Café Giza (560,450)
Zhara runs a small café in al-Merayah. She keeps to herself, having escaped trouble in a previous life, and is now relishing a life a long way from nowhere. She is troubled by the growing threat of the Atenists and worries about her friends and neighbors. She’s a source of local history and could help you if you need a button sewn on a shirt – she’s a quick hand with making and repairing things.
I run this Cafe. The "Giza." Yes, yes, I know - the name! But even here, in the middle of nowhere, we have tourists, and tourists will always flock to the familiar. I know something about marketing, you see, from my...eh. From my previous life. A life I was forced to abandon. But I won't bother you with such things, have enough worries out there already. Just know that if you need anything, I wish to be of assistance. I can't do much; I can make good cakes, and team, and I can make pretty clothes. This dress? I made it. If you need something repaired.... What am I saying. I'm sure you have many clothes already.
I was not born in al-Merayah, but it is my home now. I love it. Not for all the people - there have always been bad people here; those who have worshipped...older gods. But for the good people, and there are plenty of them. Sadly...Sadly, many have vanished. The cultists, those who worship Aten, they are doing evil things, making slaves of our people. Killing them. Now, we are trapped here and we do not know who to trust. There are enemies on every corner, behind every door, and they look and talk just like us. I cannot even trust my neighbours and customers.... Of course I trust my friends still, because otherwise, what else is there? But even friends can be...turned. This is a dark time for our town. I pray...pray! For brighter days.
Al-Merayah has never been innocent. I have seen evil here, long before the skies and ground opened up. Long before the earthquakes and the thunder. From what I have heard and read; the town was home to Atenists since thousands of years. This was their exile and refuge where they continue to worship the old god and the black pharaoh. For those who live here, they have chosen to ignore it. No one would accuse their neighbours of being sorcerers and heretics, but behind closed doors, the ancient rituals continued. Now, now it is in the open. They are no longer afraid. Outside there is a great evil...but inside the town walls, there is even greater evil. No one will speak his name. But I know who leads them, the Atenists, the cultists. I know who is instrumental in making mindless slaves of our friends and neighbours. His name is...Abdel Daoud.
I have always believed there is a veil over the world hiding the truth about...everything. Now the veil is lifted, it all seems so...so normal. Does that make sense? True, there are demons walking among us, the souls of the dead have risen, our tortured ancestors are amassing on our town, and yet it feels almost...expected. Maybe we have become, how do you say, "immune?" Immune to it all, from the films and computer games and cartoons. We have seen it all already, and reality is no different from the screen. Only...more personal. Or maybe I have always lived in the shadow of pain and death, and this is no different, only now the demons are not disguised as humans.
I love this town. It may not look like much; it's not New York or Paris! But is has soul. An old soul, stained and musty, but also robust and authentic. I know, I know: it is just a small town in the middle of the desert, far away from big cities and civilization. I know because this is why I come here in the first place. I like being far away. Since I arrived, I decided to learn all there is about Al-Merayah. I have read books and documents, spoken with elders, looked at records, explored every building, every nook, every cranny. Al-Merayah is older than you may think. Don't be fooled by appearances. Below this town is an older town; below that again is an even older one. And so on, back to the days of the pharaohs. We are standing on history itself. And this town has many, many secrets. Secrets that may be important to what is going on here now. I like mysteries, but I also like being alive, and there are places I cannot go, doors I cannot - should not - open. I tell you because maybe you can change the course of history by learning from history, by stepping into history. By learning to know the soul of Al-Merayah.
I want to be here with friends and neighbours, to serve them tea and cakes, as long as there is tea and cakes. And friends.