The men sent to attack the Ammonians, started from Thebes, having guides with them, and may be clearly traced as far as the city Oasis, which is inhabited by Samians, said to be of the tribe Aeschrionia. The place is distant from Thebes seven days’ journey across the sand, and is called in our tongue “the Island of the Blessed.” Thus far the army is known to have made its way; but thenceforth nothing is to be heard of them, except what the Ammonians, and those who get their knowledge from them, report. It is certain they neither reached the Ammonians, nor even came back to Egypt.
— from the collection of Miss Frank E. Buttolph
Franco closed his eyes for a moment, and took a deep breath. He tried to calm down the storm that bullied its way into his mind. When he finally exhaled, he opened his glazed blue eyes, and looked outside at the Mediterranean waves. They clashed over and over with the solid rocks at the bayside. He pulled at the sleeves of his jacket and looked up at the makeshift clouds.
His gaze combed the mosaic floor of the open court. Today he and his beloved Saphiya are to perform a live musical recital in the grandiose Citadel of Qaitbay in front of thousands of devoted music lovers. All the profits will be donated to the Misr El Kheir Foundation and to the Syria refugees’ fund.
One: Instagram Dreams
Sleep-deprivation is like being high. I know because I was high for a long time, then I started sleeping irregularly. It’s supposed to have something to do with lack of sugar in the brain, which is also the theory of what LSD does to consciousness. Things grow fluid and dreamlike, but at the same time there is a paranoid awareness of motion and a heaviness in the heart. Colour and sound become a lot sharper, and time feels totally irrelevant. Normal speed is fast but fast can pass for normal. A moment lasts for days, days can fit in a moment. Talking and laughing are far more involving, especially laughing. The grotesque animal implicit in each person comes out, sometimes messing up the conversation. And then it’s as if you have no body. As in the best music, an uncanny lightness balances the overriding melancholy. There is joy in flying when you don’t need to move. All through this, what’s more, every passing emotion turns into an epic experience.
The following excerpt is from Tales from the Nation’s Archive: Raya and Sakina’s Men: A social and political history, the late Salah Eissa’s vast and discursive study of the lives and the worlds of the notorious serial-killers Raya Bint Ali Al Hammam and her sister Sakina, and their husbands Hasballah Saeed Maraei and Mohammed Abdel Aal.
Raya and Sakina and their husbands were arrested in Alexandria in early 1921 on suspicion of murder and it soon became clear that they had been responsible for the disappearance of a number of women in the neighbourhood of Labban where they ran an illegal (unlicensed) brothel. They were thought to be guilty of the robbery and murder of at least seventeen women, many of whom had worked for them as prostitutes. They were hanged in 1921.
Public attention focused on the sisters: the combination of their gender and the violence, sexual promiscuity and general unashamed degradation of their lives generated a fascination which fed into the many films and plays that dealt with their murders.
The Dying of 1958 *
Not men them flaming in the rose gardens
but cubs who roared for the last time
beneath the north rains.
They shouldered history
like fruit crates borne across the mire
through the filthy schools, the brothels of the south.
I know them.
I know chivalry
the precepts flowing
over the backseats of taxis.