Drag myself, winter glum, out onto the still dark and foggy streets of Saturday morning in the early quiet, the only quiet, that grows increasingly loud by the minute as taxis vie for my attention, persistent, I cannot blame their need to make a meager living, most honest, some, I hear, are thieves, never get into one with more than the driver, never pay until you have removed yourself, then hand the fare through the passenger window. Don’t be insulted if you give extra and get no response of appreciation. Most often you won’t. You are rich and they are poor.
I walk a different way today. After two and a half years there still seems to be one. At a familiar junction, where one should always turn right, I turn left, descending under tracks, up and across the official boundary of my neighborhood. From a café two women call and flash the four-finger salute of Morsi supporters. I wave and smile, then a voice in English calls to me. “Hey, you should stop and talk.” A man stares. Feeling no threat from him or his friends I sit, tea is set before me.
“You are American.” It is not a question. “Your government should have stopped what happened and supported Morsi.”
“They did support him…don’t you think Morsi, and the Brotherhood, was becoming just another dictator?”
“It was our turn. Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak!”
“That’s not how it works in a democracy. The president and his party can’t just make laws as they please.”
“We should be more like America.”
“You should be Egypt for everyone.”
The Corniche is loud with traffic. Walking past the military base I exchange greetings with the young soldiers in the occasional guard towers. Several ask me to take their picture, but the signs posted every hundred meters tell me otherwise and I decide not to get them or me thrown in jail, or chance losing my camera. At the first opportunity I turn into a neighborhood and the relative quiet of residential streets.
I take count of women who are not wearing the headscarf, maybe two percent. Back in my neighborhood I walk to the souq, then cross the tracks toward home, a young boy sweeps the garbage accumulated on the overhead track crossing. He puts his hand to his mouth and looks at me pleadingly. I give him five pounds and ask if I can take his picture. He obliges. Down onto the street I realize I am tired, hungry and need to get home. I hail a cab. “Shera mitan teleta telateen.” The driver is more talkative than most and though he speaks no English we get by. Arriving at my destination I make sure to get out of the cab before handing him the fare. I give him extra. He looks me warmly in the eye and thanks me profusely, “Shokran, Alhamdulillah.” “Thank you, and Praise God.”