Category Archives: Ruminations about Cairo

Ramseeeeyes!

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.

Ramses

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)

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The Tumultuous Months of 2011

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!

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A Mansion in a Dump Yard

“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.

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Priceless Sort of Eid

He toddled towards me, an arm outstretched to hand me the bright yellow balloon that had been dangling from his mouth only a few seconds prior. His eyes were wide with anticipation as he watched me transform the limp deflated rubber into a round, shiny balloon. His name was Yusuf, and he and his sister lived with other young girls at a small orphanage in Nasr City.I had been briefed about the orphanage the night before the visit, and was told about how clean it was and how well looked after the kids seemed, so I’d had the chance to build a mental picture in my mind and chose to visit on ‘Eid day with friends. Was I disappointed? Absolutely… not. The flat the children lived in was clean and furnished in a practical, child-friendly manner: comfortable sofas in the front room, a large dining table for them to eat at, and a bed for each child in the bedrooms. I wasn’t impressed, more like relieved, because all too often you hear horror stories of orphans being mistreated while living in complete squalor. Thankfully this wasn’t the case for the 8 children at this orphanage.It’s easy to visit an orphanage with a face of condolence, because technically the children have lost their parents in one way or the other. I didn’t delve into trying to find out why they were there or even how long they’d been there, as that wasn’t the purpose of the visit. We decided to inflate balloons for the kids, talk to them and play with them instead.

They appreciated the fact that above all else, we saw them as children, despite them being orphans, and most of them warmed to us as we ran about the front room chasing them, throwing balloons into the air and going on a tickling rampage. I had just as much fun as they did and my thought was, It’s Eid, this is what it’s all about.

They tried to hijack my ballons, so I hijacked theirs too.

Hearing their high-pitched shrieks, and seeing their wide twinkling eyes and their bright smiles on such a special day was a joy that I would gladly pay if I had the chance, because in reality, it’s priceless.

– The Londoner

Story of an On The Run

I do not personally wish to delve into rhetoric about the recent looting and riots in London, because as it stands, I’m an outsider looking in as I have not lived in London for a year, and don’t feel best placed to pass opinion.

However, I witnessed part of the Egyptian revolution and could not have been more proud to have seen a country that had been silenced for 30 years, awake from slumber, and I only hope that the politicians in the UK do so before the country spirals into more destruction. And speaking of destruction, I witnessed just that outside my window during the Egyptian revolution at a Mobil/ On the Run petrol station.

From the time I moved into my flat last year, this petrol station had always been buzzing with vehicles passing for either a refuel of petrol or people stocking up on food and drinks (and in a lot of cases, cigarettes as well!).

Bustling with pollution

They decided to close shop on the morning of Friday 28th January 2011 – they could sense the dangers of the protests were bigger than most people thought…

Day of Protests, Day of Closure

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