Ilona Sābera – portfolio

blogging, journalism, semiotics, short stories

Erased time


If one my previous reflection on political and social developments in Egypt followed Cairokee rhythm of music and lyrics, the soundtrack of this post will be Dalida. She an Italian Egyptian singer from 60-ties and 70-ties, longing for Egypt and the beauty of Alexandria.

Have you ever experienced a feeling when a certain period of time is erased from memory? When you return to a place that was once part of your well known routine and then all of a sudden the whole year spent away is shift-deleted?

This is what happened to me. Just a year ago I was living in our white painted and blue furnished flat in Alexandria (‘sha2et 7obena’), getting out in the morning and making my way into an overcrowded mashroa3 minibus from Midan el Saa3 or Clock square, according to Google map sense of humor. Spending several days a week in Agouza neighborhood of Cairo, getting out at Dokki metro station, walking through the vegetable market and buying Egyptian “borek” at a street bakery on the way. Just this time I had to walk past my street…

We take a train from Cairo to Alexandria. The same one we were taking to come back when Mohamed was working in Cairo. The train is still dusty and cold from an exaggerated air conditioning level. Between glasses of tea and sweet sellers from Tanta three hours pass quickly. Especially when a thousand of unfinished thoughts has come back again.

Our Alexandrian part of family welcomes us dearly – Mohamed’s mother, father, sister and her husband and their one year old daughter. All have their say. Molokheya, frakh, ma7shi all find their way to the table and quickly disappear. In this place dinners are eaten, children are born but we are still the same.

After dinner (or late lunch as supper is this house is served at midnight) we all go out and have a late night treat at local sweet shop. A typical week-end. We have been to the same places countless times. Tomorrow I will catch a mashroa3 for Alexandria library and Mohamed will leave for Cairo at 5 am. Just this time my mind refuses to acknowledge that my work is three thousand km away.

A year is the longest time I have spent away from Egypt. Is is common to feel like I never left? I am back in the same routine without even noticing that. It has been always easy for me to switch places and adopt quickly. Now it has been even easier. My mind did everything for me.

The most difficult part was to empty the flat. We left it as going on a holiday, covering everything with white sheets. Kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms were easily restorable to their normal look. Even plants were taken care of regularly by Mohamed’s father. Now I had to dismantle my balcony garden and give them away… I was stuck for a moment, did not knowing where to start (or refusing to do it). And then we did it. Two years of marriage fit into a dozen of boxes and bags. I still love this flat, even when it is stripped to walls. Salam, ya sha2et 7obena.

My relationship to Egypt is complicated, speaking in Facebook terms. Whenever I return to it, I want to lose myself completely. But then it drains all energy out of me as each small step requires enormous effort. It is definitely unhealthy in long term, so we are now in separation. I still naively believe time will change her and we could be together again.

3 thoughts on “Erased time

  1. While reading your article, I recalled how some friend of mine from Estonia described her feelings of her ‘erased time”: “When I come to Egypt and as soon as I enter my flat in Hurghada, Estonian life stops to exist (for me), it happens the other way round as well, as soon as I hang my coat on a peg back in Estonian flat.” :)))

    Liked by 1 person

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