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Saturday, October 08, 2005

No Turkish Coffee

After spending a fortnight back in this country, I decided to gather my intellectual power, plug in my laptop and start writing. The last days have been quite full; between meeting family members and old friends and getting stuck in the busy Cairo traffic, I’ve had a little time to write.

But I finally made some time…

I’m not going to bore with the minute details about my trip or how the plane meals suck and such clichés but I will get right to the point: my reaction, what’s it like, the changes I noticed, things I hate and things I love.

I am currently in Alexandria, the second largest city in Egypt and my hometown. I’m inside a coffee shop that serves only espressos and espresso-based coffees. The waiter looked at me in a weird way when I ordered Turkish coffee! “We only have espressos, American coffee, and filtered coffee” (I didn’t ask about the difference between the last 2 items). I’m utilizing the free wireless internet since I don’t have a DSL at home yet. There’s only 5 other people inside the place since it’s noon and we’re in Ramadan; people are supposedly fasting (it’s also very hard or nearly impossible to get a beer these days)

The last few days have been quite entertaining and shocking: the noise, the traffic, the roads, people talking in a loud voice, family members, it’s all happening too fast and this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write. Around here coffee shops are for people to socialize: you will not find anyone sitting by themselves reading a book or typing on their laptops; you will only find loud obnoxious teenagers, families and ageing retirees discussing politics.

I just came back from Cairo: louder, noisier but also more fun. Traffic in Cairo has got to be the worst in the whole world. There are no rules and most big intersections are being organized by a traffic warden in uniform. If there is no policeman then the urban jungle traffic law of the Cairo streets applies: push your way through and hope the incoming drivers will chicken-out and slow down. If you slow down, people behind you will put on their high beams, honk and curse (and this is not the chronological order of occurrence). It took me a while to restore the beast-driver in me that has been curbed due to long years of ultra-courteous Seattle driving. Arise from the dead, I order thee!

I’ve finished my espresso and the waiter is bothering me again: “would you like something else like a peace of cake?” I’m not surprised. It is very common here for waiters to come bother you and persuade you to order something. You can’t just sit peacefully inside a coffee shop without constantly ordering something. I think I will pack my laptop and go back home. I intend to write more once I have a DSL connection at home or when I get a chance.

Peace !