Widowed and childless, the man yearned to visit his mother’s Anatolian village. It would be his first journey out of Egypt, squeezed between two deserts, and his dreams had become filled with snow-dusted pines. Collecting his savings from a life working the land, he boarded a rattletrap bus to Alexandria, goats and straw baskets tethered to the roof. In the ancient port, he scanned the ships on the horizon, specks trailing threads of smoke. The ancient Library of a million scrolls, the Pharos that stood high among the Seven Wonders of the World—now rubble on the harbor floor—seemed alien to his purpose. […]

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