If there’s one thing to love about Egypt, is that morning ends when the sun sets. When the sun is up, people would greet you good morning and serve you breakfast, no questions asked.
Cairo is a city that reportedly never sleeps. I live outside Cairo, but I believe this wholeheartedly, because even here, in the small area between Sheikh Zayed and 6th October, everyone is still awake at midnight. The supermarkets are full, and not just with night creatures working evening shifts like me. Families, in full, run amuck to fill their trolleys with groceries to feed themselves, with cleaning supplies to keep themselves presentable for the days to come.
We’re in partial quarantine, partial lock-down, under curfew these days. I am at the hotel’s open rooftop restaurant as I type this, and I watch the road slowly becoming deserted. Most roads are open, but it would be empty until 6 am next day.
6 am is the time where I should, ideally, be blissfully asleep. Though we’ll see about that.
Places like Egypt, where they serve you breakfast at 3 pm, where they tell you ‘good morning’ at 5 pm, and where the supermarkets aren’t empty at 1 am – places like Egypt are reassuring for the likes of me, who have always found it difficult to keep a stable ‘early bird’ routine going. I have since long reconciled myself with the idea that I am a night owl, a night animal, a night creature, a bat, a cat, a perpetrator – unwilling, or rather, unable to fully conform to the society’s idea of healthy daily rituals.
I’d love to. But daylight
demoralises normalises me. Stabilises (rather, dulls) my senses and evens out (rather, lowers) my perception and IQ.
But anyway. Let us not let my ubiquitous egotism get in the way of talking about Egypt, because Egypt is beautiful. Confusing at times – I don’t speak the language. And I miss my independence, so to say. In many instances it’s been an exercise in humility, in relying on the kindness of others – something I’ve never really been good at. Here, though, since all I can say is ‘shukran’ and ‘assalamu alaykum’ and ‘inshAllah’ and, oddly enough, ‘arbet eshr’ – all I can do is rely on the goodwill of those that surround me, even though the locals joke that what I know is just enough. It ain’t, oh it ain’t, especially if one doesn’t want to confess to one’s trespasses and discrepancies.
I mean, come on, I’m a 35-year-old woman, surely I can buy beer and cigarettes on my own?
Egypt teaches me that no. No, I cannot. I also can’t buy meds. Bananas. Sugar. Sneakers. Underpants. Toilet paper. Condoms. Chewing gum. Bread.
All the fine necessities of life.
But certainly these… unbosomings aren’t something that one would come to expect from a travelogue (isn’t that a hateful word). I’ll try better next time. Maybe.