Sunday, 12 October 2008


I am supposed to be reading two chapters on teaching methodology (I am one chapter behind) and an article on probability sampling. But who cares! I am also supposed to be watching my diet and instead I am treating myself, for no reason, to a plate of home made cinnamon and vanilla cookies stuffed with strawberry jam. In order to waste more time, I decided to make tea with milk. No milk. Good. I got changed and went down to buy some.

I passed by the hairdresser’s I told you about two times before, the name of which I never cared to know. I decided to go in. For the first time ever I was the only customer there. The owner, who had a toothache, was resting her head on the counter and the three young assistants were chatting their time away.

I walked in and Aleyya, who once told me ‘Call me Kooki’, stood up to attend to me as usual.

- Hello, Kooki. Wow, is this your after Ramadan new look? Nice gold highlights.
• Merci. Do I look nice.
- As pretty as a full moon, as always.
• What do you need today?
- The usual but please don’t change me into a clown. Let my eyebrows look the way you see them.
• Ok, ya gameel , (beauty)!

She turned on an aging cassette player and put the tape on her favorite side. She started singing … in my ear of course. If there is anything I should be grateful for, it would be that she does not sing off key. Then she hums, then she sings, then she gets angry and stops everything.
“He’s a jerk,” she said to one of the other two girls while resting her hand on my head. “I told you. Dumb him. He doesn’t even deserve to see your shadow.”

Then she sings again. And starts her regular attempt at getting me to talk and say any information beyond my name. And of course I stick to ‘NO’ for reasons I might blog about later. So I dress differently to look older and more serious, never take my car key with me, never wear high heels, and never answer my phone in order not to give her a chance to start a conversation. Unfortunately, it seems all this has made me look more obscure to her and helped grow her curiousity.

• Are you engaged?
- No, Aleyya.
• Mafeesh boyfriend (in English)?
- Hmm. No, Aleyya.
• What do you do?
- Teacher.
• Of what?
- English.
• I love languages but I dropped school.
- Why?!
• Because my family back in the village wanted to marry me to my cousin and I told them I wanted to work and would get a job in Cairo. But my boyfriend wants me to go back to school.
- Good. What grade are you in?
• I’m in Year Ten. And he’s in Year Nine. He’s younger than me but he’s mature.
- He must be, otherwise you wouldn’t have fallen in love with him.
• That’s true. He is a real man. You know? When he sees me wearing any tight clothes, he boils with jealousy and fights with me and sends me home to get changed. Another time, when we were once invited to the same wedding. Oh, my! The bride was my best friends and pushed me to dance, I started dancing and in less than a minute he gave me that look … oh, my… like fire. I felt as if he slapped me on the face and stopped immediately. It took me ten days after this incidence to make up with him.
- Well, Kooki. It seems that he cares for you a lot. But I don’t see why you won’t continue your education. Have you thought about home schooling? You won’t have to go back to the village to attend school.
• That’s a good idea. I will check it out.
- Great. And another thing.
• What?
- I know he loves you but take good care of yourself.

She smiled shyly and went back to singing again when one of the girls’ telephone rang.
“Hello! … Evening!… Who is it?... No, wrong number,… you’re welcome,” the girl hung up.

Still talking in my ear...
• Fatma has a twang, no? She’s block nosed!
I started laughing.
- What are you saying?
• Yes, she is. Didn’t you hear her say “Henno!” instead of Henno?
- Well, you said Henno instead of ‘Hello’ just like she did now.
• Me?? No. I have a beautiful Henno. It drives men crazy.
- Really?
• Yes, once a man called and it was the wrong number. After he hung up, he phoned again to say “Miss, you have a beautiful Henno. Can we be friends?” I told him No a million times but he still phones every now and then.
- But, Aleyya. I still believe you said Henno!
• And I believe you'll look more beautiful with no eyebrows at all. What do you think?
- I think you have the sexiest Hello ever.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Dear Driver,

Dear Driver,

You are kindly asked to fasten your seat belt, mute the sound on your computer especially if you are in public, or use earphones with moderate to low volume. We are Your Gateway to Egypt .

I told you to mute or lower the volume. We consulted our best psychologists and they all agreed (of course) to our idea of including sound on this webpage. We thought it might harm your beain cells if you did not hear noise while reading about traffic.

As you can see, everything in the new traffic law is for your safety and happiness, especially the one regarding not allowing "acts of public indecencies" in your car. It says 'do not allow' and not 'do not perform' ;) hehee.

We added only two new terms to the existing traffic law in order to be able to name it New Traffic Law. The new terms were inspired by your generosity. You area asked to buy a first-aid kit and a triangle warning sign. By doing so, you will not only help the West understand that we don't ride camels any more but also contribute to the welfare of your fellow Egyptians who imported triangles and kits. We know that most triangles on the market do not reflect light at all. We are not perfectionists, so do not be one.

As for the wisdom behind raising the fine and not trying to enforce the existing one, we would like to explain to you the threefold wisdom behind this. First, raising the fines gives you and all our dear citizens something to talk about after the issue of skyrocketing prices has lost its appeal. Secondly, this decision goes back to the same principle of trusting your financial cooperation spirit. Thirdly, many people will try to avoid getting fined by staying at home and, therefore, the Egyptian family will regain its stability and strong ties.

Because we care for your sanity, we strongly advise you not to surf through the website. If you insist, we encourage you to read in Arabic or French depending on which one you do not understand at all.

Thank you for being such a passive citizen,

Egypt State Information Service

Coming up: Areas surrounded by the green belt of Cairo will be subject to 'clean air' tax.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

a flower

My name is the plural of the name of this flower.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

El Balad

Last Saturday, I lost an aunt. Let’s say I loved her because she was my mom’s sister.

Last week, I visited her twice at the hospital. She was better the first time I saw her. I told her how pretty she looked, kissed her head and hand, and prayed for her.
On Thursday she looked at young brother and sisters and said “Ok then, I’d like to say bye-bye.” My mom and many other people believe that a person knows they are going to die before they do. I do not know if they base this belief on religion or tradition.

Although farewells are on my top ten list of things I hate in life, I decided to go follow her to her final destination. And although big family gatherings are on the same list, but I knew that this one is different.

It was when we arrived that I realized that I had never visited my mom’s village of origin. Although she was born and raised in Cairo, she is so proud of this village and refers to it as ‘el balad’, the country, meaning hometown. I believe the majority of, if not all, Egyptians have roots in the countryside and you get to see an empty Cairo during holidays because everyone is visiting ‘el balad’, their hometown.

This balad, which is less than an hour away from Cairo, is nothing but a peaceful green peace of heaven. And it is not surprising to see angels there. People in my mom’s family who have not left the village have hearts as green as the fields that surround their houses. They have eyes that smile with tears in them, just like babies. Each one of them has a warm aura around them that instantly touches your heart. They remind you of things you have forgotten about long ago and make you think you must be an evil person.

And there she was lying in the mosque where people gathered to pray. Then she was left alone. We gathered around her grave and prayed for her for long. I left the gathering after a while and walked around the silent graves that lied in the middle of cotton and wheat fields.

I saw names very familiar. Here was the name of my aunt’s husband. He was the grandpa of my childhood friend and because I stayed at their house often, he was my grandfather too. I used to see him wash up and get ready to go to the mosque. My cousin and I used to wait for him at the window and open the door for him. He would take candies and lollipops out of his white galabeyya. “Thank you, Geddo,” we would both say.

I walked further and saw a white marble stone with black words carved in it to read “Here lies Moneera Haamid Qutb who returned to her Lord on December 5, 1989.” I felt my heart beat hard. I had missed her more than I thought I did. I told her that I love her and wish she was there. I do not remember many things about this lady who was a real hanem, lady in Turkish. She got married when she was twelve years old and her husband, my grandpa, used to carry her down high trees. She grew up to later raise nine children on her own after my grandpa died. She did not know how to read or write but had the wisdom of the most sophisticated person you can ever meet. She raised her children without consulting child psychology books, only her heart. She had the strength of a hundred men and my mom is nothing less than that.

I walked through the cotton fields and back to where everyone was on the road getting ready to leave. We were driving back and a train sped next to us. I wanted to tell everyone on that train not to forget to water their green hearts before they wither in the heat of the city.