My Enchanting Sereeb

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Shopkeeper from Misrata


 An extract from my story: The Shopkeeper from Misrata 
Grandpa Miftah occupied a room in the outer men’s quarter of the huge derelict house. The house was divided into two quarters, the outer one known as the men’s quarter and the inner one known as the women’s quarter. Men and women did not mix in that household. Grandpa Miftah’s room was small and dark, as it had no windows. The dim daylight was provided by the small front door. Its walls were painted white and a huge antique clock hung on one of the walls. Grandpa Miftah depended on that clock to tell him the time. The timber beams of the ceiling were decaying from leaking rainwater. They also hosted a nest of swallows, which Grandpa Miftah refused to be taken down. His white iron bed, which Hajj Salim sourced from the Grand Hospital in Benghazi, was set against the front wall that faced the small door. A tiny hard-grained and chipped table nestled between the bed and a leather armchair. The table hosted his radio and a spittoon, which Laila emptied every morning. The room opened into a semi-dark vestibule that led to the old market.
Grandpa Miftah never left his room or his bed or even sat in the leather armchair, which was permanently occupied by Sidi Hamad, a dear friend, companion, and neighbour.  He left his room only on Fridays. Laila would bathe him in the small bright bathroom in the men’s quarter and after the bath she would put a small charcoal brazier burning with frankincense under a chair where his Libyan costume was carefully folded. When the bath was over, she would sprinkle him with rose water, adjust his dark glasses, hand him his mahogany stick, and lead him by the hand to the outer vestibule where Uncle Hassan would be waiting to take him to the mosque for the Friday prayer.
Outside in the market, Uncle Hassan would lead Grandpa Miftah trying to avoid the heaps of rotten vegetables, broken boxes and the animal droppings that littered the street. Unlike his sullen son, Grandpa Miftah always wore a cheerful countenance and greeted the shopkeepers with a smile and a gentle ‘Marhibtain my brother’. He particularly showed great affinity towards Musbah, a shopkeeper from Misrata. Grandpa Miftah, a Misrati himself, felt the need to show his support for Musbah, who was harassed and bullied by the other shopkeepers. The main cause of the bullying was the fact that Musbah was from Misrata, whose inhabitants  were renowned for their selling andm buying skills. He was viewed by the shopkeepers, who called themselves the Berqawis, as a stingy fat leech from Misrata, who didn’t belong to this part of the land. The other cause was the fact that Musbah’s business was thriving. Grandpa Miftah tried his best to console the injured Musbah and calm down the belligerent shopkeepers. He was immensely liked and highly respected by all the shopkeepers. They listened to him and admired his knowledge and wisdom. They also feared his reproach and power, despite his blindness........................... to be continued