Moonplay in Egypt
We were lounging in a felucca on the Nile River, ripples of eternal water lapping at the sides of this sailboat of ancient design. We were waiting, and some were getting tired of waiting. The tour guide—young, handsome, and rather sexy—and another member of the tour group—also young, attractive, and rather voluptuous—had disappeared together. The sun was setting. Earlier, at mid-day, the sun sent beams like slender arms stretching through the clouds to touch the desert sands. Now, at sunset, the night also reached out, in a husky dark embrace. The wind had already subsided, leaving the sailboat bereft on the river waters.
The wind had died down, but the anger of my fellow passengers had flared up. The tour guide’s disappearance had thrown us off schedule. We were missing the dinner meal which was at this very moment being served back at the hotel.
At last the pair appeared. She stepped into the craft and became anonymous. He was propelled into the boat by threatening looks and mumbled resentments.
The Nubian sailor whose able hands had delicately loosened and tautened the sailboat ropes earlier in the day now settled down to the oars. He threw his back into the task, and, although he was strong and robust, we could see his hands would quickly become raw. The others looked upon the man with pity, but his only response was a shrug and an “En sha Allah” (“As God wills”). The resentment thickened. Some passengers openly spat verbal darts across the vessel in the direction of the tour guide, who took a turn at the oars to appease them. Guiltily.
I settled further back into the hull of the felucca. The night was black as pitch now, but a full moon had risen, an enormous hovering lunar disk which skimmed lightly over a row of date palms that lined the Nile shore. The disk chased us in the boat, slowing and speeding in unison with us. It examined every inch of us with frank curiosity, and even winked at us a time or two. I winked back. We admired each other.
But the others never saw. Anger and resentment directed and restricted their line of vision horizontally. They never looked up. They missed the moonplay entirely.