2020 - 2022
play this recorded sound for an echoing read

During the early days of lockdown in Europe, which my home city Cairo followed shortly after, my brother who lives in Germany would message me. He asked me to listen to unusual sounds of birds in the early hours of day. He said it was a sign.

When Birds Sang Again is a story of watching a city and a family strive. I have seen the emptiness of streets of Cairo during COVID-19 pandemic and my personal toll that came with it. Seeing my beloved, wary city in lockdown. Taking refuge in my home. Keeping the same distance from strangers, friends and family alike – anyone who doesn’t live and eat with me, including my uncle Mustafa, who taught me everything about Mathematics. And my friend Eslam whose hugs comforted me.

This forced reality of physical distancing has deeply affected my emotional wellbeing. In a culture that celebrates physical affection with loved ones and family, especially the elders, as a show of  bond and respect, this imposed distancing made many of us who care for our elders vulnerable. Astray. 

I listened to increasing sounds of birds, including my own, through the quiet of lockdown as arms reached for empathy and conversation and I wondered if it was their relief  of  our cities becoming quieter or their comforting us for our collective grief - for everyone we had lost without a farewell.

I wondered if it was just us staying by our windows longer.
Hoping to hear a sound we got used to, all over again.

A few days ago, he asked me
why I no longer kiss his hand

for more of this story, contact me mahmoudm.khattab (at) gmail (dot) com