Monday, January 30, 2012

Observations #2

6. On the metro, a big, burly, effeminate man waddles in, sweating from the hard work of hopping from car to car, selling tabloids, hundreds of which are slung on his shoulder. “Hosni Mubarak is still the President of Egypt!” he shouts, letting it hang in the air before adding: “...says his defense lawyer at his trial.” It turns out Mubarak never technically signed the correct document to resign.

7. A protest is held against in front of the Maspero building downtown, where state-television studios are housed. Demonstrators set up a projector and beam onto the side wall of the massive, Soviet style edifice the word “Liars,” followed by videos of police and army atrocities that state television channels did not cover.

8. In the metro station, a young Egyptian man wears a tight brown sweater, reading “Ron Paul 2012.”

9. A picture floating around the internet after the first day of parliamentary sessions showed a new representative, a bearded professor from the Salafi Al Nour Party, with his eyes closed and his head slouched. Numerous people posted pictures of the “sleeping Salafi” with cynical asides. It turns out that the member of parliament is in fact blind.

10. I recently met a prosecutor who works for the Egyptian equivalent of the District Attorney in the Red Sea region. Tourists commit the bulk of crimes in these resort towns, and he told me that 20% of crimes he has seen involve a foreigner pretending to have lost money at the hotel so they will be fraudulently reimbursed. He volunteered a list of which countries produce the most swindling sunbathers, with Germany at the bottom and Russia at the top.

11. While chatting about recent arrests of Americans, a diplomat told me that one American journalist went out of his way to get arrested so he could write about it.

12. In Egypt, foreigners often do not want to refer to Israel in the presence of Egyptians they do not know, particularly cabdrivers, eavesdroppers from neighboring dinner tables, and waiters. They always refer to Israel as something else. A partial list includes Greece, Disneyland, Bahrain, ‘our neighbor to the North,’ and ‘up there.’ 

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