The ins and outs of Maadi feat. flipflops

Trip Start Sep 29, 2012
Trip End Jul 01, 2013

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weds 17th 

Arthur and I take an alternative route back after school and in the backroads of Mounira find what looks to be a gaming arcade of sorts, meaning a doorless room opening onto the street with three clunky tvs connected to games consoles sitting inside. Makeshift car mechanics crop up frequently on this street, and many others actually, and right on queue some guys come wheeling their friend's severly crumpled car into one such 'garage'. I've yet to see an unscratched, undented car.

Our reception as foreigners varies wildly, but we're not having much luck with kids today. We're bombarded by a shower of pencil case stationary, small rocks and dead cockroaches on our way to the metro station by little school boys, followed by particularly racous metro carriage bantar which goes blissfully over our heads, but must be bad as some respectable gent gives a very stern word to the culprits. Afterwards, as swinging by the shops on the way home can never be simple if you're alone, inevitably I pick up a little flip-flopped friend and spend the next 30 minutes trying not to let my smirks give me away through my blank-faced mask, as the comical 'flipflop... flipflop...' follows me all the way home. Even quiet days are never dull.

Thursday 18th

It's the weekend again :) and newly equipped with egyptian food vocab and a restaurant recommendation from our 'culture class' teacher, we spend the evening at an incredible fish restaurant on the water front, with a recent arabic graduate from Oxford who's back in Cairo doing something flashy with the British embassy, oo-er. The done-thing in fish restaurants is to select  what you want from their display of freshly caught fish, after which it's whisked away to be cooked there and then. Sadly, when the bill comes we realise they've been quite liberal with their totting up of what we'd had, and disgruntled we cough up an eye-watering 3000 L.E. Still only 20 each, but having adapted to the low prices of Egypt, we huff and we puff and we leave with a doggy bag of enough spiced rice to sustain my flat for a week.

On our graduate companion's invite we finish the night at a funny house party in Maadi full of sheesha-smoking boho american students and egyptian friends. We leave yet again with a generous and unlikely offer of a holiday (this time on the Red Sea at so-and-so's cousin's/uncle's/friend's house) and yet again disorientated in the dusty roads. Turns out we were just round the corner from our apartment.

Friday 19th

Those of us living in Maadi have recently got onboard a brand new community project for youth, run by people our age, and looking to take on anything from environmental issues, kids' education, to finding discounts in coffee shops and starting sports teams in the neighbourhood of Maadi. Having been interviewed, we join the team of ungrads, mostly at the American University in Cairo and all with impeccable english, and spend the morning doing publicity for the project up and down our local high street. The project, called Nassya (street corner) after the place egyptians hang out, is the proud owner of the first egyptian social networking sight, which at the moment is exclusive to Maadi. Looking to reinforce Maadi's reputation as a tight-knit community, on the website you create a facebook-like profile and add and connect with 'neighbours'.
We immediately feel a part of the team, and my intention to do some volunteer work is satisfied before I even started looking. On 3 weeks in Egypt, my arabic isn't up to the necessary standard  to do leafleting in the street, but horrifyingly the team say we can approach people in english as they'll understand perfectly well. They're right. Having spent a morning being the englishman I'm doing a degree so as not to be, I realise I'll need to get away from these adept Maadian english speakers whilst I make my first blunders into arabic...

We return home to the news on TV of the Beirut bombing, not only in the city where a proportion of our Oxford arabists are spending the year abroad, but alarmingly in the area of town where their institute is located. We soon receive news that they're all safe but had indeed heard the explosion. Flatmate Emily, who flew to Cairo from Beirut where she spent the summer working, watches the shaky confusion of camera shots of firemen and casualties packing the street she lived on. Her friends there are among the hundreds who will give blood over the next few days to support the hospitals' large demand.

On a lighter note, at the small price of a few more flip-flopped disciples picked up on my way through the lanes, I head over to the fairylit Maadi church again, and afterwards it's food, music and getting to know the massive crowd of young adults here from places all over the world. 
Back home I lay out a fresh white headcover, waterskin and compass. Tomorrow we track due west to the Pyramids...

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