Thursday, April 26, 2012

Observations #7

41. The Japanese Gardens in Helwan were constructed in 1917 and include fish ponds, canals, and fifty massive statues of Buddha. Under the statues are carvings of three monkeys in the positions of ‘Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil,” Although the garden was once a logical part of the neighborhood, which catered to Egypt’s notables as a winter getaway, now it is a dusty relic surrounded by bustling markets and abandoned factories.

42. At the Abu Tarek restaurant, a sign proudly proclaims, “We have no other branches,” and the building rises to six stories, complete with fountains filled with plastic ducks, massive aquariums, and a big photograph of Abu Tarek himself on every floor.

43. At a party, two young American Jewish journalists tell one another that they are really excited about a new story idea. They realize that their topics are one and the same: the 10,000 native Chinese who live and work in tight communities in eastern Cairo. Both also admit to discovering the communities through their restaurants. Eventually, one explains that he is interested in Al Azhar University students and the other says he’s talking to the older importer-exporters and the crisis is averted.

44. During the clashes in November, an American journalist wrote on Twitter that the “cabinet is now an orgy of intrusive reporters. They shoved a camera in my friend's face "because 'his head wound bandage looked interesting'.”

45. In the neighborhood of Bulaq, we pass a framer, who has filled his tiny storefront with frames surrounding former Egyptian presidents, athletes, and singers. He sees me perusing, tells me to wait, and then produces a large framed copy of the front page of Al Ahram newspaper, January 29th, 2011, the day after Mubarak sent camels and horses along with the bullets and tear gas to scare protesters and ended up injuring over six hundred of them. The frame maker holds up the front page proudly as I snap a picture, and then he says, “Souvenirs, souvenirs,” or maybe he says, “Memories, memories.” (The words are the same in Arabic).

46. Emily met a girl who, when it came time to find a job, picked the “Tahrir Pharmacy” because “the name is so inspiring.”

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