Excerpt of Finding Nouf by Zoë Ferraris
(Page 3 of 4)
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Besides, his team was the largest, and although he didnt often do
search-and-rescue, he knew the desert better than most. Hed practically
grown up in the desert. His uncle Samir had raised him, and Samir kept
foreign friends: scholars, scientists, men who came to study the Red Sea,
the birds and the fish, or the Bedouin way of life. Nayir spent summers
chipping dirt on archaeological digs for rich Europeans who sought the tomb
of Abraham or the remains of the gold that the Jews had carried from Egypt.
He spent winters clutching the rear humps of camels, clattering through the
sand with tin pots and canteens. He became an archer, a falconer, a
survivalist of sorts who could find his way home from remote locations
needing only a headscarf, water, and the sky. He wasnt a Bedouin by blood,
but he felt like one.
Hed never failed to find a lost traveler. If Nouf had run away, he
had to assume that she didnt want to be found. For ten days they scoured
the dunes in Rovers, on camels, from airplanes and choppers, and frequently
they found each other, which caused some relief, hard as it was to find
anything living in all of that sand. But they did not find Nouf, and finally the
reports that Nayirs men placed before him began to suggest
alternative theories in which shed taken an overnight bus to Muscat or
boarded an airplane for Amman.
He cursed the situation. Maybe shed spent a night in the wild and
decided it was too uncomfortable, too dirty, and shed moved on. Yet Nayir
feared that she had stayed, and now it was too late. It only took two days for
a man to die in the desert. For a young girl from a wealthy family, a girl who
had probably never left the comfort of an air-conditioned room, it would take
less time than that.
The sunset showered the landscape in a warm orange light, and a
stiff sirocco troubled the air. It stirred a sharp longing that reached beyond his
concerns for Nouf. Lately hed been overcome by thoughts of what was
missing in his life. Irrationally, he felt that it wasnt only Nouf hed lost, it was
the possibility of finding any woman. Closing his eyes, he asked Allah once
again: What is Your plan for me? I trust in Your plan, but Im impatient.
Please reveal Your design.
Behind him came a shout. Quickly stuffing the picture back in his
pocket, he stood up and saw one of his men at the bottom of the hill, pointing
at a pair of headlights in the distance. Nayir grabbed his rug and canteen and
scrambled down the dune. Someone was coming, and a desperate
foreboding told him that it was bad news. He jogged along the bottom of the
dune and waited as the Rover drove into camp. It stopped beside the largest
Nayir didnt recognize the young man at the wheel. He looked like
a Bedouin with his sharp features and dark skin. He was wearing a leather
bomber jacket over his dusty white robe, and when he stepped out of the car,
he regarded Nayir with apprehension. Nayir welcomed the guest and
extended his hand. He knew he was too big and imposing to put anyone at
ease, but he tried. Nervously, the boy introduced himself as Ibrahim
Suleiman, a son of one of the Shrawi servants. The men gathered around,
waiting for the news, but Ibrahim stood quietly, and Nayir realized that he
wanted to speak in private.
He led the boy into the tent, praying that the men hadnt been
drinking after all. There was no worse way to disgrace oneself than to lead a
man into a tent that smelled like alcohol.
But the tent doors were open and the wind blew in, along with a generous
spray of sand.
Inside, Nayir lit a lamp, offered his guest a floor cushion, and
began preparing tea. He refrained from asking questions, but he hurried
through the tea because he was eager to hear the news. Once it was ready,
Nayir sat cross-legged beside his guest and waited for him to drink first.
Excerpted from Finding Nouf
by Zoë Ferraris Copyright © 2008 by Zoë Ferraris. Excerpted by
permission of Houghton Mifflin. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.