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At 10h30 this morning the train from Luxor hissed to a final stop and I popped my tired little head out in Cairo. It’s four days short of two months of near non-stop moving, busing, boating, trucking (or on-top-of-trucking, technically) and one night on a felucca. I am holding out until I have seen the Pyramids tomorrow before drawing a line in my mind to this journey, because that’s always how I imagined it ending. In front of the Great Pyramid of Giza, rather than the McDonalds of Cairo. Maybe I just like the drama of ending at one of the surviving wonders of the ancient world.

I have four moleskine books, lovingly filled to bursting with stories from tea shops to bus stops along the way. Each is crammed with things seen, things learned, things wondered about – and bundles of papers picked up here and there. Receipts, a filthy dirty one Birr note and a couple of postcards. It is one of these that slips cheekily out of the back pages and demands to be read and shared this evening.


The postcard. And a boundless bounty of stories in the books behind.

It came as a goodbye present from Maya, a backpacker I met on the ferry somewhere between Wadi Halfa in Sudan and Aswan in Egypt. She owned a journal of her last two years of travels from India to places closer to Sudan that is more art than narrative, more inspiration than information. And from its pages came a poem on the cheeky falling-out postcard. A poem given hundreds of years earlier from pages of someone else’s book – one that begs to be shared.

It was composed by a poet called Rumi, and it goes thus:

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.