Friday, December 8, 2017
Seen in the Souq
A pile of ottomans in Ottoman old Cairo...
The sheer amount of stuff on offer on all sides would make embracing minimalism in Cairo a significant challenge indeed.
To date, though, I've been very well-behaved - our bijou purchases on this trip have all been practicalities, principally a mattress for the handsome old bedstead that Mr. Muscato salvaged from his recently sold childhood home (made for us, as it's an eccentric size, and delivered in three days - some of the conveniences of this place boggle the mind), along with various small necessities along the lines of a washtub for the kitchen. Pretty much the only thing that has failed to materialize, and which will have to accompany me in checked luggage the next time we travel, has been a decent wooden spoon; I don't really know how one cooks without one. I'm planning to bring a dozen and introduce as many friends as possible to proper stirrage.
Our final week in Cairo has gone far too quickly, and now I'm sitting on what is for practical purposes our last morning - one last coffee, one last slow awakening of the mad city, muted as is usual on Friday, by far the sanest day. I had thought about joining the group that generally takes a long walk downtown, but friends are insisting on an unusually early start to brunch, and I've decided to take advantage of that to be luxuriantly lazy and just enjoy being here in our own little corner of the megalopolis.
The days somehow seem to fill themselves here - long lunches, expeditions here and there to accomplish various useful tasks, evenings that devolve into the early morning over shisha and the excellent local beer (or the generally, if not infallibly, drinkable local wine). One day we went to pay the electric bill, an adventure indeed into the Kafkaesque bowels of the local branch of the power company, a realm where Soviet charm and Egyptian efficiency combine in a way that is equal parts hair-rendingly infuriating and darkly comic. It's some measure of the contrasts of Egypt in these days that one can either set aside half-a-day to be sent from floor to floor and office to office in a frequently fruitless attempt to find the single bureaucrat among the thousands lounging, smoking, chatting, napping, and generally ignoring the public at electricity HQ responsible for our specific building - or one can establish an online account and prepay for a year in a matter of moments. On our return, shattered, from trying the former, in-person option, Mr. Muscato promptly adopted the latter, virtual one.
But now, after one more day, one more visit to the hotel gym and spa (its vast hydrotherapy pool a neoclassic foolishness that we much enjoy) where we've become regulars (just across the way, so handy), one more quick walk around the neighborhood, and then a farewell diner, it's off at a truly unspeakable hour to the airport and so eventually home to the cold and the dark and, on the flip side, the embarrassing spectacle that Boudi always stages on our return.
But as I trudge back to Golden Handcuffs Amalgamated International on Monday morning, it's this corner of our living room in Cairo I'll be thinking of, and the distant sounds of traffic and the wakening streets. Not all that much longer, with the Handcuffs shed once and for all, and I suspect we'll be back, and for more than a month.
In the meantime, Cairo and its country will persist, Beckettesque as ever: it can't go on. It must go on. It will go on.