05 January, 2007

First Impressions...

First impressions: nothing seems to have changed much since the last time I've been here, but starting to talk with anybody you immediately see that everybody is angry at everything, everybody says that there's no money, poor people are getting poorer and rich are getting richer. From my personal experience, people are becoming more blunt in asking for tips, bribes to be accurate. Tips are what you give to a waitress, but every where you go people are asking your for money to do what they are actually required to do, and when you give them what you think should be enough they look at you like an alien or something and tell you "e7na mesh bnesh7at ya basha", the get the fuck out of my face! The only solution with this kind of people according to my brother is to "eddaken" -derived from the famous word "dakan" coined by Marwan Nabarawi and meaning "to be dakeen" or "to exercise dakan on others"- and treat everybody like shit, which seems to be working with him quite well. According to Ahmad's theory, all Egyptians are cowards with really loud voices and as soon as the feel that you're capable of doing them physical damage the back off, and if you are not convinced here's a story...

Two days ago I was sitting with Ahmad and one of his friends on "gawharet stanely" a nice little place on stanely corniche, when suddenly from the far end of the street, and this was around 3:00 am, a little white car with a guy and a girl which was being chased by two other cars filled with guys, the white car stopped right in front of us and the guy came to us followed by the girl who we found out that she was actually his wife and they were being followed by these ravages and asked us for help, as soon as we stood up and looked at them -since they were still at the middle of the street waiting to see what we're going to do!!- they disappeared! The guy and his wife still obviously traumatized from the experience.

Back to my first impressions:

Trains take almost an hour more to reach Cairo than they used to do, and they're not getting any cleaner too but are still dependable, at least their departure times are accurate!

The best news paper here is "el dostoor", although I heard much more about "el-masry el-yoom" but it didn't rise to my expectations, but el-dostoor is just full of good material from the beginning to the end. I spent three hours in the train reading it!

Everybody is trying to rip you off, even your family. Money seems equally capable of pulling families together -as long as there's something for everybody- and tearing them apart -as soon as one of them knows how to rip the others off and go undiscovered-.

Unveiled women are a minority, especially in Cairo, and especially in Cairo University where I saw only 5 unveiled women, and i paced the whole campus that day, twice. What was even more interesting was the amount of girls wearing the saudi-type abaya or wearing the niqab. I have also seen the weird new types of hijab, the spanish hijab and the latest advancements of the "sexy mohaggaba" which now appears to allow for short skirts, and extremely tight clothes that I doubt even unveiled girls dare to wear. But so what? Isn't her hair covered?

An old observation that still holds: no craftsman does what he's required correctly or faithfully, and in many cases doing something faithfully meant nothing more to him than cutting a piece of textile horizontally instead of vertically!

Egyptians still don't understand the concept of "queues" or even "numbers". I was happy to find that my favorite place for a coffee in Alex, the "Brazilian Coffee", has got a face lift, so I went inside to get a cup of cappuccino and I got a computer print-out with my order and a number, till now everything was fine but thats until I discovered that you have to push through all the people standing on the counter, give your ticket to the person making the coffee -who by the way is the complete opposite of what a customer-friendly people-serving person should look like or behave like-, tip him, and then of course shout a little with the occasional re-arrangement of the crowd in order to allow the lucky fucker who got the coffee to pass through spelling half his coffee in the process. A fuss that could be avoided by simply sticking to the FREAKIN NUMBERS ALREADY PRINTED ON THE FREAKIN PIECE OF PAPER!

Of course I was so frustrated that I decided to go back home on-foot, a 50 minutes walk on the corniche that ended in an awful cold that hit me for four days -thanks to our locally manufactured antibiotics that seems to do nothing and indeed according to doctors here does absolutely nothing-.

A lot of people are getting either engaged or married, and even more are doing the opposite. There's so much stupid things that happened with a lot of people I know that I really care about when they got married that I'm going to write about later.

Everybody is expecting a "change". The government is aware of it and is spreading its forces and tightening its hands on everything in anticipation. Security in Alexandria is not tighter than ever according to everybody here.

Everywhere smells like urine!

I know some of these observations might sound stupid to somebody who's been living in Egypt for a while, but I hope these don't become the norm.