Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Luxor, Egypt, 1996

Filed under: Personal   Tagged: , ,

Jonathan Taylor writes:

In other Egyptian news:

"With a budget of LE56 million, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), in collaboration with Egypt's Sound and Light organization and French lighting company Architecture Lumière, succeeded in installing 922 lighting units in different locations along the city's west bank mountains, offering a new service to Luxor's visitors, stated Culture Minister Farouk Hosni."

At night, the darkness was total.

Fields of tall, deep-green cornstalks ended abruptly, forming a clean border with the desert. Behind you, the river was just out of sight, behind distant groves of palms. Far beyond this band of green was a creased swelling of mountain. Ahead of you here, too, on the west bank: another sand mountain, dazzlingly white in the sun, like a scrubbed bone. At its foot—nestled? cowering?—a village, whose lights glowed when the sun whent behind the hill, casting sudden shadow the shallow valley. Those lights, too, turned dark before too long.

You're alone in a shabby, colorful hotel where the road that stretches from the river ends, right at the corn-desert border. You're the only guest. Tired of answering questions about whether you're married, and why not, you retire from the courtyard with the pool table, where men drink Stella—the Egyptian beer.

You emerge later at a safe hour. Ten P.M.? Midnight? The darkness is total, beyond the glare of a lone street lamp, so you go beyond the street lamp to where the darkness is total. The stars are emphatically present, yet not "bright," they only confirm the darkness. The invisible cornstalks rustle maniacally in the wind as you walk down the road vanishing into the darkness ahead, to where the seated colossi rise on your left. Are they illuminated at night, like the great temples of the east bank? Or can you make them out dimly, knowing where they are from your daily journeys to and from the river. Don't worry about it; in 15 years, you won't remember anyway. You'll be able to summon up either memory with equal convincing clarity.

This darkness, this silence harried by the whispery shrieks of the corn and the madcap howling of a disembodied jackal, this scrap of fertile soil in the shadow of a mass grave of kings and queens, this ocean of desert beyond, these thousands of years—who could fill it all, but gods reaching down from the sky?

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree