Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Purgatory

I think the flops are a nice touch ;)
All the things that I previously complained about – “I don’t want to go there, it’s boring” or “I’m tired of going to the same places and seeing the same people” – just don’t seem that bad anymore.

The highlight of my day was eating sushi with a friend (now our dinner dates have to be pushed up as curfew just doesn’t give us enough time to catch up) with the restaurant playing Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi’s speech. If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely tune in; I think he’s a comedy act altogether. It doesn’t matter that I met up with some other friends at a café – we only had an hour to hurriedly drink our coffee and skedaddle because of curfew. Mind you I had other errands that need done before dinner and the café – so I was already under a tight time constraint.

Sure, curfew is at midnight. And sure during working days, I don’t like to stay out late. However, when you have to leave everywhere by 11 or 11:30 pm after only arriving at 10 pm – it gets a little old (even on the weekends). I can only watch so many re-runs of Niptuck on Fox Series (by the way, the same two seasons have been running for the past two years and oh yeah – out of order too).

On the weekends, people are getting to popular places like Cairo Jazz Club at 3:30-4pm because if you stay out past curfew – good luck getting home. Not only are cabs few and far in between, think about all the check points, searches, etc. that you must also go through.

I went to my favorite restaurant, Taboula, in Garden City last week (five minute walk from Tahrir Square). Our driver couldn’t take us directly to the restaurant, so we got out and walked. Not far so mesh mush killa (no problem). Ah hem, four security checkpoints later on a three minute walk took about 40 minutes. Everything had to be searched. Numerous times.

“Do you have a camera?”

“Where are you going?”

“Where are you from?”

“Where is your passport?”

There are three major embassies in that area: American, British and Canadian. Now there is also barbed wire blocking the streets to ensure cars go one way to be checked, tanks blocking other paths and tons of army personnel.

Welcome to life under a military junta.

Taboula was nice and as usual, I had tons of leftovers. I thought it would be a nice jester to give them to some of the army guys. Wrong. Rumors continue to run rampant and the military cannot accept food from civilians (particularly foreigners) because they’re fearful of poisoning.

Remember when we used to have fun? My Egyptian friend Basem used to take me grocery shopping in the middle of the night and he would always leave saying, “God I love this place – you can do everything you want at whatever time (mind you, not so much before 10:30 am). There’s always something to do in this country.”

How quickly times change.

Obviously this isn’t the biggest problem – this is just a normal day in my life now. The biggest problem continues to be the strikes and protests. Rome wasn’t built in a day people.

That being said, I’ve noticed that the kids in my neighborhood are now going out on the streets everyday cleaning and have started painting the sidewalks and trees red, white and black (the colors of the Egyptian flag).

It will be interesting in a month from now to see if people are still so anti-Mubarak and patriotic.

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