“Cairo’s in-your-face-24-hours-a-day attributes swallow you whole!”
Egypt is a country where to we know for a fact that we belong but still feel like aliens. In an attempt to decipher our relationship with this land we live in, I have found that the contradictions within us are so forceful that we love and hate the exact same things about it, sometimes even for the same reason! Here are only a few examples; because, if not controlled, this could turn into an entire book!
(Not Far from) The Madding Crowd:
Cairo is not a city you can call ‘calm’ or ‘tranquil’. This is a city best described as chaotic, noisy and in-your-face-24-hours-a-day! Even in the wee hours of the night, you will always hear noise in the street and you will always find somewhere to go if you need company. This is not a city where one can easily feel lonely! It’s a city where you are never left alone.
But what if you wanted to? What if you just need to be alone and can’t stand to hear any noise or see any people? In those moments of needed solitude, Cairo’s in-your-face-24-hours-a-day attributes swallow you whole! Try locking yourself in the bathroom, but know that someone will come knocking on the door no more than 10 minutes later!
Yummy Yummy in my Tummy!
Ah! Egyptian food! One of the most integral parts of being Egyptian! One can write poetry and sonnets of pure love about Egyptian food. In all honesty, it is delicious! Stuffed pigeons, koshary, ta’ameyya, kishk, béchamel macaroni; pure and undiluted pleasure! And do not get me started on the desserts!
Now, every single one of these dishes, and basically every other Egyptian delicacy there is, will leave you feeling one of the following:
1. Like a walrus
2. Like a hot air balloon (i.e. gaseous!)
3. Like you have just been hit by a train
No exceptions. (Or at least I can’t think of any, except maybe for balady bread, but then you never have that without a dangerous filling inside!)
The Help (Or Lack Thereof!):
If we are to be completely honest with ourselves, we will admit that Egypt is a country that lacks a lot when it comes to official institutions that can help you if you are in need. We are not a nation that understands the value of service; from hospitals to customer protection associations, and from governmental administrative services to car care centres. Everything about these entities is chaotic and there is hardly one that you can turn to with full trust when troubles loom.
But one word counterattacks this scene mercilessly; friends. For every single one of these needs, one can always find a friend who can help. Everybody knows everybody else and, if you just holler, someone will get you in touch with someone else who will eventually – and happily – help you solve your problem.
Whether you admit it openly or not, you probably have a love/hate relationship with the Egyptian Jan25 revolution. This era of Egyptian history is one of hope and gloom; it is euphoric and despairing all at once. The emotional swings that every single person in this country has and still is going through are traumatic to say the least.
As much as this revolution has changed in this country and in its people, it has left its cities – especially the Conquering Metropolis– inutter shambles. I had never thought that the treachery that is driving in Cairo streets could get any worse, until the revolution proved me wrong. The attitudes of us Cairenes have grown more impatient, angry and unforgiving than ever before, and it is evident in all our surroundings; from the garbage that fills our street to the garbage that escapes our mouths duringconversations.
This list can run extensively and the pages of this magazine will not suffice to cover all there is to love and hate about Egypt as one of its citizens. But one must ask; if it wasn’t for these abundant contradictions, can one be justifiably called Egyptian?
Love and hate Egypt as much as you want; I’m sure it loves and hates us equally!
It’s all in my head is a series of thoughts and opinions that our very own Yusra Badr has written. “It’s All in my Head” is out now!