[Novel] The Road to Shamawes ⑮

When Hisham left the café he looked a different person. Omar’s amusing anecdotes and jokes, bold views and sarcastic words, Terter’s hookah smoke, cardamon-added coffee, the crowded café noise made Hisham forget or ignore the person he invited to see, Omar.

He doesn’t regard himself as spoilt as he is known in the family. Everybody says he is born with a silver spoon in his mouth. A policeman in his service carrying his school bag all school years. Recommendations from everywhere. Presents for the last born child. Unlimited spending money. But all that without consulting him. He lived all that without wishing it. He doesn’t find in it more than what he deserves. The children of mechanics, tinsmiths and tilers are his equals when it comes to money. And that a policeman used to carry his bag was a disadvantage and the scorn of his fellow school children for being too weak to carry it alone, something that involves his masculinity.

His late mother was the only one who understood him. He repeatedly told her he didn’t want to join the Police Academy, and she urged his father to satisfy his son’s desire. Hisham was fully aware of his father’s suffering, night duties and days-long missions even during holidays. He’s now following a track he doesn’t like. His father’s handling of issues doesn’t work today, so he can’t be in his father’s shoes.” He is letting him down again and plans to leave him to get married at his old age.

Here was a smell of Arabian jasmine coming from the fast car. He tried to regain his calm on Omar’s advice:
“You lead your own life. Forget your father. Live your life the way you like. Why do you want to live in the villa? You won’t be free there. Your father has enough money to buy a new villa in the new cities where you’ll be free for two or three years until you get married.”

Omar was speaking out of experience. He lives alone, and his friends in the Vice Squad exchange prostitutes as they do playing cards. He has a flat in Al-Rehab City which nobody knows what he does there. He rarely sees his family. But Hisham doesn’t want to follow his father’s footsteps, nor does he want to be like Omar. He wants to be himself and lead an ordinary life. That’s why he’ll propose to Donia, and whatever will be will be.


Having married Sabah, Master Sayyid Morsi moved from down town Cairo to Shamawes. He first saw her with her father the guard of the building where his shop is – a small shoe – making shop. Business was good until dumped Chinese goods filled Cairo’s streets – cheap shoes, all-purpose appliances and products. Small shops were forced to close as their owners were unable to pay the rent, let alone taxes and ever-increasing fees collected under haphazard laws targeting those miserable people alone.

Master Sayyid’s proposal of marriage was accepted, and as soon as he started furnishing a room behind the shop as their marital home, the landlord obtained an order to demolish the building on the pretext that it was tumbledown, and Master Sayyid was thrown into the street to earn his living. Neither man was sure who was a bad omen: the bridegroom whose conditions deteriorated following the engagement, or the father who lost his job after the Master’s engagement to his daughter. However, they accepted their common fate. Sabah’s father found he had to bear with the bridegroom, otherwise Sabah would be a spinster. He proposed to his daughter and share their home in Shamawes and open a small shoe repair shop for the inhabitants of the village as a substitute for the very expensive new shoes and unsuitable Chinese shoes.

His friends often say he resembles Saad Zaghloul, for which he was very happy. He is now a Wafdist in letter and spirit. The Master’s cheerfulness combined with his wide reading. He has been keen on reading since childhood, and he used to say he is an old Wafdist, which led him to say he is an old politician, but he is not involved in politics now. Whenever he hears an item of news he remembers how Saad Zaghloul handled that issue, and what Elnahhas Pasha’s reaction was, and what Serageddin would say if he experienced that event, and so on.

Master Sayyid regarded his young neighbour Emad Kamal an ideal friend, in spite of difference in thought and age. Fuad, the Master’s youngest son, admired Emad deeply and often sat with him. He used to see his father bring a small copper coffee pot and gently pour coffee into two coffee cups like pouring gold leaves and spend many evenings together. When Fuad went to Saudi Arabia to work as a sales representative for a company there, Sayyid found in Emad an alternaive to his asent son.

When Emad left Viola’s villa he knew that his uncle Nabil would not share his ideas. He felt a strong urge to hurry to Sayyid’s shop and speak to him from his heart. Accordingly, as soon as Emad and his uncle arrived at Emad mother’s and assured her that Nargis was in the hospital, Nabil went back home and told his wife a different story to ensure restful sleep even once a month. When Emad then went to Sayyid’s shop, his features revealed that he would need strong coffee, and perhaps more than one cup.

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