As in previous years, the graduation ceremony was scheduled to take place in the garden of Sheikh Ali, and once again we were given the privilege of taking over practically the entire restaurant to stage our ceremony. We were particularly pleased to learn that both Alaa Talaat and Rasha would be able to take some time away from Abydos so that they could join us and receive their certificates, and it was wonderful to have a chance for the whole group to be together again. We were also happy to see not only our West and East Bank Inspectors Atito, with his young daughter, and Khadija, but also the full complement from the west bank teftish, including Fathy Yassin, Ramadan Ahmed, and Ezzeldeen El-Noby. Although we have had members of the teftish join us in the past, it was marvelous this year that they all came together to acknowledge the school as well as the success of the individual students, who of course are inspectors themselves.
Once the group photo was finished, everyone returned to their tables, spreading out over the restaurant, to enjoy the mixed grill, salat, and aish being provided by the restaurant, along with various beverages. The highlight of the meal was the famous Sheikh Ali kofta, which seemed to disappear by the platterful as soon as it appeared! The groups mixed and changed their configurations over the course of the evening, as has happened in the past, with the children all running about. This year, a particular feature was having JJ’s family and children join in to share in the event, meeting not only the members of the teftish, but also the students and their families. Mr. Will was particularly pleased to see the evening meal concluding with basbousa, and the students knowing his partiality managed to gather an entire plate to present to him at the end of the dinner!
Atito and his daughter
Having learnt in previous years not to linger, because dusk was falling, we began the ceremony straight away with Sayed announcing the names, Fathy giving the certificates to the students, Ramadan and Ezz shaking hands, Yaser and Hassan handing out drawing boards, JJ and Will presenting mugs, and Hazem handing out t-shirts – a real group endeavor! Even JJ's youngest son Declan, our budding archaeologist, joined the receiving line, seated at Ezz’s feet. Despite our best efforts, and perhaps because there were so many of us, the ceremony was completed in the dark, with the final graduation photo being taken in the pitch black. Even so, Marco was able to get an amazing image of all of us by lamplight.
Final Graduation Photo
Mr. Will receiving his honorary basbousa
At the end of a long and wonderful evening, after the inevitable goodbyes, as in the past, we all piled into a variety of minibuses which took, it seemed, more than 30 min to depart. Everyone kept running off to say more goodbye, and as the doors finally closed there were still shouts and laughter between the minibuses before they separated to take the west bank families home, and the rest to the ferry landing so they could head back east. And once again emotional goodbyes as we all were reminded of the reality that we were saying good bye for the last time, and come the morning there would be no early boat trips west, second breakfasts, or group photos (alhamdulillah).
Xavier reading on the wall at Sheikh Ali while the sun sets
Unbelievably, like the Bedouins in the desert, all the tents were taken down and by Friday morning all were embarking on their various journeys home. Hassan to Berlin, Marco to Florence, Will to London, and JJ and her family first to Cairo for a few days and then Philadelphia. Leaving an extraordinary memory of an amazing school and a wonderful group of students to take home with us.