land of the pyramids, ancient pharaohs, and the River Nile; I’d waited
forty-five years to come here. Ever since I was a child at my grandmother’s
knee, I’d listened to her stories of the years she’d spent in Egypt. “I was
a young woman in my twenties when I went to work in Cairo. It seems like
only yesterday,” she smiled, patting my hand. This morning, as I rushed
about trying to get ready to leave for the airport, she still hadn’t lost
any of her enthusiasm. “Take lots of photographs,” she called from her
wheelchair. “I’ll be waiting to see them when you get back.” She waved
goodbye as the taxi pulled away. I could swear I saw a tear in her eye.
I stood on
the balcony of my hotel room in Cairo, entranced by the scenes around me. It
was everything I’d imagined - enchanting, mysterious and magical. Ancient
mosques dominated the skyline with their stone minarets and domed mosaic
roofs. I took a deep breath and started to cough. Though the city smelled of
car exhaust and rotting garbage, I managed to catch an ambrosial scent
wafting from the inflorescence of plants growing on a trellis around my
balcony. Back in grandmother’s days there had been few cars in Egypt. “The
air smelled like a bouquet of honeysuckle and roses mixed with dust,” she’d
said. Cairo certainly didn’t smell like that now.
I was eager
to explore this wondrous city. After a quick change of clothes, I made my
way down the narrow streets towards the souk. Strolling through the open-air
market, I felt sardined by the throngs of people, each bargaining in the
traditional Arab manner. There was something exhilarating about being here.
The items for sale had changed somewhat, but the souk and the people
barreling their way past the stalls had looked the same for hundreds of
years. Grandmother had warned me about the souk. “You’ll find anything you
want, from exotic spices to camel-hide bags, but oh, those Arabs know how to
wheel and deal.” I chuckled out loud and shook my head. Judging by the noise
around me, there was no doubt that hadn’t changed one bit.
amazed at the colors and smells, mingled with desert heat, which enveloped
me as I made my way through the throngs. Roasting meat, sizzling on a spit
and covered with bluebottle flies, strands of golden chains, fresh flowers
in buckets of moldy water, and falafels frying in old oil, captivated me. It
was so different than anything I’d ever experienced before, yet the
Egyptians seemed a happy people, content with their way of life. After
haggling the price for a black and gold-colored silk scarf, I stuffed it in
my backpack and fought my way out of the souk. As I walked past one of the
last stalls, something caught my eye, so I stopped. Seeing my hesitancy, the
seller began his harassing. “Ah, I see you have your eye on that beautiful
brooch. It is very rare. I give you good deal.”
know what was so intriguing about the brooch, but something about it called
to my heart. I picked it up and examined it. “Did it belong to an Egyptian
princess?” I asked, knowing full well the answer I’d hear.
sparkled with delight. He knew that he was going to make a sale and was
willing to say anything he had to. “Madam, that is a priceless jewel. An old
friend, an archeologist, gave it to me. He found it at Sakkara. I give you
good price,” he began.
answered my question. The more I looked at it, the more I could tell that it
definitely wasn’t Egyptian. I recognized the Celtic design. Eager to see how
far the man would go, I commented, “Oh, is that so? In Sakkara, you say?”
“Do you have any papers proving its authenticity? If it is a archeological
antiquity, shouldn’t it belong in a museum?”
seller’s face tightened to a scowl. He could tell he wasn’t dealing with the
run of the mill tourist. Putting on a fake smile, he continued, “Madam, you
are right. I can see I need to be honest with you. Let me introduce myself.”
He took my hand. “My name is Abdullah. A friend did give it to me long ago.
There is a story behind it. Would you like to hear it?” He pulled a stool
from behind a stack of galabayas and nodded at me to sit down. Overcome with
curiosity and having plenty of time, I sat on the wobbly stool. I wondered
what sort of gibberish was he going to try to tell me now. “Madam, my
friend, John Crawford, was a Scotsman. He moved to Egypt about fifty years
ago. My father and John were best friends. They worked together at digs in
the Sakkara area.”
skipped a beat. Why did that name sound familiar to me? “A Scotsman, like
myself. How interesting!”
continued, “Madam, even though I was only a boy, I remember him very well.
He was a good man. There was a woman, a beautiful woman, with long red hair
and eyes as blue as the most precious sapphire. He brought her down to visit
now and then. He hired my father to make this brooch for her. She knew about
it and was always excited to see it.” My heart skipped another beat.
Something was going on inside my heart, yet I didn’t know what. I thought of
my grandmother. She lived in Egypt around that time. She had red hair and
blue eyes too. It just wasn’t possible. Coincidences like this can’t happen,
still…“John loved this woman. They made a beautiful couple,” he continued.
her name? Do you remember?” I asked. I couldn’t get over the feeling that
was flowing through my veins like a million butterflies in flight.
scratched his unshaven face, thinking. “I’m sorry, Madam. I cannot recall
her name, but she was beautiful.” I laughed out loud. “What is the matter,
“I love the
way you say beautiful. You say it with your heart,” I replied.
Madam. Shall I continue?” he asked. I nodded. “John requested of my father
to make this jewelry for her. He was very good at doing things with his
hands. Most of the jewelry you see here was made by my father.” He put a few
pieces down in front of me. As I examined them, Abdullah continued, “ I
regret that I didn’t follow in his ways. Alas, I am but a meager salesman
now, working hard every day in the souk to feed my family.” He hesitated.
“But let me go on. John came by every day to see how my father was coming
along. He brought pictures of Scottish symbols to use as a pattern. I
remember standing behind my father as he worked on it. Ah, such a work of
art it was. When it was finished, my father felt so proud. He told me this
was his best piece. It was beautiful.”
again. Abdullah noticed and cleared his throat. “Madam, the man, John, was
killed that very day the jewelry was completed. My father didn’t know what
to do with it. The woman never came to pick it up, so he put it in a box in
the back room of our home. I live there now with my family.”
”What about the woman? Didn’t your father try to find her and give it to
her?” I asked.
fear the woman was very upset when John Crawford died. She left Cairo soon
afterwards and we never saw or heard from her again.”
silently, thinking about Abdullah’s words. “Why are you trying to sell it
“It is most
interesting that you should ask. The other day I was looking in the back
room for a tool to fix the strap on one of my leather bags. That’s when I
saw the box. I thought it was unusual that I hadn’t noticed it before. It
must have sat on the shelf all these years gathering dust. I picked it up,
not knowing what was inside. When I opened the lid, I gasped. It brought
back many memories of my father and John Crawford! For some reason I felt I
should put it out today at the souk. Now you come along and stop at my
stall. Isn’t that unusual, Madam?” I could see the confusion on his face and
the smile deep in his eyes.
I ran my
fingers over the brooch. A tear dripped from my eye onto my hand. “What is
wrong, Madam? Do you not like it? Did it prick your finger with its point?”
raced a million miles an hour. All the memories my grandmother had shared
with me flooded my thoughts. Right then I remembered her telling me of a man
she met in Egypt that she loved very much and how they were going to be
married, but he drowned in the River Nile. She’d later married Grandfather,
but I always knew, by the twinkle in her eyes, that this man had lived in
her heart and was never going to leave.
John Crawford die?” I whispered, barely able to speak.
it was very sad. He was sailing on a felucca in the River Nile when his boat
sank and he drowned.
I lifted my
head and gazed into his eyes. “Abdullah, when I walked past your stall, this
brooch seemed to call to me. For some reason I knew I had to stop here. I
believe this brooch was made for my grandmother, Maggie Rutherford. This was
to be hers. She told me about John Crawford, the man who drowned. She loved
him very much.”
I pulled a
twenty-dollar bill out of my bag and handed it to Abdullah. “Here. This is
the least I can give you.”
jaw dropped. I could tell he’d not expected so much for it. His eyes
sparkled and he smiled. “Madam, I cannot take your money. I will not take
it. This is a gift for you. It was to be your grandmothers, a special gift
from John Crawford. Is she still alive?” I nodded yes. “Give it to her.”
Abdullah’s voice crackled with emotion as he handed me back the money.
Unable to hold back the tears, I wept openly. His comforting arm slipped
around my shoulder. “It is all right to cry, Madam.”
Back at the
hotel I slipped the brooch into my suitcase where it would be safe. I spent
another week in Egypt, doing all the things I’d dreamed of. I took many
photographs for my grandmother. My last evening there, I walked down to the
River Nile. As the sun sunk below the horizon, casting its golden rays into
the darkening sky, I stood on the banks, watching the feluccas sailing past.
“I’m taking the brooch to her, John Crawford. You can sleep now,” I
arriving back in Scotland, I couldn’t wait to show Grandmother the brooch,
yet I knew I wanted to find a special way of presenting it to her. Surely it
would bring back happy, yet painful memories and I didn’t want her to be
upset. I left it in the original box that Abdullah had given me and tied a
pretty pink ribbon around it. With photos in hand, I went upstairs to see
her. “Grandmother, I’ve got a surprise for you,” I called.
child. Did you have fun? Tell me all about your trip. Did you take
photographs?” she giggled.
”Grandmother, slow down,” I laughed. “Yes, I had fun. It was everything you
promised it would be. Before I show you the photographs, I have something
for you.” She had a curious look on her face as I handed her the box wrapped
in the silk scarf I’d purchased in the souk.
lovely,” she said. “Silk?” When she caressed her cheek with it, the box fell
into her hands. “What’s this?”
Grandmother.” I couldn’t sit still, anticipating the look on her face when
she saw what was inside.
untied the ribbon and opened the lid. “What have you gone and bought me?” I
heard her gasp. She didn’t utter a word for several seconds. She ran her
fingers over the Celtic knots and twists. “My brooch,” she whispered. She
lifted it to her lips and gently kissed it. “My brooch.” She looked up at
me, tears filling her eyes. I hadn’t noticed how much they truly did look
like sapphires. “What did…? Where did…? How?” I took her hand in mine and
told her about my meeting up with Abdullah in the souk. “After all these
years, I finally got my brooch.” She put it between the palms of her hands
and held it to her heart. “Oh, John, I miss you.” Her body shook with fifty
years worth of loss and heartbreak. I held her tight, not minding the tears
that soaked my blouse.
I spent the
rest of the day with Grandmother, listening patiently as she told me about
John Crawford and the love she had for him. We looked at the photographs
until she was too tired to go on. “Time to rest, Grandmother.” I covered her
with her afghan and tiptoed toward the door.
coincidence, you know,” she murmured. “John wanted me to have that brooch.
It might have taken fifty years, but I’ve got it now.” Her eyes closed and a
smile spread across her face. As I shut the door I saw the brooch in her
hand, right next to her heart.
“Goodnight, Grandmother. Sleep well.”