Random Things About Cairo

While cats are everywhere, I haven’t seen a single white cat. I haven’t even seen a cat with white spots–just grey. At first, I thought maybe white had been eliminated by thousands of years of cross breading. But then I noticed that nearly all cats in Cairo cats were dingy. I think that they gave up being clean a long time ago. They might have figured that cleaning their fur was hazardous to their health. Licking their fur clean may cause all sorts of health problems (kinda like me eating raw leafy greens here). My friend said she saw a white kitten the other day. But I’d give that kitten a few days and it will be grey like all the other dingy cats. Besides being dingy, Egyptian cats like to wild out. I hear them outside our window every other night, either brawling or trying to hook-up. Overall, Egyptian cats are in better shape than Moroccan cats. I’ve seen cats in starvation mode in the Maghrib, like skeletons draped with mangy fur. But Cairene cats have lots of garbage to go through. You’ll see a cat posted on a garbage pile claiming his territory. My friend saw a neon blue cat everyday for like a week. Who’s ever seen a blue cat? Only in Cairo right? Turns out, the cat was sleeping in a dumpster where people dumped blue washing powder.

Clothes dried on the clothesline outside will smell like whatever is on the street. The other day our downstairs neighbors must have made kufta. My sheets smelled like BBQ. A month ago, I made the mistake of picking the same day a donkey cart was parked outside our apartment. My clothes clothes picked up the faint smell of donkey dung.

I know I’m an outside observer and I’m not supposed to understand everything that goes on, but I have all sorts of funny observations. Metro stations be turn into meeting spots for lovers. Guys who hit on women on the street do not expect any of the women to holla back. Blonde touristy guys get a lot of play in Egypt, as do Blonde women, who are subject to much harrassment. Women in hijab do date, I’ve seen a number of young people in cafes in low intimate conversations. Guys have it pretty rough, they gotta bring big bucks before even thinking about marriage. Zawag ‘Urfi is a way that young people get around some of the restrictions. Similar to a phenomena I discovered in the Bay Area, Halal boyfriend. without their parent’s consent, young folks get a few witnesses write up a contract. Thereafter, no holds barred. But these arrangements can cause problems. Like most things, its the girl who gets jacked. If a girl gets knocked up, the guy can shred the contract. She’s stuck with the baby and the stigma of being an unwed mother. A lot of times, a guy just drops his zawag ‘urfi without giving the girl the talaq. A real suitor comes along, and the girl says “Why not?” Old boy comes back saying, “Hey that’s my wife!” waving his contract. The girl goes to jail because bigamy is illegal. See, what I’m saying? That’s why Sheikh Ali Gumu’ah says that zawaq ‘urfi is not valid in Egypt.

The sights, sounds, and smells
Sights: You have to be prepared to see it all on any given day. Cairo is pretty polluted, so just about every building becomes a dingy brown. The first time I came to Cairo, I was dumbfounded by the amount of high rise apartment complexes and crazy, dusty streets. But there are pretty old mosques in Islamic Cairo. Sounds. It is always loud. You got to get used to honking throughout the night, cars, screaming vendors, people singing on the street, arguments, women screaming at their husbands and kids (especially on Thursday nights or any time after jumuah on Fridays). Just before fajr, our street is quiet. You can hear a low rumble rise throughout the city, then the growing echo of all the adhans until it finally reaches your neighborhood mosque. In some parts of the city, away from the constant flow of traffic and horns, you can hear the rumble just before every adhan comes in. Smells. there are lots of them. Take a deep breath, you can smell good cooking, rotting garbage, donkey dung, burning bukhur, flowers, car exhaust, and dusty air, at the same time.

8 thoughts on “Random Things About Cairo

  1. Ah Al-qahirah wa kitaab Assassi. I studied arabic there 10 years ago in Nasr city. You have a very good eye. I cannot imagine travelling there as a Black woman. When I was there I just put on a thobe and went about my business with ease. Will you travel away from Cairo? Cairo and Alex are quite different from the rest of the country. I have a funny Cairo story for you. After I progressed in Arabic enough to hold decent conversation. I went to a restaurant by my apartment. The man asked my where I was from and I said America. Then he asked what city and I said Oakland. He went into the MashaAllah and Alhamdulillah a muslim from America. I went to the bathroom to wash my hands and I can hear him talking to someone saying it is a Sudani in the hammam saying he is american and enjoying a good laugh. You have to love it.


  2. Pingback: Links « Between Hope & Fear

  3. I lived in the 10th of Ramaadan City in Egypt……and I’ve seen plenty of white cats there. Not as polluted as Cairo, I think the cats have a fighting chance there!


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