Master ordered Rabia to leave California tonight. She is to return to Egypt at once.
During the flight, she closes her eyes. She does not sleep. She prays, chants, and dreams of the Rose Garden of the Beloved.
For over a year now, Rabia has devoted every prayer to Egypt.
Whenever she dances, she dedicates every motion of her body—every rotation of her hips, every roll or ripple of her flesh, every bat of every eyelash, every quiver of every muscle down to her deep, inner musculature; she dedicates it all to the divine strength of humanity.
Rabia has faith. She has faith in human potential, collective human consciousness, and the inner workings of the silence within the Mind of Mankind.
For the past ten years, Rabia has lived alone in a villa on Cabrillo Beach. She ate rice and lentils and contemplated her faith. She belongs to a secret order of devotees to the Mysteries of the Sacred Dance. Her story is one of cultural fusion and great daring.
Rabia was born in Palestine in 1964. Her father was a cleric; her mother made delicious taboon bread. The family fled to Egypt before the Six-days War. Rabia was three-years-old when her mother died. Rabia's father sent her to an all-girls boarding school in Cairo. Every week her father would take her on excursions, usually to visit their favorite orchard near the pyramids. When Rabia was twelve-years-old, her father died and she was sent to live with an Aunt Rima who had immigrated to the United States years before. Rabia lived in Southern California with her father’s sister throughout her adolescence. In the U.S. Rabia discovered she had talent as a dancer. She studied all kinds of dance: ballet, tap, Classical Indian, Belly, Salsa, Ardha Arab tribal war dance, Snake Dance, Disco Dance, the Charleston. You name it. Rabia could dance it.
During this time, her doumbec-player boyfriend at the time (his name was Ibrahim) inspired Rabia to get a tattoo on her back—a phoenix with red and gold plumage; its wings stretched between Rabia’s shoulders.
When she was ready to go to college, she yearned to leave The States. She went to study in London. There she enrolled in a course about Religions and History, and her studies transformed her. She sent word to Aunt Rima that she was leaving school to travel to holy places all around the world. Eventually, she felt drawn to the Sufi Fakirs of Bengal and took up the road with these ascetics for three years.
When she felt restless, Rabia left the Fakirs to roam other parts of the Earth. On her own, Rabia visited as many sacred shrines throughout the world as she could. During her sojourn, Rabia bathed in the Ganges, kissed the Black Stone, meditated before the Buddha at Wat Phnom, burned candles at the feet of Guadalupe, celebrated Spring at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, squatted before Sheela Na Gig at the Round Tower, laughed with monks in the temples at the top of the Mountain of Eternal Clouds and Mist, climbed the terraced gardens in Haifa to the Shrine of the Báb, and whirled before the shrine of Jalal-ud-Din Rumi.
She made her living dancing on the streets, in taverns and community halls. Crowds of men, women, and children loved her and threw coins to her. She sewed the coins to her belt. They cheered her on because Rabia's dancing transmitted a feeling of well-being to those who watched her.
Rabia had disciplined her flesh, her bones, her breath, and her blood until she had become an embodiment of holiness. Her human body—with all its potential—knows its place, its size, and its purpose in the cosmos. Rabia, like Mother Earth, obeys laws of gravity, rhythm, motion, and silence.
Master and Rabia met during these sojourn years. That day, Rabia was not dancing. She was completely covered and performing the Hajj. Master and Rabia merely made eye contact, but that eye contact was all they needed. The two knew each other in other lifetimes; in that eye contact, they exchanged a silent, ancient promise. But years would pass, and Rabia would need to return to California to care for her dying aunt, before she would ever meet up again with Master.
Master is a black pilgrim, a survivor of genocide, a witchy wealth doctor, a scholar of the ancient religion of love, and the only human being Rabia knows of who has kissed every holy shrine on this planet. Still, there is something about Cairo, or—to be more precise—the desert outside of Cairo, where the sky boasts a clear human view of celestial bodies in action. Of all the places in the world, Master chose the Mother of the World for their honeymoon night.
While on her flight to Cairo, Rabia concentrates. She imagines the leaders in Cairo and all over the world working hard to see to it that every person shall have bread, individual freedom, and social justice.
Rabia knows that today’s Cairo is soiled by the politics of power, but she doesn’t believe in modern politics. She believes in people. She believes in the seasonal rise and fall of the Nile. She believes in fellaheen farmers and their local saints. Nor is she too concerned about Cairo’s current transition of power, whatever happens there, the coral reefs will continue forming in the Red Sea.
What concerns Rabia and Master most is what is taking place in the sky. The sun is entering Gemini. Election eve, there will be an annular solar eclipse with a magnitude of .94. The moon will obscure 85 percent of the sun's surface.
Master orders Rabia to meet him at a private, desert observatory where they will survey the sky. While elections take place in Egypt, Master and Rabia sit and watch the sky. Master plays the drum. Rabia dances. The stars burn through motion. The Earth moves around the sun in its perfect devotion. When Master rests, Rabia rests. There is silence in the desert. There is silence in the cosmos. There is silence at the center of collective human consciousness.
At around 5:30 pm, the Moon crosses the Sun's path and creates a ring of fire in the sky for viewers on Earth. Master and Rabia witness the beauty of the alignment of Sun, Moon, and Earth. When it is over, they ignite the funeral pyre.
Finally, Rabia receives kisses--for the first and last time--from Master's lips, lips that have kissed a million shrines. Their lovemaking, sacred and playful, fuels the blaze.
In a tight embrace, the lovers throw themselves into the fire. The fire consumes the lovers and dies out.
There is dust and silence.
Some time later, a dust storm.
One beautiful bird rises from the ashes.
Phoenix spreads great wings to cruise the night sky above the Red Sea.
All along, coral reefs continue forming within the silence in the sea. Reefs formed by Earth's plate tectonics. The lithosphere moves; the African and Arabian continents slowly rift apart.