In contrast to our normal weekday routine of returning to our hovels immediately after class and studying the punishing Arabic language until the 12 am call to prayer, 2/3rd of my apartment attended a Libyan cultural event at a cultural center in a posh part of Cairo, Zamalek. Since I knew my dirty t-shirt and wrinkled linen pants would make me stand out even more, I put on the closest thing I have to an appropriate nice outfit: a business shirt, jeans, and sperries. One day I’ll fit in somewhere.
After only minor difficulties finding the place, which is literally built into the underparts of an overpass, we found the oddly shaped but surprisingly nice venue bedecked with Libyan art, much of it pertaining to the current events going on there and the ever hated Qaddafi. The Bengazian band playing on the stage in front had just announced a brief intermission for the purpose of food and liquid consumption. Never had I seen such a hoard of people crowded around a buffet table….one would think there were a famine in Egypt and this was the first sighting of sugar and butter in months. I realize food prices are high nowadays but these people are from the upper class of society and attend “cultural events” surely they’ve eaten in the last week, right?
I managed to shove my way through the swarm and grab the most delicious cupcake I’ve ever eaten in my entire life…it was especially fulfilling as I’ve been craving western sweets ever since watching that dumb Australian cooking show centered on a child’s birthday party and ergo… cupcakes.
The band’s performance was by far the best part of the night, not for the quality of its music, which was so so and tended to be pretty cliché, but for the overall experience. Imagine, if you will, a small seated crowd emitting hubbub amidst the glare of bright lights and waving Libyan rebel flags in front of a band rocking out to pop ballads revolving around martyrs and revolution and blood and sacrifice to tunes on the same emotional level as a deeper N’Sync song. The most important component, however, were the kids that got on stage and were waving Libyan flags the entire time, sometimes blocking band members from sight for entire songs and/or threatening to injure them with the enthusiasm of their movements. At one point in the night, the rapper MC SWAT was forced to switch sides of the stage in the middle of breaking it down because of the peril he faced from one little girl with braids and ribbons in her hair.
The songs revolved around love of Libya and its unity and/or revolution. One of my favorite lines from the entire night was part of a description of Libya: “From the desert to the desert.” I guess it was hard to find another distinguishing geographical feature and from the border to the border wouldn’t work.
Another highlight of the night was actually hearing formal Arabic being used in the poetry reading. My heart delighted in hearing the sound of vowelled texts and my soul was nourished with sweet teshkeel. I love the importance of poetry in Arab culture…it’s great for revolutions, resistance, politics, love, insults, competition….everything.
I hope to see more cultural events and eat more free treats from this center under the bridge.