A Short Story About an Angel

by Hamdy El-Gazzar  and translated by Reme McGinty.  /  June 2, 2014  / No comments

“One moonlit night…a small angel appeared in the skies over Cairo.”

Dove in Flight

Photo: torbakhopper via Flickr.

One moonlit night in the month of Rajab, on the fourteenth night to be be precise, a small angel appeared in the skies over Cairo. It seemed that he was lost. Perhaps he was on his way across the Mediterranean to the north, towards the European Union. Or maybe he was flying East on his way to the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf. In any event, he landed in the middle of Cairo. Because he was an innocent, lost angel, from the upper heavens, it was not in anyone’s power to recognize him for what he truly was. He could see and hear everyone, but to them he appeared as a white bird, going freely wherever he wished.

  1. Off-Screen
  2. “From Egypt” attempts to draw a cultural map of Egypt and the Arab world by profiling the artistic, literary, and political issues that affect the region via on-the-ground coverage of current events, publications, and the fight for freedom of expression.
  3. Hamdy el Gazzar
  4. Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.

The small angel landed on the old iron Qasr al-Nil Bridge, lingering for a moment to contemplate the Nile below and the full moon above. His surroundings were quiet and appeared normal. Cars and buses carried people from one bank of the river to the other. Around him, pairs of lovers stood close to one another, speaking with their eyes, tongues, and the faintest of signs. They exchanged stolen glances and fleeting kisses. The sight of them was beautiful and pleasant and opened the angel’s heart. He said to himself, “This is a city that knows love.”

After a while he flew towards Tahrir Square, smiling and feeling light of heart. On the edge of the square, beside a famous American restaurant, he landed near a stall selling newspapers and books, behind which sat an intriguing old man. The old man chatted with his customers, joking about everything—his goods, the customers, and the things that were happening in the country. The angel read the headlines in the major newspapers but did not understand a great deal, only that the country was about to elect a new president from two candidates and that the result seemed guaranteed.

When the old man’s laughter grew louder for no apparent reason, the angel smiled and said to himself, “This is a city that knows humour, an amiable city.”

The angel then looked toward the famous Tahrir Square and saw a sad old man who had lost his children and grandchildren; all that he could do was remain silent. Because the angel’s heart is white, pure, and untainted, he said to himself, “Anyone who does not know sadness is not human.”

The angel flew to El Sienia garden in the middle of the square, and landed near a large group of young boys and girls. He listened to their conversations:

-We opened the doors of hell.
-We could not accept religious fascism.
-Rejoice then with this military fascism.
-Allah has a say in the affairs of his creation, he allows the unjust to rule over the unjust.
-We have to build a modern democratic state.
-The revolution continues.
-We are a people that deny the beautiful; this man is the hero of the people and has freed us from terrorists and non-believers.
-The poor should come first.
-We don’t want the government to be military or religious.
-There are thousands of detainees in the prisons.
-In the terrestrial channels and the luxury saloons a corrupt group supports fascism.
-I will continue to cry “Life, freedom, social justice, and humanitarianism” until I die.

The angel heard many more statements as the noise and debate became louder.

He studied the faces of these boys and girls and felt sympathy for them. In the end, he realized that each of these young people thought they knew what reality was, what was right and wrong. He knew that they felt confused and frustrated.

The angel smiled at them like a wise old person. Leaving them, he flew away and said to himself: “Human life is strange and unique, and I do not understand it. But there is something beautiful about it. A rebirth will happen here. This land is beautiful, and its people are good, and maybe they will make it. They will make it.”

About the Author

Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.

View all articles by Hamdy El-Gazzar

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