Tag Archives: gaudiness

The lone cowboy of Tahrir

I see him standing there, above ground or below, standing or wandering in his area, that general area that is the now urine perfumed American University exit of the Sadat metro station. Since he started coming around a few days ago, I feel a greater level of personal safety when walking in the thirty yards he patrols on the daily during the late afternoon, though he cleverly disguises this patrolling as chatting with friends or aimless meandering interspersed with standing.

Though I do not know what his job is, I am confident he has been charged with very descriptive tasks such as “maintaining a presence” or “keeping the peace.” It is equally likely that no one else knows what his job is or has purposefully not given him any tasks whatsoever, and yet he continues to be a “presence” and remain “active.”

His political activity of choice: wearing a cowboy hat. He undertakes all real or imagined missions with the easy confidence of one wearing ridiculous headgear, in this case a black cowboy hat like the outlaws of old and the pop country stars of today. His slim fitting jeans and tight white t-shirt with a black faux vest sewn on the front complete with contrasting buttons only confirm my initial impression that this is a shab (young man) of the shabbab (young men) that the people of Egypt can firmly place their trust in.

Was this one of the shabbab that wanted the foreign press to know they won’t be leaving Tahrir until their demands are met?  If so, may the foreign press also be aware that the shabbab demand more ridiculous fashion trends and to be taken seriously while wearing them. If this appears to be a conflicting request, then let it be known that the shabbab are completely capable of ignoring said contradiction and increasing the impossibility of their demands. Should the foreign press desire to know more details, the lone cowboy of Tahrir awaits them somewhere in the area around the AUC exit of Sadat. He will be wearing a hat, and he will not be messing around.

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Appearance first, substance later

I want something like this

Every morning when I board the metro, I impulsively begin analyzing the components of the outfits surrounding me. This research is part of a long term “going native” “project” in which I construct an Egyptian wardrobe (or at least a few articles of clothing) that will ideally allow me to further blend in; sometimes business pants and collared shirts just enhance the foreignness of my features. I have always wanted a native wardrobe, but inevitably I get used to wearing the same clothes/run out of money/stop caring about blending in. Not so this time! I would rather starve than wear my t-shirts for the next 11 months.

The variety of clothing is endless. Every girl wears her hijab in a different way (about 9 out of ten or 12 out of 13 women cover their hair), and the rest of the outfit is always color coordinated. Imagine every combination of tier skirts, tight jeans, long shirts, tight long sleeve shirts with tank tops over them, bangles, colors, sequins, cartoon characters, gibberish English, gaucho pants, layers, cardigans, t shirts, bows, buttons, heels, flats, bejeweled sandals, abayas, niqabs, and almost everything else except for tie dye shirts, cargo pants, and whatever the Americans are wearing in general.

As we stand humidly on the metro and my eyes wander from ensemble to ensemble, I’m almost overcome with despair. I want it all! -especially a shirt with cartoon characters and or/teddy bears with sequins on them and a tier skirt . My goal is to go so native that the only clue I’m not Egyptian will be my predilection for peanut butter and the fact I prefer to eat meals in front of my computer instead of with humans. Here in Egypt I will be able to fully indulge my love of gaudy color combinations and obnoxious patterns: color goes with color, as I always say.

Today I finally embarked on my nativ-ication project and had great success. I purchased a blue long sleeve spandex shirt to go underneath other clothes…when I later tried this on in my home (there was only one size) I realized it breathes only slightly better than a trash bag. Part of my going native outfit might have to be the tissues everyone carries around to dab the sweat beading on their faces. I also purchased a long shirt-like thing that has stripes on it. I could have gone tackier—no sequins, bows, obnoxious patterns, or animals today—but there will be chance in the future, I believe.

Both my roommates saw the bottom of my feet today and were disgusted/charmed by how dirty they are. What does this mean?

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Post apocalyptic mall from the desert future

American University in Cairo: new campus

Classes start tomorrow. Thus ends my brief stint of living like a posh Cairene, going out to cafes all the time and wastin’ my stipend like I’m Cleopatra. I went to a place called Mosaic tonight and enjoyed a lovely grape sheesha with a plate of hummus on the side and hibiscus tea to drink. There was enough left over for lunch tomorrow. SHABAM.

My roommate and I got semi-lost on the way back from said cafe, but it wasn’t for too long and we got to see the other side of Doqqi: poorly-lit streets, slightly less well off neighborhoods, cats crawling on garbage piles, kids zooming by on scooters, clotheslines, dark stairwells…. Not too shabby.

We had our orientation out at the new campus of the American University in Cairo today, which is probably the most bizarre place in the world. First of all, it is surrounded by a sea of half built buildings in the desert, part of the “New Cairo” everyone is talking about (I think). The two workers I saw out there will be hard pressed to finish this century, but at least they’re a team: one to hand the bricks, and the other to carry.

AUC’s campus is also massive, most of it consisting of long marbled courtyards beneath gaudy eastern style arches. The campus was nearly empty except for us and the employees of random Western-style food outlets scattered in nooks of the eerie flat-faced buildings shimmering in the heat. The sound of the fountains and the wind in the gardens only accentuated the emptiness of the place. I got the feeling I was on a campus designed and implemented according to what the future might be like if everything was based on faux-eastern mall architecture right before there had been a huge climate shift. Spooky. Alternately, it felt like the campus had been discovered well preserved in some sort of dome in the middle of the desert as a relic of a by-gone era of aliens more advanced than us.

The ride out there took about an hour and 15 minutes both ways in over air conditioned buses outfitted with wifi so you can fulfill your dream of forgetting you are actually in Cairo/that you are one of the miserable beings who is in thrall to the commute to a campus designed for a world that does not exist and almost vomit inducing in the level of its opulence.

Thank goodness we’re at the Tahrir campus.

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At least we had the stuffed parrots

I’ll be honest. I’ve done nothing interesting for the past 48 hours, unless you count cooking dinner and going to a hotel bar interesting, in which case both you and I need to get out more.

The roomies and I made #lentilsoup last night and the tomatoes we used tasted like they came from the fields of heaven. It was like I had never tasted a tomato before. Every tomato will now turn to ash in my mouth as I remember the sweetness of the day my eyes were opened. But really, they were pretty good.

Afterwards, we went to the CASA fellow get together at the Happy City hotel rooftop lounge. They had done a fair job of wrapping the entire place in strands of lights, however, I only counted three that were actually functional. This slight fault was made up for by the strategically placed stuffed parrots hanging from the ceiling. There were also things that looked eerily similar to precious moments figurines, but alas, they were of a different make.

One of our critical mistakes of the evening was not eating the #lentilsoup we had made, since we thought there were going to be free appetizers which could easily turn into #freedinner. The free appetizers turned out to be a lone bowl of beans and so we simply drank dinner (beer)/starved until we got some late night Egyptian t-bell before going to bed. It was fun. We talked a little about jelly beans.

There will be more adventures later on, I think. I suggested going to the pyramids last night for an illicit after-curfew excursion but there was hesitation for some reason. I was like, “I’ll bring my saber so it’s not like safety will be an issue.” But there were no takers. And then I screamed, “No really, I have a freakin’ saber right here,” and I whipped it out of my purse but everyone got all weirded out. People can be strange.

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