HomeArabic FictionExtract: Temple Bar

Extract: Temple Bar

“I stood there hoping for assistance with my bag, yet no one stepped forward to offer their help.”

In this excerpt from his latest novel “Temple Bar,” Bahaa Abdelmegid presents the tale of Moataz, a young Egyptian scholar beginning his doctoral studies on Irish poet Seamus Heaney at Trinity College in Dublin. The narrative delves into Moataz’s experiences of marginalization, cultural clashes, and discrimination while studying abroad. We join Moataz’s journey as he arrives in Dublin, Ireland’s capital city.

Dublin, 1998

Nobody offered to assist me with my bag, leaving me feeling frustrated. When I asked for help, a young man responded rudely, saying my bag was my responsibility. Another woman suggested I use a bag with wheels, finding humor in the situation.

Later, I learned that heightened concern about strangers and their bags existed due to the prevalence of terrorist activities, particularly in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Dublin appeared rather ordinary to me, lacking the European city charm I had anticipated. The streets were narrow, lined with unassuming English-style terraced houses, quaint bridges spanning small rivers, humble shops, and a mix of locals and immigrants, including both elderly residents and lively young individuals, some of whom were Irish.

An Anticipated Journey To St. Patrick’s College

I waited patiently at the bus station for over an hour, eager to board the bus destined for St. Patrick’s College in the quaint town of Maynooth Temple Bar, nestled in County Kildare.

The purpose of my journey was to attend a conference centered around the intricate relationship between Irish literature and the concept of the land.

During the wait, I occupied myself with reading the newspaper, absorbed in articles discussing parliamentary issues, the intricacies of the Good Friday agreement, and the ongoing process of decommissioning IRA weapons in Northern Ireland.

Amidst the anticipation, I was captivated by a magnificent hotel located in front of the station. Its architectural grandeur evoked the elegance of the Victorian era, with a wooden entrance reminiscent of the intricate designs found in the Hussein and Khan al-Khalili areas of Cairo Temple Bar.

As the bus finally arrived, passengers gradually made their way towards the door, greeted by reassuring smiles from fellow travelers, signaling the beginning of our shared journey to the conference venue Temple Bar.

A Bittersweet Arrival In Maynooth

As I gazed upon the picturesque landscapes of plains, valleys, and lush green hills adorned with clover, and listened to the gentle murmurs of streams, a veil of mist hovered over the horizon, casting a somber atmosphere suggesting impending finality, mingled with fleeting moments of melancholy.

While the sun began its descent towards distant lands, I could discern the outline of the town of Maynooth—a serene town adorned with modest two-story houses. The main street ascended towards a majestic Gothic church named St. Mary’s, boasting a towering spire and a prominent cross marking its entrance.

Before it lay a spacious square, adorned with a statue of the Virgin Mary, while a gas station stood adjacent to the road.

The town’s ambiance differed markedly from bustling Dublin, exuding a quiet charm. Yet, a sense of despondency crept over me as I observed the predominantly elderly population.

The scarcity of young people, let alone children in strollers or accompanying their parents, only amplified my feelings of melancholy.

Arriving At The Conference Venue

As I sought directions to the conference venue, someone directed me towards a grand church, St. Patrick’s, renowned for its association with the patron saint of Ireland, known for banishing snakes from the land.

Venturing down the path leading to the church, I found myself captivated by the lush greenery flanking both sides, exuding a sense of strength and grandeur. The Temple Bar church itself stood tall, adorned with towering spires, crosses, and intricate Gothic windows.

Upon reaching the church entrance, the gatekeeper greeted me and escorted me inside to meet the conference organizer. Though devoid of a smile, he instructed me to follow him, his footsteps echoing loudly in the chambers of my heart.

Ascending flights of stairs, we emerged onto a floor near the church roof, where he secured the door behind us. In the dim light, I struggled to discern our surroundings.

“You’ll be staying here for the night, and we’ll convene tomorrow,” he stated matter-of-factly. “I reside on the lower floor if you require anything, and there’s an internal telephone in the corridor.”

“Where are the other conference guests?” I asked.

“They haven’t arrived yet. They’ll be here tomorrow. You came early,” he replied.

He left me and went off. Alone in the room, I opened the window, hoping to gaze out into the night, but all I could perceive was an abyss of darkness. The vibrant greenery that had greeted me outside the church now seemed like haunting specters amidst the unfathomable darkness, instilling fear within me. Hastily, I shut the window, seeking solace from the eerie surroundings. Suddenly, the sound of footsteps drew near, filling me with relief. Rising to open the door in anticipation of seeing someone, I was startled to find the corridor empty, devoid of any presence.

Nightmares In The Silent Room

Perched on the edge of the bed, I surveyed the room, examining the ceiling and walls in a futile attempt to calm my nerves. Suddenly, the window flung open, unleashing a rush of chilly air as the sky boomed with thunderous echoes. Hastily, I shut the window, bewildered by the abrupt disturbance.

A shiver cascaded down my spine, accompanied by a prickling sensation on my scalp. Seeking solace, I resolved to distract myself by reading a book, but hunger and cold gnawed at me relentlessly. With a sigh, I retired for the night, extinguishing the light.

Restlessly, I tossed and turned, feeling a phantom touch upon my skin. Startled, I snapped open my eyes to witness the window creaking open once more as if someone had just slipped away through its frame. A wave of dread washed over me, prompting me to cry out for my mother, a reflexive response to the terror enveloping me.

Rising in panic, I fumbled for the light switch and illuminated the room, only to encounter an eerie silence punctuated by unfamiliar sounds. My racing heart and parched mouth made me feel as if I were trapped in a nightmarish inferno.

Confronting The Unseen Presence

Reacting swiftly, I dashed to the window, shutting it forcefully as a strange hand, cold yet strangely tangible, grazed my skin, eliciting another piercing scream from my lips. Frantically, I rushed to the door, calling out for the supervisor, but my cries went unheard. Eventually, he arrived, unperturbed by my distress.

Relaying the unsettling events that had transpired, I insisted it wasn’t merely the wind. I sensed the presence of others. However, the supervisor dismissed my concerns, attributing the occurrences to the natural elements.

Refusing to accept this explanation, I reiterated my conviction that, indeed, people were involved. Suddenly, a worker affiliated with the church appeared, crossing himself as he muttered a prayer. “May the Lord bless our martyrs and apostles,” he intoned, adding an eerie layer to the already unsettling atmosphere.

Then he asked me, “Did you hear voices too?”

“Yes, I did!”

So they’re real. This place is haunted. I trembled like a young child and the supervisor was surprised. “I’ll get in touch with the church security,” he said.

“Who are they?” I asked.

Haunting Tales Of Monastic Spirits

The worker proceeded to recount the eerie history of the place, attributing the strange occurrences to the lingering spirits of the monks who once inhabited the premises. Many of these monks had faced tragic fates, with some choosing suicide or being confined to sanatoriums, while others merely vanished into obscurity, leading to the site’s abandonment. As a result, the church and local council decided to repurpose the building into affordable accommodations.

His tale brought to mind a friend’s experiences at al-Azhar University in Cairo, where similar stories of ghostly encounters circulated among the students residing in the halls of residence. During power outages, students claimed that the halls became overrun with spirits, prompting them to call out for a ghost named Awad. Legends surrounding Awad varied, with some alleging that an electrician fatally electrocuted him while repairing faulty wiring, while others believed a vengeful peer murdered him in the darkness.

Supernatural Encounters Prompt Emergency Response

As the ghostly apparitions persisted during power outages, it became a ritual for the students to summon Awad’s name whenever darkness descended. Concerned by my distress, the supervisor eventually called for security assistance, prompting a man and a woman to arrive swiftly. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, they declared a state of emergency.

With a sympathetic glance, the male security officer approached me, while the female officer offered reassurance, gently patting my shoulder as if consoling a frightened child.

They asked me to recount what I had witnessed and heard. As I narrated the events, their expressions filled me with dread, realizing that they believed my account. It confirmed the existence of the ghosts, sending shivers down my spine.

“What would you like to do now?” they inquired.

“I wish to depart from this place at once,” I replied.

“It’s late,” they responded, “and there’s no available public transportation to Dublin. Taking a taxi would be prohibitively expensive.”

Disregarding their concerns, I insisted, “That’s of no consequence.”

Departure Arrangements Made by Security

The woman overseeing security arranged for a taxi using her mobile phone, and soon enough, it arrived. The driver, though appearing robust, exuded warmth and amiability through his cheerful countenance.

“Where’s the passenger?” he inquired.

They pointed towards me.

Comfort Amidst Fear And Exhaustion

Observing me curiously, the taxi driver remarked, “It’s unusual for them to reveal themselves to strangers. How did that happen?” He then believed that my ability to hear the ghostly noises stemmed from my inherent piety and blessings.

Feeling weary and drained, I longed for the presence of others for solace. I found comfort in the company of the supervisor and the caring taxi driver, who expressed concern for my well-being. Recognizing the inclement weather and the late hour, the driver suggested that I stay at the nearby university’s student halls, emphasizing his paternal concern for my health.

Despite my apprehension about remaining in Maynooth, haunted by the specter of ghosts and the looming threat of Dracula, I acquiesced to their wishes, albeit with a heart heavy with fear and trepidation, succumbing to my exhaustion.

Prakriti Paudel
Prakriti Paudel
Prakriti Paudel, a meticulous editor and insightful writer, navigates the realms of storytelling with precision and creativity.

Expertise: Editorial Excellence Narrative Craftsmanship


  • Meticulously refines content to uphold editorial standards.
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    Prakriti's dedication to editorial excellence and storytelling craftsmanship is evident in her contributions to The Ibtauris Blog.Her multifaceted role as both editor and writer plays a vital role in shaping the platform's success and reputation as a trusted source of engaging storytelling.



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