Glass Enclave
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She looked at the slabs on the ground, hexagonals by lines of pebbles. Tidy, rubbish free. Was it Tarig who always shaped designs in the dust with his feet? Or was it she? Shifted twigs, dented bottle tops, kicked around a pebble that stood out from among the rest because of its striking shape, its different colour. And to avoid Tarig's eyes, she had pulled little oblong leaves from their stems, tied the stems in knot after knot. Rolled the petals of jasmines between her fingers till they became pulp.

'I was thinking of you', Rae said, 'this is why I wanted you to translate this. They need a translator. I would be happy to recommend you. It would be a short contract, no more than a month. Then maybe from Cairo you could go home to visit. How far is it from Cairo?'

'Two and a half hours by plane'. She looked at him warily, there was now a distance between them, a new coolness. 'You imagine that I can interview terrorists?' Her voice sounded sarcastic, grudging.

'The place will be swarming with security. You needn't worry about that. Anyway, a lot of them would not have taken part in terrorist activities. And you're translating not interviewing, someone else will be asking the questions. I think you'll do fine.

'These Anti-terrorist Programs', he said, 'I see them as part of a hype to cover up the real problems of unemployment and inefficient government. I've spoken to members of these extremist groups before and you will see that if you speak to them, they have no realistic policies, no clear idea of how to implement what they vaguely call 'Islamic economics', or an 'Islamic' state. They are protest movements, and they do have plenty to protest about. The mediocrity of the ruling party which has no mass support and which are in the main client states to the West. These groups appeal to people's anger against cultural imperialism, against class divisions but do people really believe them to be a viable alternative? I don't think so.

'I'll get off my soap-box now', he said and laughed. His laugh turned into a cough. 'I'm sorry I go on about this. Consider it though. I think it would be a good chance for you to go home, see your family'.

'I'm afraid'.

But he did not understand. 'It's natural to be afraid of a new job'.

When she did not answer, he said, 'There are other rooms in these gardens, do you want to see them?'

So they walked away from the cacti through greenery, among tropical plants with large leaves, pink flowers. Miniature water-falls and streams where little girls teased the swimming fish. And all around them the sound of the birds and running water. Water rushing in the pipes that ran along the ceiling to keep the air humid or was it already pouring with rain outside?

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