It was on a balmy evening in Luxor that I discovered Rudolf Lehnert, that intrepid Czech photographer from the early 1900's who fell in love with Tunisia. I discovered him in a small Egyptian shop -- the kind of place that has dusty, strange books for dusty, strange people. The kind of place that has an old cow bell on the door to alert the shop owner when you walk in. (But he, so immersed in his own heavy tome, doesn't even look up.)
It was her eyes in the black and white photo, with their delicate tattoos, that captured my attention. In her matted white frame, she stared out at me. I could swear she was looking right at me. I traveled over to her and that's when I saw that there were more. More and more. Neatly encased in cellophane plastic wrappers to protect them from grubby fingers. I took a sharp breath in and looked quickly over my shoulders, fearful that someone might separate me from my newly found treasure. But aside from the shop owner, I was all alone. On the back of the cellophane wrapper, an affordable price; Oh thank you, universe. My fingers flipped greedily though the images, one after another. The maybes I put carefully in a stack. Which one, oh-which-one, to choose? Yes you, my original love, the tattooed girl with the tribal jewelery. Please do come home with me. I will put you in the guesthouse, where you will lend Orientalist charm.
And so I walked to the register. The shop owner peered over his spectacles. He rang up the photo, and I dutifully handed over the creased bills. And then I asked the shop owner to wait. I ran back and took just one more - a young woman veiled except for her expressive eyes. And so now the guesthouses will have two.