The Islamic Garden
Two Small Words - Maa'Lesh!
With these words arguments are prevented, fights are stopped, engagements are cancelled and traffic jams begin to move. These two small words can change the course of inflexible obstinacy that indeed reflects the hard rocks, crumbling stone and shifting sand of the land of the Pharaohs.
pressures of modern
Nothing compares to the beauty of the
crashing upon a sandy shore, but when the beach is a forest of beach
unstable chairs and circles of families with picnic baskets and
wall-to-wall humanity masking the picturesque view of the sea, the
foreigner will complain in vain of not being able to sit and see the
Standing on tippy-toes he can see some waves; enough to make him sigh
delight as he remembers the traffic jams of
Now back to the city. If you close
you will feel the rhythm of
Now, our foreign friend has arrived at his destination. He checked the street name and it is the right one! Moreover, there really is a number on the front of the building he has been looking for! Now he turns his attention to parking his car somewhere until he runs his errand. He sees a space up ahead. This is his lucky day! Just as he is parking his car in the narrow space an old gentleman wearing a long worn-out looking galabeya and a small white hat smiles a broad brown-teethed smile, and says in Arabic, 'Maa'Lesh ya Pasha! You can't park here."
"Why not?" insists our frazzled foreign friend.
"This space belongs to that building."
"But I'm going into that building," demands the foreigner with white knuckles grasping the steering wheel in a frantic bid to take the space.
"It belongs to an important gentleman living there. I have to keep it for him or he will be angry."
Our foreign friend doesn't like the thought of getting anyone into trouble so he scratches his head and asks if there could possibly be another place?
The old man smiles and points a long bony finger to an empty space with a huge cement brick blocking the way for anyone to park there.
"But it's barricaded!" says the foreigner disappointed.
"It only costs LE 5," nods the old man squinting his eyes in expectation.
"But hang on," said the foreigner, "this one is not blocked but that one is, so if this one is reserved, shouldn't it be blocked?"
"I don't need to block this one because I'm here," says the old man laughing, holding out his hand for the cash.
Not quite sure what to do and nearly late for his appointment the foreigner hands the old man the cash and waits til he pushes the cement brick out of the way then parks his car and races to his appointment with a distinct feeling that he has just been ripped off.
Just as he enters the building and disappears up the stairs, another car drives along the street and starts to back into the empty space that the foreigner has just vacated. The old man approaches him shaking his head and telling him, "You're not allowed to park here!"
The man, an Egyptian, just smiles, turns off the motor and says, "Maa'Lesh."
First published Africa Perspective newspaper,