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 was almost certain that the Russians had taken over, morphed themselves into a new skin and posed as Egyptians; how else could so many Masris speak Russian? This was all until I heard a totally unexpected shout as a friend and I ignored calls from guys who for some reason seemed to think we would be interested in their leers (raised eyebrow moment!).
It was quite a distinct shout, and one I regularly say to colleagues in gest. But it was the oddness of how the glottal stop was correctly articulated by an Egyptian Egyptian that made me stop in my tracks and turn (no, that’s not a typo).
“Wa’ever?! Did he just say ‘Wa’ever’?”
I couldn’t believe it – it was pure Eastenders style – cockney accent and all! My inquisitive side wanted to know what else he had picked up from Brits who holidayed in Sharm, but my sensible side (as well as my friend) told me it was best not to, he’d probably get the ‘wrong idea’ (yes, my eyebrows are wiggling for emphasis here!).
So we walked on, with me muttering Wa’ever like a mad woman, marvelling at how well he’d used it. But, like… wa’ever, innit?
– The Londoner
I really wouldn’t have minded at all if the statement was at least true, because then it would’ve been funny, but when an all-teeth-baring guy who’s trying to lure you into his outdoor, bedouin-style cafe, says, “Hello, same colour!” despite being several shades lighter than you, you do begin to wonder.
Thankfully, this wasn’t a Cairo guy, it was out in the town where Russian holiday-goers like to bare it all; yup, Sharm El Sheikh.
I’d travelled out there with some friends for the Easter break – they had 5 days off work (while I had another 2 weeks, but never mind that!) – and so we thought we’d soak some sun (although my ‘tan’ involves looking more like pure cocoa than mocha and it was only my face and hands that benefited, never mind that either!), catch some waves and just spend some time outside Cairo.
Being brown in Sharm isn’t a new thing, there are many British and American holidayers of my skin tone who like to ‘tan’ out there, but being a brown hijabi did attract attention. And so, walking around Naama Bay at night, trying to find a nice spot to slurp on lemon juice (my current addiction!) warranted for more than one call of, “Hello, same colour!”
Honestly, the first time I heard it, I thought it was funny – ‘Haha! A new line to reel in a customer!’, but after the third time, I had to go up to the guy, put my hand close to his and say, “We are NOT the same colour!” to which he replied, “Yezz, yezz, but we are same same.”
Er… we are?!
The humour wore out pretty quickly, and I would advise the cafe peddlers to work on the lines to get customers to hang out in their joint… and I only charge a minimal fee to write a few. 🙂
– The Londoner
I’m going to start with a bit of family exposure here, and I apologise to my brother (well, one of them) for exposing him on my blog. (Don’t worry, bro, I’m not mentioning your name! :))
Okay, so one day my brother got out of our dad’s car (I think he was meant to go into the house to get something) and all of a sudden I thought he was going to fall over, because there something odd going on with his legs as he walked.
It was a cross between a sway and a stagger and a bit of a wobble, and I shouldn’t have been surprised to see this dodgy walk, but the fact that our dad called out, “(brother’s name), is there something wrong with your legs?!” knocked some shock into my system. He was 13 (or maybe 14, I can’t remember now… I’m getting old!) and he’d caught the bop – the infamous weird walk that guys do, as though they’re being pinched in the behind!
(Yeah, my bro straightened up when our dad called out to him, but it didn’t stop him doing it when he wasn’t around!)
Now, fast-forward to several years later, there’s me in a metro station (this evening), minding my own business with my headphones in my ears, as is my usual custom, and through the crowd of people on the platform I get a little deja-vu as I spot the bop… this time it was two Egyptian guys who were caught. And if they were young, I wouldn’t have chuckled to myself the way I did tonight, but they looked well into their late 20’s or even early 30’s.
Seeing a 13/14 year-old walk in what some people think is a ‘cool’ way, is one thing, but what are 30 year-olds trying to prove? A peculiar sight, I tell you.
From London to Egypt… there are some things you just can’t escape. Not even the bop.
– The Londoner
The other night I received a revelation about myself from a complete stranger. I’d never met him in my life, but what he told me what so profound, that it had be thinking as I walked home from the metro station.
The stranger – a middle-aged Egyptian guy who worked in a corner shop – informed me that… wait for it.. he informed me that I’m on a diet!
Yes, you read that right. Apparently, The Londoner, is on a diet! I wasn’t even aware of it before he told me, and all this time I’ve been scolding myself for indulging in too many sweet things!
“What led ‘Mr Unknown’ to come to this conclusion?” I hear you ask. Well, nothing except for me buying pure fruit juice! Yup… nothing else.
I’ve been slacking in my fruit intake recently, and in an attempt to make myself feel better, I went on a hunt after work for a kiosk or small shop that sells pure fruit juice. If you know anything about Egypt you know that it was a mission of some sort; every shop I entered had ‘fruit nectar’ – meaning 50% fruit, 30% sugar and 20% water plus some junk. Not the ideal way of increasing the intake of fruit. I call them ‘diabetes in a carton’.
I finally found a shop that had 200ml cartons of pure juice, and so I proceeded to grab as many as I could carry. Then I heard it.
“Mish sokkar!” (No sugar)
I thought I misheard and ignored Mr Unknown – the guy who worked in the shop. But I heard it again.
I turned, wondering why the guy was telling me that the juice had no sugar in it. That’s exactly why I was buying them.
“Iywa, kuwayis” was my reply.
And then he went into a theatrical display of pointing at the juice cartons while exclaiming, “Diet! Diet!”
Of course, at this point one of my eyebrows shot up in a manner that said, “What on earth are you talking about, man! I’m not on a diet.” I shook my head as he continued to switch between his declaration that I’m on a diet, and that the juice had no sugar. I tried to reassure him that I knew exactly what I was buying and that it was okay – there was no need to develop high blood pressure!
After all that commotion his face was flushed with a bright pink hue, his eyebrows gathered into a frown and he nodded very, very slowly, although I knew that he simply could not understand why I would want to buy juice that had no sugar added.
My question to him is, why do you sell the stuff if people don’t want to buy it? I guess it’s for people like me – we’re all on a diet.
– The Londoner