We're in El Dokki, Cairo at midnight. The fragrance of flowery shisha smoke from a nearby coffee shop punctuates the air. We drink beer and pass around a bottle of whiskey while we wait for Ahmed and Mido to arrive.
Arriving at the stables in the desert, somewhat outside of the city itself, I can see the pyramids in the distance. Their shape blocking out the city lights in perfect triangle cut-outs. The stable master gestures for us to pick out our horses. I pass a few, most backing away from me, before arriving at a majestic looking white mare.
We mount and head into the night. Only five minutes out, blackness surrounds us on all sides, save for the dunes and craggy rock glistening in the light of the full moon. We trot slowly for thirty minutes as we move over increasingly inclined terrain. I look back and see the view getting more and more vast behind me. I can see a fire in the distance, men who make camp fire tea for night riders. We dismount and order a tea each, sharp tasting and pungent, complimenting a joint being passed between us.
With hashish and alcohol pumping through my veins, the smell of of a camp fire playing at my nose and the taste of smoky tea still stinging my tongue, I lay back on the the soft sands and stare at the infinite universe laid out before me. I've never seen stars so clearly before. The milky way flows above while I contemplate life and the human condition. I feel at peace. The greatest city in the world to my right, bright and alive. And the pyramids, which I think must be the work of creatures from a far flung galaxy, to my left. Silently, I wax philosophic, challenging old ideals and creating new ones, turning everything I've ever been taught about life on its head. I'm roused from my state by Tariq telling me it's time to head back. Mounted on my horse once more, we canter while I run through the things I've just seen in my mind. We begin to gallop, moving in unison while the wind whips through my hair. My heart is pounding in my throat and I feel alive, my senses sharpening, adrenaline replacing the calm that drugs had brought on. We race, my horse and I, my breathing matching hers. We round a dune and the glory that is Cairo comes into full view. Awe overtakes me. The frigid night air pricks at my skin and I realize that this very moment in time could have been any moment in history. I feel connected to my ancestors. Men and women that although I've never met, I know they saw the same thing that I'm seeing now and I know they too must have a felt a sense of awe while they gazed out over the city of the living, in the middle of the land of the dead. As we pull up to the stables, I look back toward the dunes and the inky sky above. Even now, as I look at the desert calm, the memories are already beginning to fade. Like a dream, the revelations and life changing ideas that had walked across my consciousness only minutes ago are now draining from me and from now until forever will be relegated to my mind's eye. Emerging when least expected, only to fade again like so many fantasies, ideas, dreams and nightmares.
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