Saturday, February 7, 2009

The beehive - Cairo, Egypt

Ramadan in Cairo is a curious time.
When the sun is set, because of the Iftar, on the streets and the squares there's not a soul around. The familiar uproar and the rock concert-like air vanish as if the city were the setting of a dream.
If you are crossing a road you can relax: that creepy feeling of being a scared cat that springs from lane to lane dodging speeding cars, at this time of the day is like a nightmare half-dreamt.

A few hours later though, let’s say at 1 a.m., when you go down for a snack and walk out of the hotel, a whirl of sensations just swallows you up. You freeze on the sidewalk and stares at the sight, stunned by the noise, the lights and the smells.
Deep into the night the shops are all open and huge crowds gather in front of the windows. They hunt for shoes, clothing and sweets, the same kind of stuff that you'd buy in the afternoon. You’re looking at people of any kind: not only adult men but old gentlemen too, and mothers with children who pull at their skirts.

Like a web of human threads it invades every space. Focused on the goods displayed in shops and stalls, people glide on the asphalt in multiple files. Hitting, blocking, crossing and twisting they look like water snakes into one of those basins that can be found in an Asian market.
Who is in a hurry and keeps kicking the heels of the innocent pedestrian who walks in front, decides to swerve and to share the road with the endless chains of battered cars.
At the main intersections the flows intersect and as in the screen of an old video-game they cross the road with intermittent starts.

When you're done with your shawarma you go back to your room and the activity of that beehive has yet to stop. Half an hour later you're awake in the dark, listening to the honks, the screams and the roar, that
mixed with vapours of spices and grease, keep filtering in through the chinks in the window.

This is Cairo during Ramadan: that’s the way they sing lullabies here.

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