To continue…

Posted on July 21, 2006


The film was, in so far as I know anything about films, really great. It was 68 minutes and I wasn’t bored once – I learned some new swear words as well. The director said she shot 52 hours of film, and I think she really managed to distill the essence of these girls’ lives. Anyway, the Q & A period featured this woman who was in the film, a rotund mohajaba who basically tries to work with these girls, ease their lives a bit and offer them affection. She got into this when she couldn’t have any children and needed someone to love. It was all very paternalistic – but I figured, any motives are acceptable as long as people help. However, she did actually urge these girls in the film to return to their homes, to fathers who she knew beat them and preyed on them. Guess in her mind, any home is better than living in the street. However, she opened up the Q and A by lecturing us all (right up front) about how these girls are people, and of course they don’t want to “practice debauchery”. She went on about how in “elevated” families, worse stuff happens but it is covered up, while at the same time people condemn these girls for being prostitutes or females of ill repute. She actually felt the need to tell us – sacre bleu! – that if she were at the point of a gun or a knife, she would also take rape over death. Oh my God! Rape over death! What a trollop! She also told us that “the most precious thing” had already been taken from them, so we should at least be kind and talk to them like human beings. I suppose she gets a lot of people telling her that these girls like living on the street, that they chose it, so she’s on the defensive – I mean, it’s Egypt – but still! Common fucking humanity is all it takes to understand. When asked if she could tell us about any organizations we could contact that could help, she declined to because she didn’t want to be accused of providing publicity. A girl next to me shouted, quite rightly, “Isn’t publicity a good thing here?”
There were some moronic audience members too, though. They asked, “These girls aren’t the worst specimen there is. How come you didn’t choose worse?” as if the director was some kind of social worker, not a filmmaker. As if she was looking for the lowest society had to offer when making a film. As if rape and drug addiction and kidnapping and giving birth on the street weren’t bad enough. An audience member tried to ask, how come the filmmaker didn’t try to bring this film to the attention of the authorities? And no appropriate answer was given to that. The government knows there are people on the street, of course. They probably persecuted the filmmaker in the first place for bringing them to light. And one thing I’d forgotten about Egypt – people standing up to make mere comments. I don’t mean arguments – I mean bland statements like “I hadn’t realized this was happening in Egypt. Good for you!” The director also shouted, very loudly and frighteningly, for silence. I haven’t been yelled at like that since, in fact, I was last in that same lecture hall, in my Model United Nations days. I was also somewhat grouchy because I was sitting on the stairs, where even my well-padded behind ached. E must have been twitchy with pain. I saw Gayyash there, by the way.

Moving on. For the past two days my sister and I have been showing our cousin P around Cairo – he has never been here before. This experience, as you might imagine, was rife, awash, with bloggability. Yesterday we went, of course, to the Pyramids. While driving down there we were hailed by a man who told us that we could circumvent the ticketing process if we paid him instead, and he could guarantee that we would get to see everything more cheaply. So after much loud and voluble bargaining in an odoriferous stable yard, we got on some horses and set off. Presently we found ourselves proceeding by a hugely circuitous route through Nazlet el Siman, a poor neighbourhood by the pyramids. There we were accosted by many people speculating on our nations of origin, while we tried manfully to stay on the horses. There wasn’t anything, particularly, to hold on to up there. I noted, as I tried not to grab onto my horse’s mane or reins (I remembered reading Black beauty, vividly, while I was up there, although I think I read it over 15 years ago), that Nazlet el Siman was still papered with posters of electoral candidates, most of whom seemed to be Brotherhood. And I figured, if I lived here I would most certainly vote for them. What do these people know about the benefits of secularism, liberalism or economic policy? They know religion – that’s the only platform they’re familiar with. How can you not vote for someone who is, at least, personally devout and therefore might do well by you? How doesn’t that make the most sense? Egypt isn’t going to get any more politically developed any time soon. If people in the United states still vote on the basis of religious belief, can these people really be expected to take a more sophisticated view of government? I think not. Would express this more eloquently if it weren’t 1:30 am.
After a long, long time we eventually made it to the pyramids, having passed several tourist police mounted on camels who our tour guide visibly bribed. In the tourism underworld, by the way, tourist police are known as Kelab gohanam, or Hell Dogs. The tour guide regaled us throughout the journey with tales about the rich Saudi woman who kept him, since according to him Saudi Arabia has no real men (not in comparison with Egypt anyway). I don’t know why people here are always telling me things you’d think, conventionally, would not be suited to my gender or age or general status. Haven’t these people heard that they aren’t supposed to be talking about being gigolos to nice girls from Heliopolis? And no, I didn’t encourage him in the least! But afterwards I did express skepticism to him that Saudi Arabia did not contain even one man – after all, it surely had other Egyptians with far better teeth and personal hygiene than this guy – “Meedo El Sha2y” – did. He also told my sister touching tales about how he was forced to leave school after fourth grade to fend for his family – but we soon ceased to feel sorry for him when it became apparent that he made more in one day than I can ever expect to make in a month. His cell phone was much nicer than mine.
It was, of course, sweltering like the ante-room of hell. At one point, the guy unapologetically splashed water from my water bottle on to one of the horses’ penises with one well-aimed splash, which the horse seemed to really enjoy. I remarked to P, “I would sure like some water to be splashed onto my genitals right about now. That’s gotta to feel nice.” P assured me that he would equally like some on his, too. We rode on, thinking for the few minutes about how nice wet genitals would feel.
The upshot of the experience was that 48 hours later, my ass and thighs still hurt in ways that only effeminate male prison inmates should be aware of.
That’s enough for tonight – going to Basata, on the Red Sea, late tonight, so will take a notebook and write down copious notes for the edification of people who mostly seem to already be familiar with Egypt anyway.