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Cafe Riche is famous for being the place, in the past, where great writers and intellectuals hung out. So it is only fitting that my meeting with Ibrahim Abdel Meguid, the great contemporary Egyptian writer should occur at this site to consummate our deal.

Author of more than 14 novels, with many translations, including English, Meguid has begun his own publishing company, and will be publishing, What a Woman Is, a collaborative collection of my poems, based on the painting of Egyptian painter, Shayma Kamel.

We met, June 30, the evening I arrived in Cairo from El Gouna, to sign the contract and discuss other details.  We had been talking via email and phone but had not met.  Meguid had sent me a signed, translated copy of No One Sleep in Alexandria, which I love.  He arrives  a few minutes late and preoccupied over the loss, death, of yet another friend. "Three now," he says  lighting a cigarette.

We are five, Shayma Kamel the artist, Sara Heagazi, who will translate poems into Arabic, Mohamed El-Wazery, the Manager of the publishing company, Ibrahim and I, Opal.  I have my customary red wine; Ibrahim and Mohamed have Stella beer and Shayma and Sara have juice. We toast to health and writers.  We laugh and we sit.

It is early yet, only 8:15 p.m so the Cafe only has a handful of people.  Folks in Cairo are only just beginning to emerge and in another 2 hours the place will be packed.  Ibrahim asks if I know the history of the Cafe.  In his husky, cigarette infused voice, he emphasizes that it is over a 100 years old, and that plans for the revolution and other great events were planned here in the basement.  Mohamed rises and offers to give me a guided tour, stopping in front of the photographs, to point out all the great writers, speaking about them as if he knew them personally.  I feel myself being pulled back in time, imagining all the talks and inspiration.

 We return to the table and munch on gabanzo beans, and discuss various types of translation.  I read a few of the poems  so Sara can hear them, and also Ibrahim, who because of final rite ceremony, will not be able to attend my reading in Cairo the next evening.  Then we sign the contract that I had been sent over via email and approved.  I sign, Shayma and Ibrahim sign.  We shake hands and kiss on both cheeks. We are all happy.

We talk about the unpredictable nature of life , the price of paper, the type of paper, the size of the book, the condition of Cairo and Egypt in general.  We talk about distribution and this auspicious connection. In between Ibrahim chain-smokes and talks on his cell phone.  He thanks me for the copy of my book, I Name Me Name, that I signed to him, and says writers all over the world, the same.

I thank my luck stars for all that transpired, but especially connecting with Ibrahim Abdel Meguid at Cafe Riche.

 

The photo was taken by Shayma and Mohamed had stepped out.

 

To:sara heagazi <sarahegazi@gmail.com> Cc:Mohamed EL-Wazery