There are two things I remember about Cairo.
The first thing I remembered was the dust. The dust was everywhere. The wind was constant when I had visited the Cairo, and it was whipping up the dust. It got into our clothes. It got into our hotel rooms. It entered my lungs and I started to cough. On some days, it blotted out the sun.
Of course, I also remembered visiting the Pyramids and the Nile, yet what stuck in my head was the dust. There is one vivid image I remember from Cairo. It was a hot, windy day and from the confines of our tour bus, I saw two boys struggling to push a cart filled with newly baked flatbread and I saw the dust falling on their load. They were selling the bread to the people out on the streets and I imagined them biting into the bread and coming away with a mouthful of dust.
The second thing I remembered was in this tiny cafe near the banks of the Nile. They served standard Arabic fare – hummus, some kofta, some kebabs. Delicious. Yet that was not what made that place stick in my mind. I had gone to the restroom to wash my hands and as I went out, there was this girl holding a box of paper towels. In halting English, she asked me if I wanted to dry my hands. I must have had my mouth open the whole time because she looked away, embarrassed.
She was gorgeous. She had these startingly expressive eyes, and they were the color of emeralds. She had this heartachingly beautiful white skin that seemed to glow under the wan light of the cafe. She looked like a princess straight of Sheherezade’s stories. I felt my mouth run dry as I clutched at the paper towels she was offering. I went back to the dinner table and I played with my food, my mind distracted from the vision I saw. I fell in love with a tissue holder.
Sometimes I think about her. Is she alright? Cairo descended into violence a few years later and I heard times were rough. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I came back to Cairo and I visited that little cafe near the Nile. Would I see her again? What would have happened if a Catholic boy from the Philippines went up to this beautiful Arabic girl? What was her name?
There is something about certain cities that make you fall in love. Paris and its lights. The baroque beauty of Prague. The heat and intensity of Rio de Janeiro. I think I have to add Cairo to that list. The Egyptian dust must have entered my heart and soul, and it caused me to be enchanted by this beautiful girl I met on the banks of Nile. Like the dust, she had permeated the tiny crevices of my mind and she had lodged herself there, never to be forgotten.