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Not Quite a Thousand Words

October 5, 2006

Old Cairo friends

What this picture can’t tell you about what happened:

This is in Old Coptic Cairo, which regarless of its name, is a very Muslim area. We had walked off the tourist path with Shelia and her friend Anna and sat down at shop and drank Coca-Cola from the old-style bottles. Mine had a funny taste, which ended up being rust around the top (if I end up with lock-jaw, you all know how it happened). We were asked where we were from, and at the first “min Amerikia” (from America) the entire neighborhood, kids mostly, surrounded us. The crowd only got bigger as we finished our drinks. A kid set off a firecracker near us and I thought my feet were gone for a half-a-second. They brought us over the goats to pet (if I get rabies, you know how it happened). Anna is the one in the green headcovering, and no she’s not Egyptian, nor is she Muslim. She’s italian and jewish. She had put it on out of hope people would be friendlier to her, and they were. Except she had to tell them she was Muslim, and engaged (she is neither) or she would have been married with the goat in two minutes.

I am taking this picture, but I wanted to get in one, so I handed off the camera to a woman and pointed at the clicker. As I started to walk forward, a little child collided with me, and basic physics says that between me, gravity and that kid, gravity and I are going to win. The kid hit the ground with enormous speed and force and I kept on saying “aasifa” “ma’lesh” over and over again, but he wouldn’t stop crying. A woman picked him up and wiped off his face. I awkwardly walked back into the group and the lady signalled that she had taken the picture – it ended up she hadn’t. But the kids ran to see themselves in the viewfinder, and as excited kids all over the world will do, they fought over it. For a brief moment, I saw my camera crushed in the dirt street by overzealous kids, but the mother took it from them, handed me the camera and motioned that we should leave. The kid I accidently knocked over was still crying.

Feeling both awkward and hurt, we walked out of the neighborhood and back to the Metro, wondering when exactly our afternoon had become so eventful.

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