‘My father had seen us wrestle the men, had seen our bodies thrown into the sea of their desires, had seen my mother part the waves: Samira en Moses, minus divine intervention.’
When I was eight years old my family and I went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. We took my mother’s car, and completed a journey that many millions of pilgrims have done through the ages, in the desert of Saudi Arabia. This is the story of my small Egyptian nuclear family, visiting for the first time Hijaz.
For a text version of this piece and related illustrations, please click here.
We were driving from Kuwait, where my small Egyptian family was living at the time, to Mecca, crossing the border into Saudi Arabia.
My twin and I were eight years old.
The hood ornament—a leaping, angularly-rendered impala—was made of polished chrome, and shone brightly under the relentless Kuwaiti sun.
To me my father’s car was unimpeachable.
My mother’s car was graceless, though it took us loyally to school on the days my father’s car wouldn’t start.
The desert of Saudi Arabia to my eyes seemed cut from the same cloth as the desert of Kuwait.
The cheese came in pleasingly uniform, sharp-edged, foil-wrapped squares, which were neatly lined up in a cardboard box with a tray that slid out.
It was as if giants had built the city.
It is well known that many get trampled to death in these pilgrimages; they call them martyrs of the Hajj.
The women among the worshippers circled the Kaaba from a larger circumference, staying farther away from it to avoid the impropriety of touching men.
The meteorite was encased in shiny metal, wrapped around the small piece of space rock.
I reached out and touched the black rock, inhaling sharply at first contact, expectant.
Read the text version of this piece alongside the above illustrations.