Sunday, June 24, 2007

Being Random in Egypt

Currently sitting in a dank internet cafe, buried in a quiet corner of Alexandria...a few unemployed men probably looking over my shoulder. I'm sorry, did I say quiet? Egypt is a zoo (I mean this in the best possible way, of course). But seriously, in the middle of the night you'll hear people yelling and fighting randomly, and the walls are paper thin, so they're basically fighting in your living room. Then there are the men selling things, walking around shouting the names of their products. And stray cats and dogs. And manure-smelling streets, etc.

But I kind of like Egypt though, it's fascinating. Not because there are all these amazing sights to be seen or the people here are super nice or anything. It's just so different, the culture is the opposite of everything you'd ever know in Canada. And the beach is a 15 minute walk from where we live, so it's pretty cool.

Anyways, so I think I know one of the reasons why I am so random. I'm going to attribute this to my being Egyptian. Let me explain.

Everything here is incredibly random. For example, you'll find that on the back window of some mini-buses or taxis, the drivers have stuck "Allah" stickers. Which is understandable. But I also saw a sticker of the face of one Che Guavara on the back of another minibus. Random much?

And everything is chaotic and yet so seamless. I've almost died several times while trying to cross the street or even walking on the sidewalk. There are no stop lights here, no driving lanes, no speed limits, nothing. It's the peak of insanity. But the people seem to accept this lack of sanity with ease, and participate in it without batting an eyelash. The logic of it all evades me.

And the athan being called everyday is pretty cool, especially when you hear several masagid at once. Yes, masaGid. And heaven forbid you ask a vendor for a "coke" instead of "coo-ca-coola." Just don't.

I would take pictures for you guys, but it's been somewhat difficult so far...because I'm afraid to take out my camera lest a) people find out we're foreigners, or b) someone feels like stealing it. But I will try to post some pictures for your entertainment sometime soon inshaAllah.

Until the next internet cafe!




sara said...

Great post, Asmaa. I look forward to reading about your ( possibly mis)adventures) is Egypt!

sara said...

Hahaha. let me try that again (though I'm sure you understood it) ...

Great post, Asmaa. I look forward to reading about your (possibly mis) adventures in Egypt!

Umar said...

ah, Asmaa... by your description you could be in Pakistan for all I know.
It's pretty much the exact same thing over there.

And that whole camera being stolen thing worries me too. I want to take photos when I go to Pakistan, but with the attention my dSLR would attract it probably wouldn't be safe.
I've heard of people losing their life just because some punk wants their wallet or cellphone.

Rizwan said...

I totally assent to Egypt being the source of your randomness =)

I guess I can see how the Che sticker would be part of the randomness, but it also kind of makes sense given the strong socialist and communist background of many people struggling for social-justice in the Middle East, especially Egypt since the early to mid-20th century.

In any case, Che is often admired as an iconic hero in any society in the world where intelligent people who are oppressed struggle for liberation from tyranny.

Keep writing more about the sights, sounds, smells, conversations and the like that you encounter in Egypt. Immerse your readers in the sensations of what it is like to be there.

Barak Allah fik.

Nauman said...

Hehe, yeah, I agree with Umar that this post could easily describe Pakistan or India even... then again, I've always felt that Egypt and Pakistan were very similar in terms of culture and style.

Che Guevera is widely respected across the Middle East and rightfully so - he fought for the people and revolutionized the grassroots efforts necessary for change and revolution. :)

Ameera said...

That last bit really symbolized your whole post... about the camera. Eve though the whole post was about how Egypt is, um... 'queer', the camera comment made it sound scary.


Anyhow, I can understand all of this perfectly well - better not take out cameras and cell-phones in thirld-world countries. It's the same here, in Pk, and yes, umar is right - people lose their lives over cell phones (very frequently, unfortunately).

I always wanted to visit Alexandria because it's sitting on the Mediterranean shore... and when it's the Meditarranean Sea we're talking of, we're thinking... white sands, blue waters and white-plastered homes alongside.

Enjoy your stay!

shajara said...

Assalamu aleikum,
Dear my, you'll be surprised about how much that sounds like Kenya! The stuff painted on the minivan-buses there is classic, though currently phased out for a more "standard" look; but you can still spot the odd enlightening phrase..hehe..
And also: exactly why I didn't take any pictures on the street too, even though I really really wanted too. For it is so darn cool, in its own bubble of logic.

I have many hilarious and disturbing stories about thievery too, including one that happened to yours truly :D

Have a good time; take advantage of such a colourful, closely knit social fabric :)

Ahmed said...

Oh, please! Why are you misrepresenting the facts?! There are stop lights; there are lanes; there are speed limits and there are tunnels you can pass through. Maybe you didn't notice any of that because the signs are in Arabic and... well.. because no one cares for them :)