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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

This time, during his visit to the house of his cousin Sari, Amr has the intention of having the risk to call his cousin by telephone. He could first try to talk with him by telephone although there is the possibility of talking to his wife Saba and not to him, to his cousin Sari.

Amr takes the telephone in his hand and he tries to dial the number of the telephone of his cousin. He waits for some time. But nobody answers on the other side of the line. 'What could I do now?' Amr asks himself. He arrives at the conclusion that there is no hope to contact the cousin by telephone.

Impossible! In such a hopeless and discouraging situation, Amr decides to wait at least for a minimum of one hour, which is till eight o'clock. While he is still waiting the appropriate time so as to talk with his cousin Sari he calls his servant to talk with him for some time. He does not know where he could find his servant Abdu. He looks around but he finds no trace of the servant.

"-Abdu, come here, come here, where are you?" said Amr as if Abdu is always ready there behind the door waiting for the call of his master at any moment. However, and for the first time, nobody answers the call of the master of the house. It happens that Abdu at this particular moment is not around to respond all at once to the call of his master.

Abdu is not near enough to be able to hear the somewhat feminine voice of his master, Amr. For sure, the servant at this time is not inside the main building. He might be outside the building, somewhere in the garden, or even outside the whole compound of the villa. Perhaps, he is visiting a friend of his working as a servant in a neighboring house.

Anyhow, it is not a surprise at all for Amr to find that he is all alone in the salon. In case Abdu does not come, it is normal to see the salon not embracing except the owner of the house, Amr, the retired ex-consul of his country in Chilnega; He looks around expecting to see his servant somewhere other than the salon.

After the call for Amr, the silence once more dominates everywhere in the house especially in the salon. Nothing is heard. It is possible that Amr could hear the beating of his old heart. He never complains from his heart so there is no reason to worry if his heart beats in an abnormal way.

Whatever is the case, Amr could not explain at all the absence of Abdu. This might be the first time that Abdu does not answer the call of his master. Amr could not understand why the maid, who always remains doing something in the kitchen, does not at least look for Abdu if she is sure that he is not around at all. The maid servant, the sixty five years old woman, is thought to be at that moment doing something for the dinner of her master.

It is a surprise that the evening has already declared its forthcoming arrival in the little world of Amr. Very soon the darkness of the night would also arrive and it would be the end of day-light and the disappearance of the rays of the Sun. Amr thinks that the evening and eventually the night, would be really arriving before its normal time.

Amr might be hallucinating. How could the Sun disappear before its normal and daily sunset eternal time? The absence of Abdu, as it seems, has drastic and serious mental and emotional effects on Abdu, the master of the house.

Inside his heart and in the depth of his spirit, Amr feels that the presence, the nearness and the closeness of his ephebe is an absolute necessity for his survival and for his joy and happiness. Abdu is his only contact with the external world and the main source of his delight and exultation. His absence, that is, of the ephebe, when he is wanted by his master, causes some kind of disturbance and a lot of sentimental depression.

All at once, the voice of two persons talking to each other is heard by Amr. The old consul is amaze and bewildered. The ears of Amr could hear clearly the voice. But he does not know from where this voice comes, from where? He does not know. But very soon the voice of one of the two persons is easily recognizable. It is the voice of his dear servant Abdu. However, the voice of the person is not recognizable at all. It is very difficult for him to know who the person is talking to his servant. Amr gets annoyed, perhaps a little bit suspicious.

This conversation between the two persons lasts for only a short duration of time; it lasts for only few seconds. And as soon as the noise caused by the conversation ceases, Amr could hear another kind of noise, that of the foot-steps of somebody walking and coming to him in the salon. The foot-steps gradually and steadily are coming nearer and nearer to him, to the salon where he is sitting. He is now hearing the foot-steps to be near to the door of the salon.

What a surprise, what a surprise!! There is really a surprise facing Amr. Sari, the cousin of Amr is standing there in the door frame of the salon. Sari is dressed in a dark costume with a suitable and colorful necktie and a shining black pair of shoes.

The moment Sari is inside the Salon he smiles and starts uttering something which Amr could not understand. Of course, Amr is happy and excited to see his cousin inside his house, in the salon.

This surprise visit is not expected, and he was not told by his cousin that he, Sari, would pass by in the evening. Of course, the first thing Amr does is to stand up precipitately, say something welcoming the visit of his cousin, then makes some few steps so as to meet his cousin in the middle of the salon. The moment they become face to face, the two embrace each other warmly as if they have not met at all recently. The two shake hands and then both of them take their seat, one in an armchair and the other in the sofa.

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"This is really a surprise, a real surprise. You know, nobody told me that you could be coming to me house. What a surprise! You know, I tried to contact you by telephone. But I failed, I tried twice. That was since one hour. But unfortunately nobody answered and I failed to have contact with you. It seems to me that at this time of the day all are either outside the house, somewhere in the quarter or are inside the house but are very far from the place of the telephone. I understand all of these complications. It happens to all people. Isn't it so??" said Amr in welcoming his cousin and in trying to shake hands with him another time.

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"Listen to me, my dear cousin, this is a very short visit. Please do not worry. I am extremely sorry to come without telling you in advance. I would like to tell you that in a quarter of an hour, I and my wife, Saba, we would be visiting the family of Saif, on the other side of the quarter of the rich. I do not have time at all. This family is very dear to me. I know the head of the family since a long time."

"Mr. Saif is more or less like a brother to me or even better than a brother. We invite each other to evening social events and cocktail parties. At least, he invites me twice a month to his house and I invite him once. This is very normal in the quarter of the rich. Since one's marriage nobody stays at home. We always have night activities either in our house or in somebody else's house. In most cases, I come back at home before sunrise by one hour or less than that. This is the general rule and principle for an ideal family life here in the Quarter of the Rich."

"All married couples, the husband and the wife, spend the night outside their home and away from the children who are left to be taken care of by the maids imported from the Island of Tri Banka. O! I don't want to bother you by giving you the details. You are lucky you have been away from this quarter for the last twenty or thirty years. You know Amr; the only disadvantage of this nocturnal life is that nobody sees the children at all. They grow up without knowing their parents." said Sari to his cousin Amr.

"O!! By now I know the details of the way of your life here in this quarter. I know that you never stay at home after sunset. You should be every evening, every night invited to the house of one of your friends. Of course, for you and for all the other families of the quarter, the children are taken care of by the servant, the maids recruited from the island of Tri Banka. I know that you are frequently invited by your close friends, like the family of Saliba, the family of Amin and the family of Saeed and the family of Butrus. You are lucky to have contacts and friendship with such distinguished, prestigious and well known families. You are lucky, although I think that most of the heads of these families, that is your close friends, are actually very old and are more mommies than human beings. I could see some of them between now and then, walking in their gardens or in the verandas and in the terraces of their houses."

"I am very glad and even lucky that in my case as a bachelor I do not have the chance, the right, and the honor to be invited to such nocturnal activities. I remember that in the past and when I used to come on leaves or holidays you used to take me with you to some of these evening social activities. I do not forget that at all." said Amr to his cousin Sari.

"I hope that everything is all right with you after your return from Chilnega and after the commencement of your retirement. You are a very lucky and a fortunate man. Look at me; I am still working very hard. I like to work, not like many of my friends of the same age. Nowadays they are retired and they do nothing except spending all their nights invited to the homes of others. I cannot take retirement or be in retirement. You know I have my son to take care of. Although he is about thirty five years of age he does not work yet."

"Listen to me; I thought that I should come to visit you for a short time to see if you need my aid and my help. Are you in need of any of my advice? You know I consider myself as a rich man with experience. I know everybody here in our community. Listen to me Amr. Do not forget that we are cousins, we are like two brothers. You just give me a call. Do not be surprised if my wife answers you, talks to you. "

"You just try once, that is, try to talk to her. You would discover immediately that she is an ideal woman, really a nice woman who likes to speak to you and to meet you. You know we have been I and Saba, living together, as husband and wife, for the last thirty six years" said Sari to his cousin."

"I thank you very much for your visit. Don't worry. You can come at any time to my house. You know I am all alone. I have the servant Abdu whom you saw and a maid who prepares my meals and takes care of the kitchen. However, besides all of these things that reflect the good aspects of my daily life, I, in reality, have one main problem from which I suffer. How could a man of my age and who is already in retirement, spend, occupy, employ the free time. I am in a crisis. I have been thinking of this problem since I have come back from Chilnega. This is a difficult question to answer, a very difficult problem to solve and to face. Till now, and since my return I find myself lost, completely lost. I find myself walking in a desert with mo limits, no ends."

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"There is nothing in the desert except the sand and only the sand. Sometimes I see the mirage, I walk towards this mirage but I find nothing except the sand. I am really lost in the desert. Every day, I drink a lot of coffee, and nothing but coffee. Besides the coffee I daily read, have a look at, the daily newspaper. I find this newspaper interesting and challenging. I see in it how a lot of people are dying every day. The paper contains nothing but the news of death. Death is victorious always. I am horrified when I go through this paper. I have the impression that one day all people of this city would be dead and it would be like some cities in history which disappeared all of a sudden from the scene of daily life." said Amr to his cousin Sari who was in fact in a hurry.

Then after that Amr tells his cousin about his walks since the morning till the afternoon in the main avenue of the city. He tells his cousin how he passed almost the whole day in walking on the pavement of the two sides of the avenue. He tells his cousin what he saw in the main avenue and how that this place is full of old men in retirement belonging to the quarter of the rich as well as to other quarters of the city. But the most important thing told to his cousin Sari is that related to the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

The ex-consul of his country tells everything he knows about the Circle to his cousin who is well known at present as the most famous constructor of modern edifices. Amr really wants to tell his cousin all he knows about the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals and then he has the intention to ask for the advice of Sari concerning the possibility of being a member of this highly distinguished Circle or Association.

"I should start by telling you the most important aspect about this Circle. It is almost impossible to be a member of this association, of this club, of this Circle. It is impossible that your name could be put, included in the total list of candidates. I myself, I have been in the list of candidates since three years, three long years and not less than that. And I think I have to wait more to have the chance of being finally selected. I have been waiting since three years, that is, three years before my retirement. I do not know frankly speaking what to do. I am in an impasse. I do not know for how long I have to wait. Several of my friends who are already members of the Circle advise me that to have the chance of being finally selected from the list of candidates as a member of the Circle it is better to be a member of another association for the old people, for the old men."

"Another solution or alternative for being finally selected as a member of the Circle is to go so often to the popular coffee-shops which have the majority of their clients from amongst the very old men in retirement who have never worked in their life at all. Of course, there are few exceptions of those old men who might have worked for few months in their whole adult life."

"As you already know the clients of these coffee-shops take only one cup of coffee or tea while they stay in the coffee-shops for the whole day. These clients eat nothing throughout the day. These all-day clients have the right to spit extravagantly and as often as they want on the floor of the coffee-shop. Besides, spitting and sometimes continuous coughing and the cleaning of the throat, these clients go to the toilets of the place to urinate the liquid of the coffee and the tea in addition to the water which they take during the whole day. The toilets are over utilized always throughout the day and in such a way that the bad and the suffocating smell of the urine spread all over the salon of the coffee-shop. The customers, the retired old men, play for the whole day the cards and the trick-track. However, these old people never talk to each other for the whole day while they say in the coffee shop. All the clients rest in an absolute silence. The only noise which could be heard in such places is that produced by the crashing and the coughing of the customers and the voice of the coffee-shop boy who communicates the orders of the clients to his master."

"All the clients of the coffee-shop, all like phantoms and like ghosts, stay seated in their small seats that look like stools made out straws. They remain seated for the whole day except when they go to the toilets." sari all at once stops talking to his cousin Amr."

Of course, Sari gets somewhat tired since he does not expect that he has to spend a lot of time in explaining a single important idea, point, to Amr. Sari feels that he explains his point in a sufficient and convincing way. But more important than anything is also the fact that his wife is waiting for him there in his house so as to go together to the house of the family of Hamdan.

Both, Sari and his wife Saba would be attending a reception party to be held by Hamdan family in honor of Sari himself because of the super golden medal bestowed to Sari by the local city authorities. The medal is awarded and granted to Sari because of the great, the magnificent and the gigantic Mausoleum designed and constructed by Sari for the future burial of the head of the richest family in the city who might die at any moment at the age of ninety three years.

The mausoleum, designed by Sari, has been built in the middle of the garden located in the back of the small palace of the old rich man. The head of the richest family is not yet dead but he is about to die in the few coming days as his two sons tell the visitors of the mausoleum.

The rich man who is about to die was in the hospital of the quarter where he had two unnecessary major operations in the stomach and in the colon. A major part of these two important organs have been removed to the extent that nothing could be digested by the small part of the stomach left for the dying old rich man.

While Sari tells his cousin about his experience of life in the quarter, Amr listens attentively to these stories and to these tales as told by his cousin. He listens to his cousin and at the same time he thinks and reflects. He finds what Sari is telling is relevant to problems he is facing.

Amr becomes enchanted and happy by what his cousin has told him. He thinks now that he should try his best to go to the coffee-shops so as to spend at least one or two days there. Sari encourages his cousin to go as soon as possible to the popular coffee-shops as a means for facilitating his admission to the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

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Sari tells his cousin Amr that he is planning to invite him to lunch in the few coming days either in his house or in one of the well known restaurants of the quarter of the rich. Sari says that for the coming week he would be very busy in finishing a sepulcher for the ex-prime minister who is still alive but he is very sick and he is expected to die in few days, weeks or months. Yet for sure he would die before the end of this year.

Sari prepares himself to leave the house of his cousin. He is in a hurry. He is sure that his wife is now very excited and is waiting for her husband. So he must hurry up and be in his house just in few minutes time.

He says good bye to his cousin Amr. He goes out and rushes to his villa. While Sari is going straight forward to his house, Amr is looking at his cousin who is walking in haste. Amr stays at the doorsteps waiting till the figure of his cousin, Sari, disappears in the black horizon. At the doorsteps of his villa, Amr remains standing where he is for some time.

At the same time he remembers what his cousin told him about the popular coffee-shops in the main avenue and somewhere else in the down town parts of the city. His cousin is for him a gifted man and a very successful designer and constructor of many magnificent edifices and monuments. After a long contemplation and reflection Amr smiles and then he goes back to his sofa in the main sofa.

"For some days, Amr occupies himself, night and day, morning and evening, at the lunch time as well as at the dinner time, in bed and in the bathroom, in the salon and in the veranda, while he is sitting and while he is walking, by the idea of finding the best way to join "the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals."

"Of course, his cousin, Sari, paved the way for him to take the right decision. He should be thankful to his cousin because he had given several constructive ideas. Actually, he is nowadays very determined to be a member of "the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals." This is his main objective in life in these days. Nothing is more important for him than to be a member of the important "Circle of the Retired Intellectuals"

For two or three days he arrives at the conclusion that he should begin with something solid, something concrete and something tangible, something definitive and positive.

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After much thinking and contemplation, he comes to a point where he should take a decision. He says to himself that starting from tomorrow morning he should go to a popular coffee-shop and become a client, a customer for at least three weeks. He is sure that this would help him later on to join the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. Going to the popular coffee-shops would facilitate the process by which his name would be accepted in the list of candidates of applicants for joining the famous Circle. But now he is determined to concentrate all his effort to go to the popular coffee-shops in the avenues of the city.

Amr stays in his house for few days to prepare for going to the coffee-shops. Of course, such coffee shops are not found at all in the main avenue of the city. Indeed, there are a number of these coffee-shops in the poor quarters of the city. It could be said that every fourth shop is a coffee-shop. In these poor quarters of the city most people especially the grownups and the old are mostly unemployed, that is persons with not regular work or jobs. They are since their adolescence in a disguised form of unemployment as well as of retirement. So faced with the absence of employment opportunities, most of the young and old men spend all their day and evenings in the coffee-shops nearby to their houses.

During these three days Amr poses a number of questions to his faithful and trustful servant concerning the miserable life in these poor quarters. But most important, Amr wants to know more about the way the people there behave especially inside those coffee-shops. He asks him whether he ever visited these popular coffee-shops and whether he has actual practical experiences based on his visits to these coffee-shops.

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Amr asks his servant whether the clients of these places read newspapers or whether they spend their whole day drinking a cup of tea or coffee, spitting on the floors and playing cards and trick track.

es/ Onion
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"Of course, Abdu could say that he never visited such places where unemployed people spend their time just doing nothing, nothing. Anyhow, and at the end of the three long days of thinking, reflection and contemplation, Amr decides that he should go tomorrow to a coffee-shop which he would choose there on the spot. He believes that such a visit to a coffee-shop would increase his chances to make his name included in the list of candidates for the membership of "the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals."

During the long days of reflection and thinking, Amr asks his servants to go down to the main avenue of the city to buy for him some clothes from shops that sell things on sale so as he would put on these old clothes tomorrow when he goes to the poor people's street looking for coffee-shops. Abdu listens to his master and understands everything and shakes his head as a sign of understanding and obedience.

The rays of the Sun of the early morning penetrate gently into the spacious bedroom of the recently retired consul. However, the consul is still deep asleep in his sumptuous and comfortable bed. Usually he gets up earlier than at present. Sometimes he gets up even before sunrise.

It seems that the retired consul has had a lot of troubling dreams and of dreadful nightmares. It is certain that a lot of the dreams repeated for him what he had seen yesterday while he was walking in the main avenue of the city. Indeed, he was not lucky, fortunate in that visit or more specifically in that walk.

All the time he was in the avenue of the city having a walk he saw only tragedies and nothing but tragedies, calamities and affliction. Amr sleeps now in spite of the fact that the Sun is already sending its shining rays to the sleeping and the dreaming retired consul.

The cautious and attentive servant is aware of the obvious and the simple fact that his master is not yet awake. Abdu is wondering whether he should wake his master or not. The servant already knows perfectly well that his sleeping master is going to undertake a new venture, or an adventure, in his life of old age. The master is going to visit, or in fact to be a client of a popular coffee-shop.

The servant argues that his still sleeping master should already be dressed up in the old clothes which he bought for him yesterday. Abdu realized that time is running fast and the master of the house is still deep asleep.

Even the old maid servant is wondering why the breakfast is not ordered yet for the master of the house. The youthful and the good looking servant, the ephebe, ventures and enters the bedroom of his master. He walks gently, carefully, prudently. The servant does not want to be a reason for waking up of his master. He is already inside the room to be sure that his master is really sleeping or not. Could he be dead? This is a possibility. The servant knows already stories about old people who are normally found dead in their beds or in their sofas or in their arm-chair. He stares at his sleeping master. Of course, he could easily see the white rose-decorated bed-cover rising and coming down with a systematic rhythm. Automatically Abdu whispers to himself by saying 'he is dead'. The servant smiles in finding his master to be in a normal condition. He is alive.

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In a very careful way, the servant withdraws from the bedroom and leaves his master in his deep sleep and perhaps in his last dream. The moment the door is closed, Amr opens his sleepy eyes with hesitation.

Perhaps, the entry and the departure of Abdu awoke him, or in other words disturbed him. At last he opens his eyes and he immediately feels pleased and gratified of the sunny day and of the perfect weather of his city especially in the months of summer season and more so in the time of spring.

Of course, the moment he opens his eyes he remembers that he has today an important meeting with destiny. He is about to start a new adventure in his life in retirement. Quickly and without any hesitation, he leaves energetically his bed. Then hastily he goes to the bathroom. He stays there for about one hour doing all sorts of things which a man does with the exception of shaving his face. He decides to keep the few traces of coming out hair on an almost hairless face for two or more days. He wants his unshaved face to be an indication that he does not belong to the rich social class, whose adults shave daily.

Joyfully, he comes out of the bathroom as if he is a new man, with a new spirit and a new mental set-up. He is ready for the adventure that his is going to undertake today in the fairy land of the city, that of the popular coffee-shops in the poor quarters of the city. He goes directly to the wardrobe and takes out of it the old costume which his servant bought for him in the clothing sales. He dresses himself quickly. He puts on his feet the old pair of shoes that have been procured especially for the purpose of spending a full day in a popular coffee-shop.

Amr looks at himself for few seconds in the long mirror of the wall. He could see clearly his statute and his height in the new dress and in the newly adopted spirit. Amr is totally satisfied and discovers that his real personality is really changed with this new but very old costume and his unshaved face. He comes to the conclusion that it takes time to recognize and identify his real personality, the ex-consul to Chilnega.

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As it is already mentioned, Amr did not shave today. His face, in this respect, would indicate that he comes from the poor families and classes of the city. Amr at last is personally convinced that he is really a new type of a person and it would be difficult for anybody to recognize him.

Before going out he asks the young man, his servant, to bring for him his breakfast with a lot of white cheese which he adores more than any other type of food. White salty cheese is part of his family tradition. Amr has the impression that all people of the poor classes, wherever found, emit the repulsive and bad smell of the white cheese which has been fermenting in their mouth, in-between their teeth and in the long nails of their fingers which have been touching the white cheese in breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Amr intends, indeed, to eat a lot of the white cheese so that his mouth would have the same smell at that which comes out of the mouth of persons belonging to the poor classes who mostly consume white cheese and a lot of bread for the three meals. Amr remembers the smell of the fermented white salty cheese coming out of the stomach when certain persons belonging to poor classes belch and eructate the gas that comes out of their open mouth.

With the white cheese, Amr drinks two cups of tea with a lot of sugar.

The scene of the daily life of the master of the house would undergo a lot of change. Precipitately Amr goes out of his villa. His servant remains standing motionless and in amazement behind the window trying to see and follow his master walking towards the unknown.

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Of course, when Amr starts walking in the streets and the narrow paths of the quarter he notices that nobody knows him at all. Without his disguise Amr could hardly be known and recognized by the people of the quarter. He passes by several old people but nobody looks at him or tries to identify him. They think him to be an outsider and certainly not a resident of the quarter of the rich.

He might be thought to be a stranger, an alien, a poor man coming from the other parts of the city. As usual he does not use his car in this venture, but makes use of the bus. He knows by now which bus he should take in order to go to the quarter of the Qammar which is well known to be the poorest quarter in the city, where nobody works, but where most people are unemployed.

It is said that this quarter of Qammar of the city has about thirty coffee-shops and that all of them are usually filled by ten o'clock in the morning and where customers, clients, stay without leaving the place once till in the evening.

Amr stands at the bus-stop and waits patiently for a long time but the bus going to the Qammar quarter does not arrive. The buses of this line have never been regular and on time. Because of the ling waiting, Amr thinks that the bus having Qammar Quarter as destination has been long ago cancelled. So he thinks what to do.

There is a small wooden bench used by old people who wait for their bus. Amr sits there next to a mother with four children. Three of the children are not seated. Of course, it is expected that the bus going to Qammar Quarter would come from the north.

es/ A Spy Who Loves Me Eavesdropping While Peeking In
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The Qammar Quarter is located in the eastern parts of the city. It is a well known fact that poor people of the city live in the eastern parts of the city while practically all the rich people of the city live in the western parts of the city. The two sections of the city, the eastern and the western, the poor and the rich are almost separated from each other with very little movement of people between the two.

In a very energetic and active way, and as if he is a young man, Amr jumps inside the bus. At the entrance he looks around him just to examine the interior of the bus. Three things are observed instantaneously. The bus is half filled, with about some of the passengers composed of children of various ages.

The second observation is that most of the windows have broken glass, and have been in this situation since a long time. The third observation is that most of the floor of the bus is covered by water-melon seeds cover which all poor people consume while they are awake and without work.

In addition to this, the floor of the bus is full of cigarettes ends indicating that men of all aged smoke cigarettes everywhere, even while they are in bed or traveling in a common transport bus. It should be mentioned that there are quite a few old men who keep their tired and small eyes closed throughout the trip of the bus.

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One third of the seats of the bus are not occupied. So this is a good opportunity for Amr to choose where he would like to sit. Amr could see at least two young men and three old men who are smoking with anxiety and eagerness. One young man has a cigarette in his hand of which nothing remains except a tiny part of it. Amr notices that the cigarette disappears from the hand of the young man and he does not see the smoker throwing it. Amr thinks that this young man either hid what remains of the cigarette in his pocket or he put what remains of the cigarette in his mouth. That is, the young man swallowed the end of the cigarette.

Amr is finally successful in choosing a seat with a window without glass. The two seats next to him are not occupied. They could be occupied in the next bus stop. Amr becomes happy and extremely satisfied and feels very optimist and expects that his adventure would be successful as well as interesting.

All at once one or two children start crying without any obvious reason and two or three small boys and girls start running inside the bus in the narrow path that separates the two rows of seats. Amr becomes annoyed, irritated even harassed for a short time. Then quickly gets accustomed to the noise of the children and the smoke of cigarettes. This should look all normal inside the bus.

The only thing which he could not accept and tolerate is the continuous efforts made by several old men to clean their throats or to spit on the floor.

As it is mentioned above, two seats next to that of Amr remain unoccupied for the whole journey or just to the bus-stop in which Amr comes out of the bus. While he is inside the bus and for the whole journey, Amr keeps silent. He does not have the chance to talk to anybody. For sure, he cannot, and in no case talk to himself. Besides, nobody is sitting next to him.

Amr is glad to come out of the vehicle because he found himself there, in the poor people's bus, in a strange world. Of course, it is his mistake that in the past, while he was living for a while in the city, he did not have the temptation to try taking the poor people's bus, not even for a single ride.

Nevertheless, Amr is now outside the bus and in the midst of the Qammar Quarter of the poor which is found in the eastern parts of the city. Of course, very few passengers left the bus here at this bus-stop. Still the bus has three other stops in the Qammar Quarter and no more passengers would be leaving the bus or coming into it.

Amr has never been in the past to this quarter where only poor people live. This is a very crowded part of the city where men sit in coffee-shops to have tea or coffee and where at home these men have nothing to occupy themselves with the exception of making love to their wives at all time of the day and the night so as to produce more and more children. Every time the wife gets pregnant the husband hopes that the newly born child would be a boy. Having more boys than girls in the family is the source of pride, self exultation and so often arrogance for the master of the family, the father, in the poor classes of society and also in some of the middle class families.

In this Qammar Quarter every grown up male has, in case he is married, twelve twenty children of boys and girls. These families that have more boys than girls are happy and satisfied with what God has so far given them. Those families which have more girls than boys consider themselves as unlucky and certainly cursed by God. Sadness, gloom, despair, misery and sorrow dominates the life of such unlucky and unfortunate families until their daughters get married and have already given birth to many children.

This is why Amr remarks that this part of the city is extremely overcrowded especially in the day time. Wherever he turns and looks he cannot see but children running everywhere, playing, amusing themselves, or going to school.

Evidently, he tries to see from far the magnificent villas and the sumptuous small palaces of his quarter of the rich. But unfortunately, he cannot see anything. His quarter, of the rich, is very far and really it is out of sight.

No doubt, all of these shabby, simple, mud-bricks built houses are those of the poor people of the Qammar Quarter. It could be seen everywhere that all houses are built out of bricks of mud. Each simple house is composed of one, two or three rooms and not more than that. Of course, this would include the kitchen and all other necessary and required space facilities. All around each building or house many children could be seen playing everywhere. Most of these small children are boys. Girls are kept in the house to help the mother.

Men could be seen, of all ages, in the streets going to various destinations, mostly to their every day coffee-shops or to other destinations where they have some kind of a work. Amr prefers to keep standing there for a while just to give more time for his eyes to see, to observe and witness for a long duration of time all the scenes that could be seen around him.

Of course, and from time to time a car passes by, probably a taxi. A taxi, like the bus is a common feature of the daily life in this poor people quarter. The taxi plays a determinant role in the movement of people within the quarter and between quarters. Nobody at all, affords to own a private car, so the taxi and the bus, solve most of the transport problems.

Here, it is not common at all to see luxurious private cars. Such cars could only be seen when they would cross the quarter. Luxurious and expensive cars, from time to time, pass by the poor quarters. But this phenomenon is not very frequent.

The time is still the morning. But it is not early in the morning. The Sun is still lazy and has not yet fully awakened from its all night long sleep. It is rising from the east and very soon it would decorate the sky of this small world of ours with light, brightness and illumination and with joy, life and happiness.

Noon, the midday would come very soon because Amr got up today a little bit late. Amr looks around and around, far and near, and he is not surprised or amazed to find some of the shops, the stores and the workshops, the restaurants and the bakeries that are still closed. Perhaps more time is needed to find all the shops in the Qammar Quarter open.

Yet at this particular time clients, mostly young and middle aged men, start entering the shops that are already open. The shops that are more visited than the others at this time of the day are the bakeries and the butcher shops. However, the bakeries are more frequented than any other shops. People of all ages take line before the bakery so as to buy bread for the whole family whose main food staple for the three meals is bread.

Amr begins walking in the street but does not know where to go. Really he is about to be lost. He cannot find his way out. He feels himself a stranger in this part of his national city. He walks for a while in the street. He looks for a long time for someone who he could stop and ask certain questions. At a certain point of his walk in the street Amr decides to stop a person, somebody, to ask him in a nice way some questions that are relevant to his mission of today in the street.

"Please mister, can you tell me where or how I could find the coffee-shop of Al-Firdaws? I say Al-Firdaws, if you please?" said Amr to a young man who was visibly in a hurry, busy, or not inclined at all to be stopped or to waste his time. It is certain that this young man does not have the intention to stop or to be stopped. He is certainly in a hurry and does not have time to waste."

"What do you say, Al-Firdaws, Al-Firdaws. O! Yes, Al-Firdaws. O! I know it perfectly well. Come, please, and stand near me. Yes like this, look at the other side of the street. Down there, you could see it from here, Coffee-Shop of Al-Firdaws. But you could see very clearly that it is closed. I think it would be opened at any moment. This is the time for it to open and start business and receive its customers. It is very strange that it is not yet open. It should have been open at least half an hour ago. This coffee-shop is the best known in the Qammar Quarter,"

"It has many clients who come daily to it and since many years. It has been there before I was born and my father was a regular client of this place we are talking about. Its customers are of all ages, starting from seventeen to nineteen till the age of eighty or ninety years. I think you should bear a little patience. You know there is no definite time for the opening or the closing of such places. It is up to the boss, the owner of the place to decide when to open and when to close the coffee-shop. Sometimes, the place remains closed for several days without any notice given to the clients. Yet I think it would open just now while we are talking to each other. You must be patient, very patient."

"But excuse me to ask you why you insist to go to the Firdaws. This is one of many others. You just have a look in this long street. You could see many, many coffee-shops everywhere and most of them are open and they receive their customers. Some of these places are as good as the Al-Firdaws. The coffee they offer is also as good in quality as that of the Al-Firdaws. Anyhow, I am not trying to convince you to go these coffee-shops. I can see easily that you are old and it is difficult for you to remain standing in waiting the coffee-shop to open. Do you mind if I suggest to you to sit on the side of the pavement. You could see that there are already some old men like you who are sitting on the edge of the pavement."

"Or you could go there and sit on the bench of the bus-stop. That bench is a better solution. You could see that it is not only bus passengers who are the bench users. There are many people who use the bench without being passengers." said the young man who was smiling while he was addressing Amr for last few minutes."

The young man does not leave the place when finished talking. He is expecting that his interlocutor would be addressing to him some questions.

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

"Please, young man, I thank you first for the information which you have provided me just now concerning the coffee-shops in this marvelous and magnificent street. Yet I want to ask you another question, another simple question. Can you recommend to me another coffee-shop in case the Firdaws Coffee-Shop remains closed? I know there are now many of such placed that are found everywhere in the street. Which one do you recommend, or which ones? You can recommend to me more than one." asks Amr the young man while he looks at his face.

"Sure, sure, certainly, in this most crowded quarter of the city, in this Qammar Quarter and as I already told you, there are many, many nice coffee-chops, many coffee-shops of various qualities and reputation. I think each one would satisfy all your interests and wishes." said the young man.

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"Please tell me the name of one or two coffee-shops which you recommend" asks Amr.

"I am wondering, Sir, why you are asking me such questions which seem to me very strange, very unfamiliar and unusual. Sir, why do you ask about coffee-shops? It is extremely strange in spite of the fact that I find your dialect to be like our dialect with a little bit of difference. You look to be one of our people of the quarter. Still I tell myself that you are a stranger, perhaps a foreigner. You do not belong to our community. You are asking questions that are only posed by the foreigners who come to our quarter as tourists. I doubt whether you really belong to this community. You might be an alien coming from a foreign country. Are you a foreigner or what? Are you, excuse me to ask you, a tourist from a neighboring country?"

"Or are you an emigrant who comes back to his home town, to his country after a long absence of many years, perhaps half a century. Sir, you should excuse me to raise all of these questions, strange questions. Frankly speaking, I feel that I do not have the right to ask you all of these strange and may be silly questions." The young man who was feeling embarrassed said to Amr in a tone full of sarcasm.

"How could you say that? It is very strange on your part to pose to me such questions, such comments and remarks. I am not a stranger at all. I am not a tourist at all. As you can see me I am a citizen, an ordinary citizen of this country, your country and my country. I belong to this city and I was born here since more than sixty years. But I have been away far from this country, and for a number of years, like many other people of my country working in the countries of the black gold as an expatriate."

"I stayed there working, most of the time as a driver in a big establishment. Then I worked as a clerk in a bank. And now I am here visiting my country. This is why you think me to be a stranger, an alien, a tourist!!! I am now in retirement. I have been absent for more than thirty five years from my country. I came back once or twice for short visits. Once I worked as a cook and as gardener for two years. You can see I am a man of experience." replied Amr.

Of course, does not say the truth and the reality about his real life story, his life background. It is obvious he could not tell the young man that he is the resident of the Quarter of the Rich. The young man would not have believed him because his appearance, his clothes, do not indicate that he belongs to the rich class of the city or that he is the ancient consul of the country to the African state of Chilnega.

"Thirty years of absence, this is a very long period. I assure you that during these thirty five years, our city has changed mostly in all its aspects. The city looks now completely different. You cannot recognize anything. You are really a stranger here. You have to enquire about everything. I do not blame you at all in posing to me a lot of questions. Economically as well as socially, this city has developed to a great extent. In appearance, it is almost a new city. An absence of thirty years from this city means coming back to a completely new city" said the young man who is interrupted by Amr.

"What you say is fascinating. This is the first time to listen to such a historical description of the city" said Amr.

"However, and as you might have noticed, the rich people and the rich classes of our community have become richer while the poor, all the poor, have become poorer, more miserable, more indigent, more wretched and more suffering. Before, that is since thirty or forty years, most of the inhabitants were the same, and their houses were also the same. Then all at once some of the inhabitants became rich and some others remained poor. Gradually and without intention or planning the city was little by little divided into two sections or sectors, into two separate worlds, the western and the eastern sectors or quarters, the rich and the poor worlds."

"The rich began to live in magnificent villas, sumptuous houses and splendid and majestic palaces. Each rich family residence has all the facilities of modern and luxurious life starting from swimming pools inside and outside each residence and ending with all sophisticated facilities provided for evening social recreational receptions and dancing parties that usually continue till the morning."

"A major space of the rich man's house is allotted for garages for cars belonging to the father, the mother, and to each of the grown up children, both boys and girls. Sometimes, the number of cars in the garage space is perhaps more than ten cars. Each of these cars is of the most recent models of European cars especially those directly imported from Italy, France, Germany and England. A separate space is allotted to sports cars imported from Italy and America. As you already know those rich people's cars are the main causes of the death of young members of the rich families and of innocent simple poor citizens. They are daily crushed by the cars driven in a very high speed by the drugged children of the rich families." The young man is now interrupted by Amr who asks the following question.

"No action has been taken against those careless young murderers?"

"This is a long story and I prefer not to answer you because you would get the answer by yourself if the near future. Nevertheless, the parents do not see their children even till the age of forty because the rich and the sophisticated parents are always invited somewhere in the quarter of the rich."

"On the other hand, you could see here the miserable conditions in which the poor people live. I do not want to go further in my comments and observations. You would find all these things by yourself. Look around you; you would see only misery, wretchedness and unhappiness. Here, in Qammar Quarter you could witness the miserable life of the people. You would have the chance to visit the Quarter of the Rich just to see the difference between rich and poor people. I think you would have the opportunity to visit some parts of the rich community in the western parts of the city. I am sorry to tell you that I cannot provide you a detailed description of the life which rich people live in the rich quarter." said the young man.

After this long conversation and informative dialogue between the two, the young man leaves Amr hurriedly. It seems that he sees the bus and wants to catch it to go somewhere in the Qammar Quarter.

Amr resumes his walking enthusiastically and excitedly towards the coffee-shop that lies almost at the end of the street. Of course, this coffee-shop is not that which he is looking for, the Firdaws Coffee-House. No, it is not this one. The coffee-shop which he has already chosen is that of Al-Kaif.

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Steadily and firmly, Amr walks towards the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif. It is not a surprise to him to see several clients entering the place, his destination. Most of those who enter the shop at that moment are either middle aged or retired old men. He suddenly notices that most of those who enter the house are in good health and some of them are smiling and are in good mood.

The place is just opened, just few minutes ago. But in spite of that, many clients have already taken their seats inside the coffee-house. Nobody is prevented from entering into the coffee-house. It is open to all, to any client, to any man who comes to whatever time he chooses within the working hours of the shop. Obviously; there should be empty places!

The coffee-house is composed of a wide space with enough depth in the interior. In total, it could be considered as a hall of medium size. In such a place the tables used are mostly low and of medium size around which four stool shaped chairs of straw could be used. The height of the seat is lower than the usual stool height of the western world. These two pieces of furniture, the low table and the straw stool, are the only pieces of furniture used in the popular coffee-shops.

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Probably, and on the average, such a coffee-shop could consist of ten low tables that could be moved from one place to another inside the coffee-shop. The walls of the coffee-shop are usually white washed. But it does not seem that such walls are regularly whitewashed or even cleaned. However, the walls of this place look to be white-washed since three or four years. The walls inside the coffee-shop look completely naked. It seems that there is no tradition to put any kind of pictures on these walls. Anyhow, it could be seen that a single plate on which is inscribed a verse from the Holy Quran is hanging in a corner of the place.

The floor of the coffee-shop looks, more or less dirty. It does not look to have been cleaned thoroughly since many days. The traces of old and recent spitting could be seen on the floor of the coffee-shop.

In the deep end of this place, behind the inner half built wall, is found what could be called the Comptoir, the counter of the coffee-shop. There in this section of the place is installed the owner of the coffee-shop. There are also arranged all instrument and all kinds of cutleries, of utensils used for the preparation of either tea or coffee.

Behind the owner of this place could be seen one or two shelves on which cups for tea or coffee, saucers of various sizes, tea or coffee pots and containers are exhibited for all the time. However, the most important apparatus exhibited in the inner part of the coffee-shop in a very special and visible way is the hubble-bubbles water smoking with their long pipes. Most of the clients start late in the morning smoking this hubble bubble apparatus called locally the narghile, or the hookah. People find pleasure and gratification in smoking the narghile.

es/ It Is Complicated But I Am Trying
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

The most important component of the coffee-house is the waiter who gets, receives orders from all the clients and who serves all the clients with their tea or coffee and with their water smoking apparatus. The waiter is also the person who provides each table in the hall of the place with the game asked by the clients sitting around a low table. Such games could be the cards, the dominos and the trick track.

The waiter, mostly a young man, is the real spirit of the coffee-shop. He never stops, never takes rest, or anything like that. He is always active and in continuous movement to and from the clients.

All clients settle their accounts with this single waiter of the place who can usually carry several trays full of cups of tea or coffee to various tables in the hall of the coffee-shop. The waiter can never be absent even for one day. Without him the coffee-shop would close down.

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It should be mentioned that the waiter in such coffee-shops is given a tip, a small amount of money in coin. Yet, it is not expected that each customer should pay a tip. It is left to the client to pay or not to pay the tip to the waiter.

Sometimes, in the days of the nice and the mild weather especially in the months of Spring season, tables of the coffee-shop are placed outside on the wide pavement because some clients would prefer to sit outside in the open air. Of course, when it becomes very sunny, these tables that are outside are all put back inside the coffee-shop.

As it is mentioned above, the coffee-shop offers only tea and coffee in addition to the availability of the water smoking narghile.

In one of the corners of the coffee-shop, a charcoal-pan could be seen giving light and preparing the embers to be used for the water smoking narghile. The embers need to be renewed in the narghile very frequently. The waiter is always aware which narghile in the hall of the coffee-shop needs a new supply of embers. Moreover, water-smoking narghile could be seen in display on one of the shelves of the coffee-shop. The beautiful aspect in the display of the narghiles is revealed by the existence of the long pipes that are covered by a multicolor tissue. From a distance, the shelf of narghiles and their long tubes attracts the attention of the visitors who have always the inclination to look at this decorated shelf and who have always the wish to have the end of one of these pipes of narghiles in their mouths.

The coffee-shop, when it is in full operation becomes a very busy and somewhat crowded place. All the seats of this place are occupied by the clients who are mostly unemployed. The waiter keeps himself very busy in going from one table to another, in going back to the counter to carry more trays full of cups and tea or coffee pots to the customers and at last to welcome new clients and say good bye to some client who leave the place.

Indeed, most of the time the clients are busy in playing cards or trick track or dominos, and manipulating the pipe of the narghile. Otherwise, the semi-silence dominated in the hall of the coffee-shop with the exception of the noise produced by the bubbles of the water-smoking narghile.

Sometimes, somebody says something, but this is very rare. Customers avoid always speaking so as not to be heard by their neighbors sitting around the nest table. Clients sitting around a table have to concentrate their attention on the games they are playing or they are watching. From time to time, the silence is interrupted by the voice of the energetic waiter who is communicating new orders of the clients to his master.

The owner of this highly important place, the coffee-shop of the Qammar Quarter, is a man of fifty years of age, who puts on his head a white cap and who has above his mouth a very long and impressive black moustache. The owner of the coffee shop has on him a very white shirt which seems to be changed daily. On this shirt the owner has on him a black waist-coat with four small pockets which are visible on him. On the left side lower pocket a chain of a pocket watch would easily be seen.

es/ Traffic Sign Shadow Arrow
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

Nothing else is visible of the statue of the owner because he is all the time standing behind the counter receiving orders of the clients via the waiter and observing and controlling the running of business inside the hall of his coffee-shop.

This man, the owner of the place has inherited the coffee-shop from his father who originally established the coffee-shop fifty years ago. When the city was only a small town and when few thousands of inhabitants lived here. The Qammar Quarter was practically the main place where all people lived. The owner of the coffee-shop has been running this place since twenty years when he was thirty years old. At present all the three sons of the owner of the coffee-shop refuse to come to the shop, because all of them have finished their university education and each has his own profession and career. The present owner of the shop plans to sell it after five years, that is; till he approached the age of retirement.

The coffee-shop would continue to have its own existence and identity even with the future owner. The clients would continue to come to it because all of them have a psychological attachment to it. It is part of their life. Indeed these clients spend more time here in this hall of the coffee-shop than in their houses or in their bedrooms.

To the clients, the customers, the waiter is more important than the owner. The waiter would continue serving though there would be a new proprietor. His voice would continue to enchant and to charm all the old men, the clients of the coffee-shop.

Amr is about to arrive at his destination with excitement, enthusiasm and eagerness. The more he approaches the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif, the more he becomes anxious to see the interior of the place. Up till now, he does not have any idea about the structure and the nature of the coffee-shop.

When Amr arrives just near the coffee-shop he stops, or makes a stop. Indeed, he does not know why he made this stop. In looking around him, he does not see any strange or extraordinary thing, or phenomenon that would arouse his curiosity, his interest and his inquisitiveness. He thinks that everything is normal and that there is no point to be careful, to be afraid of the unknown or to be in some kind of excitement or nervousness.

Passers-by around him are certainly normal human beings and of all ages. Some are going down the street and some others are going up the street. He could not see anybody who is standing at that particular moment. Anyhow his stop does not last long because it is only few steps that separate him from the coffee-shop, his destination.

However, as soon as he arrives nearby the coffee-shop, he stares immediately inside the depths of the place his going to enter. He looks again and again inside. Amr is in a complete amazement. He is extremely surprised to find the whole place almost empty, with the exception of three tables that seem to be occupied each by five very old clients. All the other tables, more than eleven, are practically occupied.

Amr realizes that the coffee-shop has been just opened since half an hour. It is normal to find that only two tables are occupied. The persons who are already inside the coffee-shop are all aged men.

Of course and in no case at all, one should expect the presence of women in such common places, the popular coffee-shops. Such a place would continue to be the place where only men can come to, can sit on its low straw seats, can spit on the floor and can stay for the whole day wasting their time.

Should coffee-shops would continue to be exclusively for men, not all men, but the old, especially those who are unemployed. Women of this community would continue to stay at home and they would continue to be full engaged and employed for the management of the daily life of the family. However, in the quarter of the rich there are nowadays the beginnings of the popular coffee-shops where young males and female can stay in these night clubs till the first hours of the morning and with the full permission of the parents.

Each of the two tables found in the middle of the hall of the coffee-shop have only one client sitting on a low straw seat. Both of these clients have in their mouth the wooden or the metal end of the narghile long tube.

The noise produced by the rising air bubbles from the narghile is easily heard in all the hall of the Al-Kaif coffee-shop.

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With the entrance of Amr inside the hall of the coffee-shop two other old men also enter with him. The two sit quickly and without losing much time, on two straw seats. It seems that these two men are accustomed to come to this place since several years, since long years. Each one of them has the habit to have a cup of coffee and not tea as soon as they sit. Without asking for coffee the two cups full of the brown colored liquid are offered to the two old customers.

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

Amr is still standing inside the hall, a little bit amazed and perhaps bewildered. He is not intending for the time being to be seated anywhere.

He closes his eyes for a while just to help himself to come to a conclusion and to a decision as to where to sear himself in this new strange world of the Qammar Quarter. He is intending to choose a seat.

Unfortunately, he finds himself to be a foreigner, a stranger, an alien, an intruder and an undomesticated creature in this strange small world of the inhabitants of the Qammar Quarter. Amr continues to be standing in the middle of the hall; he does not make any movement. For sure he is thinking deeply of the nature of the next step which he should take.

Amr again looks around as if he is a knight of the medieval ages who is mounting his black horse and having his glittering and shining sword in his hand, and who is meditating in the middle of the battle field. He wants to find a strategy which he should follow in facing, by himself, this entire crowd of enemies whom he imagines to be seated on the low straw seats. In reality, the hall is still empty, with the exception of the few old men in retirement.

Where should he sit in this new world? Should he choose a table which now seems to be isolated or what? He remains standing in his place and still he continues looking everywhere in the hall of the coffee-shop. While he is standing he sees an old man coming into the place accompanied by a young man. Actually, this companion is rather a boy.

The old man is in fact blind, and Amr cleverly notices the blindness of this new comer. The companion, the boy, replaces his two blind eyes. The old blind man is helped to be seated by his companion. The arrival of the blind man inside the hall of the coffee-shop does not stir the attention of anybody. It seems that all the clients are accustomed to see the blind man daily coming to this Al-Kaif coffee-house accompanied by his young guide, the young boy.

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The moment the old man sits on his chosen law straw seat he takes out of his pocket a chaplet 'the rosary' and he starts manipulating it as well as saying something which he repeats systematically with the movement of the rosary. From time to time the blind man poses a question to his companion who provides him with very short answers of few words and who sometimes keeps silent because to him the question has no importance or significance.

Anyhow Amr looks at these two persons, the old blind man and the boy, with interest and attention. The ex-consul discovers that he should choose a seat so as to seat himself. He realizes that nobody would ask him to take a certain particular seat.

The waiter of the coffee-shop thinks that Amr is in reality looking for somebody or for something and that he does not have the intention to stay in the coffee-shop. As long as Amr keeps himself standing nobody gives him any attention. Nobody even looks at him. All the clients inside the hall of the place are extremely busy with the games in which they participate actively or which they observe and watch as interested spectators.

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The waiter passes by him several times. He is not asked at all if he is looking for something in the coffee-shop. Amr, the ex-consul does not know yet who the waiter is. The only thing he is sure of is that he is certainly inside a coffee-house.

The waiter passes by Amr, who is standing almost in the middle of the hall of the place. The waiter passes by Amr but he does not ask him any question and he does not offer his aid to Amr. This is not the tradition in the coffee-shops, or at least in this place. However, the waiter at last decides to ask the strange man what he wants. The waiter approaches near Amr and stops before him. Actually Amr is in need of some help.

"Sir, excuse me to tell you that you could take a seat anywhere you like. You can choose any table. Have a look, Sir, the low tables are available everywhere. Choose whichever you want. Look carefully. Every empty seat is very anxious to be selected, to be chosen by any new comer, any new client. You know, no seat likes to be left vacant, empty, for the whole day. An unused straw seat feels guilty at the end of the day. Each seat invites you and tells you to come and to sit on it. This is the exact situation at the present moment in the hall of the coffee-house."

"Sir, you are welcome here and really you should consider yourself as if you are in your own house. This is the tradition here. I am sure that you are tired and exhausted now because you have been standing here since few minutes. Please, take any stool you like." said the waiter politely and gently to Amr who is actually listening and smiling.

"Thank you very much, thank you, you are really very nice to me. I will go and seat myself there around the table where the two old men are playing the dominoes. Yes, yes, there, where the two play the dominoes. It would be a pleasure to me to sit there and watch the two men playing a game which I cannot understand at all. I have seen in the past twice people playing the game of dominoes. But I was never interested to understand it. This is how life goes on. It is not necessary that one should understand everything. Isn't it so, young man? You know, I know how to play very well some of the card games, the trick track and even I am good at playing chess. In my young age at the university I gained a cup in a chess tournament. But I do not know at all how to play the dominoes. Perhaps, in the future I would learn the dominoes, perhaps, but not now. I like, prefer, to sit there because I do not understand the game which they are playing." said Amr to the waiter.

"Dominoes, it is an Eastern game, it is not complicated like the chess, but also easier than most of the games of cards. You have only to watch the two persons playing and I think you would be learning it even without asking any question. If you do not observe in order to learn the game then you would feel yourself lonely. If you wish you can sit around a table which is not used by anybody. Anyhow in half an hour time all of these seats that are not occupied yet would be used by the clients who come daily to this place. So it is better for you to rush and choose your seat." said the waiter to Amr.

"Thank you very much, thank you a lot my son. You are very nice and kind to me. I am going to sit somewhere in this nice place. I am sure I would have a nice and stimulating time here." answered Amr with some anxiety.

The waiter leaves instantaneously the client to choose his seat freely and wherever he likes. However, when Amr decides to choose a low straw seat he discovers with surprise and bewilderment that all the seats in the hall are occupied. How are these seats occupied all of a sudden and mysteriously and during a very short duration of time? Perhaps, he has talked more than enough with the waiter. He is really wasting his time by keeping himself standing and doing nothing.

Amr looks around him in the coffee-shop. Really, all the tables are occupied and in a magic way. He looks around to find exactly what is happening in the coffee-shop. All of a sudden Amr discovers a low table which has not been occupied yet. But after some more observation and examination of the situation he discovers that there are only two seats that are free while two other seats around the table are already occupied.

There in that table Amr finds two old men with spectators who are playing the dominoes. They are completely absorbed in the game silently. Both of them try to think for a while before taking the next step.

Amir thinks that he should hurry up to go there before the two seats would be occupied. It takes him time and effort to be nearby the table. Before arriving exactly in front the table, his destination, he is surprised and stunned to find the two men playing the dominoes to be without identity. The face of the two old men has neither eyes nor a nose as if the two old men are using a black hood on their head.

Amr is really terrified. How could this phenomenon exist in the real life? Who are those two men? Why do they look like this? And who are they? Amr is still looking at these two strange and mysterious and absurd men. Before seating himself on the low straw seat Amr stares again on these two strange human beings who play the dominoes. Both of these two mysterious men have the normal hands because both of them carry some of the pieces of dominoes. Both of them manipulate by their hands the pieces of dominoes cleverly and skillfully and with a high degree of dexterity.

The two strange men, without identity, and from time to time, exchange some words which Amr cannot understand at all because these words do not give any sense. The sound produced by the two dominoes players when they speak looks to be like a noise coming to the coffee-shop from a far distance, from beyond the far horizon.

Amr looks more and more on the two very strange persons playing the dominoes in order to understand what is going on in front of him. Of course, Amr cannot find any explanation for the riddle which presents itself in front of him. He accepts what he sees as a given fact. When Amr is already seated, the two strange men continue playing as if nothing is happening before them. The game of dominoes goes on without any interruption. The two players continue their game of dominoes.

While he is sitting on his straw stool, Amr all at once hears somebody in a neighboring table who spits. The spitting falls on the floor nearby his left foot. It is composed of the saliva mixed up with some phlegm. Then after few instants he hears another and noisier spitting from the other side of his seat. The spitting which, contains a bigger quantity of phlegm, falls nearby his right foot. Most of the second spitting falls on his shoes.

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es/ Twilight Of The Coming Republic
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

After that, two persons, in the table behind Amr, cough and cough violently and outrageously several times and then they try to calm their throat by forcing themselves to stop coughing. The process of the cleaning of the throat continues and in all parts of the hall of the coffee-shop.

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

Amr is totally amazed. He himself tries to behave like others, to clean his throat, but he could not at all. He fails even to cough or even to spit. In few seconds, all the clients of the coffee-shop are coughing, coughing and coughing as if they are singing together a famous group song which they have learnt in their early years of their youth.

Of course, nobody is playing any game and nobody is smoking either cigarettes of the water smoking narghile. At that particular instant Amr thinks of leaving the coffee-shop. He thinks that he should escape and save himself of the unknown. Amr is afraid of something that could endanger his life and his existence. Nevertheless, all the clients without any exception stop coughing and all resume playing the cards, the dominoes and the trick track. Those who have the narghile resume putting the tube of the smoking apparatus in their mouth.

Life is becoming normal in the hall of the coffee-shop and the waiter is serving all the clients. His voice, the high and the resounding voice, is heard by all. He is communicating the clients' orders from afar to the counter and to the boss of the establishment.

Slowly and slowly the noise produced by the water bubbles of the narghile is heard by all especially by Amr who is developing a sense of appreciation of this water smoking apparatus and its long and multicolor tube. He remembers that he does not have this narghile in his house. He would like to have one of those apparatuses and to start using it between now and then. He appreciates the noise that this narghile produces. When listening to it he thinks that somebody is sitting before him and is systematically talking to him. It would be a surprise to his servant if he asks him to buy for him a water smoking apparatus, the narghile.

The waiter of the coffee-shop passes by Amr. He is carrying almost ten trays. All of these trays are full of cups of tea and coffee while the other hand carries two apparatuses of water smoking, the narghiles, with their long pipes. He serves several clients at the same time in the hall of the coffee-shop. In few minutes time, he finishes distributing the cups of tea and coffee to all his clients.

The waiter does not come now to Amr but leaves him to himself. Usually the waiter comes to a client only if the latter asks him to come. Amr does not know at all the traditions and the rules of the coffee-shop which govern the behavior of the clients. Yet, in a short time, Amr knows that if he wants something, he should call the waiter to come to him.

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

Amr does not think that it is time to ask for something. He is still not thirsty. He does not feel the need even to ask for a glass of water, simple water not mixed with any matter.

The waiter, while passing, remarks and sees that this client is hesitating whether to call or not to call the waiter. Amr, instead of watching the players of dominoes, starts to look at the waiter and his movements in the hall of the coffee-shop. The waiter comes to discover that this hesitating client is about to call him. So the waiter behaves in such a way so as to let Amr knew that he is available to take orders at any moment.

Therefore, the waiter passes now just in front of the table of Amr. The waiter smiles politely, obligingly, courteously and gently to Amr who becomes a little bit amazed because of the smile of the waiter, of the young man. The waiter is now expecting that Amr would call him to come to have his order. Amr calls the waiter to come to him. The waiter is finally relieved. He is going to see this strange client who is about to talk to him.

Amr calls the waiter twice. The second time he calls the waiter he speaks in a very low voice. The waiter hears the first call of the strange client and is not in need to be called for a second time. The moment he stands before Amr, the latter says in voice full of politeness and courtesy:

"Please, a cup of coffee, not a lot of sugar." said Amr.

"At once, Sir, within one minute, not more than one minute" answers the waiter who completes his answer while he is about to walk towards the counter."

But before the waiter is able to go away from the table, Amr catches the free hand of the waiter and tells him:

"Tell me my son. It is very strange that those clients are almost without identity, They are without any feathers on their face. It is very strange; I notice that the moment the clients enter inside the hall of the coffee he loses all features that make up his identity. It is strange and mysterious. All the clients look alike. They are really without identity. What goes on here? I think that the whole place is haunted by magic and perhaps by phantoms. I cannot find any explanation for what I see and witness. Am I in the magic world of fairy-tales?? I think that this is an absurd world. I cannot understand it. This place is full of riddles and nothing else. What do you think of that? Is this a normal world?" Amr proposes a lot of questions to the waiter.

Amr speaks in a low voice as if he is whispering to himself or talking to himself. It seems that Amr is really afraid of what he is seeing in the hall of the coffee-shop. Gradually, and little by little he thinks that this is the reality. What he sees before him represents the reality.

"Sir I think that you are dreaming. Really you are dreaming. I think that you imagine things, and that you cannot see the world as it is and as I see it, we see it. I think that you are hallucinating and that you see things that do not have any actual reality. You imagine things that do not exist. You imagine some phenomenons which are totally fantastic and strange, capricious and fanciful. Look around you again and again. What do you see if you please; tell me, Sir, without delay, immediately, without giving chance to your imagination to provide you with the ideas of the answers?"

"Tell me now, what do you see in this hall of the coffee-shop? Tell me immediately without delay. All of these persons who sit on their seats, who talk to each other, who play the various games, who smoke the cigarettes, or the narghiles, are Norman human beings like you and me. Let me go, and I will bring you your cup of coffee. I am sure you might be dreaming." replied the waiter while Amr listens to him and still he is catching the hand of the young man, the waiter. He does not intend to let the waiter go. Of course, the waiter tries to liberate his hand from the grips of Amr."

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"Listen to me please before you go. I do not lie to you at all. I am not telling you from my imagination. I am telling you the truth, the reality and nothing else. I am telling you what I see around me at this particular moment. All persons here are disguising. Most probably they are putting hoods on their heads. You should believe me. I am telling the truth." declared the ex-consul categorically.

Finally, the waiter is successful in freeing himself from the grips of his interlocutor. He goes straight forward to the counter. Naturally, there and behind the counter and in a place where he could not be seen by others, the waiter tells briefly his boss all what has passed few minutes ago between him and the strange client sitting there in the middle of the hall of the coffee-shop.

The waiter tells the story of his confrontation with Amr to his boss in a hurry because he wants to go there again, in the hall, to serve the clients. Of course, and as expected, the boss gets bewildered and gets even shuddered. He gets in fact, afraid that something might happen in the coffee-shop. The boss, who is the owner of the coffee-shop, does not comment at all. He does not give any verbal reaction or comment. Although in the final analysis he gets angry and irritated. He does not know at all what to say to the waiter.

The boss goes out few steps from behind the counter and begins looking from afar at the strange client. The boss remains where he is and he does not have the intention to go to him, to Amr. From a far distance from the seat of Amr, the boss continues looking at the ex-consul.

Amr is just sitting and waiting the two players of his table who play the dominoes. From a distance, the boss thinks that the new customer of his shop could not be but a fool, nothing but an insane and nothing but a foolish. This new client is in fact delirious. He hallucinates. He is a man who suffers from some kind of mental disequilibrium. The boss of the shop continues to fabricate all of these bad impressions concerning the personality of the new client, Amr.

The cup of coffee asked by Amr has not been served yet. Amr waits patiently for his cup of coffee because he is really thirsty. Indeed he needs the glass of water more than the cup of coffee which has not been yet served and which Amr waits impatiently.

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Because of his impatience he becomes a little bit excited, uneasy, restless and watchful. Perhaps he is becoming angry, somewhat angry. But, what can he do? Nothing, nothing, this is the system and the tradition here. One has to be patient. Thus, instead of waiting for nothing he decides to look around, everywhere in the hall of the coffee-shop.

He remarks that there are a lot of things to be seen in the hall of the coffee-shop and immediately around him. But nevertheless, he sees all around him the same bizarre and peculiar creatures like before. He sees around him the same human beings who are without identity at all. However, their hands have the normal form, the normal shape. In spite of him, Amr rubs his eyes because he thinks that his eyes are suffering from some disease, from some sudden weakness. He rubs his eyes and his face just to give more life to his face and to his eye sight. He rubs again his eyes because he is seeing the same things as before: human beings without identity at all. What he sees remains as before. No change could be observed.

Really he does not believe in what the waiter has just told him. He is not imagining. He is confronting the actual and the real world. Amr gets somewhat tired. What he is confronting here inside the coffee-shop is something unexpected at all. In spite of all of that, Amr is determined not to leave the place but wants to remain till the end of the day or till the closure of the place. There is no point to escape from this place. He wants to stay till the end.

Amr notices that four of the clients are standing and are about to leave the coffee-shop. This is normal. Anybody of the clients inside the hall can leave the place at any time they choose. The time is now about to be midday. It is lunch time and it is lunch time for all the inhabitants of the Quarter of Qammar.

From his seat in the middle of the hall of the coffee-shop, Amr stares for a long time at the counter with curiosity, interest and inquisitiveness. He finds that the waiter is still talking with his boss. What do they talk about, these two devils? Perhaps, Amr says, he is telling his master many things, stories about him, about the new client, Amr. What could the boss tell the waiter about him? Would the boss ask the waiter to tell Amr that he should leave the coffee-shop immediately?

Amr decides to call the waiter as soon as he finishes his talking with the boss. In few minutes the waiter is free from the boss. The waiter carries many trays full of cups of tea and coffee as well as pots for both drinks. He goes to give them to the waiting clients. As soon as he has given all the cups of tea and coffee to the clients, he hears somebody who is asking him to come to the table where he is sitting.

Still the waiter does not know the one who calls him to come. Still he does not know that it is Amr who is calling him. As soon as he realizes that Amr calls him he goes all at once to him without any hesitation or delay. While the two players of the dominoes continue their game, Amr looks at the waiter for a long duration of time. Then he starts to speak to him nervously and with irritation and annoyance.

"Explain to me if you please why those people in the hall of the coffee-shop, Al-Kaif, are without identity at all." asks Amr the confused and the astonished waiter.

"Listen to me attentively, I have already told you that these customers are just normal human beings. Nobody here is without identity. All of them are normal men of various ages, but most of them are old, retired. Look at them, most of them are old men and are in retirement. There are very few middle aged people. All of them have their own identity and I know each of them by name and by family. Please, look around you. Everything is normal. Nothing is extraordinary, monstrous or preposterous as you are trying to imagine. Please, Sir, rub your eyes very well and try to see the reality which presents itself to you." answered the waiter bitterly and sarcastically.

At the same time, the boss and for the first time in his professional life, leaves the counter and slowly and prudently goes to where Amr is sitting and is talking with the waiter. The boss stands up there in a threatening manner.

"Tell me if you please what is going on here in the middle of the hall of the coffee-shop. This never happens here. The waiter is wasting his precious time in useless discussion with the clients. You should know that this young man is busy, and he does not have enough time to waste with you or with any other person here in this place. I think that you have noticed that he has to serve more than twenty five persons in the hall. So would you please tell me what is going on here?" said the boss of the coffee-shop angrily and furiously.

"Nothing, I assure you it is nothing of importance. We have been discussing ordinary things of life, nothing of importance." answered Amr.

Amr is almost paralyzed, terrified and horrified because of the threat and the menace of the boss, the owner of the coffee-shop. Amr resumes his talk in addressing the boss of the place.

"I want nothing, nothing. I only pose to the waiter some questions to which I do not require that he should provide me with answers. You know he is free to do whatever he likes. He can keep silent while I talk to him. Maybe I talk nonsense, maybe I am hallucinating as he thinks. I pose only questions concerning some of my observations here." said Amr to the angry boss of the place.

"What observations?? What do you mean by observations? Are you a member of the secret police or what? Are you a private detective? Are you a spy, or what? You can see everybody here is poor. All of them are either retired or unemployed. Tell me what you want. If you are not satisfied, not happy here, you can leave the place at once. Nobody obliges you to stay here any longer."

"You can leave the place at once. Go and look for another place where you would be happy and satisfied. There are many other coffee shops in this Qammar Quarter. My coffee-shop Al-Kaif is very well known in the city. You can leave at once and look for another coffee-shop. You are free. Nobody obliges you to stay here for one more minute. As you have already noticed, this quarter contains mainly coffee-shops and nothing else. All visitors of this quarter think that we have only one coffee-shop. What a strange judgment and observation." said the boss of the coffee-shop while he was looking at the face of Amr.

Amr remains in his seat calm, quiet and silent. He does not want to leave his seat or even to leave the place. He feels that he should stay here and it is here that destiny wants him to stay. He looks at the face of the boss and gets more and more terrified. In the final analysis he realizes that nobody would throw him out. After all, this place is open to all and without any exception. So he does not care to what the boss of the place says.

Actually, Amr himself did nothing for which he deserves to be thrown outside. Basically, he is a peaceful, calm and a man of tranquility. Here in this square of the poor, the Qammar Quarter, he should control himself and be very calm. He should behave very well and be nice to all without exception. Why should he fight others and violently? There is no reason at all.

Still, most important of all is that all the clients in the hall continue to behave in such a way that they give the impression that they do not care for what is going on between the three, Amr, the boss of the coffee-shop and the waiter. Everybody is totally occupied with the game which he is playing.

Beyond this particular table of the game of the dominoes no attention is given to whatever action that might take place elsewhere. A lot of talking, conversation and argumentation have been taking place in the middle of the hall but nobody cares for that and nobody is conscious that the boss of the house is engaged in a hot discussion with the new client of the coffee-shop.

All the clients are not concerned with the events that take place in the coffee-shop. Once more the boss and the waiter leave Amr to himself in thinking that he is a fool or a madman or anything similar to that. Each of the two goes to their respective work, the boss behind the counter and the waiter for taking the empty cups from the various low tables of the coffee-shop.

On the other hand, Amr commences thinking that the best thing for him to do is to leave the coffee-shop as soon as possible, and without any delay. This is already the beginning of the third hour in this place. In other words, he has spent two hours in this world of the absurd. He hesitates for a while, but he finally decides at last to leave this coffee-shop well known as the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif.

Amr stands up and discovers that he is tired although he has been sitting all the time. He calls the waiter, and the waiter comes to him. He pays to the waiter for the cup of coffee which he has taken while he has been sitting on the straw seat. He gives a tip to the waiter although it is not the tradition here to give tips.

After that Amr walks towards the door, the exit of the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif. He goes calmly and prudently. When he becomes outside the coffee-shop he turns back. He wants to have a look inside the coffee-shop which is crowded with so many persons without identity.

When Amr looks inside he is totally surprised and astonished to find all the people inside the coffee-shop to be normal and ordinary human being. What an unimaginable and an unbelievable surprise which he sees in front of him.

All the faces of the clients are normal with eyes, ears, noses and mouths. What a strange world! All people of all ages are nothing but ordinary human beings. Each man has his own personal identity. Therefore, and as a consequence of this change, Amr finds himself in a very complex situation and full of ambiguity. He could not give any explanation to what has been happening to him during the last two or three hours. He cannot find any explanation to the whole complex situation. What should he do? And where would he go?

For a moment Amr feels that he is lost, completely lost. He has to go to his house. For a while he considers the possibility of re-entering the hall of the coffee-shop for verifying the reality of the situation. He wants to discover where the men without identity have disappeared.

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

But finally he feels that something pushes him in his back. He does not know at all who is pushing him in his back. Of course, he does not wait at all to discover who is or who has been pushing him. Amr, indeed, begins to walk towards the bus-stop. He waits here for few minutes while sitting on the bench found in the bus-stop.

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At last, there, the bus is coming. Amr could read from a distance on the bus the words 'the Quarter of the Rich'. So this is his bus and he is happy that he is in his way back to his villa and to his servant Abdu and to his veranda and to his bedroom.

It is now midday or maybe a little bit more than that when Amr puts his feet on the doorsteps of his house which is shining before him. He cannot believe himself that he is about to enter his paradise. His heart is beating fast and loud because of his excitement and his joy.

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The door, the main gate to the house, is wide open as if all what is inside the house is welcoming his return and his arrival safe and sound from today's adventure.

There, a little bit inside the door, or more exactly behind it, stands his servant Abdu with a shining and a smiling face. Naturally, Amr becomes overwhelmed with delight and exultation the moment he sees his servant standing inside the walls of the house waiting for him. The master of the house does not hesitate at all to smile in return for the smile of his ephebe. Amr is glad to be back to see the totality of his residence guarded and served by the youthful and the faithful Abdu.

The servant is waiting the return of his master. Of course, Abdu does not know exactly the time of the return of the master. Anyhow, and in any case, the faithful servant, Abdu does not expect at all that his master would return from his adventure at noon, or around midday. So the arrival of the master of the house, Amr, is a complete surprise for the domestic who has been waiting for his master on the doorsteps of his house. The servant was extremely pleased to see his master.

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