Illilliqa

Some of the things I will miss:

  • Walking everywhere at anytime without having one of my hands pat a can of pepper spray
  • Halaal everything
  • www.otlob.com
  • Egyptian halwayat (a key contributor towards the development and nurturing of my third chin)
  • Late night shopping
  • Interesting shopping
  • The kindest, massive-hearted, deep-souled people: Dina, Mae, Dana and their families, Bibi and her buddies
  • The cool old and the cool new; the different textures of Cairo
  • Getting around on the Metro
  • Fresh juice (my favourites are sugarcane and watermelon) at LE1 a pop from the shop around the corner
  • The flat breads
  • Cheap nutella
  • Decent taxi drivers
  • City living
  • The photo ops
  • The stories I could pluck out of the air

 

Some things I’ll be glad to give a miss:

  • The tap water
  • Leaky plumbing
  • The dust
  • The smog
  • The litter (these people need a massive zap-it-in-the-zibi campaign)
  • The crazy driving
  • Playing chicken everytime we need to cross a road
  • Dodgy taxi drivers

 

Will add to this as stuff occurs to me. It’s been a wowsome four months. Our Arabic tongues aren’t quite as fluid as we’d like but this made for a great start.

Wadi Rischrasch

Dovecote

Sometimes, Cairo, with all of its rich fullness and grainy texture, displaces the mind’s quiet.

As both vanquisher and subduer, al-Qahira fills the spaces between thoughts with its Life and Living.
You would imagine that in order to reclaim some of yourself, it would take a great many hours to escape the city’s penetrating charm.
Not so, as you spare just a pair and head out for the desert, along Korymat road, passing through the Helwan tollgate.
It takes an au fait guide to make the necessary u-turns and entries through the unofficial breaks in the concrete barriers of the dual carriageway.
With your back to the churning of industry, you follow on the tracks of camels, donkeys, 4x4s and motorbikes towards Wadi Rischrasch.
The landscape introduces itself by its wide grey plains. The valley soon narrows, drawing in the rocks and cliffs. The colours become earthier. Water has had its way here but you’d never tell by the shattered clay of the earth. But when the water comes, it comes, and the little starts of vegetation are that testament.
Between the hills that look like huts and pareidolic faces cut into the sides of the eroded mountains, stillness replaces what Cairo displaces.
This is where you can speak to yourself and listen.
Further on the way lies what used to be King Farouk’s hunting lodge. Located to perfectly capture and circulate the cooling winds of the wadi, this is where the last King of Egypt would come to find his own quiet (and hunt the gazelle collected, conveniently, for him).
The dovecotes make for quirky sentries and the buildings now function as a rendezvous for bedouins with business (apparently some hush-hush about hashish) and tourists who want a different story to tell.
While the insides of the stables and kitchen declare that Mohammad was here in 2004, the rocks outside bear more ancient graffiti. There are rudimentary depictions of cattle and gazelle you may speculate as being left behind by some keen, and bored, herdsmen hailing from pharaonic times.
If it weren’t for the fresh animal spoors, the wadi may soon trick you into believing you are the only breathing thing left in the world.
And the bedouins too leave their own tracks. Their motorbikes score doughnut rings in the dust and there is an alien packet of chipsys wedged under a rock next to shoes that must have trampled a hundred thousand miles. But this is detritus you can deal with.
The golden walls of the wadi lull and soften.
Here the skies are clear.
Your lungs are loose.
Your thoughts are your own.

More pics (and less windier words) on Naeem’s blog

Crossposted on  Al Rahala.com

Omphaloskeptical

My hands cradle the rising beneath my navel.

Moon-breaths dictate this ebb and flow of my repose.

It has been just three months and the miracle biology in my belly has rendered my profile alien but soothing.

My fingers probe the extra flesh and for some seconds I am rewarded by a stirring; ah, there is work being done.

Yeah, that chicken was pretty damn good.

In the maws of mugamma*

The go-to captain slash commissioner of oaths slash instrument for the Will of God was so bad-ass, he smoked right under the sticker telling him he couldn’t. You don’t argue with the dude with the stars on his shoulders and who looked like Azad Essa; only older, taller and part of the system.

Waiting right next to us was Salvador Dali­. While it was not his best incarnation, he did pull the ends of his moustache with proud pincered fingers while Joe Jaml looked over the tired identity documents and told him to get in step with the kafka-conga.

While bumbling about we learnt that “South African” is not the correct answer to fill in for “Original Nationality” on the visa renewal form as it is important for the ministry to know that our great-grandparents came from India.

It was stranger than that dream I had about a swimming pool filled with empty condoms and people’s failed aspirations. And it pretty much topped the one where we paid R100 for David Hasselhoff’s autograph.

I only wish I’d been asleep. We head back there tomorrow.

 

*the paperworkery one is at the mercy of for all sorts of officialese, and where we have to go to get our tourist visa extended.