A Page From My Diary: Notes on Exile
This is the first personal blogpost I write.
I spent the past few days reunited with two of my best friends from Egypt, who visited me after almost two years of separation… many of us were forced out of our homes in Egypt – yet they were not really our homes, as you never actually fully legally or psychologically own anything under tyranny- many of my friends and I are now scattered on 3 different continents, and still no home…
Sometimes we envied those who died in battle among us, only to shortly reaffirm our stance, and remember that our victories were worth our losses; our vigilance prevails beyond our despair.
Yesterday was our last night together; the three of us were sipping single malt and laughing at ourselves, each other and the world, and one of them paused and told me: “Last time I met you in Cairo I feared that I might never see you again.”
We often wondered when we saw the people we cared about if this was the last time we’ll ever see them… What does this do to you? When the only place you’ve ever known is where young men leave their homes with their hand written wills in their pockets…
He then asked me, “What did it feel like? To be forced to pack your life and identity in a suitcase, go to a continent you’ve never visited before, and not sure where you’ll spend the night upon your arrival… What do you pack? What was going through your mind?”
I told him I just sat silent in every corner where I had great memories trying to imprint every detail in my mind… I was aware that I might never see it again, going alone to a place I’ve never seen before.
I sat on the dining table where we worked on monitoring state-run media coverage of elections.
I had a drink on the bar I designed where I often hosted parties during the month of Ramadan, when serving alcohol was banned.
I touched the books in my library. I listened to Bach in the living room that was bugged and our conversations were recorded by state security, and smiled as I remembered how we laughed and trashed them as they listened.
I sat for hours in my study and sanctuary that smelled like tobacco, vanilla-scented candles, single malt and mahogany, my bedroom, my antiques, my mother’s white-washed bedroom that always smelled like fresh laundry, soap and perfume. The kitchen where my grandmother, my mother and I cooked great food, my art … the family pictures on the walls…That’s what I took with me, and a coat, some clothes and underwear.
The suitcase is now empty, but I still haven’t unpacked…