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Gayyash Al 'Aatifa

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Askary

[An Alexandrian episode, June 2004]

I had been swimming at the club and was off to my grandmother's for lunch. I turned off of the tramway where Sporting meets Cleopatra, and took a right onto Aqaba Street towards Abu Qir, which I planned to cut across to reach Smouha. I just missed the green light and found myself waiting first-in-line at one of the city's most avoided traffic stops.

Beside my car stood a young askary, looking laid-back and serene, his weight rested on one leg and body bent at the hip. He looked to me with a generous smile and said "matsamma3na 7aga 7elwa keda," (how about a nice tune?). Without hesitation I turned up the volume as loud as I could comfortably bare and, to his luck, a song was just beginning. It was Fairuz's Shayif Il Ba7r, its unmistakeable leading violin hook arriving with the arresting might of a royal procession.

It was sunny and the young askary stood calm in the breeze, smiling at passing cars and to the sun-drenched buildings and deep blue sky beyond, tapping his thick hand on his white trousered lap in time with the cymbal-filled beat. Every few moments he'd glance over and we'd share an involuntary dumb grin, overwhelmed by the song's magnificence like children offered undeserved mounds of ice cream.

Just as the song finished the light turned green and the askary stepped into the middle of the road waving us through with his baton, still smiling as he bid me well with a quick reversed nod.


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