In August, most peasants like me remember that inflammation which used to hit our backs, shoulders, and chests and cover them with red rashes due to having what was called “Hammo en-Nile” or Miliaria… and the remedy usually used to calm this irritated skin was the repeated strokes of the white inner side of watermelon rind.
The Nile was present in our life during the months of flooding… also during the months of Tahariq or when the water level goes low… until now, I do not know why the tea made from water taken directly from the river has different taste to that made from water taken from water pumps or taps… or why they used to place a thick layer of mud under the watermelons stored in the sitting room of the upper floor in order for them to stay ripe until the second season except for some seeds that start to sprout inside the watermelons… I also do not know why “showing off” women preferred to rub their legs and feet with this mud to make them healthy, soft, shining, and vivid with color… again, I do not know why some families used to insist on throwing the “placenta” of the newly-born baby into the river right after the calling for Fajr prayers thinking by doing so that they guarantee the baby stays healthy, enjoys long life, and is never thirsty.
In August, I yearn to the Nile despite the missing amity between me and its two branches; Damietta and Rosetta… as it happened once that the current of the great red flood swept the buffalo whose noose I was catching in my hand while it was bathing near the riverbank when a truck with a bubbling motor passed by and startled the young female buffalo… the noose slipped from my hand and the buffalo was about to be taken away with the flood but thank God, it did not… that was when I was hosted by its owners in the village of Meet Aboelhareth in Aga province of Dakahliya governorate where I used to go every year to visit my co-brothers of honorable Sufi dervishes.
As to the missing amity between me and Rosetta Nile branch, it is old in time and has many phases… the first one took place in the first half of the fifties’ decade… I was in a visit to my elderly maternal aunt Nabiha who was married to Ahmed Effendi Ismail Karkotli; the cotton merchant… they used to live in as-Safiya village in then-called Dessouq Fou’adia province and later called Kafr esh-Shiekh… the kids used to race with each other to take off their clothes and jump naked in the Rosetta branch during flooding after going back for a few meters then thrusting forward to jump… the longer “the jump” into the river, the more applaud the jumper receives…
I did like they did to find myself sinking in the riverbed then “floating” then “sinking”… until someone grabbed me and swam towards the bank… he stretched his hands to catch the stalks of “an-Nasseela” plant to stand against the violent current… but the plants were uprooting… he tried again and again until we got out and he saved my life… that man later died at a young age after he had just graduated from the faculty of commerce while he was having morning prayers before heading to his work… meanwhile, the saved one stayed alive until he reached seventy.
Failure to learn swimming continued even when I managed long time ago to subscribe to the swimming pool of Nile Hilton hotel… and swimming coach started to train me as Mr. Kahhoul; supervisor of the swimming pool and cabins surrounding it, asked him to take extra care of me… there, I started a friendship with the late creative Nour esh-Sherif who, like me, used to stand at the corner of the swimming pool for he was not good at swimming and we had interesting long conversations… at that place too, I used to wait for Dr. Muhammed Fayyad; medicine professor who used to go into the pool prior to sunset to swim along with that Lebanese ex-minister who used to stay almost permanently in his cabin looking over the Hilton pool.
Now we come to the second time which developed that missing amity between me and Rosetta Nile branch, that was when we were paying a visit to Sidi Ibrahim ed-Dessouqi when suddenly a kind fellow of us said he had a hunch suggesting that we should pay another visit to Sidi Abo-elmagd; father of Abo Elainain – another nickname for Sidi Ibrahim ed-Dessouqi… and so, we set off and hurried to the nearest sailing boat heading southwards from Dessouq to Morqos where the shrine of Sidi Abo-elmagd lies.
A fierce blustery wind blew from north that the waves raised the water high to the edge of the boat and reaching to our clothes… the boat kept swinging up and down like a cart over a bumpy road… we held our breath, started whispering with prayers, then our voices went louder asking God’s help to save our lives… we arrived and went to the beautiful mosque looking over the riverbank and there we had Asr prayers… back to the sailing boat that went with the water coming from the south while the wind was coming from the north… the boat had a zigzag course over the water surface… for long years after this incident, I hesitated a lot in going aboard any sailing boat under any circumstances… and how unfortunate I am if it happened that I have visitors coming from abroad and one of my kins wants to be generous to them and so he invites them aboard a felucca in the Nile.
We used to remedy “Hammo en-Nile” rashes we had during the flooding days in August with watermelon rind… now, we are head and ears stuck in the journalistic and political rashes we have… we used to ask for God’s help to save us… now, we ask his mercy not to punish us all by what stupid people of us do.
Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar
This article was published in Almasry alyoum newspaper on August 9, 2017.
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