'Where do you live Mansour?' The man asked, his eyes very narrow and suspicious, not at all the best match for his big face and long features.

'I live  near the Ramlh Terminus, but hang on a minute do you have any proof that you're police?'

The two men turned to eachother with incredulity in their eyes. They were not used to such a question, their hard fearful looks and the word police were always enough to make people's knees turn to jelly. Both of them dug their hands in their back pockets and lifted their Id cards in his face. He tried to look, but too much fear-stimulated adrenaline was being pumped allover his body and his eyes couldn't focus. He pulled them gently, but firmly, from their hands and tried to read. His vision was still blurred moving from one card to the other, he could just make out the outline of the little eagle flying through the laurel wreath, the logo of the police at the top left corners of the cards. He had never held a police Id card in his hand before, the thought was distracting and scary on its own, perspiration was springing quickly at the front of his scalp and his forehead, but he tried to stay alert. His eyes were just starting to focus enough to see the initial letters of their names when the cards were snatched from his hands. He had taken too long.

'Have you seen anything unusual here on the coast?' One of the men asked.

'No, why?'

'Some kids were racing eachother, and they ran over someone earlier on the Sea Road near Rushdie. We think they might have been drunk or on drugs.' The man came very close to Mansour while talking, making out as though he were sniffing him for any traces of alcohol or weed.

'No, I have been only here for five minutes.' He said, clearly agitated, knowing that what they were saying was just a made up lie to justify their attittude towards him.

'Ok, if you see anything unusual, please report it to the station. We will appreciate your cooperation.'

'I will!' He humoured them, and they walked away looking for someone else.

It was the first time he got stopped in the street by police, he was told a lot of stories of people being stopped and mugged by the police, stopped and searched and maybe had a piece of hashish planted on them. One of his friends got taken once to the police station from a cyber café to have a crime taylored for him. The officer was after a promotion. If it wasn't for the young man's father who turned out to know one of the lieutenants that worked at the police station, he could have gone in jail for nothing. Such police raids and checks were normally carried out at night when it's easier to hunt for a victim, this time was in broad daylight, they were either getting desperate or shameless.

'Pheeeew!' Mansour was very proud of himself for holding it together, and showing enough confidence to scare them off. They must have thought he were the son of an important official or something.
The Alexandrian ancient sea wall, Alexandria, Egypt.
His thirtieth birthday was last week, he didn't have a proper party, being single, jobless and still living with his parents. His parents wanted to arrange for a small celebration but he told them that he was going out with his friends so that they don't do anything. On the day his mother gave him a jumper that she knitted for him specially for the occasion, and his father a new smart shirt to wear for any interview he gets invited to. They were poor people, but they tried to make it special for their son.

He thanked them, tried his new presents on in front of them to make them pleased. The white shirt and the cream jumper looked well together, he was sure his parents planned it together and rewarded them each with a kiss on the cheek.

"Look after yourself and have a great time!" They said as he was leaving.

"I will!" He lied as he headed to the door without turning to avoid eye contact.

They thought he was going to have fun with his friends, but there were no friends waiting. He had already dismissed the numerous celebration plans and arrangements by his friends claiming that his parents had planned a surprise for him.

He walked down to the Mediterranean coast, and sat down on the sea wall near the Ramlh Tram Terminus, where Cleopatra's needles used to stand. He sat there watching the wave crests race to the shore, break at the concrete blocks and retreat. The pier of the citadel was surrounding the ancient city on one side like an arm in the sea, on the other side, the pier of the military zone. He got off the wall and started walking along it, tracing with his eyes a fishing boat here and a sea gull there ignoring the beeps of birthday texts on his mobile phone until he reached the Alexandrian Selsela garden and the white magnificent statue of Europa and the bull. He gazed at it obliviously for a minute and sat down on one of the benches, giving his back to the sea, to the military zone behind him and the military flag and facing the Bibliothéca Alexandrina. A firm hand landed heavily on his shoulder, he turned

"ID!!" The man commanded turning to his companion and nodding.

"Who are you?" He said.

"Police!!" The man barked.

"Is there something wrong?" 

"Not yet, a random check so far!" The man's voice was threatening.

He took out his Id and handed it to them. The man grabbed it, peered at it, turned to his companion and turned back. "What's your name?"

"Mansour Masry" He said. His name was Egyptian...

Europa and the Bull, the statue at the site of the Alexandrian Selsela garden on the sea coast in Alexandria, Egypt. (Near the ancient site of Cleopatra's Royal Palace)


     Haythem Bastawy is a literature fan, the author of this blog, and the novel, A Military Republic.  


    May 2012



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