For my final assignment in Egypt I went to a press conference at the pyramids. Egyptologists were planning to announce the restoration of the second solar boat of Khufu, aka Cheops, which currently sits in pieces under 41 16-ton slabs of limestone. The boat was discovered in 1954 and they are just now going to excavate and put it back together.
Despite the fact that Egypt basically has no government right now, the country’s press corps still stops for ancient relics. There’s a distinct journalistic duty in Egypt when it comes to things found underground that are 4,500 years old. Consequently, this press conference was more or less like a Beatles concert circa 1965. There was a lot of pushing, shoving and yelling, and minimal crying, all for a glimpse at some centuries-old cedar three meters beneath the earth’s surface. It was awesome.
You can read the full report here.
A colleague and I paid a visit Monday to the office of a top Egyptian executive. “The public sector needs to understand that income is linked to productivity,” the executive explained, oscillating between Arabic and English and sipping a tiny cup of espresso while chewing gum. On his massive, curved desk sat a MacBook Pro in its largest size and various knickknacks, including a backscratcher, two thick, silver ashtrays and a bowl of stones.
His walls were more interesting. “Stupid people make stupid mistakes. Brilliant people make brilliant mistakes,” read a typed piece of paper taped to a larger poster, which pictured a man’s well-muscled back, his arms holding behind his neck an axe. At the bottom of the poster was the inscription: “PREPARATION: If you have a day to chop down a tree, spend a day sharpening your axe.”
On another wall was a framed pair of socks, along with a letter, a gift to the executive from a prominent American businessman. “What are the socks about?” I asked the executive. “You can read,” he said. The socks were supposedly lucky and had been all around the world with their former owner.
The executive’s bookcase was crammed with embossed crystal trophies. Among the books on it were Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers,” Liaquat Ahamed’s “Lords of Finance” and “The Idiot’s Guide to Winning Through Negotiations.” We were ferried out before I could take a closer look.
During her talks with her foreign counterparts or heads of state, Hillary, I think, moves restlessly in her seat: She is overwhelmed with fears that her dress is diaphanous and that all those men, who are sitting in front of her, are more interested in what has been exposed by Wikileaks than what she has to say about her country’s stance on this or that issue.
-Egyptian Gazette editorial, Dec. 12, 2010
Went to get some bananas this morning. As the shopkeeper rang me up, he happened to have his pants half-down and another man was injecting him with something in his ass. “Sorry,” the shopkeeper said.
The best things about Cairo so far: An abridged and subjective list, pt II
1. Nightlife reporting
2. Palm trees with their trunks painted white
3. “Nature”-scented hand soap
4. Sam’s ancient washing machine (looks like this but yellow and teal and smacked around a bit. When you want to use it, you drag it from the kitchen to bathroom and plug it in. Entire washing process takes about 10 minutes)
5. Being told my name, in Arabic, means “little sheep’s butt” (roughly)
6. Pine cone light fixtures in my sublet
7. Curfew (RIP Jun 15)
8. Exquisite juice boxes
9. Decoratively-lit fruit stand street
10. $3 tailoring
One of the things I’ll miss about Egypt is watching Al Arabiya for eight hours a day at work. It’s a fine network. The microphones look like feather dusters and the anchors look like dolls. Speaking of television, CNN the other day broadcast a live interview with Gadhafi’s wife. There was, however, a hitch. Gadhafi’s wife wasn’t present on TV because she’s ostensibly hiding in an underground Bedouin tent with Mr. Mo. So the live interview consisted of the anchor talking to a cell phone laid on a mahogany table from which the voice of Mrs. Gadhafi emanated. It was positively thrilling television.
In other news, peanuts in Egypt are called Sudan beans. As a result, I have been eating a lot of Sudan bean M&Ms, which come in muted colors and are pleasingly malty.
Things that can be purchased at Cairo’s Friday Market (Souq al-Goma’a)
2. Skull ashtray with “see you soon” inscribed in the middle
3. ’90s-era Nokia phones
4. Scalpless doll
5. “Friend”-brand jeans
6. Rotting fish
7. Old money
8. Shirt that says “Freedom is coming: Vampire Weekend”
9. Empty liquor bottles
10. Half-full L’Occitane hotel-sized shampoo bottles
11. Baby ducks