Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cairo's curfew

Why are you here? Why didn't you stay in London? These are by far the most asked questions I have had in the last 9 days. 

The truth is that if it had been announced just half an hour earlier that the 7pm curfew imposed in Cairo was to last for a month, then I would have changed those airline tickets and stayed in UK until the dust had settled. As it was when I tried to get through to Egypt air office to change them it was 5.37pm, and the office had closed at5.30pm. You can imagine my feeling! 

Maybe you can't.

Well, I was frustrated at not getting the news sooner, and not acting faster on it, and annoyed that everything in UK shuts so damn early. Then, there was always the chance the flight may be cancelled anyway since it was due to arrive at 4.15am, which was within curfew time, so we would not have been able to leave the airport. So Ellie and I heaved all our cases to Heathrow with heavy hearts, not knowing what was in front of us.

At check in, we are informed that there were no changes to the fight and in fact the plane was full! Life as normal eh? Not quite. Our flight was delayed, and then the baggage delayed on the cairo side so that actually we didn't get out of cairo airport until about 7am. After a severe amount of questioning. They thought we must be journalists. Who else would be coming into Egypt in it's current climate? First time I have loudly admitted to being a bellydancer in public in Egypt! The journey home was quiet and uneventful, thankfully.

It was in equal measure good and strange to be home. The thing is that with a 7pm curfew everyday, neither Ellie or I had any work at all to come back to. The idea of sitting in the flat evening after evening with no work and no income was, and still is, rather daunting. 

Cairo is a completely different city to the one I fell in love with and have lived in for so many years. One of the things I have always said I love about this place is the nightlife. Well, there isn't any. I mean none at all. It is amazing how normal vampiric cairo suddenly is all tucked up safe at home in front of their TV's now by 7pm.

That or in front of their computer screens. It is quite funny to note the difference in traffic on Facebook and twitter between 6pm and then at 7pm. I am sure it doubles at least. The tweets certainly come in then fast and furious, and I am glad of them since twitter is my primary news source in cairo. You get both sides to every story, except that there are seldom only two sides when you add in all the conspiracy theories that go along with them too! It is very entertaining to say the least ( often in a worrying way). 

To add to the entertainment, is the amusement of how bored everyone one is at home! Egyptian culture is just not about staying in of an evening. I am sure if we had a 7pm curfew in UK , the vast majority of people, who are already home snuggled in front of their flickering screens wouldn't even notice. But here in Cairo it has affected absolutely everyone. 

Obviously most of all those of us who usually work at night. There is NO work. 

That's not just those of us who work in entertainment, like Ellie and I both do, but all those shops that used to open til midnight, the restaurants, bars and clubs, sheesha cafes and doctor surgeries ( yes, in cairo there is nothing strange, normally, in having a doctors appointment at 9pm!) 

Then there are those who have day jobs, and only just have enough time to buy food from the supermarket and get home before curfew starts so that their day consists of work and home, no social life at all. 

So sit home and watch TV?

Can't. Don't have TV ! ( well- there is a TV but no receiver, so cannot get a single channel) . i am not complaining though, from what I hear of the TV I am quite glad not to have it. All the state channels run what I read today in an article in the Guardian as being like a non stop '2 minutes of hate' from George Orwells 1984. There are images of the police killed but not the protestors. There are images to show other police in countries across the world shooting protestors ( I guess in a 'look, they do it too so it must be ok' type of way). And then there is all the super hyped up nationalistic music that is on 24/7 over the news articles and on the radio. It's constant. And actually, really all quite reminiscent of the aforementioned book! So no. I do not miss having TV. 

So what do I do every evening? Twitter has been full of suggestions of how to fill your evenings at home, everything from baking to sorting out your wardrobe to clearing out you email inbox you name it... All the jobs of the day. And to be honest. That is pretty much what I have been doing. That and sitting glued to facebook and twitter of course! The wardrobe is reshuffled. The flat is gleaming. The cat is well played with and I am slowly getting through emails too. 

Mainly though, Ellie and I have been dieting and working out. We both shared a deep dread of the curfew curves so have cut out alcohol and rich food, both of which would have made curfew way more enjoyable. Needs must, if this really is to last a month, both of us want to be able to fit into all those clothes we bought in UK last month! So every evening finds us turning up the AC unit and the sound system and jumping about like mad things. By the end of curfew I might even like push ups. Here's hoping anyway!

A few nights ago we organized a sleepover at our place. A few friends came over and we sat up chatting for hours and hours. It was really nice to have extended time with good friends. A definite plus for curfew.

Today I went to salsa. Usually salsa nights are funnily enough, at night, however those wise folks at Bian Cafe in mohandiseen decided that Saturday afternoon needs salsa. They were so so right. I realized that despite my home workouts there is no substitute for me that compares with actually dancing. I had a ball of a time and came home like a good girl before 7, only to find that they have changed curfew time to 9pm!!!! Yippee. We are being rewarded for our good behavior (yes that is sarcasm for anyone not sure). 

Not everyone has been 'good' some people were intentionally breaking curfew as their act of rebellion, and many of the sheesha cafes around Zamalek at least, could still be found, so I am told, bursting with life until 2 am. I am too much of a scaredy cat and have been home when I 'should' be according to the words of 'baba sissi', as one friend called the man who is head of the army, earlier this week, so I cannot verify this for myself but I have it on good authority from people who have been outside puffing away their evenings. The thing is, the army only block the main roads and main entrances into an area, so as long as you don't go out of your own area then it's ok to be out. Seemingly. 

I feel sorry for the workers in metro supermarket. I was chatting to one of them and asked if he finished work at 7pm how did he get home, to be told that they sleep on the floor in the shop til morning. I wonder how many people have bad backs by the time curfew time lifts! I also wonder how many others will have weight issues, drink issues, depression and financial issues due to this curfew alone, never mind to all the stuff that actually has been happening in the country. 

So, when will they lift curfew? Who knows. We have been told it will be 9pm for a week starting today, except for Friday which will be 7pm. Otherwise we have to sit home and wait to be told what to do next.

So no work for me for a while then. 

Why not go back to UK? Because, I am not guaranteed the work to cover the cost of the flight, and cover the living expenses there. Also becuase I, along with the majority of Egyptians, hope that the curfew will be lifted and THAT,my friends, is when The parties will start. And I want to be around for those! 

So fingers crossed for peace in Egypt so life can move forward, or at very least return to what it was! And until then, I must get back to my still huge 'things to do in curfew' list! 

NB god damn all those who let off fireworks in the evening, when the country is unsettled as it is. I spend far too much time every evening trying to work out if its gunfire and I should run away from the window, or firework and I should run towards it! 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Why are you all lying to me?!

Ok... Maybe I shouldn't admit just how crazy I am. Maybe this is bad self PR. But you, my trusty blog, have been with me for the last 7years of my life in Cairo. So you already know my kind of crazy.

Giving a bad performance.

We've all done it

You were in a bad mood, feeling unwell, uncomfortable with the audience, forgotten your choreography, Injured yourself, music kept messing up, or, as happened to me on Saturday, had a costume disaster, and because of the above reason (s) you feel you didn't dance as well as you should have. 

 I was foolish. I did something experienced dancer KNOW not to do. I thought I would get away with performing in a costume I'd only tried in the shop and not actually danced in. I didn't get away with it. 

It didnt burst or anything, thank god! But the clips on the bra were so tight that I couldn't breathe. I literally thought I was going to pass out on stage! Every move was painful as was every in breath. 

Needless to say, my 15minute performance in said costume did not exactly demonstrate what I am capable of! Not even near it. 

I was so angry at myself.  I know better than that. 

The weird thing was. Everyone seemed to love the show. All the feedback I have had has been very positive. Yet I have seen the video and it depressed the hell out of me!! 

Maybe my standards for myself are just too high? 

Maybe the people who thought I was rubbish just slunk off without saying anything to me?

Maybe, and this is the idea I can't shake, maybe they are all lying to me! 

See. Told you I'd be showing my true crazy.

But I felt I had to say it, so that others out there who have had similar experiences could relate. I am guessing I am not alone. I am hoping so anyway!! Who out there has really felt they danced badly and almost felt angry when people congratulate you on a job well done?! 

It takes a lot of control not to reply, "are you blind? Did you even see my dance? I was awful!!!! How can you stand there and lie to me like that?! If you think that was good you don't know Anything about dance!!! "

Ok. Deep breath (now that I can!) . Thanks for listening. 

That off my chest, I need to get a grip now..

Maybe, I was still good. 
Maybe I connected with my audience in a way that was meaningful to them.
Maybe what was good about my dance wasn't the stuff that shows on video anyway. 
Maybe my 'shit' is still other people's 'good'.  

So, what I have to take away from this is two things....

- Always dance about in a costume before wearing it to perform in


- Don't beat myself up when my good isn't good enough for me. Instead, try to work harder so that I don't let myself down in future. 

I suspect that 2nd lesson is a life lesson that may well take all my life to master. 

Am I the only crazy one out there? 

Blogging from the bus!

I'm on a bus. I'm supposed to be on a plane, going to Cairo, but I am on a bus heading from London to Edinburgh instead. 

I rescheduled the plane ticket. 

Next week I will be back in Cairo, not this week. 

I decided to extend my stay in UK for lots of reasons, although everyone assumes its because of the 'troubles' there. 

That is NOT a reason. Not directly anyway.

Main reasons were; 

- I was hugely stressed that I had hardly seen any of my Edinburgh friends in my short stay there. I felt I needed more time. 
- My tenants in my flat in Edinburgh have left and I wanted to spend a little time in the flat again before I find a new tenant, sort it out a little.  (I am still looking if anyone in Edinburgh knows of anyone needing a one bed flat!!) 
- Seemingly some kind person has stolen all the lead sheeting from the roof of our building, seemingly they can resell it for £30 per sheet. Unfortunately it will cost a heck of a lot more than that to replace it! so I need to sort out insurance etc and make sure that's sorted. 
- and lastly... If Cairo is still unsettled, which it is, I figured there wouldn't be a whole lot of work for me at the Nile Pharoah boat, so they wouldn't miss me for one week extra! 
- plus it gives me time to fit on a few more private classes in Edinburgh and London before I fly and every penny counts, especially these days in Cairo! 

So, I know I won't get round everyone. But if anyone wants a private class in London on mon 12th or tues 13th, I have a couple of slots available.... Contact me ASAP though! 

So, I am happy to have some extra time here in UK, but still looking forward to going home to Egypt next week too! 

So, to those worried because I didn't come back yes, don't worry. Cairo is too deep in my heart now. I'll be home soon!