Mint tea and shisha (with background football) Part II

Posted on July 10, 2006


As predicted, I did indeed have to secure the services of a plumber within the first few days of my arrival. I hadn’t even considered, actually, the mere possibility that I wouldn’t. Stuff breaks down on a minutely basis here, no one knows why. Well, in this case, we do know: my sister left the water heater on while she was in Kuwait, for a month. Anyway so the dude came over and I decorously put on a robe. He proceeded to empty the entire contents of the heater all over the bathroom, in cascading torrents. Apparently there is no way around this, and I’m glad he did, because the water was filthy. A fine layer of sediment, such as you might see on a river bed, settled on the bathroom floor. So we’ve been bathing in effluvium all this time – no wonder we can’t get a good shave! However, he mopped it up and cleaned up after himself, and I had scheduled massive cleaning operations for today anyway. It is the fullest of full-time jobs here, keeping an apartment clean. Cairo is so polluted as to be Dickensian – I never really felt bad for those chimney sweeps. My sister hasn’t even made much of a dent in the two years she’s been living here. And I’m filthy, so it will be uphill work…and yes, we have obtained help, but it’s too big a job. It might be easier to move.

Yesterday I watched the Final with a crew of friends I think of as the Politicals. Oh not hardcore, most of them don’t do anything, precisely, but they feel strongly about things, and study politics and so forth. Actually, one of them had just come from a protest, where he was pleased to report that he managed to hit a police officer. Anyway, they spend their time hanging out in various places of outstanding sketchiness and bohemianism downtown. We were in one such place yesterday – a colonial era pub that had been expanded into a coffeeshop. The sort of place where waiters actually wear bowties that most probably haven’t changed since the days of the king. The attraction of such places is that they usually have a liquor license, dating from the days when such things were easily obtainable, and we all sit around and swill cheap Stella and Egyptian-bottled Heineken. Because of the match, everyone trotted in and gave me a cursory kiss as if they’d just seen me yesterday. “7amdella 3ala…What? France scored? The fuckers!” was the most popular salutation. I did receive a genuine hug from Spaz, although that was before the game started.
The Politicals have an expatriate faction, who were out in full force yesterday. Out of, say, 25 of us, there was about 7 or 8 Egyptians (and I’m counting one Sudanese dude). These are mostly people who for some reason or another grew uncomfortable with the democracy and hygiene of their native countries, came here for a short dekko, and stayed for ages. They all have mastered the rudiments of shisha and beer ordering, and really, what else does a person need to say?
The other patrons were mostly middle-aged eccentrics of various sorts, people who look like they might have been involved in revolutionary politics and at least one actor. I assume they were also there for the cheap beer and shisha (not too many places combine these qualities). Pretty much everyone there was cheering for Italy, except for some vociferous individuals who were apparently with us, and kept screaming “Vive le France!” and “Allez le Bleus!” to the disgust of everyone else, who kept muttering about how they couldn’t possibly be French, and even if they were they were just immigrants, so what was that about?
Anyway, I had a great time. I especially enjoyed the head-butting, and I had some grape leaves that were so succulent my heart actually beat faster.

Posted in: food, friends