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Different dramas on Egypt’s Nile


The actual story of the necklace is far more complicated than that and goes back almost six years.  The actual story of the necklace is that I was sitting at dinner with a friend and his wife when I asked his wife why she didn’t have a personality of her own.  I told her that life was short, that she should live it, and that as she was going to die someday anyway she might as well die doing the things she really wanted out of life.  It was rude, but she took it well.
She said what she really wanted to do was to make jewelry for a living.  And so I took off the copper bracelet I was wearing I’d gotten in South Africa, and gave it to her.
“This bracelet is a reminder to you that today is the day you had a fork in the road.  And every day you look at it it will be a reminder that you took the fork in the road and started your life, or that you didn’t, and continued doing nothing.”
 A year later a necklace arrived in the mail with a note from the same girl that said, “I’ve start making jewelry, I wanted you to have the first nice thing I made.”  In the middle of the necklace was a black stone wrapped in cooper wire.  I wore the necklace every day for three years until it broke.  I then carried the black stone in my pocket.
 Six months after it broke I went to the Lincoln Memorial; the imposing statute of Lincoln sitting in Washington.  “This,” I thought, “this is the sad man who freed the slaves.  This is the man who made the right choices simply because they were right.”  I was overwhelmed.  With dozens, maybe hundreds of people standing around me, I cried.  Before leaving I picked up two wooden black beads from a vendor at the memorial and put them in my pocket.
A year later my girlfriend asked me why I had a black rock and two beads in my pocket all the time.  I told her about the jewelry maker.  I told her about following your dreams.  I told her about the Lincoln Memorial and the sad man who made the right choices.  A month later she bought a book about making necklaces, made me a hemp necklace, and placed the black stone and the beads in the necklace.  I’d been wearing the necklace she made me for almost a year.  And then, when I left to travel, we broke up.  It crushed me, and the necklace was all I had to remind me of this amazing girl I’d left behind.  The necklace.
But I couldn’t say all that to the elderly man.  I couldn’t say the life of a jewelry maker that had come out of her shell, the life of a sad American that ended slavery, and the life of an ex-girlfriend I missed like hell were all wrapped up in one necklace.  That, to me, it was the most valuable thing I owned.  That was to say too much.  It was enough that he knew it was important, and that I appreciated his time.  That, at least temporarily, he had reminding me that people are basically decent.  And that I’m a person who likes people.

The young boy drew me from my daydream.  “He says ‘thank you.’”
“What?”
“Father, he says thank you.”  I turn to the elderly man who holds up the necklace and nods his head again in thanks.  I smile, nod in reply, and walk off with the boy.
“So,” I ask, “You had a Japanese person live with you for six months?”
“Yes.  He came to Egypt for a two week vacation. I met him when he was on the island.  He had dinner with my family and we asked him if he could stay.  So he did, for six months.  He was very nice.”
We turn the corner to a small island dock.  A dozen teenage boys stand around an electric washing machine joking, pushing each other, laughing, and trying to teach the smaller children on the dock the “right way” to fish, although they aren’t actually doing any better themselves.  One of the boys is wearing a used blue t-shirt that says, “I’m with stupid.” When they see me the boys quickly confer with my friend on a matter of much importance.
“Does this shirt me he is stupid,” my friend asks, “or that the person that he is next to is stupid?”
I smile.  “It means the person next to him is stupid.”  My friend translates and the boys burst into laughter as they look to the person standing next to the shirt.
While we wait for the boat to arrive the boy in the shirt makes a game of standing next to other people, thus implying they’re stupid.  The other boys, wise to the game, try to steer clear.  It is like an ongoing game of keep away.
After fifteen minutes a wide, flat, wooden boat with orange peeling paint motors up.  The boat owner steps off the boat and shakes hands with one of the teenagers.  He then heads into the village as the teenager steps into the boat and grabs hold of the stick to control the outboard motor.
On the count of three myself, along with half a dozen other boys, slowly pick up the washing machine and move it into the oversized row boat as it precariously rocks back and forth.  I jump into the boat with half the boys while the other half push the overstuffed boat from the dock and wave goodbye.
The boy with the shirt waves from the shore then slyly points to the person next to him.  He then points back to the shirt.  He’s with stupid.
The boat slowly pushes against the current of the Nile and leaves the Nubian island behind.  I look out over the water to see a married couple with a video camera taking the “Nile boat ride” I’d been offered just hours before.
We leave the tourists behind and everything goes calm and quite as the flatboat slowly works its way up the river under the red sky.  In the distance I see my small hotel and turn to my new friend.  “Do you think you’ll have enough people to get the washing machine off the boat when you get to where you’re going?”
“Yes,” he replies.
“Then can you drop me off at my hotel over there?”
“Are you sure you don’t want to have dinner with my family?” he answers.
“Thanks, but I have to get back to my hotel.”
He nods in understanding and says something to the teenager steering the boat.  Slowly, the boat turns towards my hotel.  I get off, wave goodbye to my friends, and they motor off into the darkness.

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