TE21 Serbian Moments

Dejan Tiago Stanković


it’s already dry. If you leave fresh fruit in a bowl on the table, by the next day its skin is all wrinkly. If you leave the window open, even high up, half an hour later you will be able to write your name on the dusty table. Powder-fine particles of dust slowly accumulate, drawing a pale film over the city which homogenizes everything visible into one, giving Cairo a pale hue. The dust creates a film on the windowpanes, and the treetops become white as if sprinkled with flour or cultivated next to a stone quarry or cement works. It is only twice a year, when the young shoots and flower buds start toblossomon the trees, that fora fewweeks thegreen loses its ashen hue and shines in the sun, but soon a homogenizing filter of pale desert dust covers the new leaves until, inshallah, the next vegetative season. Taher maintained that Cairo would be buried under the dust that falls on the city night and day were it not for all the people who walk in the streets and constantly move the dust, carry it on the soles of their shoes, the horses on their hooves, and the cars on their tires, thereby clearing it off the roads and streets. Without the people and animals of Cairo, the desert would slowly, particle by particle, engulf the city.


Nabila is a pretty name. It means Noble.

I have to admit, the promise that I would have a maid was a strong motivation for me to agree to moving to Africa. It was not until I arrived in Cairo that I realized that I would have never been capable of coping and running the house on my own, even if I had given it my all. Going to the market, bargaining, ordering things on the phone, haggling with the deliverers and shoving baksheesh into their hands were things I was simply unable to do, especially at the beginning, when I had little understanding of the language and could barely speak it at all. Anyway, the flat was too big for me to maintain on my own; somebody had to wipe off all that dust. It turned out that it was not so easy to find that somebody. Although working for foreigners was one of the few jobs where women earned more than men, we couldn’t find anyone trustworthy, because, as we were told, honest Egyptian women did not like going into service in other peoples’ homes. As a result, in many Egyptian homes, the servants were men. A specialized agency advised us to take a Philippine girl, but as they were chronically in short supply we were placed on a waiting list until someone from the Philippine network of




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