All posts tagged: Cairo

Anchoring love in memories

When I was growing up, my mother insisted that “respect cannot be forced; it must, instead, be inspired.” She may as well have been speaking about love. My notion of love is grounded in place, anchored in memories of the self I was when the heart fluttered readily and of the life that made it come aflutter. I remember what I was wearing, I remember the documents I was editing when I was g-chatting inconspicuously in another tab. The slight nausea in anticipation of the moment when the distance would end, and he would parade through the airport doors. The need to remember how to be with one another again, in proximity and in the flesh, not protected by laptop screens thousands of miles apart. I remember what loving in Egypt felt like: dusty, furtive, tasting of ‘shai’ and ‘asir faroula’ and ‘sheesha toufach’, with the strong Arabic ‘ch’ at the end that I could never quite muster. It felt clumsy and young and shy and full of wondering and wandering. It was the love …

Youthful exuberance

Beirut’s drummer started grinning the second he set foot on the stage of their Boston concert. He did not stop until the end. Neither did I. *** I remember eras by the music that permeated them. “And in a year, a year or so, this will slip into the sea” was the musical carpet to Cairo and novelty, to young love and friendships that grew in alleys. Beirut’s music was the soundtrack of arms sticking out of car windows in Lebanon and Syria, of cheekiness and youth, of an unbridled desire to breathe in the world in its entirety. “Good evening, Boston!”, said Zach Condon into the microphone. “That’s us!” I told Elijah in a fit of obviousness. This is our city in which he is performing, our home point to which he is referring. In the disorientation of transitions, I have forgotten that we are not transient here. We are budding Bostonians, just as we once were aspiring Cairenes. It feels like Beirut and our love provide the only consistent narrative threads between then …

The music of memories

If we had stuck more arms out of the car, it would have turned into an airplane and taken flight. We were listening to the kind of music that requires vigorous arm waving. There was no hint of breathy guitars or soothingly droning voices. Summer in Greece makes the kind of noise that is not muffled by the sweaty bodies of five women, their sleeping bags, and the giant cooler they packed to pretend to be adults on this camping trip [read: to keep the beer and grilled cheese sandwiches cool.]. I remember eras by the music that permeated them. Whether I actually liked the quality of the songs associated with a particular era does not affect my love for them; it is an attachment bred by auditory memories. The drives of an entire Kentucky August took place to the tune of “I wanna be a billionaire so freakin’ bad.” I cringed then and I cringe now. And yet, the beauty of it is that when the rest of the world’s eardrums have moved on, …

The day of wheat and worry

[This is part of a series of posts chronicling a walk across Israel. For previous parts of this story, click here. For the how’s and why’s, read The Time We Walked to the Sea.] Everything is wet. Having stayed up all night, I am photographing dew on flowers. A voice bellows from inside the tent and interrupts the daybreak. “I hate camping!” The night after Elijah and I met, we were sitting in a group of soon-to-be friends and talking about the types of things expats talk about when they gather in groups outside their home country. You know: food, travel bragging, poop, etc. We got to the subject of sleep and Elijah was sharing that he is a very particular sleeper. “I need to lie in a particular position, completely still, in complete silence.” None of this was unreasonable. Considering, however, that this conversation was taking place in Cairo, Elijah’s preferences meant that he spent most of the nights in the next few months watching me sleep. It was neither the flies alone nor …

The day we failed to walk

[This is part of a series of posts chronicling a walk across Israel. For the how’s and why’s, start here.] “Four minutes and forty-eight seconds!”, Elijah declares. There is a tent pitched in our living room. Bolstered by his record-setting tent setup time, Elijah suggests I take a break from ziplocking socks and granola bars and get in the tent. We lie in it together, backs pressed against the floor of our apartment. Through the skylight, we can see the glow of our fluorescent bathroom lights.  *** To walk across Israel on our chosen trails, we first have to get from the deserts of the South to the mountains of the North.  The bus to Nazareth is one of those demographic experiences one can have in few places outside the Middle East: Men in kippot, women in hijabs, Christian pilgrims retracing the footsteps of Jesus, and backpackers in sleeveless shirts share the journey northward. We drive along the wall between Israel and the West Bank. The politically-correct term for this structure is “security barrier”, but …

Sexual harassment in Egypt

Under the Luxor sun, the brain melts into mush. It was the kind of heat that caused linen pants to stick to the seat from which I attempted to get up. My female friend and I both looked modest; modest was very important to us in Egypt. Long sleeves, long pants, a pashmina, and rivers of sweat. And yet, as we made our way to the Valley of the Kings, we were greeted with the familiar sounds that accompanied our walking down the street in Egypt: First, the hissing, then the sound of lips being pursed together to blow kisses, then the all-time classic “how much do you want for one of your sisters/beauties/wives?” to the male friend walking with us. He was offered camels, chickens and a Ferrari — though it was hard to ascertain whether the gentleman who had asked for our hand in marriage actually owned a Ferrari. To this day, the sound of blowing kisses causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand upright. My friend and I …

My Egypt: A heart left in Cairo

At 6.22 PM on Friday, January 28th, The Guardian reported that army tanks were rolling into the center of Cairo. Cairo was my baptism. It is where I first worked with the UN. On Friday, prior to the interruption of coverage, I watched the NDP headquarters adjacent to my first UN office be licked by flames. It is where I smoked sheesha and watched the fog crawl in over the Nile. It was in a felucca on the Nile — the quintessentially tourist/expat experience, colored by techno music and neon lights — that I met the love of my life, my companion, my best friend. It is where I got groped by a policeman, where I fell asleep too late as the call to prayer bellowed across the street at 4 AM, where I had to exercise tolerance along judgment. I lived in contradictions and paradoxes. I had my faith in humanity crushed and reinforced on the same day. I am heartened by Egyptians’ ardent desire to claim the rights they have not enjoyed in …

Up in the Air

There is a scene in Up in the Air in which George Clooney’s character identifies the skies as his habitat and airports as his home. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros define home as “wherever I am with you.” As I spend 38 hours in 5 different airports and 3 different continents on my own journey to a home of sorts, I share my observations on departing, arriving, airport coffees and altitude-induced cankles. Hour 1: Wake up to a cloud of fog so dense that I cannot see my own luggage at the back of the pick-up truck…from the passenger seat. In Thessaloniki, Greece, fog means airport closures, protests and virtually a national holiday. In northern Kentucky, it only means a 15-minute flight delay (and that the Thessaloniki-born traveler gets mocked for the inferred primitiveness of her home country). The next forty-five minutes are spent praying that we do not hit a deer, squirrel, or tractor en route to the airport and that the books at the top layer of said luggage survive said blanket …