THE LITTLE GIRL AND THE SPHINX
By Suzy Kassem
The school bus struggled through the congested streets of Cairo like an old donkey shaking on its last leg. A heart-wrenching love song by Abdel Halim Hafez blazed proudly through the bus’ abrasive speakers, as the doped up driver with the apricot-colored eyes busied himself serenading one of the younger teachers, who kept blushing back at him through the rear view mirror.
Pouting in the back of the bus, Seham could feel the stars racing around her little heart – growing in size and intensity. Unable to contain the electricity of her emotions, the little girl fluttered around the confines of her seat like a restless caged bird. Her heart was telling her Abu Huwl was very close, and ever since he first appeared in her dreams, Seham’s heart wanted nothing more than to meet with Abu Huwl in person.
The journey had been long and tortuously slow. The flies circling above the girl’s head formed a buzzing black halo, and the hot breath of the sun’s crippling afternoon heat had showered her skin with tears. Distant, yet focused, Seham gazed out her window with eyes brimming wide with anticipation. She had experienced so much suffering just waiting to get to the destination, that she had questioned herself many times throughout the journey – is the destination really worth so much suffering?
Without warning, the bus shook to an abrupt halt at the center of a concrete island. An officer in a white uniform quickly climbed aboard the vehicle, scanned the faces of the student passengers, then scribbled on a small ticket and handed it to the driver. Upon disembarking from the vehicle, he ordered the driver to silence the scratchy crooning from the radio, then waved for him to pass. As the bus slowly crawled away from the security checkpoint and into the gates of the Great Pyramids of Giza, a magnetic current instantly rippled throughout the girl’s body like a branch of lightning.
At the first sight of the gigantic triangles towering like gods before them, the children started jumping and screaming with excitement. Everywhere Seham looked, people of all races were staring up at the same blocks of history with eyes as curious as her own. Men glided by her bus window riding majestic camels adorned in colorful neon tassels. Children with sun-kissed bronze skin, much younger than her 7-years, ran around barefoot on the hot desert sand, waving necklaces and postcards to the swarms of tourists buzzing around the plateau like cautious picnic flies.
Seduced by the energy of life humming outside her window, Seham ignored her classmates scrambling to file off the bus. Busy searching for Abu Huwl’s outline in the distant horizon, she detected a small group of teachers gathering in the corner of her left eye, just below her open window.
“Did they ever find any of the children?” demanded a pencil-thin teacher with an Alexandrian accent.
“None!” replied a heavyset woman, fanning herself from the heat with a gossip magazine.
“Then how could they still allow us to bring our students?” protested another teacher. “We have far too many students and not enough teachers!”
“There has never been any evidence that the Pyramids are to blame!” shouted a faceless voice in the group.
A veiled woman with henna-stained fingertips lashed back,”Well, how would they find any evidence…if a child was swallowed by quicksand, or the swiveling stone of a pyramid?”
“May God protect and keep an eye on our children,” muttered the Alexandrian.
“These could all be rumors!” intervened the eldest woman in the group. She flashed the veiled woman a scorching glare before continuing, “We will never know the truth, until we go to the source for the truth!”
The group fell silent in thought for a moment, until a bored bus driver chimed in, “It would be bad press for Egypt if news got out that our children have been disappearing without a trace around the plateau,” he informed them. “It would kill our tourism!”
“So we must sacrifice our own children?” asked a soft-spoken woman, adjusting the pin of her bright floral hijab.
Immediately the women returned to silence. After a minute or so, the Alexandrian teacher repeated, “May God protect and keep an eye on our children.”
“May God protect and keep an eye on our children,” the women all replied in unison, then quickly scattered off like ants in the direction of their students.
Seham watched the women disperse, then slouched back into the warm crevice of her seat to reflect on the news she had just heard. She couldn’t believe children could disappear in front of so many eyes. Swiveling stones? Quicksand? She wasn’t going to believe anything based on the words of even her eldest teachers! After her visit with Abu Huwl, she knew her heart would be closer to knowing the truth!
The girl searched under her seat for a bag of cactus pears that she had stashed away from the flies, and scurried off the bus. Looking in every direction for her classmates, she spotted the group heading towards the entrance line of the Great Pyramid. Seham started in their direction, but stopped at the sight of a bearded man dressed in a brown galabaya and white prayer skullcap, studying her from a distance.
“Where is your mother or teacher, ya bint?” the old man called out to her.
Seham continued walking, pretending not to hear him.
“HEY!” the man shouted in a voice filled with authority. “No children are allowed to walk around here without supervision!”
Frightened, the girl quickened her pace. Shaking his head disapprovingly, the man began trudging towards her, while announcing bitterly, “We will have to take you to the security station until someone comes looking for you!”
Seham immediately panicked at his words. How could she waste more time sitting around waiting to be claimed in a station, when she had already spent two hours trapped on oven hot bus? No! She had already come this far just to see Abu Huwl, and she wasn’t leaving until she met with her heart’s greatest desire!
Without wasting another second, Seham ran like the wind towards the direction of Abu Huwl. The man chased her as she darted across the desert, and when she turned her head to see how far back he was, his tiny body waved back at her like a beetle in a vast oasis.
When the little girl stumbled into two policemen on horseback, she quickly waved her lunch bag high in the air and screamed, “Cactus pears! Buy three for one pound! Cactus pears! Buy three for one pound!”
If Seham had let on that she was a student, they would have insisted on carrying her back to the station. Instead, mistaking her for a peddler, the policemen shooed her away like a diseased fly. Jumping towards freedom, the girl hurled herself down a big sand dune that whisked her to the bottom of the Giza plateau. Struggling back up on her feet, Seham staggered to regain her balance. Then she turned to gather her bag of cactus pears that had scattered from her hands during her tumble.
Over several mounds of sand, Seham could see Abu Huwl’s head appear in the near distance. Instantly, a carousel of a million flashing lights started spinning around inside her little body. The girl ran to her beloved with laughter singing from her heart.
When she arrived at a metal gate with a long line of tourists waiting in front of it, Seham quickly attached herself to a group of Danish visitors, and swept through the entrance unnoticed. She then ran up a small ramp that led to herds of more tourists, and at the center of all the clicking, humming, and buzzing — there was Abu Huwl.
“Abu Huwllllllllllllllll!!” she screamed out as she rushed to greet him. “Abu Huwl! Abu Huwl! It’s me, Seham, Abu Huwl!”
A crowd of students and foreigners stopped to stare at the little girl shouting at the Sphinx.
“Abu Huwl! Abu Huwl! It’s me, Seham!” she cried again.
She took a step back to examine the gigantic lion, and eagerly waited for a reply. She studied his eyes and the curves in his smile for a sign of recognition. But when nothing arrived, a wave of sadness suddenly washed over her. Staring into the Sphinx’s eyes, an icy lump began to form in the hollowest pit of her throat. How could he forget her? It was Seham!
Perhaps she was not presentable to meet the Sphinx, the girl thought. “It’s me, Abu Huwl,” she whispered in despair. Then she dropped her head and pouted.
As she waited with faith that Abu Huwl would receive her, Seham noticed warm rivers of nectar leaking all over her hands and dress. She looked down to find a hole in her bag of cactus pears, and the desert heat had turned her fruit to stew. Gazing at the puddles of juice growing in size around her shoe, an image of her mother immediately came to her mind.
That morning, her mother had pricked herself with a thorn from one of the fruit’s sleeves just to quench her daughter’s thirst under the scorching sun. Seham felt that, even if her cactus pears were no longer in a presentable condition – they were still filled with love. She then began to think of a place where she could leave Abu Huwl her bounty, when suddenly she heard a strong voice cut through her thoughts and say to her:
“My pupil, forgive me for not greeting you more formally. I was not sure who you were until I felt your heart, and then instantly I remembered you.”
Seham looked around her, studying face after face to see who it was that was addressing her. She spun around and around, yet nobody seemed to be aware of her presence.
“My pupil, forgive me for startling you, but it is me, your Abu Huwl. I speak to you through your thoughts the same way I speak through your dreams,” he explained.
Seham stared up at Abu Huwl with recognition. “Abu Huwl! I knew you would not forget me!”
The lion chuckled. “Every good teacher remembers their shiniest pupils. It is how they benchmark their success. However, your heart will always make you memorable, shining one. A memorable heart is the easiest way to immortality.”
The girl paused for a moment before asking, “But what if my heart becomes ugly when I get older, under conditions beyond my control? Will you remember me then?”
“If you do not remember who you really are, then nobody will remember the real you. Your circumstances will be taken into consideration, but your conscience will weigh more than your circumstances. Your experiences and environments shape you every day, and how you react to these struggles is who you become. If your heart becomes ugly, never blame it on circumstance. Blame it on not listening to your conscience. Doing good is not the same as being good. The Creator has planted truth in us all and you can access it like a computer, every day, just by tapping into your conscience. The key to being good is simply by listening to your conscience.”
The girl asked, “How do I tap into IT?”
“Just imagine what Truth looks like, or ask for her – and your conscience will respond.”
“Can I try it now?”
“Sure,” encouraged the Sphinx, “Tell me what Truth looks like.”
“I don’t know,” Seham replied truthfully.
“Good girl!” praised the Sphinx. “Instead of exaggerating an image in your mind to satisfy your ego, you simply stated you didn’t know. You did the right thing by tapping into your heart. Your heart is your conscience. Truth is recognized first from the heart.”
“My heart understands your language, even if I don’t understand all the words, Abu Huwl!” said the girl.
“And that is why you can hear me, divine child. Your heart recognizes truth.”
“Then tell me,” her heart inquired, “Why do I feel in my heart that all that is painted ugly to be truly beautiful, and all that is painted beautiful to be really ugly?”
“What do YOU consider to be beautiful?” the Sphinx asked.
“The woman who sells us tangerines is kind and generous with her fruit. She’s also very tender to her donkey and will carry heavy baskets of fruit up a steep hill just to relieve his tired legs from making the trip. She keeps to herself, but will sometimes share her colorful stories with me. My heart tells me her light is pure, but what others are saying contradicts what my heart is feeling.”
“And are these people speaking from the boredom in their minds, or from the truth in their hearts?” questioned the Sphinx.
“I don’t know,” Seham confessed. Quickly, her mind drifted back to the group of teachers chatting like chickens behind the bus. They were so busy gossiping about missing children, that they had neglected and abandoned their own!”
“One who gossips usually carries boredom in one hand, and bitterness in the other,” the Sphinx remarked knowingly. “Never judge someone’s character based on the words of another. Instead, study the motives behind the words of the person casting the bad judgment. An honest woman can sell tangerines all day and remain a good person until she dies, but there will always be naysayers who will try to convince you otherwise. Perhaps this woman did not give them something for free, or at a discount. Perhaps too, she refused to stand with them when they were wrong – or just stood up for something she felt was right. And also, perhaps some bitter women are envious of her, or maybe she rejected the advances of some very proud men. Always trust your heart, child. If the Creator stood before a million men with the light of a million lamps, only a few would truly see him because truth is already alive in their hearts. Truth can only be seen by those with truth in them. He who does not have Truth in his heart, will always be blind to her.”
Seham asked anxiously, “Do you think I have Truth in my heart, Abu Huwl?”
The Sphinx paused to choose his words carefully, then proceeded in a voice as regal as his appearance, “Only if you put Truth in your every word and action, then Truth will always remain in you.”
The girl smiled at his words. She beamed at the validation of a truth her heart already knew.
“Tell me the truth about you, Abu Huwl. I want to know everything!”
The lion chuckled again, and then sighed. “First, you can get my name right,” he cautioned lightly. “My true name is Abu Huwa, Father of HE WHO IS, also known as Abu Kul, Father of ALL. The Egyptians of your time merged my two names into one to become Abu Huwl, and by removing two letters, the meaning of my name quickly changed to Father of TERROR.”
“So it is TRUE! You kill people!” the girl cried.
“No!” the Sphinx snapped back, “But your people kill language! And when they destroy language, they destroy meaning. One letter can change the meaning of an entire word. And one misinterpreted word can destroy the entire world! Never underestimate the power of a word, or a single letter, and never accept a single translation without first dissecting the meaning yourself!”
“I’m sorry, Abu Huwa! That’s the name I was taught at school! It’s also the name they give you in all the books! The Westerners call you the SPHINX!”
“Yes! A friendlier name than that of a terrorist! Can you imagine what it’s like for me to sit here all day and hear my own people point up at me and call me the Father of Terror? At times, I really wish I could spit fire and fly! The carelessness and ignorance of the people of your time have allowed Truth to be manipulated! By doing so, they have allowed language to remain a barrier between brothers! Language is a powerful tool to shine Truth…and also to distort her!”
The girl fell silent and kicked her shoe in the sand until an idea came to her mind. “We are taught two languages at school, Abu Huwa. Arabic and French,” she confided. “Tomorrow, I will tell the teachers in my class to change your name to Abu Huwa in both languages so people in different countries know the true meaning of your name!”
Delighted, the Sphinx laughed with nobility. “You are a bright spirit, little one. Understanding languages and other cultures creates bridges. It is the fastest way to bring the world closer together and to Truth. Through understanding, people will be able to see their similarities before differences!”
“But Abu Huwa, everyone in Heliopolis speaks the same language, but they don’t really understand each other. Every day they are fighting!”
“Do these people speak the same language of the heart… or the language of the EGO?”
“I’m not sure. What is the EGO?” the girl asked.
“The ego is what drives a self-serving individual who hates to admit they are wrong.”
“Yes! They are all like that. They all have to be right all the time!”
“Then they do not speak the language of the heart. If they do not pass thoughts through their hearts, they act without a conscience. The universal language that was designed to be understood by all humans is LOVE. However, as simple as it may seem, many people do not understand it. Most people ignore their conscience by battling it with reason, and that is why injustice and ignorance thrive in your world.”
“I wish everyone understood LOVE, Abu Huwa. Then there would be no war! They are also saying children have disappeared around the pyramids. Is this TRUE?”
“My divine child, more children have disappeared at the hands of your politicians and religious leaders in one year than I have seen in these sands for a thousand years. What does your heart tell you?”
Biting her lip, Seham hesitated before replying, “It tells me to go find the families that have reported missing children and listen to their stories! Maybe they’re making up these accusations to get paid like everyone else around the pyramids?”
“Very good, child!” praised the Sphinx. “Always go to the source before you make an assumption. Assumptions are quick exits for lazy minds that like to graze out in the fields without bother. A wolf never assumes. He studies, researches, and calculates. We must become like wolves when dissecting Truth. After all, it is the work of wolves that is erasing her. Study nature, divine child. Every creature was intended to teach the rest something about ourselves.”
“So we must become like animals?”
“No, but every creature was designed to serve a purpose. Learn from animals for they are there to teach you the way of life. One major mistake your people have made is failing to recognize the wealth of knowledge that is openly accessible in nature. Your ancestors knew this and embraced the natural cures found in the bosoms of the earth. Their classroom was nature. They studied the lessons to be learned from animals. Much of human behavior can be explained by watching the wild beasts around us. They are constantly teaching us things about us and the way of the universe, but most people are too blind to watch and listen.”
“So what can I do, Abu Huwa?”
“Work on making yourself a complete being. Though you were born with the physical traits of one sex, you possess the characteristics of both – including those of plants and animals. You were created as a nearly complete universal being, but with flaws. True perfection can only be achieved when one recognizes that they need to combine their oneness with others – AND nature. Only then is one considered complete.”
“How should I begin?” inquired the girl.
“Study the behavior of animals and you will understand human psychology and sociology. Study a flower excited under sunlight, and you will understand how all living things respond to light. The Almighty has provided everything in nature. Observe nature and you will grow. The cures of all illnesses are found in nature in the shapes of the body parts they were created to cure,” the Sphinx replied.
“I do not feel worthy of all this knowledge, Abu Huwa. Why did you choose to come into my dreams, and not those of the other kids at school?”
“Your heart has a powerful little antenna and its pulses and vibrations can be felt throughout the universe. At your young age, you stand up for Truth and use your conscience to see that justice always prevails, even if it leads to grueling consequences or personal sacrifices. You never fail to use your heart. Again, your heart is your key to immortality. Keep a good heart and all that is anything and everything will remember you,” said the Sphinx.
“But my father remembers all the bad stuff I do, and never the good stuff. Is this how he will remember me?”
“You are born with a blank canvas. Your father will be graded for guiding you throughout your youth based on his conscience. When you reach adulthood, his grading period ends. This is instinctive knowledge which was planted in the human conscience by the Creator. Many parents are not aware that they will be held accountable for the actions of their children until they mature. Your father is more aware than the rest.”
“What about your family, Abu Huwa? Are you an orphan?” the girl very innocently asked the lion.
“My father and your father are one and the same. However, I do have a brother who has stood as my mirror throughout time on the opposite horizon. It is I who faces east, but it is he who faces west. I am the recorder of yesterday and he holds the records of tomorrow. I am the positive, and he is my negative. I carry the right eye of the sun and he carries the left eye of the moon. He keeps his eye on the underworld and I keep an eye on the world over. Together we have joined the sky and earth, and split fire and water.”
Seham stood on all toes to peek over the Sphinx’s shoulder for a sign of his brother. “Where is he?” she asked, her eyes still searching the open horizon.
“He has yet to be uncovered, but as I stand above the sands of time, he still sleeps below. Before the descent of Adam, we have both stood as loyal Protectors of the Two Halls of Truth.”
The girl asked in astonishment, “I’ve never heard of these halls, Abu Huwa. Where are they?”
“At the end of each of our tails is a passage that will reveal to you the secrets of Time. One hall reflects a thousand truths, and the other hall reflects all that is untrue. One will speak to your heart, and the other will speak to your mind. This is why you need to use both your heart and mind to understand which one is real, and which is a distorted illusion created to misguide those that have neglected their conscience. Both passageways connect you to the Great Hall of Records.”
“What is the Hall of Records?”
“The Great Pyramid, my child. It is as multidimensional in its shape as it is in its purpose. Every layer and every brick marks the coming of a prophet, the ascension of evil, or another cycle of man. It contains the entire history and future of mankind. And, as is above, so is below. Above ground, it serves as the most powerful energy source to harmonize and power the world! The shape of the pyramid above ground is also the same image mirrored beneath it. Underground, it serves as a powerful well and drain. This is really why Egypt is called the Land of Two Lands. There exists a huge world of its own underneath the plateau…a world within worlds. Large amounts of gold and mercury were once housed here, including the secrets of Time, the 100th name of God, and a gift from Truth that still awaits to be discovered. It sleeps with Time in the Great Pyramid, hidden away in a lower shaft that leads to the stars.”
As Seham listened attentively, she could feel her heart beating fast like the wings of a hummingbird. “Can you tell me what it is?” she pleaded anxiously, “My heart really wants to know!”
“If I told you now, nobody would believe you. And you will only end up turning against Truth after being ridiculed. Truth never means to imprison you – only to set you free. And this truth is meant to validate something you already know in your heart. However, it will be revealed before the eyes of all men at the right time.”
Following a moment of reflection, Seham dropped her shoulders and began to pout. She felt so close to Truth, and now she was going to have to wait some more!
The Sphinx sighed submissively before remarking, “Have you not learned by now, my truth-loving student, that the journey to Truth is not a short and easy one?”
Upon hearing these words, a stream of moving pictures began flashing at the front of the girl’s mind. In one image, Seham could see the lazy bus driver slumped over in his seat – in no rush to get anywhere. In another image, she saw the annoying flies twirling above her head like tiny helicopters. Then in another flash, she saw herself being chased by the bearded man and the two policemen. And finally, she sighed with a smile when she saw her body tumbling down the big sand hill. Right away, a refreshing breeze of freedom swept over her, leaving the corners of her mouth turned upward to form an all-knowing smile. The journey was full of suffering, but meeting Abu Huwa was well worth it!
Unable to control her desire to know more, she blurted to the Sphinx, “I want to know the Truth about you, Abu Huwa! I want to know who you really are and why you were put here!”
The Sphinx paused for some time to admire Seham’s craving for knowledge and to evaluate his pupil. He knew that her heart would understand his words years before her mind, but in time, reason would make her forget everything.
“Only because you ask from your heart, I will speak to you through mine,” Abu Huwa assured her, “And until my mirror is found, I shall speak without polarities.” He stopped to adjust the tone of his speech before continuing with pride, “I mark the starting point of Time before Time began. I am the guardian of Truth and the keeper of Time’s secrets. I have watched the world through the ages with water halfway at my pupils, as my gaze once measured the Nile…and the character and integrity of leaders from every nation. The King of creation himself once stood at my paws reciting the laws of the cosmic universe, and so did his many suns as they arose and fell before my golden eyes. I have stood under sand and floods, and I have stood as the right eye of the horizon, watching a thousand rebirths come to light with each rising sun and filling of the moon. I was built by the sons of Huwa who were made of light and water, and was destroyed by the corruption of those made of dust. Before the men of dust, there existed the men of water, and then light. Shall I continue?”
Seham nodded without hesitation, before adding, “If you are Abu Huwa, does that mean you are the Creator?”
“No,” the lion quickly replied. “Though I share the same name as the Creator and carry his message, I am only a servant who shares his reflection. If the ego of a man should ever get so big to claim that he is the Father of All, bring him to stand before me and watch him crumble back into the sands from which he was created. He will shudder at the sight of the true reflection of the Creator! The sands that surround me are filled with the dissolved hearts of corrupted men. I am a reminder and defender of His Name and no man shall pass by me to enter through the tongue of God, without first activating pure intention in his heart. The heart is what decodes His knowledge. A black heart will understand nothing.”
“If I brought my brother here, he would understand you. He reads me science fiction, archeology, history, and mystery books!” innocently beamed the girl.
“Ah,” sighed the Sphinx, “You do not know that when your brother reads you stories, he always changes the names of heroines into men to satisfy his male ego. And because he knows that you look up to him, he will tell you there is rat poison listed in the ingredients of a cereal box because he knows you can’t read. You didn’t know that after you left the supper table, he would return to eat your food!” snapped the Sphinx.
“I didn’t know!” the girl cried.
“People will decode laws, pictures, and words according to their own needs and benefits, not yours or for the betterment of humanity – including your brother! I am sure he is a nice child, but his heart has yet to ripen to the fullness of your own!” the lion roared.
“You know a lot of things, Abu Huwa! My teacher told me you were built by a man named Khafra, and he also built the pyramids! Is that true?”
“The sons of Adam built the pyramids with the help of only four things: salt, copper, water, and fire. It was the Creator who showed them how to split water, and it was his conscience that designed me several cycles before man was given an ego. The Great Pyramid itself is God’s greatest gift to humanity, and I stand witness that only HE created all that you see before you…with his own heart.”
The little girl sank into silence and pondered on his words in circles. Then with a burning curiosity she asked, “So you are saying you have God’s heart inside you?”
“Truth is in all of our hearts,” the Sphinx replied, “He who stands by his heart has God in him. Our conscience is what unites us with God. Always remember this, child. Truth recognizes truth. If your heart was void of truth, then you would have never been able to hear me…and I would not have been able to find you!”
“I’m so happy you found me, Abu Huwa! But I have to tell you…my teacher says I’m a poor student. It may take me longer than others to find Truth,” Seham quickly confessed, while dropping her head in shame.
“You may not understand issues that don’t pertain to the heart, but be a master in areas that do! Nobody knows EVERYTHING, and nobody can be a master of everything. Nobody was created perfect, and nobody should be measured according to perfection. As a student of Truth, you are an excellent pupil! Because your heart is open to receive Truth, you are already the right student. Even if you never find Truth, your heart is true in its search. It is the weight of your heart that matters the most in the end, child. All else is irrelevant.”
Seham nodded attentively. Her heart was begging for more. There was so much she wanted to know and not enough time. Knowing she had to be more selective with her questions, she hesitated a moment before asking, “What about you, Abu Huwa? Where do you learn your knowledge?”
The Sphinx let out a long yawn before answering in a hushed tone, “Do not forget, child, that I am a reflection of the Almighty. I have stood listening to the maddening of man for thousands of years! I cannot say I know all, but I can mirror what I know from His conscience.” The lion stopped to yawn again before adding, “Do you have any last questions for me, little light? Your teacher and classmates are approaching.”
“Yes! Just one,” the girl replied.“What should I tell my classmates about you?”
“Tell them my true name and let them know who I really am. Let them know that I am part lion, with the breast of a bull and the heart of a mother. I am also part man and part eagle. My wings have faded with time way before the creation of the Two Lands. And opposite my brother, I am Leo, Taurus, Aquarius, and Scorpio. I am the sign of Ages and the Protector of He Who is the Lion of Judah, the Bull of God, the Son of Man and the Eagle of Immortality. I am a reflection of the heart of the Creator. Will you remember me, my dear Seham, when you grow older and fight me with reason?”
“Yes! My heart will keep your memory alive! Will you return to my dreams?”
“I will be at your call whenever you wish to awaken.”
“Then I wish to never sleep!”
“Then you will never know when you have awoken!” the Sphinx roared. And with that final sentence, his voice abruptly faded from her mind and crawled into the treasure chest of her heart.
Snapping back into her animated reality, Seham felt as though she had just stepped out of a liberating dream. She was now back in tune with the living world around her, but, as she observed the sea of people moving slowly like zombies around her, she felt for a brief moment that she was the only one truly awake amongst the living.
Shouting loudly above her head, an Italian tour guide waves his hand over the silhouette of the Sphinx as he recites his version of history to a large group of distracted teenagers. Mesmerized by the attention given to her great teacher, Seham did not notice the approaching mob of Japanese tourists, that had been observing her vibrant display of charades during her conversation with the Sphinx.
“Can I take your picture?” inquired a small Japanese women holding a large, sophisticated camera.
Seham bobbed her head in agreement, blushing boldly until the hills on her cheeks revealed two rosy red apples. Then she summoned all her courage to say to the woman, “If you teach me how to say it in your language, then you can take as many pictures as your heart dreams!”
“Ah, OK!” the woman agreed happily. She then pulled herself closer to the girl, and stared directly into Seham’s eyes.
“Shashin WO…” she started.
“SHASHIN W-OU…” Seham repeated.
“SHASHIN WO….TORA-SETE ITADAKE-MASENKA?”
The woman pronounced her words slowly and tenderly, waiting patiently for the girl to follow. Seham noticed the woman’s care in addressing each sound delicately and with precision. In a flash of a second, her heart told her it wanted to learn more about Japan and its kindhearted people.
It took the girl a moment to digest her words before proudly mirroring the phrase to perfection, “Shashin wo torasete itadakemasenka?” Seham pronounced bashfully, on behalf of all the students of Egypt.
The woman flashed the girl a brilliant smile that contained a million words, and the girl reflected a smile back which revealed a million more. Seham quickly dug into her bag of mushed fruit and innocently pulled out a juicy pear to share with her new friend.
Pointing to it, Seham carefully explained to her, “Teen choky.”
She then extended her hand to present the fruit to the cheerful woman, and continued to break her words further down into three parts, “TEEN- CHO-KEE”.
The woman happily accepted the fruit and repeated its pronunciation three times. Then she swallowed the pulp in one bite, wiped both her hands clean, and proceeded to snap pictures of the happy child, beaming with pride in front of the Sphinx.
Before running off to find her classmates, Seham quickly turned to wave goodbye to Abu Huwa. As she stared admiringly into the eyes of her great teacher with love streaming like the Nile from the horizon of her heart, the sun bounced its reflection off the tip of the Great Pyramid and instantly a bright door of light opened in each of her eyes. Blessed with solar vision, and a new stellar perspective, the little girl caught a quick glimpse of the lion’s radiant smile.
(c) Copyright 2010, 2011 Suzy Kassem. All Rights Reserved.
Taken from my book, “RISE UP AND SALUTE THE SUN”