Posted on June 4, 2014


Yes I never wrote parts 2-11 of the trip to London. I overthought it. But I have been ruminating: what if my friend E – she who launched a thousand blog posts in the mid-2000s – is my true muse?

Verily, it is so. I betook myself to her particularly beige part of Dokki. It takes some doing to be particularly beige in Cairo – paint designers and Crayola executives should even now be journeying to the capital to identify new shades that can be marketed to rich foreigners as “khraupe” (shit stain + taupe) or “sandskin” (1000 years of dead skin cells + desert sand) and my favourite “depressing leaf” (the colour of all Cairo leaves one day after they unfurl trembling into the carbon fumes). E’s place was surrounded by depressing leaf and khraupe and obviously I had to call her for instructions on how to push the gate hard enough to get in, and a cat raced me upstairs.

I had never been round to that particular apartment before, chiefly to avoid being corralled into some project or task of an activisty nature. But the preceding day I was on my way back from Sokhna when I noticed that I was having to hold my kirsh in to prevent it from jiggling annoyingly on the shitty deathtrap roads. I detected at least two independent jiggles. While I take pride in boasting a truly Egyptian siwwa, that seemed like an excessive state of affairs for a 31-year-old who doesn’t need it to hang alluringly over a polyester dance costume. I had caught sight of a Facebook event she posted asking for people to encourage her to complete a 30 day ab challenge and thought, serendipity! I consider E to be particularly talented at motivating, or what in other lights might be considered light bullying, a rare and useful skill outside of motherhood. So it was ideal, and soon I was surveying the sadly inevitable cat litter box and “ethnic” art without which no member of my social circles’ apartments can be complete. I looked around frantically for a framed Egyptian movie poster from the 60s or piece of political memorabilia propped up against an old copy of “Cairo: the City Victorious” but thankfully spotted none. But all the couches and chairs were creatively lumpy, lumpy in ways that suggested delicate ijtihad in the field of lumpiness. We immediately ordered quantities of fatty Egyptian food and contemplated my Magic Skirt, an above-the-knee yellow-and-black printed satin that has the startling effect of repelling sexual harassment. I’ve worn it around Egypt almost without incident for several years. It’s fucking magic! There are two theories: one that its very shortness is genuinely shocking to harassers, as harassment does typically take an uptick with longer skirts, versus pants; and my own unsupported theory is that it goes so well with my tan, people are shocked into respectful admiring silence. Ha. Whatever it is, I was in a pleasing bubble.
Anyway, E spread out a yoga mat, and with undue excitement I shouted, “Let’s take pictures of our abs for comparison!” So we took front and side pictures of our kirshes, while she exhorted me not to include her face. These are off-the-record kirshes, you see.
Together we noted the program for day 1: 15 sit-ups, 5 crunches, 5 leg lifts and a 10-second plank. This alarmed me as I had been informed that sit-ups had completely died out for being bad for your back, and what on earth was a plank? It was more likely to come close to the pirate connotation than that of restful immobility, I thought. So we watched the videos the event organizers had thoughtfully linked to, correctly supposing that participants were exercise idiots needing four separate videos on rudimentary issues, while I swigged from a bottle of Stella and watched in dismay at people using their core and shit. Parking the beer and my earrings to one side I lay on the yoga mat while asking dumbass questions like, “where do I put my hands?” I asked so many questions that E had to actually replay the videos at me while I did the sit-ups, likely incorrectly, and yell additional instructions (and laugh). It was not particularly challenging exercise overall except for this business of doing a plank, an activity that forces you to confront your mortality under harsh light, since it involves sweating and groaning profusely while actually being perfectly still. They really never run out of ways to shit on you, do they.
I was standing on E’s feet (combining street dirts delightfully) when her boyfriend arrived, highly erroneously thought I was some kind of trainer instead of the world’s laziest woman, and made tons of fun of us.
As gobbets of ghee-cooked food slid down our gullets I posted on Facebook boasting of my achievement. E read my post and said kindly, “You know planks aren’t by the number right? They’re by the second ya ghalbana,” and patted my arm. I added that information only to compel friends almost completely unfamiliar with Egyptian idioms to comment saying “I will cut off my DERA3 if you can do a plank for ten seconds!” and demanding video and the like. Male friends I told, meanwhile, openly rolled their eyes and gave each other looks of pity at me.
Obviously E outlined an evening schedule involving running (to use the term, and any other indicating steady movement, loosely) around the city attending second hand clothing sales/fundraisers and concerts but the latter was out of the question on 24376 levels so I just went to the clothing sale (to support a friend) and emerged with cute skirts and a ride to Zamalek. So yeah maybe I was right about E.