The Other Cairo

She's young and beautiful, but she's so desperate to find a husband before the year ends. She doesn't care about love, she wants to find a good man she can start family of her own with. She's looking for someone from a good family, that's socially equal to hers, someone who's financially capable of giving her the life she has always lived, and of course someone she can live happily with. In the process of finding the husband, she meets a guy from another department at work. He's everything that is not the husband of her dreams. They're not socially equal, he's from another religion, he's younger than her, and he's in love with someone else. But the minute they talk, they become the best of friends. They always talked about their lives, and how different they are....

She has lived in Cairo all her life. The other Cairo, the one that just a few know about. She knows nothing of the real Cairo, but today he's taking her there, to see the world she's living in. She has passed Qasr El Nil Bridge tens of times before, but never on foot. She stands in front of the two lions in looking up at them, she felt so small, so weak. They looked huge and powerful, one word came to her mind when she looked at them; dignity. He took her and they walked among lovers watching the Nile and the moon. A scene she always saw and hated when she drove by. But somehow the Nile looked different from that bridge, somehow it was more romantic than when on a boat. 

The fresh air played with her hair, a feeling she barely felt in Cairo. In the Cairo where she lives, no one walks in the streets, in the Cairo where she lives, there's an always-on air conditioner. She always looked at those people while she drove in her car with all her windows closed and wondered how these people can enjoy anything while breathing in polluted air. But the air didn't smell of pollution, it smelled of "dora mashwy". They stood watching the Nile and the moon together among other people. She never took the time to watch the moon before, but with just one look she knew what she has missed in her past 22 years. She always laughed at those who watched the moon and wondered if they hadn't something better to do. Today she understood how comforting and reassuring it is to watch it. Its clear white color gave her a feeling of purity. She was in another world, she felt nothing, heard nothing, saw nothing but the soothing scene right before her eyes. The camera's flash light brought her back.

She looked at him, he was smiling, just like everyone else in here. "You always laughed at those standing on a bridge and smiling, remember? Look at yourself". She saw her photo, on her face was a smile drawn for the first time. A different smile, one that she has never seen before. A smile that said one thing, peace of my mind. She remembered their conversation last night, how she said that these people probably have tons of problems a lot more than the ones she has, yet they spend their evenings on a bridge breathing polluted air, hearing car horns, seeing street lights as if they have nothing better to do. She thought that they were crazy to be enjoying this, especially when they have all the problems. That's when he begged and pleaded for her to leave her Cairo just for one night and come with him to the real Cairo. And there she is, smiling and enjoying just like all the other faces around them. There she is, in love with everything around her that she never wants to leave. There she is, throwing all her problems behind her back tonight and enjoying this night, this moment. There she is, getting aquanted with the city she lives in, but doesn't really know. The one that she never wanted to come near, the one she hated and felt ashamed of. There she is, knowing who the real Cairans are. There she is, feeling very happy to be among them.

The other side....

He passed by these orange buildings tens of times in the past few years. He saw people standing around the place and wondered who these people are. He wondered who can he call Cairans, these people or the ones he sees in his daily life. Different clothes, different talk, different looks, different acts, sometimes even a different language. He always wondered what this other world is like, but never had the courage to get inside. The closest he came to that place is in front of one of its exits for just a minute before a security guard came and shouted at him: "yalla ya ogra". The sound of a car horn brings him back, and he tells himself that he's way better off staying away from this life, from those people. He'll never be welcomed and he probably wouldn't like being around these people either, they're too different. Then she came along.....

It's just an ordinary day, he sees a woman hailing a taxi and quickly stops for her. "City Stars" she says, these two words he hears all the time. She gets inside and he drives to City Stars. Then she starts talking: "I want you to stay with me the whole day, I'll give you any amount of money you ask for" Without thinking twice, he accepts.  She speaks again: "I'll need you to come with me inside.....". He doesn't hear the rest of the sentence, and again without thinking twice, he remembers how scared he is of this world and rejects. She tries again: "I'll give you two hundred pounds for the whole day". He's about to say no, but then he thinks, it would take him almost two weeks to have two hundred pounds. Schools are almost in, his family hasn't had any meat since last Eid, this amount of money is going to make a huge difference,  he accepts.

She gives him a bag to carry and they get into City Stars. At the door, the security guard stops him and treats him differently from everyone else. He asks why he's getting inside and searched him more than anyone else. The woman stops the guard by just one sentence: "he's with me", and he's let in. The minute he's in, he looks up, the ceiling is so high. His eyes light up, he holds his breath. He starts walking but almost slips on the marble floor. He has one thought in his mind: "is this really Cairo?" It's so loud, but in the background he hears the sound of music. He sees a man wearing a tuxedo playing the piano, and he feels like he's been taken to another time. This huge garden in the  middle with the Eid El Fitr decorations, it looks... he finds himself unable to find a word that explains how he feels about it. How could he? When he's in a Cairo he never knew existed?

He has one thought on his mind: "how stupid of me to think that I wouldn't like this place? But how was I to know that it is that good?" He watched people carrying tens of bags, joking and laughing. He sees friends, family, and lovers sitting in cafes eating and drinking things he never knew existed. The women takes one look at him and she understands how he feels. "Are you OK?" She asks. He's brought back to the world with this sentence, and asnwers: "How much is a cup of tea in these places?" The woman answers: "around 20 pounds", then she feels how her words hurt him. "They're thieves", she says, "it's the same tea you drink at home". He gives a sad smile and doesn't answer. She speaks again: "You see all those people walking? They come here, walk around, enjoy the place, then leave, they don't have to pay anything. You can bring your family here if you like, you know?" The man's face lights up, then he drowns in thought again. How could these two places be called Cairo? How are these people, and the ones he knows be called Cairans? He looked deep in the faces of the people walking around him, deep inside, behind the clothes and the masks, they look the same. They don't actually look happier than his people. He didn't want to leave, but he knew he doesn't belong here, among these people and never will.....

Comments

  1. this country who see it form high point differ than who see it from low point and it easy to go with public and have fun but difficult to go high and get happy but for person who is from medium layer can move easily without get attention of any layer

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