Monday, February 29, 2016
I Go Out Walking
The City Victorious continues to surprise. One joy of this trip is that, for the first time - since the Mister is busy off with matters familial - I'm having time to explore our neighborhood.
Our flat, you see, is in a large complex of buildings - like many if not most here, anonymous masses of crumbling concrete, dotted with balconies, irregularly replaced and wholly unmatching windows, and a fanciful variety of shades and awnings, most in various advanced states of disrepair. The buldings - great slabs about ten stories high - more or less randomly dot a full city block, with the interstices among them completely and chaoticaly filled by arrays of cars, heaps of trash, and tiny kiosks vending fruit, veg, water, and other necessities. On one side is the vast mall that provides us with access to everything from, should we suddenly long for it, Burger King to something on the order of 20 cinemas to surprisingly excellent middle-higher end clothing shopping (and, as I learned yesterday, approximately three miles of indoor walking - without once doubling back)..
It's the other side, though, that's been occupying my time today, and really it's been fascinating. At some point deep in this once-suburban quartier's history, I believe, there was actually an element of design involved. I'm guessing that the neatly laid out streets (and the layout, today, is believe me the only neat thing about them) were once lined with tidy small villas, likely in various early Georgian bungalow styles. Today, alas, they are all gone, replaced by more of the faceless concrete slabs, but what remains is a series of battered but quite charming pocket parks, along the lines of the above. The ground floors of the buldings around each oasis house a motley array of businesses - from sad and faded little boutiques to endless beauty salons to, surprisingly, what looks like quite a nice Greek café on one corner and a decent little supermarket on another. I feel like Columbus.
Even with the family nonsense (nonsensical even by the standards of either of our families, but of little interest unless you like simmering resentment and intermittent shrieking), we've been keeping busy. Last night, for example, we had a night out with our chum the Retired Tycoon. We last saw him the last time I (if not the Mister, who's been back several times) hit town, in 2013, at the very depths of the blessedly short-lived rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. The RT, whose life-blood, were it to be drained, would likely prove to be equal parts Black Label and Gitane residue, was not happy.
Well, what a difference three years makes. He took us to one of his regular haunts the very same we'd gone to when last we met, in fact - a dauntingly chic pan-Asian boîte housed in one of the boats the line the Nile bank on the island of Zamalek. Sad and dejected then, last night it was clearly a Place to Be, and as one might expect, the RT's arrival (at the here-very-sensible dinner hour of 11:30) recalled in its excessive sentiment and general flourish that of Mrs. Levi at the Harmonia Gardens (he goes once or twice a week, but my goodness how they miss him). We had excellent sushi and lashings of the very good vodka the RT keeps stocked there (one has one's own botles at this sort of place), and as a result, today was just a tad slow. We're not used to such goings-on in the staid precincts of Our Nation's Capital, after all. Much as one adores them, I have to admit it really was rather nice not to have to walk the dogs when we stumbled home at something like 2:30.
In penance, I'm being awfully good this evening. Himself is off being a good uncle, and I'm sitting with the large windows in the living room open, a beautiful breeze wafting through, enjoying this little lagniappe of a day, Leap Day. Tomorrow, of course, brings great doings in American politics, but all that feels very far away here. Egyptiians seem vaguely amused by our goings-on, but there's more than enough here to keep their attention more than occupied. Several friends have already congratulated me for havinig our flat all lined up in case I decide to refugee out following the inauguration of President Trump; enjoying this lovely evening, with a nice shrimp tajin on its way up from the excellent fish market on the corner and a cold glass of the wonderful, much-missed local brew, Sakkara Gold, at my elbow, I can only think that one would could a great worse. But let's not hope it comes to that...