“We don’t have that long to wait. Half an hour before we have to go to our gate. We can hang around the shops.”
We couldn’t afford to purchase anything, but my sisters enjoyed looking around the perfume shop. After that, we moved to the book shop and spent the rest of our time there before heading to the gate for boarding.
Lalia requested her sandwich and finished it during the fifteen minutes we had to hang around before we could finally board the plane. We took seats next to each other near the front of the aircraft. Dafne got air sickness so she got the window seat, while I positioned Lalia in the middle and I sat in the aisle seat.
A mischievous smile slowly spread across Lalia’s face. She looked up at me. “Did Mommy pack any lollipops… or baklava?”
“No baklava,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “But she gave us lollipops to help keep our ears unblocked. I’ll give you one once the flight takes off.”
I handed her and Dafne a strawberry lollipop as the plane took off from the runway and unwrapped one for myself too. I leaned back in my chair, looking up at the screen above our seats. We had a long flight ahead of us.
After Dafne and I ate our sandwiches, all three of us fell asleep. It was lunchtime by the time I woke up again. An air stewardess was standing by our row of seats, offering us trays of food.
I woke my sisters and placed our tables down in front of us. We watched a movie as we ate, and after lunch, Dafne and I played a game of hangman while Lalia continued watching the screen. Once the movie had finished, Lalia insisted on playing a game of snap—my mother had thoughtfully packed the cards in her bag. It was one of her favorite games, and she won almost all the time.
We dozed off again at some point and, on waking up the next time, it was to the news that we were approaching Cairo International Airport. I felt the plane beginning to descend. I looked over at Dafne. She was staring out the window, her knuckles pale as she gripped her seat. Surprisingly, she had coped well on this journey. Normally she vomited at least once.
Once the plane had touched down and taxied to a stop, we all stood up and stretched our legs. Then I bundled our carry on luggage out of the locker overhead. I felt excited as we moved toward the front of the plane. It wouldn’t be long now until we would be reunited with our grandfather.
As we stepped out of the plane, the hot Egyptian air engulfed us. I was already sweating. We hurried through the rest of the airport and, after reclaiming our baggage, we finally reached the arrivals area. We looked around for our grandfather. Lalia was the one who spotted him first.
He was a short man with white hair and a beard that covered half his face. He wore a light cotton suit, and his tan face split into a smile as he spotted us.
We rushed into his arms and he cuddled all three of us at once. The smell of his cologne filled my nostrils.
“How was the flight?” he asked, his Lebanese accent thick as ever.
“It went smoothly,” I said.
A tall ebony-skinned man arrived next to him. “Meet Fariss,” my grandfather said. “My new driver.”
Fariss smiled and shook hands with each of us. He bent down and picked up my sisters’ luggage. When he motioned to carry mine too, I held up a hand and said, “No, it’s fine. I can manage. Thanks.”
We made our way toward my grandfather’s shiny black car in the parking lot. My sisters and I sat in the back while our grandfather sat in the passenger seat. After Fariss had packed all the luggage into the back, he started up the engine and drove us away.
I reached for a paper napkin stuffed into the back of one of the seats and wiped my forehead.
“Wow, it’s hot,” I said.
“Welcome to Cairo.” My grandfather chuckled.
“So what’s the surprise, Grandpa?” Dafne asked.
He swiveled in his seat to look back at us, a gleam in his eyes. “Well, it didn’t look like it was going to coincide with your visit at first, but plans changed… We’ve been invited to an exciting dig. It’s in the ruins of an ancient temple and it’s happening in the desert not too far from home.”
“Oh, my,” Dafne gasped.
“Normally they wouldn’t allow children to attend such things, but the organizer is a friend of mine and he agreed to make an exception. So… what do you say?”
“Yes!” Dafne squealed.
Lalia still looked too overwhelmed by the change of scenery and temperature to register what my grandfather was saying. She was staring out of the window. I was sure that he would find a way to make the dig interesting even for a six-year-old.
The dig certainly sounded exciting to me. Although I wasn’t quite as much of a nerd as Dafne when it came to Egyptian history, I was always interested in my grandfather’s work.
“How long will the dig last?” I asked.
“Well, it’s started already. But I think we will most likely see something interesting by the day after tomorrow. I suggest we leave early, stay the whole day and night and return the next day before lunchtime.”
“Stay the night? In the desert?” Dafne looked all the more excited by the prospect.
“Yes. They’ve set up camp there.”
“Wow,” Dafne said.
“Bashira would come with us, too,” my grandfather added.
“How is Bashira?” I asked. My grandmother had died five years ago, and now my grandfather lived alone except for his longtime housekeeper, Bashira.