And the pyramid seemed to be illuminated by some sad dawn of the end of the world, a dawn which made ruddy only the sands and the granites of earth, and left the heavens, pricked with their myriad stars, more awful in their darkness (Pierre Loti)

 

One year before the revolution in Tahrir
I heard many ممتأز
Mumtaz! Mumtaz! Mumtaz!
From the mouth of professors at
Instituto Cervantes when our Arabic
Was less hieroglyphic.
Mumtaz! Mumtaz! Mumtaz!
Because Spain had beaten Germany in South Africa
And we celebrated that world cup victory in el Mohandessin
With elated Egyptians emboldening me a pinch of patriotism.

One year before the revolution in Tahrir
I saw the Sufi whirling dervishes
Fervently dancing
While the lions on Qsr el Nil
Remained whiskerless.
I walked in crowded Khan el-Khalili bazaar
Where el Jordi has fixed prices
Or among veiled women in Al-Azhar park
With whom I shared women-only passenger cars
Or a kushari.

One year before the revolution in Tahrir
I heard the Kyrie eleison
Sung by Teresa’s eldest son.
Copious holy dinner and
Prayers to Saint George
In Coptic Cairo
Were garlands of a purest form
Of archaic Christianity
With a restless night ascending
The Mount Sinai, to feel the cold
And the boisterous wind echoing
The ten disregarded commandments.
As culmination for this autoscheadiastic pilgrimage
At the foot of Mount Horeb
Saint Catherine’s Monastery and
A ring found and kept.

It felt like crossing the Red Sea
In the times of Moses
But in modern Sharm El Sheikh
Practising snorkelling
Getting bashful with a swimsuit
After having seen in the city of Cavafy
Few ladies in the sea.

And of course, the deserts, immeasurable and barren
Adumbrating the ruins of powerful cities
Decayed, like Tell-el Amarna with
Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
Arid expeditions made us sleep
In the White Desert, under the starry mantle
Sharing with the Bedouins tea and dances
Just to wake up and see gnawed shoes
By wild foxes.

On the west bank of the Nile, Giza,
The photographs in Art History books coming alive
And letting the eye unearth more than a triad
Of pyramids
So magnificently portrayed by Loti, Napoleon
And Champollion
But with such a throng, much unlike
Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif in Singh is King.

Entering the riddle
Explored by Gautier or Poe
In empty-filled chambers
I faced the mutilated mask
Of the Sphinx
One year before the revolution of Tahrir.

 

Tagirem Gallego García

Tagirem Gallego García

Tagirem Gallego García is a predoctoral researcher at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain. Her areas of interest and research are Comparative Literature, Travel Literature, Multiculturalism, Geocriticism, Imagology, Orientalism, Postcolonialism and Language Teaching. Her PhD is on the image of India for English-speaking and French-speaking female author travellers.

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