Sunset Oasis

by Bahaa Taher

Amazing that a plot which follows the line of well-worn if unpredictable personal tragedy should include so much socio-political information. And not as dressing up, but as integral understanding of nineteenth century Egypt, and a clear prediction of the tensions of the Egypt of today. It will make you think twice about the legacy of British colonialism, and thrice about 'civilisation' being imposed on ethnic groups who don't want it.


I headed south towards the oasis, accompanied by a small number of soldiers and friends, and every disaster did indeed befall us on the way. The water stored in leather bags ran out two days into our journey, seeping into the sand or evaporating into the air, and the caravan was stricken with panic. Suddenly, though, rains fell from the sky, and they refilled the water skins and one of the soldiers said in excitement, 'See how the gods' concern guards Alexander from harm!', although another muttered that, on the contrary, it was the season for rains and there was no miracle in it. I smiled to myself, thinking 'Which of them is right?' Then the violent storm arose and the wind and sand scattered our cavalcade east and west, and when the wind abated and the whirlwinds moved away, we had lost our path, fatigue had ground us down, and we no longer knew which track to take.
Translated by Humphrey Davies


I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops by Hanan al-Shaykh
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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