Three Short Stories – can you guess which city each is for?
“Now, it is better. Before you could not speak about politics or would be in trouble. Now is much better.” That seems like the right thing for people to hear. They don’t need to know what I really think. I’m not sure if I believe things are better now. There will be demonstrations again next week and they have warned of bombs. Look at the fireworks – we are not fooled. Those are just to mask the danger.
Many are unhappy and want to return to the old days. There were jobs then. The tourists were here. The regime is gone, but the elections were not real. The next one will be better. But is it really safe to speak?
Who knows who might hear you now and whose side they are on. We mustn’t talk too much about it – tourism is down. The government is investing more. It is better to simply say things are better now and to tell the tourists that. We have so much history – but surely we have more than tourism? Another 10 years from now, this will be just a brief note of our country. We must continue to hope. Things are better. We must believe it.
All That Glitters
“Here you can buy anything. Don’t worry – buy now. If you don’t like, we take it back,” the salesman enthuses. With so much to process, Sara found it a bit overwhelming to take it all in. New buildings towering, gold shimmering behind every window and on every wrist, and women in bikinis walking next to women in full body swimsuits. It is a country in a state of change, both Arab and not at the same time, multicultural yet with an emerging culture as well. No one here is complaining so what is the harm? There is beauty everywhere – both natural and man-made. Everything seems to be in excess but there is no end in site. Here is like nowhere else and everyone seems to be winning. Can it last, she wonders. Perhaps those who say it shouldn’t are simply envious? Why think about it – take hold and benefit. If it works, you will be a part of it. If it doesn’t, it would have happened anyway. This is the time of opportunities. Sara decides to just enjoy the shopping – if she doesn’t like, she can give it back later.
Feres slid through the narrow streets almost on autopilot. Knowing which stones to avoid, dodging the stray cats and remnant food scraps overlooked from the previous day garbage collection, and almost unaware of his guests hurriedly trying to keep up. The sun rays peaked through the buildings and trees tops, warming the cool morning breeze and the scent of fresh cookies and pastries drifted out from cafes. It would only be a short walk.
“This is not our culture”, he says, referring to a rare sighting of a burkha clad figure walking by. “But it is the price of freedom. We are free, and people can choose what they want. Religion should be personal – should not be for everyone to see. But we are free – they can wear it. We are ready for our freedom.”
The curving streets, bend and turn like a maze, opening up into small squares, with bustling bazaars, children running to school, and connecting to even more narrow streets. The energy is exciting. Feres enjoys it. “We are building another place with a restaurant attached as well, “ he exudes. Ten minutes along, and they have arrived at their destination for breakfast. A full spread of fresh fruit jams and juices wait. It is a wonderful start.