Wednesday, 5 August 2015


I have lived in Egypt for three years. It has been a turbulent time, both for me and for  the country. Shortly before leaving I sat on a hotel roof in Zamalek above the Nile reflecting on my departure. This poem emerged from these thoughts - a rag-bag of impressions,  sadness, irritation and affection. It was written very quickly and I have left it more, or less, as scribbled. It's an attempt to express something  of how I feel about the country that has given me so much, and taken so much. 

Like a lover, Egypt, you have broken my heart so many times
I ate your sand, your molakeya, your dates.
Your hot winds burned me.
I plunged your Red Sea
touched its coral gardens, 

 its brash neon fish,
watched stars sink into your  deserts,
hid behind doors 

when your people marched – one voice in chains,
caught hems on barbed wire nests,
walked with cats through silent curfews
around barriers up, your guns pointing.
In twilight's pale, I watched your pigeons,
unfolding flocks, wheel home -
that place where love and grief is.
Heard your old gods calling
from their broken shrines.
“Kefayah, kefayah.”

I swam your Nile,
lay in its arms
all night afloat,
dived its drinking dark.
You took me in.

Travelling south, the long roads,
scent of Africa- a perfumed bride

among the palms.
Heard your music in the reeds,
enchantment in the oud,
a woman chanting on a roof,
the squeal of brakes,
a timeless, tuneless adhan.

Walked unlit streets with my landless love.
Watched your dogs feast
 on old falafel, chips and bones,
curl on car roofs,
bark: This is our place.
Our home. Coming and going
like prayers from a minaret.

Where else can we go?