Adnan woke up early on this special morning.
Today he was leaving for Cairo. He was one of
three in his class at school who had been chosen
to take part in the gymnastic celebration on his
country's Independence Day.
Adnan lived in
Egypt, In northern Africa. The town where he
lived was Aswan, on the Nile River. The Nile was
the longest river in the world, and today Adnan
was going to sail down the river on a boat. He
was sailing all the way to the big city of
Cairo, many days to the north, near where the
Nile empties into the sea.
Adnan gulped down his breakfast. His mother
had already gone to the river to do the laundry,
but she had left him his breakfast of beans,
cheese made from water buffalo's milk and dark
bread. When Adnan reached the river, he found
his mother waiting beside a felucca, an Egyptian
sailboat used for traveling from village to
village along the Nile. Adnan's teacher and
classmates were already on the boat. Adnan
hugged his mother and hurried on board. He waved
and watched the water widen as the boat moved
slowly away from the shore.
The water was grey blue and the land was
green, but Adnan knew that the green did not
reach many kilometers beyond the river's edge.
Most of Egypt was dry, brown desert country.
Before his family moved to Aswan, they had lived
on a small farm on the edge of the desert. Adnan
had never gone to school there because his
father had needed him on the farm, where they
had tried to grow as much rice and corn and
fruit as possible. It had never been quite
enough. Adnan had always been a little bit
hungry. Now his father worked on the famous
Aswan High Dam on the Nile River, and Adnan went
The Aswan High Dam was enormous. The water
that the dm held back was used to irrigate
growing crops so that people in this poor
country would have enough to eat. In school
Adnan had studied about Cairo. There, instead of
using camels to pull carts to market, people had
trucks and cars. Some people wore the kind of
clothes that were worn by people he had seen in
movies. Both Adnan and his father wore a galabia,
a kind of long shirt. When they worked outside
under the hot sun, this garment kept them cool.
And at night when it got cold, it kept them
Adnan knew that electricity was used to light
the houses and streets of Cairo. On the farm,
there had been no electricity for lights or
stoves or anything else. They had used the dried
bush of cotton plants as fuel for cooking
because there was little wood near the desert.
In Aswan, the house where Adnan lived was made
of sunbaked mud and straw, with a roof of
cornstalks or palm branches. About the only
thing that Adnan expected might be the same in
Cairo was the police. They were everywhere in
Egypt, telling people what to do and what not to
Suddenly Adnan stood very still, listening
hard. From across the water he heard the faint
cry of a muezzin -- a crier on top of a mosque.
The muezzin was calling the Muslims to prayer.
Like most Egyptians, Adnan was a Muslim. Five
times a day he knelt in the direction of Mecca,
the holy city, and bowed his head in prayer. The
sun was hot. The water, nearly blue here in the
middle of the wide river, looked cool and
tempting. The boat was not sailing fast. Adnan
though how nice it would be to have a swim. He
could hardly wait to get to Cairo.