Racha is my mother’s cousin and the youngest in her generation. Being only 6 years older than I am, our generation in the family always considered her part of us young ones. Racha had always been a perfect example of the creative, stylish, art-loving, big-hearted, inspirational, independent woman.
A major memory I recall is this one fun trip in 1989 when I was 11 and went with my grandmother to visit my aunt in L.A. This was when Racha, whose late father was my grandmother’s younger and only brother and who was 16 then, joined us for a while. The featured photo in Disneyland with my aunt and grandmother is from that trip.
12 years later when we left the hotel life and I moved to my own flat in Zamalek I had to paint it before moving in. Of course 23-year-old me had no idea or experience to be able to chose the colours. My mother suggested I ask Racha and that was precisely what I did. She came over and in less than 10 minutes she narrowed down the options, making it a much easier task. Eventually, I went along with her choices, one of which was a cool reddish colour for the stairs. Another tip is how the painter should use a sponge to get that spongy light blue, which was what I also went with.
Fast-forwarding to another 17 years during this current trip to Egypt, I got to meet her adorable Labrador, Dahab. When I offered to take it for daily walks around Zamalek, she kindly agreed. They had just moved back after a few years living by the Pyramids area where the family enjoyed a spacious garden; and as I came to reckon, the dog need those walks as much as I need them. For someone who works on his laptop for more than 12 hours a day, such breaks become essential to recharge.
My ecclesiastical love for dogs and for bonding with them beside missing having my own are other reasons which made those daily walks highly enjoyable. Now three months later, Dahab — who shares the kind nature of his hooman — and I became BFFs.
Both of us being talkative, fun-loving, and animated, Racha and I always got along perfectly well. For those past 40 years of my life, we have never fought, clashed, or had awkward moments... not even once.
Right before my planned departure a couple of days ago I was supposed to pick something up from Racha. This was when I found a beautiful letter she had left me. Other than being hand-written, which is a much more personal way of communication than the digital means, somehow the Arabic language made it even more poetic and sentimental.
It is of significance to note that when one chooses a ‘different’ life path such as being a writer and leaving everything behind to follow their dream, receiving words of encouragement every once in a while becomes the fuel which propels you forward. Echoing with Stephen King’ nugget of truth: “Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”
I have shared before some of the heartfelt messages I receive from readers and followers, simply because coming from people who only know me through my writing, such words have a sincere positive impact on me, leaving me with nothing but utter gratitude.
This time, though, the words are coming from someone I have always considered like a dear older sister; someone who knows my true essence before getting to know the newly-enhanced version of myself. So it genuinely hit me right in the feels, which is why I’m sharing the letter with you after translating it...
My Brother and friend, Omar Bek Cherif,
I cannot express how thankful and grateful I am to your person for taking care of our big dog in such hard times for us. A time we’re all getting used to living in an apartment where our dog has been deprived of the garden and us from the space which allowed the dog not to be stuck to us all the time. We are thanking you; and so is Dahab.
But what is more important is that I thank and congratulate you and your parents on your gentle and generous soul which loves everyone — no matter how different they are — as well as love all the various animals, music, the air, and the sea. Very few people, especially those who were plagued by our Bourgeoisie, were able to free themselves from the shackles of “what should” and “what is acceptable”; equally freed from the way success is measured in our society — not only the Egyptian one but the Bourgeois in general.
Congratulation on your freedom.
Congratulation on your sophisticated soul.
And I wish you from the bottom of my heart all the happiness and success in your own way and of your own choice.
I love you because you’re you.
I love you because you’re the son of those I love!
And I love you because I see myself in you as well as my children and everyone who embraces freedom simply by being themselves.
Your sister, Racha el Gammal.
Thank you for this uplifting letter, Sweetest Rachrouch. I sure love you too. I dare saying that everyone who knows you feels the same. Indeed, our Pale Blue Dot needs more people like you.
Amusingly, it was right after reading the letter, twice, that I decided to postpone my flight to L.A for another few weeks.
|Gorgeous Racha with stunning Sandra on the Northern Coast of Egypt, |
Summer 2015 - Some People I Shot
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Rooting Into The Past
My Correspondence With a 31-Year-Old Reader Before He Passed Away
Some People I Shot
The Night We Turned ‘Beast Mode’ On
How Inspiration is Transferable
A Saturday Evening with an Old Brotherman & His Doggy
Why I Share Stuff
The Night I Became a Stripper
Give That Man Some Groceries
The Writing Process and the Creative Block
Change Is The Only Constant