Saturday, May 5, 2012

Observations #8



47. When you get your shoes shined, the shiner gives you a piece of cardboard on which to place your feet so they don’t touch the floor. The practice seems to be more psychological than practical, because the cardboard has been used on both sides and is just as dirty (or just as clean) as the floor.

48. I generally avoid constantly relaying the humorous wording of poor translations in menus, on signs, and everywhere else English is printed throughout Egypt, though they are endless. These two sentences, however, stick with me: 1) “Aboriginal heritage quality is unprecedented.” 2) “You are in the embrace of the history.”

49. Twice I mentioned casually in a conversation that one of my friends drinks a lot, getting every friend who visits her to snag the allowed four bottles from the airport’s duty-free store. “Is she a reporter?” was twice the immediate reaction.

50. The performances of Aida at the Cairo Opera House concluded weeks ago, but behind the theater I discovered a vast wasteland of thrown-away set pieces: etched hieroglyphs on wooden boards ten feet tall, golden processionals graying from exhaust, and the fake rock once used to portray the cave where Aida is trapped forever, now exposed and chipped away by the nearby Nile’s draft.

51. Due to shortages, fewer gas stations actually offer gas, so there are massive traffic jams on streets leading towards those that do. Several times, we have climbed into a cab and negotiated with the driver whether to take the longer route, which might cost more, or settle in for sitting in traffic for a half hour, waiting in the crush of cars passing by the gas station.

52. At many upscale cafes, music videos or action films play on television screens while loud music is played over the speakers. Usually, the sound and image are completely independent of one another, leading to strange juxtapositions, like odes to lost love over a belly dancing video or Steven Segal fight scene.

53. At the Windsor Hotel Bar, one of the most antique relics of the British colonial era, the waiter plays symphonic music over the speakers to drown the sound of the Friday afternoon sermon from a nearby mosque. He motions to another waiter and says, “She likes it because she is Muslim, but I do not like it.” I ask him if he is a Christian, and he says grimaces. “I am like a flower. I am from the earth.”

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