Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chand Raat

Chand Raat -- aka: the "night of the moon". Chand raat is the last night of Ramadan and the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr. Tonight is chand raat (I'm sure no one in Cairo calls it that) and you can hear the traffic, fireworks and the buzz of the city getting ready for the celebration in the morning.

Growing up, chand raat was busy with preparations. Last minute cooking, ironing our new clothes (no kid of my mother's was going to show up to Eid prayers in already worn threads) and no matter how exhausted my mother was, she always made sure I had henna on my hands. Always. In the morning, we ate "savaiyah" (a sweet vermicelli dish) before dashing out the door to Eid prayers. The day that followed was a marathon blur of endless sweet and fatty food as we went from one Auntie's house to another.

We ate like were on a mission to avenge the month of fasting.

Today, I am in another country, thousands of miles away from my Mom. The traditional Eid sweet here is a cookie with a fig in the middle, dusted with sugar. We have some of those on the table but some things about Eid remain constant for me wherever in the world I go: "savaiyah" (aka: Sheer Korma) are bubbling away on the stove, I'm ironing my clothes for the morning and (much like my mother before me) trying to convince my husband to wear a traditional Pakistani suit tomorrow (he won't).

Tucked away in a little cup on my kitchen counter, some Egyptian henna waits my artistic inspiration (I'll post a photo but my prediction: a two year old child's art project gone wrong. On my hands for the next 4-6 weeks).

Tomorrow after Eid prayers, we're invited to breakfast at a new friend's place and then lunch and dinner with another. So I guess now we're the Aunties on the Eid day circuit...

Chaand Mubarak and Happy Eid to all

photo and text copyright cairomaniac 2008 and yes, that is my hand :-)

Monday, September 29, 2008

What is it EXACTLY that you love so much?

I'm surprised (pleasantly surprised) that my "Everyone thinks we are Crazy" post has gotten so much attention. Many of my friends and family have since been asking: What is it EXACTLY about Cairo that you love so much.


So many things. So many that I've decided that I'll just write them down as they come to me:

I used to have coffee at the Segafrado on the main road in Zamalek (July 26). I sat by the window and watched the streetlife and this same scene was repeated countless times: a bus barely slows at the stop. A passenger wanting to get on, reaches out his hand. From inside the bus, two hands pull him on to the bus while a passerby pushes him onto the bus. None of the people involved know each other and go their separate ways. So what? I love that people just automatically help each other. We're all in this together, it says.

The other day, YK and I were on the metro and a blind man got on. He was alone. Two groups of unrelated travelers were crammed on the metro on either side of him. Without a word, one man from the group on the left and one man from the group on the right offered their arms to the blind man and escorted him off the metro when his stop came. They asked if he needed anything more and went off in opposite directions to carry on their journeys.

I cannot count the conversations that have taken place as we barrel full speed ahead in Cairo traffic. Car to car, people will pass comments on a third car or a scene taking place in the next lane or by the side of the road. They'll share a joke as they cut each other off or change lanes. So many times, our cab driver has leaned out and given directions to the car driving beside us.

I love Cairo because everyone is interacting with the people around them. They are INVOLVED. I know there is no way a Cairene could walk past someone in distress without offering to help. A Cairene will give you advice and directions (granted: whether you ask for it or not) and will strike up a conversation wherever there is a sliver of a space for it. If a Cairene catches your eye, he/she cannot help but say "Salaam" and ask you how you are. It would be unnatural not to. Unheard of. Impossible.

That is just one of the things I love about Cairo.

My ironic laziness

Here's the project that has taken over my life and become my excuse for not keeping up my writing, please check it out:

The irony that a blogger project has kept me from blogging is not lost on me.

Stay tuned, I promise to write more soon.