For our honeymoon, Kareem had promised me we would go anywhere and do anything I desired. My every wish was his command. With the glee of a child, I listed all the places I wanted to see and all the things I wanted to do. Our first stop would be Cairo, and from there on to Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and then Hawaii. We would have eight precious weeks of freedom from the scars of Arabia.
Dressed in an emerald green silk suit, I hugged my sisters good-bye. Sara was weeping so violently that she could not bear to turn me loose. She kept whispering, "Be brave," and my heart broke for my sister; I understood too well that the remembrances of her wedding night would never disappear. With the passing of years, perhaps the thoughts of her honey- moon would merely fade away.
I covered my designer suit with the black abaaya and veil and snuggled in the backseat of the Mercedes with my new husband. My fourteen bags had already been taken to the airport.
For the sake of privacy, Kareem had purchased all the first-class seats on each flight of our trip. The Lebanese air hostesses wore bright smiles as they watched our silly behavior. We were as adolescents, for we had never learned the art of courtship.
Finally, we arrived in Cairo, rushed through customs, and were driven to an opulent villa on the banks of the ancient Nile. The villa, which belonged to Kareem's father, had been built in the eighteenth century by a rich Turkish merchant. Restored by Kareem's father to its original splendor, the villa was laid out into thirty rooms on irregular levels with arched windows leading to the lush garden. The walls were covered with delicate dusty-blue tiles, with intricate carved creatures in the back- ground. I felt seduced by the house itself. I told a proud Kareem that it was a wonderful setting in which to begin a marriage.
The impeccably decorated villa brought the garish decorating defects of Nura's palace to mind. I suddenly realized that money did not automatically bestow artistic discrimination to those of my country, even in my own family.