Hot wind rustling by. Rustling dust-caked leaves. Hot, hot, sun-baked wind.

Desert wind whispering in a muffled voice. Wind rushing though mansions and villas and lovely Art Deco and French and Italian fantasies and crowded collapsing, airless grey blocks of cement stuffed as well into Cairo’s Garden City. Some of these relics of another time in Cairo are stunning, some are abandoned, and some are exhausted, perched on the edge of surrender.

Here, where I’ve lived among the ghosts of Garden City, Cairo, Halas.

Among the cry of the family, father and mother and two tiny young children, that lazily trolls its cart through the sleepy Friday streets behind a small boney donkey, selling watermelons. Massive dark green watermelons. Watermelons, the father shouts. The streets sleep on. Among the young soldiers clumped outside the hotels and embassies and foreign agencies and homes of the rich and politically powerful. Among the bowabs and sweating deliverymen on their bikes and scooters and people who park cars by saving places for them with rocks on the streets or clean them daily by temporarily wiping the desert’s embrace off them, and among the maids and one small, elderly garbage man who seems glued to one spot on one street, forever brushing away the desert’s dust even though the desert ignores him.

Halas.

Among the wild street dogs too tired from the heat to stir on the day of rest.

Among the broiling ochre-colored buildings that shimmer in pulsing heat. Tan. Light tan. Tan. Shades of tan.

Among African refugees, who have come from all over the continent, and who patiently line up for benefits outside an agency’s office in an old Garden City building. Among the old and the elderly woman who lives by herself in a vast and darkened relic of an elegant mansion with all of her cats and all her memories of a different time. Among the young families who head towards the Nile for a refreshing breath of air at night. But not now. Not in day time. Not in this heat.

Among the church bells ringing and mosques’ calls to prayers.

Halas. Halastu.

Among the people waiting and hoping for a break in the heat; maybe  a breeze, a flutter, a sigh of fresh air.

But like the wind, I’m gone. I am a ghost too of the Garden City in the desert.

Halas.