Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Campus Note

Desert foxes. Actually, I haven’t seen any, to my disappointment. The university happened to build a desert campus right in the middle of their habitat, though. Apparently, a sighting last week caused “panic” among the student body and has caused security officials to suggest that poison be placed on the perimeter of the university grounds. From what I understand, the desert foxes are comparable to the stray dogs (one of which I saw trotting along with a dead cat in its mouth this morning as I walked to the bus stop) and cats of Cairo – the foxes have adapted to human populations and human waste, and they are glad to scavenge our leftovers as easier pickings than the more difficult hunt. As a naturalist professor pointed out, a part of the mission on the new campus was supposed to be greater attention to the environment and to natural habitats. 

I imagine the desert foxes are less mangy and resemble the fascist bunnies from Watership Down a little less than some of the cats that were on the downtown campus. Still, I miss those cats because on campus I can see a great need for them, which is to keep the mouse population down. The mice I have seen are cute plump balls with large velvety ears, and I don’t really want them to be destroyed, but then again I don’t want them in my office. Last week, one colleague of mine noticed that a little mouse had settled for a nap on his foot. Cats seem a simple solution to the mice, particularly since there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of native wildlife hanging out on our concrete campus at the moment, except for those desert foxes, which I’m sure can take the cats in a brawl unless said cats are of the Watership Down variety. At any rate, I really hope the university doesn’t poison the desert foxes just because some students freaked out.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Not much to say now, so here you go – a photo of yours truly. Laugh away, fillies. This is a gift given to me last spring by the maid for my mom. I sense that it is currently neatly folded and not being worn. Plus, it is twenty times bigger than my mom. Not to make fun of the gallabeya or whatever, but this one is atypical. It’s like the ones (except sequined) they try to sell tourists on the cruise ships between Luxor and Aswan, with the price marked up and on the condition that tourists wear it to the “Gallabeya Party,” during which the bowtied Egyptian waiters encourage games and dancing and photos. The party occurs right after they serve you fuul and koshary for Egyptian buffet night.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Something Changed

My as-of-late snarky mood toward Egypt has changed considerably. All it took was to get in a cab last night, the young driver smoking and his forearm flexing as he shifted gears and talked on his mobile. To leave the roundabouts of Maadi and get out on the corniche and watch the part of Cairo that couldn’t afford to go to Sharm El Sheikh for the Eid moseying arm-in-arm in the streets, perching precariously on the bridge to Zamalek. To inch closer to downtown, take the curve that exposes a little park where the headscarved youth of Cairo are said to live some kind of hypocrisy by making out in the grass. To visit our old apartment building, where a friend still lives, and eat koshary, and look out on the skyline and notice that the World Trade Center has a new purple sign and that the bawaab-in-training got glasses and no longer has to squint so painfully to see us.

On the way home, to grab an already-occupied cab and hear the gentle conversation of the driver and his front-seat passenger. To see people leave the Ahly arena and watch fireworks bloom on the sky and listen to the driver and his front-seat passenger say, “Gameel.” Beautiful. To see people smiling, pushing into the street. To see people, rather than just desert and the suspicious scaffolding of “development.” To see the middle class, out and about, and the poor, celebrating. To be in the center. Back on the corniche, almost to Maadi, we got a flat tire just as a mini-bus – crammed so full that a teenage girl’s back, butt, and left arm were hanging from the window –  passed us. The driver wouldn’t admit it was a flat until he had pulled over in the middle of the devil-may-care traffic three times. “Five minutes,” he said that third time. “Only five minutes,” said the front-seat passenger, lighting a cigarette. To know that it wouldn’t be five minutes. To pay the guy anyway and tell him to have a good holiday and get into a different cab with its own personal rattling and leaking tires. To feel it all again. And then to return to the new street, so quiet, and to like it, too.