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On visiting home Pt. I

1) 22.03.08

I had a certain image of myself upon returning to Cairo.

I would be sitting in our garden, a new notebook in hand, sipping cool, freshly- made lemonade from the guy on the 26th of July Street. Surrounded by cats and schoolgirls looking over the fence, I would write, wearing flip-flops made in the Arab Republic of     Egypt, documenting the Joys of revisiting the city of my     youth after two years of abscence.

Of course, all this is being written in an Internet cafe, but I am happy to report that I managed to fulfill that image. I am also very happy to be able to say that up to now, it has indeed been a great joy to come back here.

Leaving from Tegel, happily using it for my own bit of travelling in stead of picking up or dropping off friends and relations, I soon became aware that the legendary leg space provided by Tuifly planes is limited only by your immagination. A few nigh- yogic contortions led to a comfortable and tenable sitting position. My neighbour, obiously afraid of flying, was unfortunately in no state to think of her comfort.

Landing at three in the morning, I came as close to kissing the ground as I could: I smelt the air, earning me a mamnou3 from an airport attendant, who seemd worried I might seek to escape into the desert from the gangway.

It is heartening to see that, in spite of complaints about the decline of the egyptian character and arab hospitality in general, the guardians at the airport, th limo drivers, bawabiin (doormen) and people on the street will still be happy to wish you 7amdillah bissalaama (welcome home), when they learn that of your long abscence form the country closest to their hearts.

We arrivewd in Zamalek at four in the morning, a time that implies two things:
Cairo traffic, that world- famous clogged pipe of transport, was flowing smoothly for the same reason that there would be no need for immediate expressions of friendliness or gratitude towards all those mentioned above. Most people were asleep.

When the Fagr (dawn prayers) sounded all over the city, we went to bed.

It has to be mentioned that since I left, there has been one major change in the soundscape of the city: the Azaan (call to prayers) has been unified, so that instead of about ten thousand big and small mosques all sounding in a chorous of cacophonic prayer, the call is made by one voice, coming out of every loudspeaker in Cairo, staring at the same time and ending at the same time. Passing by the Azhar mosque later, I thought it a slight pity that they didn't allow this one institution to keep their own Mueizzin, as he was generally pretty good.

We went to bed, perchance to sleep. In Berlin, since two weeks, the weather has been giving us all we love about Berlin winters: Cold, wet, slippery, Cloudy and gray. In fact, hail had fallen they day I left. So the heat was a change, as was the fact that my first thought upon waking was not "Damn, its cold!"

The other thing I had not een prepared for was the polyphony of birds joining the Muezzins in greeting the new day. The birds of Berlin having, for the time being, retreated into silence, the beautiful sound of millions of birds vocalising, though beautiful, proved a welcome, melodious impediment to sleep.

Waking up the next morning (at twelve), I found a ery welcome sight: A clear blue sky, a composition untouched by clouds, with a large yellow sun at the centre of this exquisite tableau.

And upon discovering that someone had taken it upon them to stock the fridge with Gibna Roumy (Cheese, untranslatable), I knew I was truly back.


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