On the way back from the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank, near Luxor our bus had stopped in front of the Papyrus Institute, where beautiful images of Ancient Egypt, reproduced by local artist on papyrus, were sold. After about an hour everybody climbed back into the bus with a colorful tube under their arm. I had just settled into my seat when looking out of the window again, I saw him – the man who was selling fly swatters. I don’t know what made me do it, but I stood up and said: “Please let me out I have to buy a fly swatter.”
“Lady we are ready to leave, and I don’t see any flies around!” the driver answered, but by now I was already at the door and he opened reluctantly. No, I didn’t need a fly swatter, I needed to see that man up close – his face was deeply lined, his dark skin made an interesting contrast to his nearly white beard, and his eyes shifted and twinkled mischievously. His face was ageless, like a testimony to Egypt’s history.
I bought a fly swatter, and then I asked if I could take a photo of him. He shook his head and called out to one of the man standing around, who with gestures made it cleat that, yes, I could take a picture of him, but only if I was in it too.
During my next visit, which was a year after the revolution, I went back to the place where I had met him before. I was happy to see him standing in exactly in the same spot. But when I came close I saw a sadness in his eyes that had not been there before — events of the past year had taken their toll on him. The light, and twinkle had gone out of his eyes. Of course he didn’t remember me, and this time very hesitantly he let me take a photo,but only after I had given him some money. No, he didn’t sell many fly swatters anymore, there were no tourist.
“Where is the man with the turban who is always here?” I asked my guide on my last visit this year.
“You know, the man who is selling fly swatters?”
“Oh, you mean Aban —- he died six months ago.”At that moment the mountains of the Valley of the Kings had lost some its luster, for me some of Egypt’s history was gone. How strange that we can connect so deeply with people we hardly know – or maybe we know them from another life?
More from Egypt soon
PS. By the way he made the fly swatters himself.