A friend’s thoughts about Cairo for World Poetry Day. Check it out!
The fourth poem we have for World Poetry Day is titled ‘You are Not My Mother’, written and recited by Nehal Elmeligy. It is a piece triggered by an accident where a 19-year old university student in Egypt was ran over by a bus on campus, causing her death.
About the Poet
Nehal Elmeligy is a TESOL teacher, freelance writer, and Fulbright Alumna. She has taught English at Berlitz and the British Council in Egypt. Her writing has appeared in the state-owned newspaper, Al Ahram Weekly, and the online news platform, Egyptian Streets.
She mainly writes feature and opinion pieces, and this in fact is the first poem she’s written since 2012. You can read her published and unpublished pieces at: onmymindelmeligy.blogspot.com
My second post of 2012. Sort of shameful, right? You probably think I’ve forgotten all about Cairo, right? Wrong!
I could never forget about Cairo’s charms, especially when I have so many who are near and dear who live there. Tonight I was reminded of the madness of Ramses station – the part of Cairo where many flock for their departure to other parts of Egypt or even destinations within Cairo itself.
Ramses was NEVER empty nor quiet in the 12 months I lived in Egypt, and being the little traveller that I tried to be, I was there quite a lot, whether it was to get to Medinat Nasr, or El-Rehab, or 6th October, or Sharm el Sheikh, or other parts of Egypt.
I loved the buzz of Ramses – the people crammed near the metro exits selling anything from men’s underwear (yeah, of all places!) to cheap dancing dolls that emitted the most nasal sound I’d ever heard. Then there were the people waiting for a bus, or a taxi, and those waiting for their shawerma to be dished up, and of course, it wouldn’t be Cairo without the beggars too. But what I loved the most were the long drawn-out calls the bus conductors performed to let waiting passengers know where the bus was going.
Yes, many buses had the destinations written on the side or the front of them, but with so many people unable to actually read those signs, the conductors’ job was amazingly useful. Although I could read Awwal el Makram on the side of the bus I needed to get on to get to City Stars, I just LOVED hearing the conductors call it out with so much drama. “Awwal el Makraaaam! Sala7 Saaaalem!”
And then, on the way back home I waited with girly excitement to hear, “Ramseeeeyes, Ramseeeeyes!” and I’d know that that was my cheap ride home.
Back in London, we just look for the numbers on the front of the bus and gloomily get on the one we need. I wonder what London would be like if we had the dramatic call of a conductor. “Paddington Station, Paddington Staaaaation!”
Somehow, I don’t see it working.
– LaYinka S. (The Londoner)
I know I haven’t posted anything since November, but thankfully, I’m still alive and in some ways I’m also thankful that I’m still in London. My beloved Cairo has changed so much since I left (is that a complete coincidence? :)) and I have no idea if I’ll return, but I wrote the following piece on 31 December 2011 and wanted to share it with you all here. It’s a little more personal than you might be used to, but it’s from me and about my journey in 2011. Enjoy. ~ LY.
P.S. I’ve split the post into several pages for ease of reading, so to read more, click the next page number.
Once upon a time, in a tale that held no fairies at all and in a world that is as real as the air you suck into your lungs, there was a young lady. For the sake of this story, we’ll call her LaYinka Sanni, because it’s quite a pretty name.
One night – let’s say on the 31st December 2011 – LaYinka sat to think back on the year and all that was dished out to her. For each month of 2011, she was able to mention an event that either helped to mould her, challenge her, shake her, enrage her, soothe her, console her, restrict her or free her. Each month had its own tale to tell, and in this story LaYinka recants them to you. Sit comfortably because LaYinka likes to talk, and it’ll be a long one!
Unplug and disconnect – two verbs that refer to precisely what I had to do when reading about the current events in Tahrir Square; when it became all too much to bear. The fact of the matter is that I cry easily – my heart is easily stirred and my eyes involuntarily hit a switch where tears pour forth. I have no control over this whatsoever, and wiping away tears with my cardigan sleeves has been a recurrent action this week, and it reached a point where I thought, Khalas – bas keda! Enough.
It’s horrifying watching the news, seeing barbaric violence and total disregard for the sanctity of human life. This is not a case of drawing lots on religious or political leanings, it’s about the values that we hold as people – as humans.
I was present during the 25th January revolution, was evacuated and returned, and at every instance I knew that it was only the beginning of a bigger struggle. I will not get into the politics of Egypt for two main reasons:
1) I’m not an Egyptian, I didn’t live as an Egyptian under Mubarak’s regime and frankly I don’t know what it was like.
2) Whatever I say makes absolutely no difference to the lives of the people living through the revolution’s aftermath.
However, I will say that a true revolution takes more than presidential/ parliamentary/ military change – change begins at home, and thus there is the missing element: the revolution of the self.
And just as the fog that’s been hanging over the skies of London finally lifted today, I pray that the fog of sense is lifted from the eyes of SCAF, as well as the fog of deception to be lifted from the short-sighted who cannot see what the revolution should really be about.
Praying for peace, progress and security,
LaYinka S. (The Londoner)
“Haven’t you noticed how there are no bins around?” She asked.
It was close to 7pm and we were making our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral in central London. The streets were lively with people bustling to get home after working until stupendous hours (yes, 7pm is stupendous!) in the City. We’d just cleared a ricebowl each from Itsu, and the next step would have been to free our hands of the empty containers. Littering was not an option. Not because you can be fined if caught doing so (a redundant, rarely enforced law, I tell you!) but because it simply isn’t right to do so. Therefore I couldn’t understand why in the world we couldn’t find a single bin in which to dispose of our trash. Not one!
At that moment I had a ‘back in Cairo’ flashback, and found myself walking along 2asr el 3ainy street, with the smell of fuul bubbling and ta3miya frying to only then kick into empty containers and wrappers that had been thrown out of car windows or carelessly dropped by pedestrians. Why? Not just because there are no bins on the streets – this is the scene I was faced with in London; not because there wasn’t anyone to sweep the mess – the poor men clad in dirty, ripped orange jumpsuits literally break their backs to sweep up rubbish from the streets; but simply because of the mentality of the people. In my humble opinion, it really is as simple as that.