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Taher is the main character of my novel about 9/11.

Since his birth was unexpected, it came to be considered miraculous. Taher himself was proclaimed to be exceptional, a gift of God, on the day he was born.

Later on, his unusual sensitivities, his remarkable imagination, and his dedication to the studies of the Holy Quran not only ensured him a privileged position as the family’s chosen child but also granted him an upbringing influenced by the wisdom of the elders.

Here is an excerpt from my novel which pertains to how Taher’s life was supposed to unfold:

His father’s stories were etched into him like words carved into stone. They structured his world in Ismailia, where he was born.  They helped him through many difficult stages, and finally they brought him consolation in the last moments of his life. And even as his life’s experiences changed his understanding of the stories, they remained the oracle forever.

The most controversial and the most discussed was the one about the thirst. He remembered this one especially well, since he first heard it during this memorable journey into the desert.

“Only the people of the desert can grasp the truth of life.” His father looked into the starry sky, putting his hands behind his head and stretching himself on the ground. “It’s a necessary survival skill and an art required to build a meaningful life.” His words were slow and quiet. “But most people, greedy and imprudent, lead their lives unconsciously, and that’s the time when the water turns into lead.”

“Into lead?”

“Yes.” The father looked straight into Taher’s eyes. “The water always turns into lead when there is too much of it, and when there is not enough of it.”

“Impossible!” The boy eagerly pointed out the contradiction and his own misunderstanding.

“Only the people of the desert know the exact amount of water that won’t turn into lead,” his father continued slowly. “They know exactly what amount of water is essential, and they know this is the amount, exactly the amount they should take with them. People not familiar with the desert either take too much water, or not enough. Those who run out of water are imprudent. They always go farther than they should, and that’s why they never come back. Those who take too much water, rapacious ones, overburden themselves and their animals, slowing down the journey dangerously, never arriving at their destination.

His father looked at him always before the last sentence. “Remember, this is very important! You must become a man of the desert before you take upon yourself the journey into the desert. You must become a man of the desert before you take upon yourself the journey into life. Prepare before you go!”

“Life is a tremendous journey through the desert.” These words became a mysterious conundrum to Taher. “Life is a tremendous journey through the desert, and man’s thirst is his biggest challenge. Through his choices, it can become his biggest strength or his biggest weakness.” Taher would repeat these words and ponder their meaning often throughout his life.

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