In Luxor, the best hotel you can stay at is the Bob Marley Hotel which is situated 5 minutes from the train and bus station. I’d taken the train from Aswan which cost 90EG£ first class, to Luxor that afternoon and Amr (Bob Marley staff) picked me up at the station on his motorbike.
That day I was so lazy did the following three things:
- Eat falafel, beans and drank 2 beers
- Let a Chinese woman touch my hair, talk about how much she disliked Jordan and shared Cairo scam stories…
- Tossed and turned all night because it was too hot to sleep
The next morning I woke up with zero intention of doing anything but eating falafel and drinking water. On the corner by Bob Marley hotel is a man with a stall, hot oil and a large skillet who makes the best fresh falafel and aubergine in Luxor. 5EG£ later I was fed and happy. If you’re ever in Luxor, go eat there.
Back at the hotel, I decided that I didn’t feel immediately going to Karnak, Valley of the Kings, Colossi of Memnon, Ramesseum, Medinet Habu, Luxor Temple etc. So the invitation to go swimming in a private pool in West Bank from my fellow guests couldn’t have come at a better time. My group looked like this; a 21-year-old German women called Linn who met the latter just that morning too, a 40-year-old German women called Sarah, her 40-year-old Egyptian husband called Ali and their 12-year-old son Zane. Little did I know that this was to become my new family, to the people of Luxor, I was; Ali’s daughter from Dahab
The boat ride to West Bank across the River Nile was short and sweet. The hype about the Nile still is a wonder to me, I understand it is a special place.. but it is still a wonder to me.
The grass is greener on the other side
West Bank seems far away from the desperate street merchants, kids trying to sell you things and continuous offers for horse rides. Our private outdoor pool was occupied by a few foreigners including us who were lounging around, drinking, smoking, eating, chatting and swimming. I learned that Linn was volunteering in Egypt from Germany for 6 months and she had just arrived. She loved to travel and expose herself in new culture.
Additionally learned the heart-rending story of Sarah, Ali and Zane
Love, a threat to society
Sarah, Ali and Zane
Hiding from Ali in the chicken coup in a Bedouin village of Luxor, Sarah decided that she’d had enough. He wasn’t going to change and he didn’t deserve another chance, not now. Over and over again she would sacrifice herself for a person that never cared about her and she could barely see it at the time. But this time was different. The next day she fled Egypt for her home town in Germany, pregnant.
Sarah and Ali had made new lives for themselves, becoming productive young artists. As the boy grew up Sarah and Ali stayed in contact via Facebook, email and Skype. Together – through the years, they grew-up, settled their differences and tried over and over again to obtain a German visa for Ali but he was repeatedly refused. For Sarah it was important Zane knew his father beyond the computer screen. So finally when Zane was 12 Sarah decided he was old enough to meet Ali face to face.
Nervous and excited, Sarah and Zane had landed at Hurghada airport where Ali was waiting outside. This was to be the first time that Ali was to see his son in real life, the first time Zane was to see his father and the first time Sarah was to see the three of them united.
As they made their way out of the gates of border control and into the exit terminal of the Hurghada airport Ali was nowhere to be seen. Thinking fast, Sarah told Zane to wait with the luggage while she quickly scanned the airport in search of Ali. He was supposed to be there. They’d texted each other just minutes before. Where was he?
Sarah returned to Zane with no good news and decided they should leave. Walking outside, the doors of the airport slid open and there stood Ali, and his face lit up with joy but Sarah’s heart sank as she took in the situation. Ali was surrounded by four police men, a police van and he was in handcuffs.
Sarah knew it this would not be a typical happy family reunion. During her sweep of the airport she had a feeling that something was wrong so she sent a message to her contact in the German authorities to let them know that something was up.
The fight against Sarah and Ali involves a disobeyed directive from a higher authority and a brutal punishment as a result. Even before he was arrested, they known they had already been targeted.
When Sarah and Ali fell in love, they committed the ultimate offense against the government. Note that the Ali was caught at his happiest moment, the moment where they let down their guard and felt like an ordinary family. Both Sarah and Ali had been watched for years and could have been captured at any time. But not until their love was strong and son was present did the government intervene. Separating the couple diminishes their effectiveness: As individuals they can only fight half the battle, nor are they capable of success.
Tears found their way down Ali’s cheeks, and as the emotions brimmed over abruptly he started to cry. The heartless policemen allowed Ali only 10 minutes to see his son for the first time before they took him to jail. 12 years of longing, fighting, rejection and sadness were expressed in a ten minute embrace – he held onto Zane like it was his lifeline. At the same time Sarah was on the phone to lawyers, friends and important contacts.
It took 3 days for Ali to be let out of prison. During which, of course… he paid for every moment (literally speaking).
Immediately after Ali was released (thanks to the bullish whip-smart German/Egyptian lawyer) there was little time to relax. Sarah and Ali had to obtain, sign and send off their Egyptian marriage papers which would allow Ali a German visa. Together with more documents and papers this was a strenuous task, whatsmore is that it was expensive costing €6000 in total over the years.
Back in downtown Luxor
In the evening we returned to downtown Luxor from the pool and took a long walk around, everywhere. We stopped for anyone Ali knew, which was virtually everyone. Ali introduced his wife, his son and just to fuck with them he’d also introduce me as his daughter. It was our private joke and a greater joke for Ali. When Sarah fled Egypt pregnant he had been expelled from his family and his community looked down at him, so in a way, this was his way of avenging them. Egyptians love gossip so within the next few hours in Luxor we were famous. I, was the talk of the town! They’d already known about the foreign son, but a daughter too? Visiting all at once? And of course it made perfect sense! 24 years ago in while Ali was working in Dahab, he had dreadlocks. I have fauxlocks. I can pass for half Nubian… Zane looks like my little brother, we even got along like siblings. I am 24. It makes perfect sense. The evening was hilarious. As a consequence my new role as Ali’s daughter reaped huge unexpected benefits; I could walk the streets of Luxor alone and nobody would harass me or try to sell anything to me. The only downfall was that I was a target for arranged marriage proposals…
This story is told from my eyes. But it is far deeper, darker and more serious than this. I understood this story within a few days where I played my part so I only speak of what I know and understand.
Can you imagine what 12-year-old Zane was thinking all the while? A young boy with a brilliant independent mind whose parents are both artists and freedom fighters. He talks in conversations like an adult and has perfect mannerisms. Seeing and understanding why his father got arrested, negotiating with the chief of police and participating in political non-conformist conversation. He, my little brother, will be someone special one day. I can’t wait.
Now let’s imagine how Sarah felt. She’d been fighting for years to bring Ali over to Germany to co-parent. 12 years on, having spent €6000 on the battle she returns to Egypt in hope of reuniting a family only to receive another blow at what would be the first of the last hurdles. She’d already felt like giving up long before, but she remembers that she has a lot to fight for. It is a pure and valid fight. An unholy war, or perhaps its a holy war – we still do not understand why the government persist on attempting to separate this family. And she keeps persisting, fighting against a society that will do anything in their power to keep her and Ali from being together and their son.
Ali’s world is intricately complex. His world is very difficult to understand, and you never will, I never will. Every once in a while Ali was imprisoned for fighting the system as a political protester. Over and above he holds secrets which the government don’t want to be exposed to society. He has been tortured in prison for information as a political prisoner and tortured outside of prison as a free man. Every step he takes is being watched and scrutinised, every conversation he has is monitored. Why else would the police know the precise time to arrest him at the airport in front of his son?
Love takes risk and is worth fighting for, Sarah and Ali’s story indicates this clearly. It serves as an honour to play a role in this story. I loved being part of this family. We had a marvellous full day together, I didn’t mention the night-time River Nile tour we took on the way back to downtown Luxor, the four of us so happy, drinking tea, laughing and star-gazing for an hour along the River Nile. Watching Sarah and Ali in their lover’s conversation I realised that indeed, 12 years ago they broke up for a reason – but now, that reason no longer exists. This is a beautiful thing, love reunited. Together with Zane, they were one, three pieces of a perfect triangle. The last time I belonged to a family was when I was 8-years-old and even then it was always incomplete, my triangle was always broken with one or two pieces sometimes missing and astray.
Learning this story made me realise the extent of my privilege. I express and enjoy free love and can marry or have a civil partnership with anyone, anytime, anyhow. Privilege is a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage or favor. There is racial privilege, identity privilege, religious privilege, geographical privilege and the list goes on. I now acknowledged the extent of my privilege and I am aware that people move through the world in ways that I find impossible to comprehend. Nearly everyone, specifically in the developed world, has something someone else doesn’t, something someone else yearns for. In this case, freedom to love, freedom to build your family
I love love. I would like to use Sarah and Ali’s story to bring attention to social justice because, they, without certain privileges are disenfranchised and what the hoarding of privilege have done. The results are immoral.
Thank you, and good luck