From the memories of boyhood in Alexandria

Dr. Kamal Abdulmalik

19 May 2023

Like my parents, the English poet Stephen Spender who said of them, "My parents kept me from "children who were rough," my parents kept me away from the naughty boys. They forbade me to play with them on the street, ride bikes, swim, go to the cinema, or talk to girls even if they are my relatives. Until I became a student at Alexandria University, my family didn't have a TV, and I don't remember my father taking me to the cinema one day. But I sneaked out on Fridays and secretly went to the Alhambra cinema in Alexandria's Raml district. "The Alhambra" was a dilapidated and poorly ventilated "dock" cinema with double continuous screenings (a foreign film followed by an Arab one). It doesn't matter what time we enter the cinema because it used to show the same movies all hours of the day and night; if you enter and you missed half of the movie, you can wait for it to be re-screened with the entrance ticket.

Same. Viewers would come in and out all the time, carrying paper bags containing bean sandwiches and Alexandrian liver, peeling the pulp, peeling peanuts and sipping tea with an annoying sound. Foreign films were usually cowboy films by American actors such as Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster and Clint Eastwood, and it was customary to ask you what Gary had said, why Burt was angry and what Clint said as he "dangled" a match from the corner of his mouth (as usual, he was taciturn).

As for my education in Egypt and the teachers who taught me, I have many memories. Of course, there are those who left a beautiful impact on me, such as Abla Nazik, my teacher in the first year of primary school, Professor Mohamed Khalifa, who loved me in studying English, and Professor Abdul Azim, a professor of Arabic language and literature with thick glasses, whose name we used to pronounce like this: «Professor Abazim».

But what I remember so well so far is the math teacher in middle school. He was eccentric as if on a mission to validate the stereotype about math teachers. He had a strange habit of making the suffix Sin add to the end of some words, for example he would say:

«Hey boys, solve exercise number five-o»

«Attention, boy-s, you and he stayed-s»

"Ahmed-Q, tell me, 'What is the square root of 144-x?'"

One day he had a bad fit of this strange talk, which put me in a fit of laughter and made him very angry, and he came to the Takhta where I was sitting, ordered me to stand up and opened my hand to hit her with a long stick. He couldn't even hit me properly and fell with the stick with all his strength on my palm, but he missed the target, hit the takhta and broke its wooden surface, and I laughed, which made him get more angry and got very close to my face to threaten me with more severe punishment and with words all ending in the letter S, and my name is pronounced "Kamal-S" and I noticed then that one side of his mustache was shorter than the other side, and this made me laugh more and this in turn made him crazier and angry. After a while, he took a week off and we heard that he got married during that vacation and when he came back we stood in monolithic rows to congratulate him with an Egyptian wedding song: (And our groom looked at the bathroom...) The strange thing is that he was smiling with joy at this clowning and thanking us warmly with sentences and words that were completely devoid of any necessary or unnecessary sin. It seemed as if he no longer needed to make the suffix of the letter Sin added to the end of words.

God has affairs and measures in his creation.

Visiting Scholar at Harvard University

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