud. But she has seen the damage the sheep could do, and if there is a snake in that wicker basket, she doesn’t want to be around if ever it got loose.

An elder tourist is kneeling in front of the basket, taking pictures. ‘Hey, there’s probably a snake in there,’ Granny says helpfully as she passes.

‘Ja. Das ist vhy I am taking fotos,’ the tourist replies with a heavy German or Scandinavian accent without looking up.

Granny stares at her. Stupid woman. At least if the snake bites her, there won’t be enough venom left to hurt her, Granny.

The arch leads into a dark and very narrow passageway. She decides that it would be safer not to stray too far from the little marketplace, snake basket or not. She can see some nice lanterns behind the fountain. And is that a camel? Decidedly, she has to walk past the darn wicker basket again…

‘Hal a’jabaki? Do you like it?’

Granny swirls around, leaning a little backwards from the too close merchant. ‘Yes. It’s wonderful.’

‘It’s an original design from Saudi Arabia. Very fashionable.’ The merchant takes down the red lantern Granny was looking at. ‘I give you special prize. Bargain prize!’

‘How much?’ Granny asks, trying not to sound like a tourist and failing miserably.

‘You tell me how much you want to pay, eh?’ the merchant says slyly.

Granny and the merchant start discussing the prize. But after the little mishap with the rickshaw driver in China and her encounter with cunning young Masud, Granny is more careful with her money.

She is especially curious as to why the red lantern is more expensive than all the others. She doesn’t really get the merchants fishy answer, but knows she won’t get a better one. She could always buy one of the cheaper ones and change the color with magic, but what is the fun in that? She wants to acquire the red lantern just like anyone else.

A familiar figure shows up just when Granny is about to give in to the merchant’s exorbitant price. A familiar figure shows up just when Granny is about to give in to the merchant’s exorbitant price. She stares at him for a second before she recognizes the headmaster dressed in the traditional gallibaya.

‘Ah, Mr. Hawas! I’m surprised to see you here.’ She glances triumphantly at the merchant who stays put with the lantern dangling from his hand, wondering if he should stay with Granny or try another tourist.

‘Honey, look at those lanterns! The red one would be perfect in the guest bathroom. Or we could buy a couple of the small ones for our summer parties. They would look fabulous in the garden.’ A British couple walk past, the woman trying to interest her husband for the display but he is impatient to move on through the throng towards an archway where a Bedouin is waiting for tourists to come and take a ride on his camel.

‘Honey, we can come back later. I want to ride the camel over there…’ He tugs on her hand, eager to continue. ‘There is already someone getting ready to mount and I don’t want to wait around too long.’

‘The elder woman over there? Bollocks! She doesn’t look like she wants to – or can, by that matter – get up on a camel’s back,’ the woman protests.

Granny looks over towards the camel where an elder woman is shooting away with a fancy camera, making Granny jealous. She must remember to ask where she can find postcards. But they won’t be the same as real photos…

‘You’re probably right, darling, but I can see her grandchildren getting ready…’

‘I’m in town a couple of days for business… School matters,’ Mr. Hawas says, adding, ‘But I thought you had already left for France, Madam Grey.’

‘Oh. I’m leaving tomorrow…’ She returns her attention to the headmaster. ‘I’d like to bring a little something back to Vulturu, but I got a feeling I’m being fooled…’ Her eyes dart towards the merchant.

‘La taqlaqi, Madam Grey, don’t you worry. Tell me everything.’

Granny explains to Sekhmet Hawas what she would like to buy. He listens and nods, assuring her the merchant is an honest one, but that the price effectively is a little exaggerated.

‘If you would allow me, I will negotiate for you,’ he offers kindly.

‘كم هو ثمنه؟…’ (How much is it for…)

Granny listens to the fast exchange in Arabic without understanding so she retires discreetly, letting Sekhmet Hawas do the talking. She lets her gaze wander, taking in the foreign atmosphere, trying to memorize the dynamic of the souk – the colorful sights, the sound of bargaining around her and the rich smells so she can describe them to her granddaughter when she returns.

Wisteria clings to the walls and onto the pergolas, shading and perfuming the hot day. A slight breeze makes the atmosphere bearable and dries the laundry suspended between the walls in a blink.

A falcon settles on the high wall overlooking the three level fountain, a haven of peace in the midst of the bustling activity. The sound of water cascading and the low voices of the men resting next to it is strangely serene. The view doesn’t suit the falcon though.

With a powerful flap of its wings, it soars back up into the crystal clear blue sky.

The bargaining in Arabic flows back and forth, and even if she doesn’t understand, she can see the headmaster get angry. He gesticulates, pointing a finger at the merchant who throws up his hands in a surrendering gesture. The negotiation continues for a while, and finally they settle for a genuine bargain prize.

Granny is satisfied, but she is worried the prize announced only concerns one of the items she wanted. ‘I will take both. Do you understand? Ithnaan. Two.’ She shows two fingers to make sure the merchant gets it.

‘Two lanterns? Red? Look. I offer you genuine Aleppo soap.’ He hands her a greenish cube that doesn’t smell very good. When he sees Granny slightly scrunch her nose, he adds, ‘Queen Cleopatra used it, my wife use it. Here. It is good for washing, shampooing, as face mask and as shaving cream. But don’t eat!’ He chuckles at his own joke. ‘Khod! Here you go!’ The merchant smiles with yellowish teeth and starts wrapping the items in old newspapers.

Granny thanks him and turns to her savior. ‘Shokran, Mr. Hawas. I’m very grateful, how can I thank you?’ Granny gushes.

‘By letting me show you the souk. Let’s start with a stop at Khalil’s café. I think we need some fresh lemon-mint juice…’

Chatting they stroll through the throng of people milling about. Mr. Hawas points out a madrassa – a Muslim school – a beautiful mosque whose slender minaret tower over the Citadel souk, and several old cafés. He tells her stories about the medieval gates and teaches her rapidly about Arabic/Moorish architecture over a large glass of ice-cold juice.

Then he takes her through some winding alleys, explaining that the further from the tourist area the more authentic the merchandise. The layout of the souk is organized by trade, and as they pass the perfumers, gold merchants and coppersmiths, she buys some wonderful perfume, smelling of roses and jasmine, and earrings for Taïga. The spice market is a feast to the senses, offering both colors and smells, and they exit laden with small packages. She would have loved to acquire a rug, but it would not have been serious. No, she wants something more exotic for her sister. Something really Egyptian, like papyrus rolls, or a Pharaoh mask…

They turn away from the bustling activity of the souk, leaving the banter of the merchants and the loud bargaining behind. They finally stop in a dead end with a single worn brown door. Granny looks inquiringly at Mr. Hawas who steps forward and raps at the door. A series of quick knocks resembling Morse.

A little hatchet opens and closes rapidly before the door unbolts to let a muscular man dressed in a fancy yellow brocade shirt out.

‘السلام عليكم, Saïd!’ (Peace be upon you, Saïd)

‘و عليكم السلام و رحمة الله و بركاته, Sekhmet!’ (And peace be upon you and God’s mercy and His blessings, Sekhmet). He looks at Granny. ‘Good afternoon, Assayeda.’

Granny reaches out her hand, but he doesn’t take it. Ignoring her, he addresses the headmaster in Arabic, efficiently excluding Granny. ‘Who is that? Why did you bring her here? Are you sure you weren’t followed?’

‘We should discuss inside, don’t you think so?’

Saïd snorts, but opens the door letting them step inside.

The ante chamber is dark and cool, smelling of dust and stone. Saïd indicates for her to sit on a wooden chair, and takes Mr. Hawas’ arm, leading him through another door. He slams it so hard it reopens. She can hear the two men continue arguing, and she looks around her. Naked walls. And the door, ajar. She leans forward to try to see what is happening and gasps.

Forgetting all sense of politeness, she pushes the door open. Without the men noticing her, she steps into the dimly lit room. It is not very big, seeming even smaller as it is cramped with wooden boxes, but it is the objects that makes Granny almost swoon.

The room looks like Ali Baba’s cave – golden artifacts are haphazardly posed on the wooden crates and on the floor. The whole impression is of haste, but if it is to pack and send away the items, or unpack them for sale, she doesn’t know. There are Bedouin swords, old antique lanterns, ornate carved medieval doors and shutters, rolled rugs and Egyptian paraphernalia that seem like genuine artifacts straight out of a tomb…

‘Hal a’jabaki? Do you like it? It’s Sobek, the king of the Nile. A very special ancient relic, from the Den of Lost Souls…’ Saïd says deadpan, making Granny guiltily swirl around. ‘Do you want to buy it?’

‘No,’ she says, chewing nervously on the inside of her cheek, changing her mind when she sees the cold expression on Saïd’s face. ‘Err… I mean yes. How much is it?’

Saïd looks her over with his dead black eyes and turns to Sekhmet Hawas, once again excluding Granny.

After a quick exchange, Mr. Hawas announces the price.

She knew the statue would probably be expensive, but not that outrageously. She protests but is silenced by Mr. Hawas’ worried glance. She nods her agreement. Satisfied, Saïd tells her that he will deliver the statue directly at her place – in Vulturu.

She does absolutely not want the scary man to know where she lives. ‘I think I can take it with me now.’

‘It is extremely heavy.’

‘Oh. Why not just deliver it at my hotel, then? It is-’

‘You can’t take it with you on the plane,’ Mr. Hawas cuts her off. ‘It could get you in trouble with the custom officers.’

Granny’s mind races as she suddenly understands. She has just bought some tomb raider merchandise, and if the camera mounted on the wall is not a fake, there is proof of the transaction. She remembers the information on the plane about exporting stolen goods that belongs to the Republic of Egypt and what happens to the thieves. Vaguely she recalls how dangerous they said the tomb raiders are – worse than the mafia. Oh my God.

 

‘I don’t know if I have enough,’ she tries, to gain time. ‘But I have US dollars.’

Saïd lightens up a little. ‘Dollar is OK.’

Granny fumbles with her backpack when she puts it on the rickety table, almost knocking a half full glass of tea of the cluttered surface. She has to be careful and concentrate so not to show any sign of emotion.

Sekhmet Hawas steadies her as she with trembling hands pulls out wad after wad of brand new $100 bills. He draws his breath, whispering, ‘It’s not safe to carry so much money around. You should have told me.’

‘Would it have changed anything?’ Granny whispers back. Sekhmet scratches his unshaved chin glancing worriedly at her pale face and the drops of sweat on her forehead. Granny wipes her brow with the back of her hand, leaning against the table a little. ‘It’s warm in here.’

Saïd grunts an answer, busy counting the green bills before putting them in a big black safe that looks like it comes straight out from a western movie.

Such a clever way to assure themselves of Granny’s silence. By buying forbidden treasure, she is implied in their business and risks as much as they do. There is no way she can tell the police. Even if she wanted to, she would never remember how she got here through the maze of narrow alleys.

She just wants to get away from here and lay down and rest. Her head aches and she feels like she’s going to throw up. If it is from fright or exertion after using magic, she doesn’t know. Probably a mixture of both.

Saïd finally lets them go and Sekhmet Hawas walks her back to where she can take a taxi. He explains that the scary smuggler was not supposed to be there, but only one of his grandsons. He just wanted to show her the treasures, and he is terribly sorry for the way things played out. Granny is still feeling dizzy and not a little annoyed, but her bad temper is not directed towards the old headmaster. He seems innocent enough and truly afraid of the burly smuggler. No. Against her will, she is a little excited over the adventure of it all. And she got a superb statue for her sister, payed for with fake magic money. She only hopes Saïd won’t check the safe before they deliver the statue and that he’ll believe someone stole the money…

‘Thank you for a wonderful afternoon, Mr. Hawas.’ Granny hesitates next to the taxi, waiting for Mr. Hawas to say goodbye.

‘Ahem. Would you please accept my invitation to dinner tonight, Madam Grey?’

Granny hesitates. She knows it might not be very sensible, but at the same time she is too curious to know more about the headmaster and his tomb raiding family to refuse.

‘Just let me make up for what happened-’

‘All right.’ Granny has made up her mind. They exchange information about where to meet and Mr. Hawas helps her get in the taxi. The door slams shut and suddenly she can’t hold back the question any longer. Frantically she rolls down the window. ‘Why?’

‘Why?’ Sekhmet scratches his bald head, looking confused. ‘For my grandson, of course. And-’ But the rest of his answer is drowned in the sound of the accelerating car and the driver’s obsessive honking.

She is still a little dizzy after the spell, so as soon as she is safely in her room she takes an aspirin and decides on a hot bath with some relaxing essential oils purchased at the souk. She also tries out her new fabulous, but not very nice smelling, soap.

Before getting dressed, she calls her sister.

‘Yes, Missy! It’s me, Tara… Can you hear me? … Good. I bought you something I’m sure you’ll like… Yes, but I don’t know when it will be delivered… Uh-huh… How is Taiga and you getting along without me? … Fine… Tomorrow morning, at 8 a.m. Yes, it’s a direct flight to Paris…. No, tonight I will have dinner with a friend… A married – happily married – friend…’

The full moon rises over the majestic pyramids, painting the desert landscape in an eerie light.

Sekhmet Hawas takes Granny to a wonderful little traditional coffee house in the Citadel, where they share some mini shawarmas, followed by a tasty Tajine, strong Arabic coffee and succulent balaclavas, dripping with honey. The evening pass quickly discussing Egyptian history and antiquities. The place is bonded, and the waiters regularly turn tourists away.

‘No table just now. Come back in an hour, inshallah.’

Granny is enjoying herself immensely, and when a belly dancer appears to the sound of rhythmic drums, it is the icing of the cake. When the belly dancer has finished her performance, a waiter appears discreetly with a water pipe, a bowl of dried fruits and more mint tea. Surprised Granny watches him prepare the hookah with stringy shisha sprinkled in the top bowl and a couple of hot coals on the aluminum foil protecting the tobacco. He adds a few drops of Jasmin essential oil to the water and hands one of the hoses to Sekhmet who draws in and slowly lets the smoke out with a satisfactorily hum. Nodding, he encourages Granny to do the same.

She kindly declines the offer to try but Sekhmet insists. ‘Smoking shisha is a tradition.’ He gestures towards the other tables and everybody seems to be smoking. The air is heavy with the distinctive fragrance from the hookah pipes.

A little hesitantly she puts the hose to her lips. She has never smoked before, and when she tries to inhale through the hose, she starts coughing.

Sekhmet laughs. ‘Here. Have some mint tea. It is important to drink much when you smoke the shisha. Try to breath in a normal breathing pace or you will get hookah sickness. That’s better…’

Granny settles comfortably in her seat while the plane dips its left wing, offering her Abu Simbel as the last view of Egypt. The slow inclining movement is making her stomach soar. She spent a wonderful evening with Sekhmet yesterday, but she thinks she had had too much to smoke. She promised him she’ll be in touch, though. There’s still a country to visit, but at the moment Egypt is top of the list. She is seriously thinking about sending Taïga to the desert academy – in spite of the snakes.

The plane dips its wing again and Granny thinks she can see a pyramid far below, but isn’t sure. She pulls down her sleeping mask and reclines her seat, even though the fasten seatbelts sign is still on, which makes the person behind her mutter angrily. Who cares? She has not been this tired since forever…

 

Part I – End of Chapter 29

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Thank you, Sandy at ATS3, for the fantastic oriental items and the “blueprint” for the hammam! Louise’s pose dump (NJB) came in handy, as did her handshake. Bee‘s poses are also present, as are R2M’s, Shokonino’s, Danjaley’s and many others. Best is if you check the page with most of the fabulous creator links, here!


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10 thoughts on “01-29 Qasr al-Hayr al-Salim Academy – Egypt

    1. Thank you! I’ve lived in Africa and been to North Africa several times! It always makes me smile – even if you know about it, you buy things way overpriced anyway!

  1. It took me a long time to read but I’m very glad I decided to. It was a fantastic read and it shows all the knowledge you have about Egypt. I also loved how cleverly you’ve photoshopped some items. I really enjoyed the old version but this is even better. Granny got into some trouble in this one! These people are shady. It explains even more her later choice. I wouldn’t want my daughter to study there either. Especially with the way young women are treated in Egypt. It’s pretty dangerous. And I very much appreciate how you used the poses and CC to enhance your story. Also loved Granny’s bra and flowery panties – very Granny-like, I might say. You’re very devoted to your story and it shows!

    1. Thank you, Jowita for trudging through the chapter once again! I love Granny, she has a lot of my own who passed away a few years ago… I think there were tons of loose ends in the earlier chapters and I try as best I can to tie them up! 🙂

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