Nour al-Dein Zaki holds a stone with a natural formation that bears what appears to Arabic script. It reads: “Allah! There is no god but He.” Nour is a geologist, a scientist who knows how rocks are formed. There are many formations that he can explain as made by nature, and others that he can explain as made by man. But if the formation is so rare that it can’t be explained by nature or man he calls it an ‘ayat,’ a sign from God.
When he was a student at al-Azhar University, Nour once found the name of God in a boiled egg he was cooking for lunch. He showed the egg to other students and many were amazed. Soon students throughout the dorms were finding similar ayat when they opened their boiled eggs. Nour worked in the desert for a gravel company, identifying deposits to be extracted. He would relax in the evening by searching in the hills for stones.
Over 29 years he collected hundreds of stones that had no explanation other than God. Nour is now retired and spends his time working on his collection and filling a folder with research for a book. The folder includes sketches of stones, clippings from newspapers about other ayat, such as cucumbers that reveal “Allah” in their seed formations, pumpkin seeds with words, even patterns found on a butterfly wing.