Moving and shaking

Posted on February 23, 2014


For the last ten months I have been living idyllically and surreally by turns in Maadi, a fragrantly leafy neighbourhood of Cairo characterized by large numbers of well-to-do foreigners, packs of noisy street dogs and teenagers, oil companies, and by having its behind snugly pressed up against the storied Tora prison. A green, safe area near work with countless friends is a pretty good place to sit out a bloody coup and months of military curfew, compared to my usual residence located squarely between presidential palace roadblocks, massacre scenes, and countless military installation checkpoints. It also gave me the opportunity to quite literally yell at kids to get off my lawn, which will not happen again because ground floors are the dumbest place to live possible. Houses are for fucking CHUMPS.

When my contract ended I had to move back into my apartment in Heliopolis. I figured I’d get one be-vehicled friend (a minute group of my acquaintances) to help me move over two weekends, since of course I couldn’t have accumulated much stuff, due to the short duration of my stay, my antipathy for owning shit, and the fact that it was a fully furnished apartment. I’d already sold or given away everything I’d bought – a mattress as heavy and cumbersome as original sin, a “toaster” oven you could roast a turkey in, five bins, and three frying pans. This is because the last time I moved, from an equally furnished apartment to Heliopolis, it required three trips in the dead of night, Olympic-level Tetris skills, and the assiduous if silent services of three friends. The best part of it was that one of the friends is so gargantuan that even holding the biggest box he looked like he was about to propose and it still makes me laugh to remember it. I considered asking him to help me move again on those grounds alone.

In the end it was a new-old friend who we’ll call Christian Anarchist and his sweet new mercedes. When I’d asked him he said something complicated (and erroneous) about how Jesus washed Mary Magdalene’s feet, the theological implications of which I brushed quickly aside to understand that he wished to be of service to mankind provided it was on a Friday morning. I quickly locked it down before he tallied the miles and discovered that carrying heavy objects is my number 2 pet peeve.

Move Stage One went off without a hitch – two bags, one box, no fuss. Possibly, only one person was killed that Friday and so only the usual number of roads were blocked off. Two weeks later came Move Stage Two (of Two). I’d told CA that he should expect no more than three things, or six, or a carload. I’d spent the preceding three nights picking at my apartment desultorily, scavenging for boxes at neighbourhood stores, pushing stuff off onto people and the like.

Friday afternoon found me obsessively smelling my right shoulder, where a friend’s baby had spent the morning grabbing handfuls of breast while surveying us in a mirror, surely foreshadowing a career in pornography. When CA arrived there were 12 containers piled neatly near the door and three more inside. He surveyed them with palpable dismay and said, “So…where do we start? I’m parked far away.”

“Let’s put everything outside on the sidewalk and then you can bring the car around and we’ll quickly put the stuff in!” I said brightly. So we moved 12 of the things onto the sidewalk, where three cats immediately began sniffing at them. CA brought the car round, only to find a car behind him, so he moved it to let the other car pass and resumed his position. We began flinging things into the car, while a line of cars formed behind us. CA said, “Fuck it, they can just wait, or go around. I’m not moving.” I was hugely impressed with this strong position, especially since I couldn’t exactly see what else we could do other than waiting till the dead of night to move. So we just continued packing quickly, making “what else can I do?” hands at the beeping drivers. A minute later the amin shorta who patrols the area came towards us with an ingratiating smile and asked us very politely to move, pointing out irrelevantly that we were going the wrong way. We ignored him until it became obvious that there was not the smallest chance of fitting everything into the car, and so CA pulled it over to the side while angry drivers made faces at us.

We picked up the last bag, a plastic bag full of what CA deemed to be highly unnecessary condiments and tried to stuff it into a corner, whereupon it broke sending spicy mayonnaise and green curry rolling into Maadi’s many muddy ditches and pungent pickle juice seeping into CA’s new footrests. He tacked that onto the Mary Magdalene tab, I think.

We set off for Heliopolis. On the way I got a call from the landlady’s simsar, who I was supposed to hand over the apartment to at just about that exact time. He interrupted a streak of hunger-shouting, wherein I’d wittily yell out the name of every food I saw advertised on the billboards while CA murmured assurances about how we could eat soon. I was therefore devastated to find out that we’d have to rush back in order not to interrupt his social schedule, and this was of course compounded by another failure to find parking near my building in Heliopolis. However, we managed through an exceedingly efficient process to get everything up the stairs and elevator and into the apartment. I was pretty impressed with us, and delicately neglected to even mention how the system had been developed and honed by best friend the Singer, veteran of a thousand friendal unpleasantnesses.

We zipped – insofar as this word can be used within the Cairo city limits – back to Maadi. We met the simsar, stuffed the car full of bedding, came back to collect a forgotten crate of cold beer (what!), and then invited two Maadites for a goodbye Maadi dinner at Genghis Khan, renowned purveyor of arterial blockages and wine with little dead seahorses floating in it. Sadly we wound our way back to Coptland, where the horns never cease and no one ever uses the green spaces.

P.S. Since then I’ve been awoken daily by (new) crows. I thought vacating Maadi would end my tales of being woken/assaulted by motherfucking loud children, dogs, cats and birds but that’s not the relationship Murphy and I have.

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