Archive for October, 2010

Cinema

I’ve not had internet at home for the past few days, but I’ve managed to resolve the issue now. Went to a cinema in downtown Cairo yesterday and decided to watch the ‘Expendables’ (It was the only film available in English). The Metro cinema is housed in an ancient building complete with a big screens and musky smelling seats.

Once the film had started it was hard to see the screen which was not lit up adequately. Then the sound was coming out unclear, with conversation being nothing but a jumble of words. We complained to management about the poor light and sound, but as nothing seemed to improve we walked out 30mins later and received a refund. The morale of the story is not to watch the film as it was drivel. I’ve never met a bunch of evidently masculine men who groomed themselves so much.

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Unfinished

(Yesterday inside a taxi)

I love the fact that everywhere you go in Egypt you hear the Quran. Right now I can hear the hypnotic melodious sound of the Adhan (call to prayer) calling out into the hustle and bustle of the streets.  People are frantically rushing to get home before dark.

The taxi driver has switched the radio over from the wailing Arabic pop music to the Adhan. Even amongst all this traffic and chaos it still seems to be peaceful, almost as though time has frozen. Indeed the cars have ceased their frantic beeping…. well actually they’ve commenced again.

The Adhan has finished and the romanticism is over. I’m on my way to the mall, City Stars to meet a friend and now im stuck in traffic at the peak of rush hour. The sun is slowly starting to set and the city is slowly being covered by a veil of darkness. When I came out of my Arabic class the sky had dramatically changed in one and a half hours and it looked like there was a sandstorm brewing. Not wanting to be caught up in it I quickly hailed a white taxi (I don’t use the black ones as you have to spend ages bartering the price and in return you get a slow bumpy journey praying the car makes it to your destination. After all that, you are left with the lingering smell of eau du petroleum) and off I went…

It was a fascinating taxi journey where I got to practise my Arabic and at times pretend i didn’t know what the response was. Frequently I chose to ignore the conversation when all i felt like doing was examining the scenery from my window. Thats the good thing here you can just go silent and then they stop talking to you, having got the hint (doesnt always work mind you). The driver didn’t believe I was married as apparently I look young (wrinkles when will you show your ugly faces?).

I love the mini buses here. They’re so shabby, its chic.

After being let loose in the paint shop and going crazy with desire for the juicy tubes of oil paints, I decided that it would only be fair to paint my first painting in over ten years. I decided upon doing the classic subject of fruit, signifying status and wealth. I looked in the fridge and could only find two different coloured apples and a half eaten melon. Of course that wouldn’t do so off I went to the local supermarket to seek my fortune. Yet all i could find was some unripe or bruised bannanas and grapes that looked like they had seen better days. Not wanting to spoil my moment, I bought them, and once home arranged them on the table ready with pencil in hand.

First I roughly drew them on my canvas pad until it roughly resembled what was infront of me. I cracked open the tubes and celebrated with my first brush stroke. It felt good. After a while I got tired and feeling a little bit dizzy from the turpentine (used to clean the brushes) and decided to call it a day. Later in the evening the props having looked excidenly good all day got polished off in 5 minutes. The painting is still unfinished…


Before

Heres an old entry I wrote on my computer some months back when I first came to Cairo. Enjoy.

Obnoxious Americans talks at levels higher than what is normal. Instrumental music plays in the background while friends catch up over a coffee and babies stick fat fingers into cake. Smoke lingers in the room, mixed with coffee and chat creates an air of importance. Only those who can afford walk through these doors.

I’m sitting in Costa Coffee right now after my Arabic lesson. The place is over-priced for Egypt, but its the only place you can get a good cup of coffee! Okay right after I said that the man gave me a latte instead of a cappucino and that is not good as latte makes me jittery.

I had my second Quran lesson today and so far it’s going well. I managed to learn 17 of the 20 ayahs and without mistakes (well no big ones!). Now I have to learn all the surah, which is 40 ayahs by sunday! At times like this I like to look at the positive and that is this time I have more days to memorise the surah than last time 🙂

The Costa im in is near the Grand Mall and to get here I had to cross over the railway line which was covered in rubbish. Okay let me explain something:

Waste disposal

Now that ive been here for a while I can see that things here are done differently compared to the UK and I assume other western societies. In the UK when you throw out your waste, it is taken once a week by the refuse collectors who are hired by the government. This waste then goes to designated tips dotted all around the country. There is also separate bins for recycled materials such as plastic, tins, cardboard, glass etc, which also get taken away by the refuse collectors (bear with me)…

In Egypt what happens is you put your rubbish out in the big bins that line the road (or the Bawab in your apartment does this for you). Then the amazing part is that you get people who sort through the rubbish and find things that they can recycle such as plastic and cardboard. One day whilst driving through The City of the Dead on the way to Naser City, we went past a recycling centre where all the things that can be recycled arrive there. When I saw that I didn’t feel so guilty about throwing away the copious amounts of plastic we accumilate when buying the bottled, water which unfortunately we have to do here. Miss the Thames water…

In the evening I still had some energy left in me and so come 11pm I was there dusting the tables, counters and any other surface with an ounce of dust upon them. I vacuumed and then gave the floor a mop for the first time since we moved in. I noticed the difference straight away as the counters gleamed back at me. I got a drop of bleach in my right eye though which put a downer on my hard work.


paint

I’m sitting in the dark writing this with the balcony doors flung open and the faint sound of distant cars rumbling past.  Every now and then the drivers blast their horns out of frustration.  A baby cries in the distance but has now stopped as a man shouts the name of a young boy “Ya Ahmed….Ahmed”.

I’m feeling down cast with a cold (btw just because I keep mentioning that I have a cold doesn’t mean I’m fishing for sympathy…) so I decided to cheer myself up, and went down to the local art shop where things got ugly.  Or rather it did after the items were scanned and the bill came. But you can’t put a price on art.

I bought some oil paints and brushes as I loved painting with this medium, but its sad to say last time I did was in high school.  How could I not pick up a brush, squeeze a blob of paint and connect them together on canvas? Even now I’m scared to do so incase the result makes me throw everything into the bin.  Ill endeavour to paint tomorrow I think.


let the Arabic commence

Today I woke up feeling a little better but still had a runny nose that required me to wipe it every 5 minutes.  Last night the neighbours above were drilling away at 1:30am in the morning attending to last minute repairs that I guess couldn’t wait till a reasonable hour! Not that it made much of a difference to us as we are late sleepers, but it’s so funny.  It reminded me of the time when I first arrived in Cairo and for the first two weeks the neighbours above were banging away non stop.  One day I snapped and started banging the handle of a wooden brush on the ceiling to get them to shut up.  It worked for 2 mins (I asumme he had a toilet brake) and then they resumed again.

I’m starting my Arabic classes again on monday and  I cant wait. I want my Arabic to improve so that I can converse better with people.


Cold

I have a runny nose and sore throat in 30 plus degrees. How is that possible?! One night the A.C was left on very high (e.g. its was put on very cold) and I was sleeping for a few hours without the blanket on. Come morning and my nose was blocked and my throat felt like sandpaper.

After Jummah it was too late to go to Coptic Cairo and visit the churches so we opted to go to the tomb of Imam Al-Shafi which is surrounded by other tombs, kind of a city of the dead if you like. Imam Shafi was the founder of the shafi school of Islamic thought and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib. Imam Shafi was born in Palestine but lived and died in Egypt in 820 AD.  He also learned the whole Quran by the age of 7 and studied with 80 renowned scholars. Amazing!

The taxi winded through the backstreets past masons who were busy cutting stone and making decorative fixtures. Through herds of sheep that were grazing underneath a busy motorway, past mountains of rubbish burning away releasing their odour of plastic bags and rotten food.

We were dropped off on the main street but told by the taxi driver that we would have to get to the tomb by walking down an alley way and through the labyrinth of graves to find it.  It’s the end of October now and the summer is starting to end with winter drawing near. Yet it was still hot, and every step I took sweat was dripping down my neck, back and legs causing my shirt to stick uncomfortably.

Finding the tomb wasn’t as easy as I thought – we passed herds of sheep grazing at the side of the street eating through rubbish dumped by the side. One sheep tried to make a run to freedom but was reprimanded by his shepherd who had a stick which he used to keep them in line. One man, sensing an opportunity to sell, asked us if we wanted to buy a sheep. I don’t know why!

By the time we passed the street of sheep and foul smells we ended up somehow on chicken street. A woman was busy slaughtering chickens on a wooden block placed on the ground, leaving feathers flying around and pools of blood draining down the street. I had to crisscross my way around while at the same time holding my breath.

After fifteen gruesome but exciting minutes we arrived the the tomb of Imam Al-Shafi which stood like a jewel amongst the streets. Inside was his tomb placed in the middle of this not so large room but with a dome that had the most delicate carvings in wood. There was also another small tomb which I think might be his mothers but not too sure.

People were sitting making dua and reading Quran, some brought their children with them hoping that the deceased imam would some how cure whatever illnesses they had. There was also a group of Pakistani guys taking lots of pictures who stood out by their infamous mustaches and dress sense.

After we paid out 2 LE (about 10p in sterling) to the mosque attendants for looking after our shoes (My worn and battered converse) we walked down the streets to find a taxi to go to Sayeda Zainab mosque. We walked through markets selling cloth, peoples household junk, old 80’s style ghetto blaster radios, tins and tins of tuns (why do they love tuna here so much??) and battered, dusty old clothes. After finding a taxi and bartering the price with him we made our way down to the mosque.

After a quick stop off at the juice shop to buy some freshly squeezed mango and cantelope (melon) juice, we found ourselves in the tranquility of mosque.  The security on the womens side was high with large bags forbidden inside the mosque. Children were also banned from entering the mosque which sometimes is a relief. Also I think the poor weren’t allowed in because sometimes what happens is you get them sleeping in the mosque all day rather than praying.

The mosque was beautiful and the 2nd mosque i’ve been to where the carpets were clean and free from dust. On the way home I grabbed some tageen (pasta with sauce and meat) and ate hungrily whilst reading a good book


Day of rest

So today’s jummah and the equivalent of an English sunday. The streets before jummah are deserted and after the weekly prayer people retreat back to their homes and sleep a while during the hottest part of the day. I’m sitting here after breakfast wondering what to do today. It’s too late for horse-riding maybe so a day of tourism?

Just remembered an article in a not so good magazine I read. It was a few days ago when I was in dire need of reading material to idle away a few hours, so off I went to the local bookshop. The choice in there was pitiful so I was left with buying a big atlas shaped magazine on the local area and grabbed a few free mags. Sat in a mosque and whilst eating my lunch I idly flicked through. Few articles grabbed my attention with their words or pictures. One that made me stop and read (for all the wrong reasons) was an ex-pat magazine that conducted a dull interview with an Egyptian jazz singer and asked the most stupid questions, made worse by the hilarious spelling mistakes (underlined). I’ll leave Mr Adly editor of Expats to wrap up here:

“Im sure everyday a star like you would have girls having a crash on them. So how would you handle this situation: You’re leaving a stage then you see a girls who having one of the worst crashes of her life on you….”