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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals

Najati Al-Bukhari

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

Most of the pages of the newspaper which Amr receives daily contains declarations of the families of the dead indicating to all citizens, the inhabitants of the quarters of the city, the three days of family mourning and bereavement during which all the members of the deceased, of the dead, receive in the bereaved family house the condolences of those who want to express their deepest sympathy to the members of the family of the defunct and to all his relatives.

Normally and according to customs and traditions, the three days of mourning and bereavement are designated for receiving those people who would like to offer their condolences. They are the comforters and the consolers.

On the other hand, the evenings of the tree days of mourning and bereavement are designated to receive the men of the community who come either in group or individually to offer their condolences and stay for about fifteen minutes and after that they leave the house, precipitately, to leave the space in the bereaved house for others.

Usually waves of consolers arrive at the bereaved house and waves of consolers leave the house of mourning, sorrow and grief. Without any exaggeration, approximately about hundreds of men come in the evening of any of the three days of mourning. Approximately, and on the average, four thousand men consolers would have come during the three days of mourning and sorrow. Normally, the bereaved family house is open from six to ten o'clock in the evening for receiving men consolers.

The case of women consolers is completely different from that of men. Those women, who come early in the morning, starting from nine o'clock, do not leave their place till twelve o'clock, or midday. Contrary to men, they stay in the room, or in any other space, like the corridors, the parlors, the sitting rooms, the salons and the libraries, till midday, the end of the mourning visit for that day.

Women consider this occasion, the condolence visit, not for offering condolences and mourning but for attending a social function or activity. Women are usually ideally and perfectly dressed in their best and most recent fashion dresses and would have gone to the best and most expensive coiffeur before coming to the bereaved family house.

es/ Season Of Pilgrimage
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

On the average, a woman visiting the house of mourning would stay for at least two hours and less than that. Women either talk to each other in small groups or look at each other. Sometimes, certain visitors forget that they are in a bereaved house, so some women consolers start telling sex jokes and other visitors begin laughing in a very loud voice while listening to jokes.

Each of these declarations about a single person who died or was found dead, or murdered, occupies one full page in the daily paper. Each line in the declaration is printed in a different size of letters.

It is reported that it costs a large sum of money, a fortune, to put this declaration in the famous newspaper. The cost of one page death advertisement could reach the limit of the average salary of a civil servant for five years. Thus it is said that every day the owner or owners of the paper gain a lot of money which exceeds the one million pounds every day. It is also reported that the moment a person is born; his family starts to save money for him so that they could cover the cost of the declaration of his future death to be published in the daily national newspaper plus other expenses of the burial including the construction of a magnificent tomb.

On the other hand, other pages in the inside parts of the paper are devoted for the publication of words of thanks of the family of the defunct to those who came to the house for offering their sympathy and their condolences. More than one hundred pages in the daily newspaper are allotted for those words of thanks. These words of thanks sometimes are addressed to one person only depending upon his social position and status in the community.

Ancient prime ministers, ministers or members of parliament are thanked usually individually. The cost of the publication of these words of thanks is astronomically very high and the families take usually loans of thousands of pounds to cover the cost of the publication of such notes of thanks. It is now reported that several persons plan to die abroad, outside their country, to avoid such publication expenses to be paid to the owners of the famous local newspaper.

If any prominent and eminent, famous and respectable person who offered his condolences but is not individually thanked for his efforts, he would raise a case in the traditional family courts against this family which did not publish its thanks in the national newspaper.

The problem of the expression of thanks by the family of the defunct to those who present their condolences in the house of the defunct is very complicated. On the average, every family of a defunct should publish noted of thanks in the national newspaper to thirty five prominent persons.

In the city of Amr those notes of thanks are usually addressed to an average of thirty five prominent persons. This would cover all the princes and princesses, all the ancient prime ministers and the present prime minister and all the ministers and some of the prominent members of the parliament.

Of course, not every one of these categories of prominent persons comes to offer their condolences to the house of the defunct. Normally, some of them come to express their condolences to the house of the defunct, and some of them might not come. Amr, from time to time reads some of these declarations of thanks. He finds pleasure and interest in reading these notes of thanks.

However, there is a third part of the section of obituary in the daily newspaper. This section is related to what could be called as the section of the funeral praise of the defunct. This section could be written and presented in prose of in verse. This section of the praise and homage of the defunct might take the space of one page, half a page, a quarter of a page or even few lines. Of course, to publish such a homage and praise of the defunct costs money, a lot of money, a fortune. The owner of the newspaper, naturally, gains a lot of money, a fortune, from this section also.

In summary, the daily newspaper plays an important role in the domain of life and death. This is how Amr got interested in this daily newspaper.

Amr, while looking at the daily newspaper, which is found on the low table, he totally forgets the cup of coffee which is found nearby the daily paper. He becomes all of a sudden absolutely calm and completely indulged in contemplation and reflection.

What he sees in the daily newspaper concerning death in the community astonishes him. He is puzzled while reading these two hundred and fifty pages of obituaries. Amr concludes that during his absence a lot of changes have taken place in his city, in his quarter, to the extent that he feels himself to be an alien, a foreigner and a stranger in his own home-town. He observes that these changes have taken place mainly among those living in this quarter where most of the inhabitants are rich and prosperous.

Amr, before joining the diplomatic corps had been leading a life exactly like that described previously above. Therefore, Amr got fat, like all people of the quarter from his early twenties. However, Amr is somewhat or totally different in his fatness from that of the other men of the community. Amr does not look to be a fat man in all parts of his body with the exception of his belly. He has a bulging, swollen, inflated, blown up belly due, perhaps, to a huge stomach found in the centre of the upper part of his body.

Therefore, based on normal standards for the body of the human beings, the body of Amr could be described as ridiculous, funny, absurd, unreasonable and deserving laughing and mockery. In fact, the belly of Amr moves and sometimes vibrates, as if the one who carries it is dancing in spite of himself. The swollen belly of Amr gives the impression that he is more or less a short man, or even sometimes he could be described as a huge giant-dwarf. Looking at Amr, when he is standing, he would give the impression that he is really funny person, or a ridiculous old man.

Strangely enough, Amr has a clear white complexion. Even it could be said that his skin is decorated with some red spots. These spots are very rare and scarce and therefore they cannot be considered as permanent characteristics of his total personality.

Amr is a human being who is completely different from all other men of his age in his quarter and in his community. It is not difficult at all to see that his face is always decorated by a simple smile that gives him more the basic characteristics of the Devil, or Satan himself. A simple look at his face would give very easily the impression that this man is bad in his basic nature. He is evil and he is the Devil. In his case, he cannot at all hide this satanic smile or he cannot make it disappear from his face.

On the other hand, a deep observation and even a quick examination of his face would reveal the fact that not a single wrinkle could be traced or located in his face. Not only this. It could not be observed that this face would have wrinkles in the near future, or before his death. In fact neither his cheeks nor his somewhat long chin show any trace of an old age.

A more scrutinizing look at his two cheeks would reveal the fact that they are smooth, glossy and sleek. It cannot be said that he has no hair on his cheeks and on his chin. However, it could be said that this man is not hairy and that he does not spend a lot of time and effort in shaving the hair of his face either daily or every two days or every three days. Probably, it could be noticed that he utilizes, on a daily basis, some kind of a feminine powder on his face in the morning. Anyhow, this observation and judgment needs verification. Yet in looking more closely on his front, it could be noticed, and very easily, that he really uses this high quality powder.

On the whole, and after a very quick scrutiny of the face of Amr, it could be discovered, and without any difficulty, that he does not have a moustache of whatever size or length. In the city, very few men of all ages have moustaches. Perhaps it was a fashion to have a moustache in the near past, but now very few men have it. Of course, this observation is only applicable in the city and in the quarter. Still in several neighboring countries to have a considerable black moustache is a requirement of manhood and virility. In several of those countries the majority of men starting from their very young age have moustaches of various sizes.

Below the face of Amr, in the lower part of the face it could be easily observed that the chin of Amr is both big and round. It is something which gives some kind of ugliness to his devilish and satanic face. On the other hand, the nose of Amr could easily be observed to be curved, or more or less bent. In general, and as a distinguishing characteristic, the nose is a big one. Being curved and big does not give the nose of Amr the privilege to be that of an eagle or of a falcon. As it is said above, this is more the nose of a sorcerer, a wizard, or rather a devil that has nothing in heart and in his spirit, except evil.

Even the eyes of Amr are not at all like the eyes of any average normal human being, man. Looking at his black eyes more closely would give the impression that these eyes are full of riddles and mysteries and secrets. A more close examination of the complexity of his eyes would reveal the fact that his eyes act as a veil behind which the secrets of the evil personality of this man are hidden. Through deeper and closer examination of the eyelids and the eyelashes of Amr it could be said that the evil characteristics of his personality are reflected by them in a mysterious way. However, the eyebrows are as thin as those of a woman in her forties. With closer examination of these eyebrows it could be said that they are certainly treated artistically by a professional and a gifted hand.

The eyelashes of Amr are in fact very long for a man and when the eyes are closed these eyelashes would give the impression that these are plants full of small thorns.

As for the eyelids, they, ad it is said above, are like veils that cover behind them the evil intentions of this human being. The eyes themselves are of chestnut color.

On the whole, when these two eyes are fully open, they give the impression that this man is the Devil himself and that this man suffers a lot emotionally and even mentally. Perhaps, this suffering started only few days ago, during the last two weeks when he discovered that he has to face both loneliness and the inevitable and approaching death.

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The hair of Amr is all black, dark black, like the darkness of the night. Not a lot of hair is left to him. But what remains of the hair is more or less turned back of his head. The hair is well combed and well dyed, well arranged as if the hair has been taken care of by a hairdresser, by a coiffeur. Perhaps a hairdresser is invited to the house once a week and according to the need. No doubt at this age, most of the hair should be white, not completely white, but white here and there. But as it is the tradition amongst men of his age, his hair, the black hair is not natural at all, at least color wise.

The black hair of Amr is not thick at all. For sure the black color of the hair of Amr is not natural at all. For sure, again, the absence of a single white or grey hair in the head of Amr indicates that the whole situation on the top of the head of Amr is absolutely artificial. The hair of the old consul is daily and weekly dyed by Amr himself, of course with the aid of either his faithful servant, Abdu, or the old maid, the cook.

It seems Amr is not accustomed to see himself with the natural color of his hair. Maybe, he would have seen himself with the natural color of the hair if he stayed the three days of the week-end in his home. Anyhow, here, it is certain that Amr does his best to have his hair black like all old men in retirement in the quarter. Amr had his hair dyed, perhaps for the last ten or twenty years.

Nothing is left of the body of Amr which deserve being mentioned in few words. Of course, his mouth and the inside contents of his mouth deserve to be mentioned in few words. Amr has a somewhat big mouth. In other words, it is not of the normal size, and certainly, it cannot be described as being small at all. Without a beard or a mustache, the big mouth of Amr shows out his face in a very distinctive manner. The two lips, especially the lower one, have to be considered as thick and fleshy. One wonders if these two lips have ever been tested and tasted in a sensational and exciting manner.

Have they, these lips, ever been tested in the kissing of a female, of a beautiful young woman, or what? Have they been tested, used in some other type of kissing? Nobody knows.

When the two lips are wide open, that is, when the mouth is wide open, the upper and the lower jaws teeth could be easily seen. Of course, it is not possible to know the state of the dental health and situation in the mouth of Amr. No doubt, Amr has visited the dentist clinic for several times, and may be starting from the age of twenty or less.

"No doubt, Amr has commenced to brush his teeth from an early age which is not the case of most people in the quarter. But the most prominent characteristic of his teeth is the fact that two middle teeth of the upper jaw are a little bit separated, and for sure since his early childhood. These two front separated teeth give Amr a special type of personality. When he smiles and when he speaks these two front teeth would come out and would say to the listener and the interlocutor, "Here we are in the mouth of Amr. We have been born separated and we would stay like this till the day when one of us would fall before the other."

Amr is always dressed with clothes that have dark colors. Most of his costumes are of blue, black, grey or brown colors. However, most of his costumes are dark grey or dark blue striped or without stripes.

His costumes are always composed of a jacket, a waistcoat and a pantaloon in addition to neckties which should altogether constitute a single and complete and perfect ensemble.

Amr dresses one of these woolen costumes in all the months of the season of winter and in some of the months of the autumn and the spring seasons.

Amr is never seen in any month of the year without one of his dark colored costumes. Even when all men could be seen in their shirts of short sleeves, Amr remains seen dressed up in his full ensemble of the dark costume.

He is seen always, at day time as well as during the night putting on his ensemble with a necktie that suits in material and color with the dress he has on him.

It is said and reported that all his costumes have been imported either from a known tailor in London or in Paris. It is more probable that he is a client, dress wise, of London and not Paris. Somebody once said that Amr imports his costumes from a well known tailor in the Italian city of Milan. Still some others say that his final preference would certainly be for the French tailors and the French art in dress-making.

Now we are left with the aspect of his shoes and from where he imports his shoes and his slippers. For sure, Amr prefers the black colored shoes. It is certain that he prefers the Italian shoes to those of England and France. It is reported that his shoes are always shining and clean, that is with no bad smell. While he walks his shoes always reflect the rays of the sun like a small shining mirror. His stock of shoes is well known by all his friends when he was abroad as well known consul in several countries and a member of the diplomatic corps of his country. Normally and at any moment Amr has about thirty pairs of shoes mostly imported from the European countries known for their well made shoes.

Amr arranges his rare shoes collection in a special corner in the house where he puts them in rows according to date of purchase and colors. His servant Abdu devotes a lot of his time in taking care of these precious and rare shoes. He enquires from his master about the detailed history of his collection. Each pair of these shoes has its own story and history of its life in the house of the ancient consul.

Usually, Amr sees these rare and fascinating shoes in catalogues sent direct to him by famous manufacturers of shoes in Europe and in America. He knows perfectly well the size of his feet, and always what he commands, orders of shoes would meet all his criteria of perfect shoes. In very rare cases, he gets of shoes that do not fit the size of his feet. So several of what he has of these ill-fated pairs of shoes remain unused and keep their places and positions in the shoes corner as if they are in a museum.

Abdu who daily spends some of his time in taking care of these shoes of his master, tries to put on some of them on his feet. Of course, he would not venture to ask his master to give him a pair of these precious and rare shoes because of the difference in size between that of his feet and that of the feet of his master.

Amr, with very slow, cautious, prudent, calculated and discrete steps walks towards the spacious salon of his house. While he goes to his destination he crosses with his ephebe who carries for him his breakfast.

Abdu is in a hurry, so that he could make the breakfast ready before the arrival of his master. All at once, Amr addresses his servant, the ephebe, in a somewhat loud voice. Abdu stops as soon as he hears the voice of his master.

es/ Descending Guru
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

"Listen to me, Abdu; I decided finally not to take my breakfast this morning. As you see this is a very strange decision on my part. As far as I can remember, I did not miss so far a single breakfast in my life, not even when I was a young man or a boy. My mother was all the time in the morning checking whether I took my breakfast or not. This is a very strange decision on my part. Isn't it so, Abdu?" Amr said to his astonished servant, Abdu.

"Yes, as far as I can remember, this is the first time as far as I can remember." Abdu Answered.

"I would stay in the salon for some time so as to have a quick look at all the pages of the newspaper in which the news of the dead people is given in details. I want to know more and better the news of the people who die daily in the quarter in particular and in the city and the community in general. It seems to me that nowadays more persons die than in the past, say twenty or thirty years ago. In the past one could hear about the death of five to eight persons a day. But nowadays, look at this paper. The number of those who died yesterday is so big that one would think that there has taken place a massacre and on a daily basis. This is simply unbelievable; this is incredible, isn't it so? Amr asks his servant."

"I think so, you are right, master." The ephebe answers his master."

"It seems to me that we are about to have the Day of Judgment. The human life would come to an end in few days time. I cannot believe what I read in this newspaper. I am going to get mad, to lose my power of reasoning. This is foolishness and even insanity. Look here, instead of taking my breakfast I am going to take rest on this chaise long. I feel tired, really tired and even confused." Amr said to his servant.

"This looks to be serious. Let us call the doctor." Abdu said to his master.

"No, do not worry. I would like to go to the bathroom to take my morning bath. I think it is time for it. You know as usual, I must take this bath daily to refresh myself. Look here (he looks at his watch); in about one hour or so, it would be midday. In one hour time it will be midday. Listen to me Abdu, after I finish my morning bath I would like to have my lunch. I would like to take my bath in the bath-tub. I would finish my bath in a short time, very soon." Amr said to his servant."

"Yes Master!! Immediately, I would prepare for you the bath-tub. I would fill it for you with hot water. The tub would soon be ready to receive you. I am sure you would enjoy your bath." The servant said to his master who was looking with interest at the open window.

Amr gives his instructions while he gets seated in the chair, the chaise-long. The moment the master of the house finishes his talk with the servant, Abdu goes out of the salon. He wants to go to the kitchen hoping to find there the old maid-cook doing her duties before lunch time.

Abdu wants to tell the old maid servant to be ready very soon, when asked, to go to the bath room for helping the master in washing himself. However, the master may change his opinion in the last moment. In any case, the maid has to prepare herself for helping the master in the bathroom.

In ten minutes time Abdu finishes preparing the bathroom for the immediate use of the master. At the same time, while Abdu goes out of the bathroom, the master of the house arrives there. He is dressed in his peignoir, the bath robe, of blue red color. In about half an hour time, the door of the bathroom is opened and the old maid comes out after her master, Amr. It seems that the bath which Amr took was quick. Amr comes out smiling and he is looking around him. The maid servant goes rapidly to the kitchen and it seems she has a lot to do including the preparation of the lunch meal.

In the afternoon, the weather is hot and even hotter than usual. Since it is the afternoon and since it is hot, very hot, those who are present in the house are taking their siesta after taking the lunch meal. Taking the siesta is always the tradition which should be followed by all adults especially in spring and summer time. As a result of this traditional practice of the siesta, almost all the streets, the narrow alleys and all the small paths become empty and totally deserted. Also all the villas and the small palaces surrounding the villa of Amr look likewise completely empty because all the inhabitants and the dwellers of these houses are taking their siesta.

Children at this time of the day, in the afternoon disappear somewhere in the house and they keep quiet and calm. In other words, the quarter in the afternoon is transformed into a real cemetery where only a small cat or a dog is seen wondering outside these sumptuous residences. It is not an exaggeration to say that even private cars in each residence take the siesta for several hours in the afternoon. It is not also an exaggeration to say that the absolute silence dominates the atmosphere of the rich people quarter.

Nothing is heard in the afternoon of the summer and the spring months with the exception of the low noise, the sound, produced by the wings of some flying birds that are not accustomed at all to take the siesta in imitating the grown up human beings, the inhabitants of the small palaces and the beautiful villas.

However, one could make an exception here. The silence dominating the atmosphere of the quarter of the rich could be interrupted from time to time be a sudden barking of the dog that guards one of these residences. But as a general rule all dogs take their nap like their masters, the human beings.

Furthermore, in addition to the occasional noise produced by the barking of dogs in some of the small palaces, another type of an abrupt and very troubling and annoying noise could be heard occasionally. The sudden noise of a car driven in a very high speed could be heard by all people, the young and the old. This noise could awaken most of the people taking their siesta. These flying cars are certainly driven by the young adolescents, the boys of some influential and rich families. This type of noise disturbs all the inhabitants of the quarter of the rich, because in most cases, this car driving, and in most cases, ends up with a tragedy. Car accidents are the result of such an adventure of the small boys, and sometimes, girls of the rich families.

The worst of all in these car accidents during the afternoon siesta periods is the case when one car of a rich family driven by a boy of thirteen or fourteen years of age chases another car driven by another boy of another family. In most cases, these two racing cars crash on each other and the two small young drivers are either killed or grievously or fatally wounded. In most cases, these small boys driving cars of their parents have with them some of their friends, of the same age, boys and girls.

At the end of the siesta period, some kind of a strange life starts to be noticed and observed in front of some of the houses of the rich people. In front of some of these small palaces, sometimes, several extravagant cars of the most recent models make their stop. Some women perfectly dressed and decorated come down of these cars and they enter the house in front of which they have parked their cars.

All of these women visitors are old. They have already passed the age of sixty or seventy years. This visit is already planned and arranged. The guests and the lady host were half a century ago together in their secondary school or in their higher education institutions. So they know each other very well.

Women of this age limit of the quarter of the rich are well known to be very active, spirited and energetic. Actually, the members of this category of old women come to visit the lady of the house who is like them of the same age. They come and assemble together to exchange telling gossips and to have one or two drinks, of course, alcoholic.

es/ Pink Box With Blurred Lines
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

Furthermore, these ladies, old women making these short visits in the late afternoons hurry up to go back to their homes so as to prepare themselves for the evening social reception party to be held in the house of the richest family in the quarter of the rich families.

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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals

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