Friday, June 30, 2006


It's as if Cairo purges itself onto the steets once summer is here. Other places may get more relaxed, more touristy, less clothed...but Cairo remains the same, it just gets more intense.

People here don't alter their dress in proportionate reaction to temparature changes. It is almost july, and yet women are still dressed in skin-tight polyester, and I still occasionally catch sight of a light sweater.

There are some signs of the change of season...the earliest of these to manifest itself is always the sudden appearance of a line of cars parked on either side of both Kasr el Nil and 6th of October bridge. I always wonder (quite crabbily) why people don't just park their cars either downtown or in Zamalek, and just walk up to whichever bridge they have chosen. Really, it's not that incovenient. Why, why must they place inanimate objects in the way of the already insane bridge traffic?

And, of course, the sudden appearance of shabab everywhere. Whose sole purpose in life seems to be to ride in cars, or lean against them, and periodically scream "boobs!" at random women passing by. Yes, thank you, I had forgotten I had them.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Your building

I read the book, "The Yacoubian Building", a few months or maybe a year ago, and saw the movie last night. I had liked the book, although I found it hard to empathize with the characters; something which this review helped elucidate. I imagine it's difficult not to like it; after all, it presents us with the consequences of all the different forms of repression which have come to be the gaurdians/prison wards of Cairiene society...and the author allows us to see those consequences as they are borne by both rich and poor. Gay men reverting to paying for sex, poor virgins reverting to getting paid for providing a soft waist for some fat old man to jerk off against (but above the blouse! Must, after all, protect one's honor!), talent and passion in all of its youth reverting to armed Islamism because it is the only channel through which it can scream against a system which has denied it its equal rights to life, young widows - still seeking male affection and partnership - reverting to leading muted lives as secret second wives... We are reminded of all the different ways in which life can be brutal, and sad...

And that's the message that has stuck with me: people always "reverting" to doing things. Because the original plan, desire, dream, goal, or even right just never really works out...So we settle for the next best thing, if we are lucky. If we have the kind of unluck which most Egyptians have, we end up doing what we had never imagined we could revert to...

Am I making excuses for the population? Does the shitty hand dealt to us by life (or the government, or religion, or patriarchy, or whatever) grant us license to redefine the rules of the game, even if that process involves immorality, at the very least?

Sunday, June 18, 2006


A couple of days ago I was handed my undergraduate degree by the President of the university, whose face was frozen in a strained smile under a silly looking cap.

And so now my views on the world are supposed to change. Although I am going straight into a Master's program and therefore am not really straying outside the bounds of the academic safety zone (safety from what? life?), I have a suspicion that things on the other side are different. Graduate students actually manage to get administrators to make eye contact with them, and are not treated by professors as anonymous, transient customers but rather as actual human beings who are around for a reason. If that's what's about to get started, then cool.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Trail of morning thoughts

Most (well, all) of my education has encouraged me to distance myself from nationalism. I have always deconstructed it, taken it apart into the symbols and the language used to evoke emotion, to create and highlight feelings of belonging to a group of people far too large to ever be understood with any accuracy. Even at times when I was moved by a song or a speech, I was very consciously aware of it, and immediately began to separate my mind from it. I saw nationalism as some kind of drug, one which suspended clear thought...more importantly, it seemed to me like those under its sway had been fooled by some larger strategist, some institution which had perfected the art of propaganda and manipulation....

You would expect me to begin to write about how all this has changed, how I now see the importance of overwhelming passion for one's I still think that our feelings towards our communities are far too easily manipulated. We are social, we want to be social...and we know this. Every political party, opposition group, and revolutionary has known this, and has attempted to use it to their advantage. Look at Egypt. Opposition groups use chants which hearken "glorious" revolutions (revolutions which were instituted in the public mind as "glorious" by the same regime against which today's chants are hurled). Names of Egyptians, songs, references to places and to events which are all too symbolic, evocative of some distant dream which we keep being told we are heading towards. That dream is there in the social studies books used in the public education sysytem, in the posters propagating the NDP's attempt at a new image, in every piece of public policy engineered by or for Egypt. And when that dream is evoked in the context of opposition, when we are confronted by it while simultaneosly presenting the failures and brutalities of our government, the result is all the more violently emotional.