I remember Mohamad pulling over to the side of that dusty, two-lane highway north of Cairo. He didn’t say much about why we were stopping, so I assumed he was going to hop out and buy something for his family that perhaps wasn’t available back in the city. Instead, he simply signaled for me to get out and to follow him. And I did.
In the days that preceded this one, Mohamad and his son had taken me to see so many historic sites around Egypt. I saw the Sphinx, the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha and so much more. I learned of papyrus, camels, the Nile and hieroglyphics. But the moment in time that stands out from that trip more than any other was this one.
There I was, taking my boots off so I could follow Mohamad into that small, roadside shelter made of thatch and canvas. I paused for just a couple seconds at the doorway, held my hat to my chest, smiled and looked around. This wasn’t my world. This was theirs. And I was being given the privilege to step into it.
A Moment in Time
I quickly took my place sitting on the floor of this shelter, joining several other guys who clearly had an important conversation going.
I don’t speak Arabic, but they made me feel welcome as Mohamad translated the important parts to help me follow along.
A few questions ensued about where I was from, what my life was like, and how often it snowed.
Mostly however, I sat and listened to a conversation I couldn’t comprehend but somehow understood.
The youngest in the group was a bit frustrated as he spoke. Something clearly just didn’t seem fair to him, and it made him angry. The oldest sat in silence for most of the conversation, though I did notice him chuckle at least twice.
One of the guys was lost in thought. A couple of the others saw the humor in it all, seeking to bring levity with what must have been jokes. My guide Mohamad spoke with firmness and assurance, inviting peace and acceptance to the conversation.
I would never know the topic of discussion that day, but I didn’t need to. It still spoke to me.
I looked around as they talked, paying attention to details I would never have even noticed had they been speaking English. I saw the breeze, the design on the Egyptian rug, the pile of sandals out front where my boots were resting.
I saw their faces. This was their world. These were their struggles and their joys. This was their way. And though I had never been anywhere like this, it was all so familiar. I couldn’t help but think of all the things that separate us in life—and all the things that bind us together.
If you follow me on “The Edge of Adventure,” you know how much I love languages and how much I strive to communicate in a person’s native tongue whenever possible.
But that particular moment taught me something special. It taught me that the human experience goes far beyond words. It taught me that sometimes it is better to listen with my eyes.
See what I’m saying?
Adam Asher is host and creator of The Edge of Adventure, an award-winning documentary film and podcast that showcase inspiring humanitarian organizations worldwide. He has a passion for travel and for people. Learn more about his work at TheEdgeOfAdventure.com. And join the conversation in his mobile app: RuggedCompass.com.