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As the last wagon of the caravan approached the roundabout, the driver thrashed the horses he had acquired at an oasis hundreds of miles from the former capital; his original team had bolted at the sound of a meteor roaring across the sky at dawn; its glittering remains lit the way to the city. His notes on the drought went on for pages, detailing his losses in a meticulous hand. Some believed his testimony might explain what had propelled their exodus, without hope of alleviating their pain. Loneliness lay on his tongue like dust from a courtyard in the medina, where sheepskins were drying in a wire cage and a laborer recited verses from the Qur’an, rubbing his legs blistered from long days of wading in the vats of the tannery. Who could decipher the graffiti—New York, New York—on the palace wall? Friend or foe? said a policeman, reaching for his gun. A dog asleep on a sack of cement twitched and whimpered. The horses did not budge. The policeman took aim.