To Impress

Thanks to Jean-Baptiste who shared with me that his plan for the day would be impressing. Impressing as in printing. Printing as in making an impression.

Impressing as in leaving an impression

Impressing as in making an impression, be it good, bad or rather neutral on someone or something

Impressing rather than printing, as in the press of letters, the articles, the books and the words

Impressing as in Impressionism

and I realise how I had misunderstood Impressionism until today.

Puyo, Robert Demachy, and Paul de Singly with Model, 1909
Emile Joachim Constant Puyo French

Missing things, Heimweh

This is home sickness. This is my home sickness.

The nadi’s (club’s) Escalope panee: the best lunch in the world. It’s usually subsidized and is frequently ordered by the young but also especially the old members. An escalope with fries, and sautéed vegetables. Not necessarily known for its deliciousness, it’s a dish that has left a few generations feeling nostalgic whenever the word escalope would be brought
up. I recently heard that there’s a new restaurant that opened in Cairo, called akl el nadi (the club’s food). Seems like a failed idea, as the whole point is to adventurously eat it in such an environment in which you can be attacked by a crowd of evil crows or wild cats at any point. It only adds to its imagined deliciousness.

Taxi drivers: the best to talk to on the current situation, and if in a good mood, they might stop for a minute and buy a kilo of fruit and share with you. If in a bad mood or simply evil.. Well, you might cry.. (For the sake of home sickness let’s not get into details) If they’re nice and you’ve had a great chat, then they’d insist that you don’t pay at the end (khalli 3andak said around 5 times). But if you don’t pay, they’d get furious. But in usual situations, in which the driver is neither nice or nasty, if they don’t end up fighting with you at the end, then you know that the current country’s situation is to be worried about.

7awawshi: a sandwich covered in butter and served straight from the oven filled with meat (again source of meat unknown) and spices best if bought on Khalid ibn elwalid street in Alexandria. It has to be wrapped in old newspapers, otherwise what’s the point, really?! Stomach aches and diarrhea are to follow but it’s absolutely worth it.

Basterma: delicious dried meat (source of meat usually unknown) mixed with herbs. One of the herbs which is essential to the taste, has caused many to suffer especially on public transport. It’s especially delicious when cooked with eggs and stuffed in baladi bread and then squeezed really hard by the sandwich queen – maleket el sadawichaat ( my sister).

My mother’s driving: I am not allowed to talk to her throughout the journey. And when my late grandmother would sit next to her, she would stick out her entire arm out of the window to signal right for her. Windows are otherwise closed and music of Bruce Springsteen ( or anyone with a similar ba77a) is usually played.

The Marriott bakery: a place that used to house teenagers, who would only order water and try to finish a pack of cigarettes. This is until they decided to introduce a minimum charge, leaving me and my sister absolutely helpless for a while, until we all replaced it with coffee roastery, which minimum charge would only start at 7 pm. We’d arrive and order a small bottle of water at 6:45 of course.

Montaza: a beautiful environment that would make you want to run along the rusting cabins so fast while greeting everyone, and getting red lipstick all over your face (tante Amira, Sawsan, Amina, Pam and so on) . You keep running and you eventually hit your head on a metal rod causing you to stop. You fall.

Featured image is from here which is another nostalgic blog post on the 80s escalope panee in Cairo.

Long Live the Ironmen (el Makwagi)

The Ironman (el-Makwagi), as the lyrics of the above song defines it, is the man who picks up your laundry at 7am and brings it back fully ironed at 9pm.

It’s of no surprise that a song as such would exist (mainly dedicated to celebrating this profession) as after all, who wouldn’t want to have all their laundry ironed on a daily basis?

Here’s also an advertisement of an iron featuring the most famous former makwagi of all times; Shaabaan Abdel Rehim (Shaabollah), now an iconic Shaabi singer, in which he tells the iron that he shall soon return to it.

Mr. Mohasseb, in this article is claimed to be one of the oldest surviving makwagis in Egypt, using a presumably almost extinct ironing method: ironing with his foot.

Here’s a description of how this technique is done (text is from this link)

مكواة الرجل لا تحتاج إلى كهرباء أو غاز، وتكون مصنوعة من الحديد وخامة الزهر وتتخذ شكل مثلث، يقوم المكوجي بوضعها على باجور الجاز لكي يتمكّن مِن تسخينها، ولها يد طويلة يُمسكها المكوجي بيده، ويضع قدمه على المثلث.

ثم يبدأ المكوجي في تحريك المكواة في اتجاه فرد القماش، ولعل أكثر ما يميّز مكواة الرجل أنها تجعل الملابس لا تتكسّر أو تتجعّد لمدة يومين أو 3 أيام، وهي تزن تقريبا حوالي 28 كيلو.

ويقوم مكوجي الرجل بتحديد درجة الحرارة التي يكوي بها الملابس، وفقا لنوع القماش المصنوعة منه؛ فإذا كانت الملابس مصنوعة من الحرير مثلا، يقوم المكوجي بتسخين المكواة قليلا على الباجور، ويرفعها سريعا حتى لا تؤثّر درجة الحرارة المرتفعة على القماش وتحرقه.

ومن ناحية أخرى، فمكواة الرجل لا يمكن أن تتعطّل؛ لأنها مصنوعة من الحديد، وهذه المهنة مستمرّة حتى الآن برغم التغيّرات المتلاحقة الحادثة للمجتمع، وقد اختلفت أسعار كيّ الملابس حاليا عمّا سبق..

And here’s a video demonstrating the technique (watch from 1:35 onwards)

Here’s a song by Egyptian actress and singer Shadia complaining that someone had made fun of her and had claimed that her hair was ironed with the above mentioned tool:

If I happen to stumble upon more info on ironmen, I will make sure to add it to this post.

Things that George Orwell liked and didn’t like

 These are different from Barthes’.
I like English cookery and English beer, French red wines, Spanish white wines, Indian tea, strong tobacco, coal fires, candlelight and comfortable chairs. I dislike big towns, noise, motor cars, the radio, tinned food, central heating and modern furniture.
from Autobiographical note by George Orwell

Things I want to/ could complain about

  • actors who mainly act with their eyebrows
  • bread that is too chewy/ dry
  • my laptop being too warm causing my legs to turn a bit red
  • the lamp not being bright enough
  • lamb having a silent b, silent Bs in general, actually all silent letters
  • revolutions causing music scenes to become extremely kitsch; actors taking themselves too seriously while singing, being someone who complains about such matters
  • bad writing
  • my writing
  • non-sense 
  • depth
  • wrong pronunciation/ spelling (specifically words such as Arbeit, Heimatkunde, Musik, pronunciation, Ich, its/ it’s their/ they’re)
  • the Internet being too slow
  • YouTube and facebook, but facebook more often than YouTube
  • intellectuals
  • people not reading the books that I like and if they have read them, then those who don’t like them (same for movies, TV series, people etc.)
  • the weather being to warm
  • the weather being too cold
  • the sun being too bright
  • the sky being too gray
  • forgetting to bring something with me
  • someone forgetting to bring something for me
  • the overuse of the term bourgeoisie 
  • being proud of being liberal
  • being proud of being conservative
  • being proud (sometimes it’s alright)
  • having a good person’s eyebrows —- > /   \  and not \   /
  • being hungry
  • being thirsty
  • not being hungry enough and having to have dinner/ lunch because of peer pressure
  • my apartment not being tidy enough (and similar complaints)
  • waiting at the doctor’s for too long
  • waiting in general
  • people shouting while holding a microphone
  • people shouting into phones (long-distance phone calls to be more specific) even though it can be endearing (NOT, well actually sometimes)
  • food being delicious but leaving a weird smell in the apartment
  • judges putting too much emphasis on the letter ق, making it almost sound like a خ.
  • the constant attempt to be meaningful (not a necessary complaint)
  • quoting other people’s jokes (from a comedy show etc.)
  • plugging things in general
  • preparations (all kinds)
  • writing proposal but more editing old rejected proposals to fit for new applications
  • smelly things, or people who complain about them including myself
  • morals
  • a story or comment with an obvious moral that most people would naturally agree upon (thus, meaningless stories or comments)
  • and AGAIN, my apartment being too messy
  • etc. or maybe to be continued