I always find it impossible to predict the gifts a place will give. Egypt gave me something that I could never have asked for. She gave me a name.
It begins with the horses. Not just any horses, our guide informed us, Arabian horses. Of course they would only give us the mild and gentle ones; not the horses that could dance or pull embellished carriages. My horse was called Whiskey. As we trekked through the large northern desert, the enduring monuments of Egypt were fixed just on the horizon. The end of the day was just beginning and I adjusted my scarf around my head to battle the chilly breeze. I held Whiskey’s reigns with hands decorated in Turkish rings. I began to remember the events that had delivered me to this moment.
Overwhelmed with calmness, I took a deep breath and for a moment could smell the freshness of the Red Sea. My snorkel kept catching water and my arms and legs were covered in tiny bumps that reminded me that it was far too cold to be swimming. The sea whispered to me and I listened. I began to run; I ran from the sea, through the sand, and along the mountains. Mecca was in front of us, and the mountains of Moses lay behind us. I allowed my memories to leap from one to the next, the way the past naturally dances through the mind.
Leaning out of the window of the taxi, the sweet smelling sugar cane moved gently with the subtle breeze. I awoke that morning, with the call to prayer bouncing loudly around my room. It seemed to fill every corner, beckoning me out of my warm bed. And I let it. I wondered if I would still like the sound if I understood its meaning. That sleep felt heavy, like it was the deepest sleep I have ever had. Although, deep sleeps always seem to fight each other, all wanting to wear the crown of the deepest sleep. Of course there is no way to know for sure. My dreams had been loud ones; the kind that stay in your head until the first conversation of the morning fills your ears.
My thoughts sailed through my mind like our little boat on the river that runs north. I looked at the line where the river and the sky met. The sky held a low hanging haze and when the haze whispered to the water, the water responded with an impression of the haze. I wondered for a moment what the haze must think of its reflection. I wondered if it was pleased with what it saw. I most certainly was. Every point, every line, every color was arranged so perfectly, as if we were in a painting. And in that moment, I was so thankful that the artist had chosen to paint me into the scene.
In an instant, only the time required for a wink, I was drawn out of my mind and back into the desert by our guide. He began calling to my sister, using a name that only barely resembled her own. The last glimmer of light that the sun had to give, caught one small green jewel on my ring, and I allowed that moment to lead me back into my mind.
I thought for a moment that I could taste the redness of the hibiscus tea that a shop owner had brewed for us. Beautiful things were all around us. Descending from the ceiling were glimmering glass ornaments. The shelves were filled with brass lamps and candlestick holders. He had placed a tray of Turkish jewelry in my lap. This is for you. I wondered if he knew something about me that I did not. The warmth of the tea on my tongue, allowed my body to melt into the small sofa.
I remembered what it felt like when I first washed my hair in Egypt. It was gritty and sandy to the touch. Everything was. A layer of dust was just a way to tell the time. As things grow old, they collect dust. And I thought that perhaps this is why Egypt felt so timeless. Everything was dusty, as if the entire land was a shop that sold curiosities from the past. The hourglass had broken and had scattered the sands of time in every place it would reach. And some of it had found its way onto me.
In a rather unnatural manner, my mind jumped from the dust to the sea. Confused, my mind skidded between memory and reality. And then I heard the guide shout. Marina! I responded. Yes! He continued to call me Marina and I continued to respond. He seemed to be calling from beyond himself, and I was answering from deeper than within. And there was something about this bizarre pattern that revealed something. Egypt had given me a name.
I was covered in her dust, I was hearing her call, all while I was breathing her air. I felt for a moment, that I was becoming part of her. And there was something about it all that felt so permanent.
What is your name? My name is Marina. What will you name be tomorrow? My name will be Marina.