We'll Always Have Cairo
This summer, The Arabist household relocated from Egypt to Morocco, after well over a decade living in Cairo. It wasn't an easy step to take.
We left at a low point (even as we fear that things will be getting worse still). There are many things I won’t miss about Egypt, especially Egypt of late: the hypocrisy, the violence to bodies and to truth, the staggering waste. I won't miss the conspiracy theories and the mock trials; or the way people lower their voices again now to talk about politics; the smug smile of the new president or the anxious, endless diatribes of his sycophants.
But Cairo is also where Issandr and I met, spent most of our twenties, and became journalists. It’s where we witnessed tens of thousands of strangers dancing a conga line all night around Tahrir Square. So I want to write about the things we will miss.
Driving home on the Kasr El Nil Bridge with a good song playing on a crackling taxi stereo, wishing a silent goodnight to the bronze lions who guard the bridge. Windows rolled down, watching the newlyweds taking their pictures, the young couples in intense negotiations, the teenage boys sitting on the railing laughing, the families out for a midnight stroll. The great black river carrying a rare breeze and full of reflected light, small open motor boats skimming its surface like electric water bugs, draped in colored lights and pulsing with pop music. As you think: There's no city quite like this.
Having fuul for breakfast from a cart in Garden City.
The time-lapse pyrotechnics of flame trees slowly blooming.
Mangoes, fresh pomegranate juice and molokheyya.
Egyptian dialect in all its inflections and registers, from the cynical to the lyrical, the melodramatic to the bombastic. The stream of jokes and anecdotes and delightfully surprising things you hear every day in a city this big and loquacious.
The many kind, funny, graceful, ridiculously optimistic, incredibly forbearing, brave people we've met.
The grimy glory of Islamic Cairo and Khedival Cairo. Especially on Friday mornings.
Getting deliveries of everything at every time of day and night.