Posts Tagged ‘apartment’

Last Alexandria post.

I’ve been thinking in this manner since two days ago:

Last time I will buy vegetables from Ali.

Last Mass at San Katrine.

Last time Marwan at the Basha will harass me about fitting into my suitcase to go to “Amrika.”

Last subiyya at Mekka Juices.

Last time one of the clerks will hand over a pound change for my fiver, and legerdemain it away somehow before I pick it up. Last time I’ll fall for it.

Last ride on the little tin tram.

Last time I’ll buy a newspaper from Hassan on the corner.

Last day of work.

Last Dahab.

Last walk home with Ahmed.

Last banana that Ayman will give me on my way to work.

Last coffee I’ll drink on my balcony.

Last sheesha on the Mediterranean.

Last walk on the Corniche.

Last time Abu Ahmed will act grumpy and respond “Mish dawa3” (Something like: “It’s not your business!” or “Who asked you?”) when I ask him how much eggs are today.

Last trip to the Spitfire.

Last mashru3a ride from Manshaya. Last time I’ll shout “Al-nafa5 li’gay, usta!” (Next underpass, driver!)

I had actually anticipated leaving yesterday, but I got so depressed thinking like this that I couldn’t really take it anymore: I had to have one more day in Alex. And then I was no longer depressed. Until these became the second-to-last times I would do these things.

How do you talk about memory?

This has been one of the things I’ve been running over in my mind since I’ve gotten here. In college, it’s easy, but you realize it altogether too late: the place is yours for a few years — you are the owners, the veterans — until you pass through it, move on, and the place is possessed by someone else. Is it any less yours? No: memory has rooted there, somehow.

And I’ve been wondering the same about my Alexandria. Was it ever really mine? My feet know the city, and the difference between most foreigners and me is that I came back. I returned. Of all the cities, I chose her to come back to when I needed a time to think, to write, to practice. You could have been Cairo, Amman, Adan, Marrakech; instead, you were Alexandria.

My colleagues (and occasionally I) have expressed a kind of scorn for the often overdone Egyptian sentiment of “Never forget me!” People you just meet or might have a light, passing acquaintance with will often charge you “to remember me always,” and the effect on someone who is used to change and separation is often one of severe annoyance. Our entire lives in America are accustomed to separation, to change; our schools are divided into elementary, middle, and high — graduations mark the passages and the changes and the need to move on beyond the old friends and into the new opportunities. The student that goes back to his old high school, that talks to his old teachers, that writes letters to old friends and tries to rekindle old friendships is looked on as too nostalgic, too backward thinking.

My father has often rebuked me for such things. I can understand why; attachment is a dangerous thing, and there is only so much of your soul to spread around. We can only have so many friends before we end up being a bad friend ourselves.

As for me, though, I’ve had a year to think about it, and I disagree. We do not preserve memory: memory preserves us. There is a simple wisdom in the knowledge that someone knows you, halfway around the world, and likes you for who you are, and how you laugh. There is a kind of purity in keeping the image of a love-long past, long-mourned, long done with preserved from its moments, not because you are the secret kept, but they are. Perhaps that is why the greatest commandment of Christ is to love, to forgive; because love knows and keeps the good memory of others.

I’m waxing a little bit mushy.

Is it real? Is the city real? Durrell said it was, but so many have disagreed with him, and said that what he wrote never existed. I’m not sure I ever will be able to write it “real” for the page, but memory is what makes it real to me. Leaving and returning. Remembering and forgetting. On the eve of the departure, I suppose I’m committing that unforgivable sin of sheer and utter colonialism: I’m calling it my Alexandria. I — an outsider — am saying I know her (and yes, postcolonialists, this is a her. Linguistically.) I know her secrets — the secrets even Egyptians have forgotten, that Egyptians don’t know — and declare that she is a city of secrets. I wish I had someone to pass them on to — and I wonder if I will ever meet someone who knows the same secrets I do, one day.


I’m just sad to leave her.

Good-bye, Alexandria. City of Memory.


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Just kidding

So, we’re not getting kicked out of our place.

The boys were all packed up and ready to sneak out in the dead of the night of the 30th after our previous conflict. Tom and Tammam even moved their bags down four flights of stairs so they could flee the moment the coast was clear; I was less prepared, partially out of sheer laziness, but mostly out of a lack of concern for the situation — after it took weeks to get Lauren out of her flat two years ago from the party that “almost ended it all,” I don’t think she would begrudge me a few days’ grace. T&T also went apartment shopping.

Apparently, none of these preparations were necessary; I came home from tutoring my girls and the five of us had a little chat. Lo and behold: she was dead reasonable, calm, and above all, not yelling. Tammam insists that she was a completely different person, and we have all contemplated the possibility of her having a demon inside her.


The upside to this whole unfortunate series of events (though, alhamduliLah, with a good outcome), is that the boys cleaned the flat while I was at work, hoping to lessen Faten’s criticisms in the event she came upstairs to insist that we trashed the place.

The only way this could have been any better would be if they had mopped.

Well, thank God for happy endings.


Correction 1 May 10: Apparently Tammam went Cinderella on the kitchen floor (that’s the image I get, anyhow, when he describes it as “scrubbing”) and Tom squeegeed.

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It’s been a blue couple of days.

Not really. The last few posts you’ve had to endure my rants on the dust cloud that settled over Alex as the heat beat down on us. Last night the wind started up again, and I found myself (strangely!) sitting on the balcony in a sweater. And this morning, more of the same– a lovely Med breeze that showed us the color of the sky and that light “filtered through essence of lemons.” Alhamdu-Lilah. Blue skies once more.

But back to the blueness, maybe it’s been that nasty dusty weather we’ve been having, but my mood hasn’t been quite so great. I’m exhausted. I’m teaching everyday. I keep trying to go to Father Carty’s Mass at the Jesuit Center in Cleopatra, but every night someone needs extra help. Someone wants a private lesson. Or class runs a little too long. Incidentally, Mikha’il at the cyber where I print out my class materials tells me it’s odd that Catholics have Mass in the evening; Mass is definitely a morning thing. And why on earth did I go to Sacre Coeur on Sundays? It’s all Sudanese! I told him: because it’s all Sudanese.

In other news, the power went out last night for a good couple of hours: all along Teba Street and a exactly one side of Port Said Street. Tom and John and I found ourselves wandering in the pitch darkness of our building, so I went downstairs to fetch some candles from Mahmoud and when I came back, Faten had brought out her own supply, and the stairs and corridors were lit by coffee mugs filled with sand and a single candle apiece in them (the light was needed so Daniel could move in to his recently refurbished flat downstairs by the garden). This also means that Amm Abdou was on the bottom steps looking like the Cryptkeeper in the candlelight, and Faten was flitting back and forth with a hurricane lamp looking for all the world like a ghost in her long white house-hijab. When I got upstairs and stood on the balcony, I could see little golden glows coming from the windows– just barely lit by a hundred candles.

Tom and I cursed our luck at not having romance in such a romantic situation; we listened to Eric Clapton in the candlelit kitchen as I made tacos. We danced. A little. If only to mourn the fact there was no one but us to dance with. Alas.

So busy: Tom wants his shirts designed (more on that later) and I have a final exam for my medical students to write. GREs are this Saturday (joy!) and I really need a better paying job. It would be nice just to take a few days off, eat some bacon, drink some beer, and blast Jimi from very large speakers. Alas again. Some days you just feel like that.

When John came back from Metro, the lights came with him. I switched them off and kept the candles in my room, put on some Hamza al-Din, and tried to block out the noise.

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My house in bags

Arrived in Cairo 12:30 PM; caught the West Delta bus from the airport straight to Alex, but Ramadan traffic meant getting stuck in the city limits for a good four hours. Wretched, wretched trip — you could feel the smell of the on-bus lavatory seep into you hair like a thick sludge. Bus was packed by the time we got past Midan Tahrir.

When we reached the gates of the Alexandria governate, the driver booked it to Maw2if el-Gedid, presumably to make it there well before the iftar. The entire trip through the maze of sulfur fields and natural gas refineries felt like a race — one that continued when I hailed down a cab to Sporting. We pulled in to the Delta Street midan just as the sunset adhan rang out and the light turned silver. Amm Abdou was there at the front door of the old building when I came up. He greeted me with unusual warmth (and here, I know Nehad would crack cynically, “He’s remembering your wallet.”)

Madame Faten put me up in Fadhila’s old place, facing the street. It’s breezy and a little big, but I imagine I’ll have a roommate at some point.

After I unpacked my bags, I found plate of pears, a cup of icy tamrhind, and some stewed okra on the front table — Amm Abdou was just creeping out. God keep you in your safe return, he said. And welcome home.

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