His eyes were not the saintly grey-blue eyes of the Alexandrian Arab who greeted me at the airport in Cairo, wearing a humble turban above his toothless smile.
They were not the proud eyes of the ‘Chief of the Nile’, the water policeman in Luxor, whose pale skin and straight hair, navy slacks and suave grey sweater leant him an air of self-importance in this sea of dark-skinned, kaftan-wearing Arabs.
Abdulla had African features and the wild brown eyes of an experienced sailor, constantly scanned the river, seeking out the mysteries of wind and water and God. Though he could easily be mistaken for a Bedouin from the hot desert sands, Abdulla was a man of the river.
Abdulrazig, the name his many cousins, uncles and countless friends affectionately called him, had kinky afro hair which he sometimes covered with a white Islamic scarf. More often than not, it sprang upwards towards the heavens in dark spiralled peaks while the scarf flapped in the breeze around his shoulders.
When he hoisted the tall canvas sail of his wooden boat named ‘Baby’, the heavy cotton gallābīya he wore also billowed in the wind. And each time he set out to cross the Nile, you could hear friendly shouts of greeting from the esplanade below the temple and see children running along the banks to wave after him. After all, everyone knew and loved Abdulla, the young felucca captain.
©2013 S. K. Riley