“I bought you easy books to begin your Arabic lesson, but first, you must understand I teach you my language because I am Alexandrian first, then Egyptian, then Arabic. So, you learn my culture, na?” Cool white marble and a breeze from the Med makes all the leaves dance and I smile at the children’s book my Alexandrian stepmother gives me.
“Look, this bicture (p is difficult for “Egybtians”) of mosquito, we say namoosa. This, water buffalo. We call gamoosa. Say it.” I oblige by pointing to the mosquito and saying, “Namoosa.” Then I point to the water buffalo and say, “Gamoosa.”
“Great start, now we get ready for Sunny’s birthday celebration.” Sunny is my half-sister, turning four and the garden is decorated with strings of bright lights above, flowers, balloons. Tables are ready to hold the gifts and party foods. I am 44, but the bond of sisters is felt between us.
Dark now, and we’re dressed and ready for the first guests to arrive. Soon, the music is loud, the lights are twinkling almost as brightly as Sunny’s eyes. Tables of food and three different cakes are being circled, but Sunny is at the gifts table. Soon, it’s time to mingle…
A very beautiful and pleasantly plump Egyptian woman sits beside me. She doesn’t speak much English and of course I’m in kiddy book Arabic. “So, you are having lessons in Arabic?” I reply, “Oh you know, namoosa, gamoosa.”
This beautiful woman looks at me for a moment, then she says, “Yes, I am big like water buffalo and you are small like mosquito.” My face flamed red! This lady thought I called her a water buffalo! “You are very beautiful.” I smile sincerely, feeling as small as the mosquito she thinks I think I am.