Tag Archives: weapons

Concealed sandwiches prohibited

Main cause of Revolution failure: laxness with sandwich-carriers

The Tahrir sit-in continues as do my experiences with tafteesh, which are especially lovely in the morning. After I wake

up, it usually takes me about an hour to feel like I’m not underwater and appreciate that the things happening around me are, in fact, real. Since I woke up a mere 10 minutes before leaving for school this morning, I had the distinct feeling of being in an aquarium while walking out into the haze of the humid Cairo day. The sensation was intensified by the fact that the metro was unusually moist, the air within the women’s car as warm and embracing as kisses from grandma, though much less pleasant (love you, grandma).

Before surfacing in Tahrir square, I and the other CASA students I had swum into on the way to the metro made our way through the ladies-only tafteesh, conducted by a female trainee no older than fifteen who doubtless has a crush on Robert Redford or whoever the kids like nowadays. There are anywhere from one to two steps in the tafteesh process: 1) exhibit ID 2) submit bag to be searched. The steps occur sometimes in this order, sometimes without the bag search, and sometimes with additional mandatory small talk. The bag search process can be a hassle especially when the girl doing the searching has no idea what a weapon looks like but knows what people searching for weapons looks like, carefully examining everything with equal care, pens, pencils, pocket sized notebooks, ribbon wands, etc. It is also a hassle when one has an American-style, million pocket adventure backpack, each pocket of which must be searched.

One of the girls I was with had such a backpack, which was large and full of things a student uses: books, pencils, and sandwich in a sandwich box. Out of everything that could have aroused suspicion, Ms. Tafteesh was most captivated by the encased sandwich, which looked as American as an apple pie playing baseball, complete with wheat, not white bread, in the sliced loaf style that we so adore. In the amount of time tafteesh girl took to examine the sandwich, I could have clubbed her with my water bottle, grabbed the sandwich, run up the stairs, and been apprehended instantly by other security personnel, who I would have attacked by smearing the contents of the sandwich on their faces. All this to say I think her focus could have been better spent elsewhere.

I have not been able to stop thinking about the girl and the sandwich all day. Though I realize the shape must have been slightly strange for her, I wonder what kind of weapon she thought it could be. Did it signal the presence of a spy? Could it contain some sort of bomb or knife? Did it remind her of a family member? Could it be planted somewhere and cause a strange sensation for someone when stepping on it barefoot? Could it be planted somewhere and explode?

Maybe I’ll never know what was going through Ms. Tafteesh’s mind as she pondered the sandwich. But I did think of something strange later on: I have never actually seen said student eat her sandwich. I have, on the other hand, seen her lurking around campus and hiding her sandwiches under desks and in trash cans. Maybe that girl at the tafteesh station was onto something.

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Leave your thug life at home

avoid looking like this guy

If you’re heading to the Sadat Metro stop and/or planning to enter Tahrir square at all, you best leave your guns at home. While you’re at it, forget about bringing along any knives, clubs, maces, and vegetable peelers you might traditionally carry with you. Now is not the time to practice transporting your archery set or collection of poisonous darts. If you happen to usually don a thug-like appearance, you should consider trying something else for a change, like wearing a floor length tiered jean skirt and a long sleeve turtleneck shirt emblazoned with either sparkly cartoon characters or nonsensical English words. Not sure if you have a thug-like appearance? If you look in the mirror and seem to be male, you are most probably a thug. If you seem to be male AND are over 5’8 and have darker skin, you are a thug and are a persona non grata in the environs of Tahrir square, which is in full blown sit-in mode.

Tahrir square has sprouted white tents, stages, signs, and new graffiti, heralding a new level of the revolution, despite the fact many Egyptians have grown weary of the continual instability. The square is occupied by groups of people demanding their demands be met. Yes, there are specifics for the people in the square but no, they do not actually help clarify the situation. One of the many consequences of the sit in is that the Mogamma, the center of Egyptian bureaucracy, was forcibly closed both yesterday and today, preventing the completion of much government business including the bribery of countless officials. Another consequence is the “tafteesh,” or security checks, now found at every entry point to the square.

The nature of the security check experience varies wildly from one entry point to another as there appears to be no standard procedure. It’s almost like these people didn’t get their tafteesh badge at Sit-In Camp for Budding Revolutionaries. Everyone from teenagers to dentists to adolescent girl helps out with the tafteesh. You could be asked for anything from giving your name, a passport, or an identity card to allowing them to examine your bag and ask you riddles. Sometimes they just let you through so long as your appearance is free of thug-like traces i.e. you are female (see above note).

Today I stupidly forgot to bring any form of ID with me to school, so I was lucky that both times I approached security, the “guards” let me pass through with nothing more than a smile. Other CASA students, however, had their bags checked and/or were prohibited from entering the square at all (one student). Tomorrow there is supposed to be a million man march to/in Tahrir but I haven’t heard anything about our classes being cancelled so apparently some people (our administration) were not entirely convinced it was going to happen. We shall see.

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