The Hand You're Dealt

Zizo Abdo smuggled a letter out of his prison cell in Cairo this week which was published under the title 'A Hand Span Worth of Space'.   He's a political activist adhering to the 6th April Group and was arrested on the evening of 5th May on charges, apparently, of demonstrating or organising demonstrations.  

Here's a short extract from what he wrote:

'I can’t sleep anymore, ever since I was arrested. I am the kind of person who cannot read, write, or sleep in crowded places, especially as we are 48 men in an 8×5-metre cell.  There’s barely even enough space to make a fist with your hand here. We have a hand spans worth of space: from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. So, every day I wait for my 47 cellmates to fall asleep, just for an hour or two of privacy. The only real space available is right in front of the toilet. I sit there and read the newspapers and the letters I receive, and write whatever comes to mind. Habits from my normal life are like a virus in the deadly prison environment.  I write to you on the night of a full moon. It’s pretty difficult to see the moon through the iron bars, but, still, I can see it up there.'

My own hand span in today's shot covers a first edition of 'The Automobile Club of Egypt' by one of the country's most prominent authors, Alaa Alswany, whose most famous work is 'The Yacubian Building' which tells it as it is in Egypt.   This recently published work does the same and I was able to buy a copy before it was withdrawn from sale in many bookshops.  Alswany's monthly literary seminar in Alexandria was banned in December and he now has desisted from publishing a weekly column in a private newspaper.

The hand Abdo has been dealt is very different from the one I enjoy which includes strolling freely around Cairo's streets today, taking a Turkish coffee as my laptop reconfigures itself and popping into a high couture designer's studio to order a couple of tops for Dd.  

Abdo writes of struggling to see a full moon through the bars of his cell's window the other night.   Dd pointed out the same full moon as we crossed the glittering Nile on our way to dinner in a floating restaurant. I wonder if Abdo will be dealt a new hand anytime soon.

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