Note: The following story has been translated from my Greek book ‘From Cape Town to Alexandria’ narrating an overland trip from side to side of the African Continent.
By noontime now, as I was getting down the same path again, and I approached that little village in the narrow valley, a jovial Bedouin man, standing by his garden threshold, invited me to his home. His name was Ramadan. He was one of the 15-20 family leaders who had created this heavenly oasis in the midst of this inhospitable, divine environment.
We squatted down on a shady little corner of his garden, under a thin, waving cloth, stretched by strings tied on his clay hut and the branches of an acacia, and we engaged in conversation, using a mixture of simple English and Greek, gestures, and a little pantomime. He was the father of thirteen children. One of them – his older daughter, I think – a beautiful, tall and lean, head-covered girl around twenty – came out from the house and shyly served us with coffee, tea, bread, and olives. Another one, Fatima, a little girl of about twelve years, not a bit shy, she was constantly sitting in the opposite corner, peering at me intently with her coal-black eyes.
At some point, Ramadan raised me up to show me around his garden. He flauntingly exhibited to me the various vegetables, lots of olive trees, peach trees, and other horticultural plants that surrounded his house. Sheep and goats were carelessly grazing on the little grass that grew in the crannies of the ground. One donkey, and another one a little further away, they were spending their day off lazily, slumbering on the ground. A burly camel, fallen on her knees, was indolently ruminating her brunch, observing us with her big, passive eyes. A dozen or so hyraxes were running aimlessly here and there, up and down the branches they had inside the large, improvised cage where they were imprisoned. There also was a large cat family who understood that garden as their home. The kittens were incessantly frolicking, scuffling with each other. The mothers waited for lunch: some patiently, standing still and persistently staring at us; others impatiently, meowing complainingly. And the obese father had occupied a cool corner, immersed in a sweet sleep.
“All did alone,” Ramadan told me in broken Greek, boastingly showing me his palms. “Nice place you have here,” I said and explained to him that I just came yesterday from Cairo. “Ah, aah – hubbub,” he explained to me this word with gestures and sound-mimicking. “Me never Cairo. Cathrine most far, few times,” he concluded, adding a tone of disdain in the utterance of the big city’s name.