Friday, March 9, 2012

Observations #5

25. Expatriates often say that Egyptians trust them less recently. Here’s my anecdote: We stopped at a roadside cart to buy a kitchen lighter and a plug adaptor. We paid about a dollar for the two items and continued walking. After twenty feet, we realized that the adaptor was broken, so we turned around and walked back. The vendor had disappeared and a security guard from a nearby building approached and told us the vendor had gone to pray. We said we would return later. He smiled and told us, “I’m very sorry, but I did not see you purchase these items, so I cannot let you go until the vendor returns.” He didn’t accuse us of stealing outright, but this was certainly the implication. We thought it would be strange to steal a dollar’s worth of items and then try to return them, but could not explain this to the man. After an awkward twenty minutes spent standing around, the vendor returned and the guard apologized for the trouble.

26. We found the doors closed and the windows dark at our neighborhood Sudanese restaurant. An auto mechanic next door spotted us and shouted “The restaurant’s owner- he died!” We walked closer and squinted with confusion. “Just kidding,” he corrected, “His brother died, so he is with his family.” Not knowing how to respond, I put my hand over my heart and said “how sad.” He nodded, and then smiled. “Why is it sad?” he asked. “Everyone dies. Clinton will die. Bush will die. Mubarak, the donkey, you know him? He will die too!”

27. Students at the American University in Cairo, who mostly hail from the elite, speak a hybrid of English and Arabic that could be compared to Spanglish. “Ayza register lilcourse alwriting, yani,” one might say. At several restaurants they frequent, the menus are in English, but the waiters, who are from a lower class, do not speak English save for the menu items. To order food, one must be conversant in this hybrid language, or at least be able to speak Arabic and read English.

28. Graffiti downtown reads, “The Revolution is not a Party.” 

39. On a bridge between downtown and Giza, men and women walk arm in arm and buy candy apples and tea. Teenagers and young men also hold impromptu dance parties. We walked through one and for ten seconds I joined the revelry, leading them all to clap along and laugh. The music was blasting out of gritty, blown out speakers. Next to them sat the box they had been bought in, which said in big block letters “Strive to a Beautiful New Life.”

30. From the Agence France-Presse: “A policeman has been suspended for allowing his beard to grow in violation of regulations, a security official said on Monday.” From Al Arabiya: “I Am a Bearded Police Officer is a new coalition established by a group of Egyptian police officers who submitted requests to grow their beards to the Ministry of Interior, stirring much controversy over the right to a religious appearance in the workplace.”

Photo: Volumes of old newspapers at the Egyptian Gazette archives

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