Sunday, May 25, 2008


First impressions of Maadi? One: what are all these Asian people doing here? Seriously, on our street I see as many Asians as Arabs. And here I was thinking, all this time, that no Asians really lived in Egypt, except for the lovely crew at the Chinese embassy adjacent to our old digs in Zamalek. We would occasionally witness little ladies walking poodles and short, trim-waisted men marching down the sidewalk, making way for nobody, or presiding over the building projects taking place within the embassy, coolly watching as a gaggle of sweaty Egyptians hammered away at some cement or tried to operate a mixer.

Still, beyond the embassy? Nobody. I assumed this was no place for Asians. I was wrong. They’re all in Maadi.

Impression one.

The other impression? It’s quiet. In a city where noise is part of the ethos, the absence of noise is itself an obtuse presence, insinuating itself on everything. Granted, a man in the street was shouting—shouting—into his mobile the other day, for no good reason but to annoy me. And our new bowaab—goodbye, Neghi—argued with a man who drove the wrong way down our narrow street and refused to back off. And there is the mosque next door. Still, even the musical wailing of the call to prayer seems lonesome. In Zamalek, the closest mosque simply joined in with others, who together stitched a ghostly layer of keening that spread throughout and beyond the neighborhood. Here, just a single call, no accompaniment, no backup—no Jordanaires. Within a couple minutes, the call is over and silence rules again. Nothing withstands it for very long.

I’m also impressed by the restaurants on our street and scattered throught Maadi, the clean and efficient Metro market, the more liberal dress code. I wore shorts outside tonight, and nobody stared, unless to take a gander at my birthmark. Many women were dressed as they would be back home, and no lecherous street cop so much as batted an eyelash. I am also impressed, in a different way, by the metro I took into Cairo today, and will take all week. It’s another interesting segment of society here, a new addition to the adventure, another set of principles for considering. And so I will. In September.


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