1. The Revolution, Round II.
I have a confession: we Egyptians felt great shame that Tunisia was first to revolt and that Libya killed their tyrant. For god’s sake, even Yemen almost killed theirs.
We’re used to kicking ass. This is our turf, you know. Thankfully, we’re back on top of the Third World. Out of all the countries in the Arab Spring, we’re the ONLY one that did it twice.
This time around, it’s to oust the Field Marshal, whose office is probably located on a massive stress ball. He heads the military council that rules the transition period. By transition they really meant that period between life and death.
I couldn’t work on my column because I was busy doing revolution-related things. I’m actually writing this behind a sand wall in Tahrir Square, hiding from security forces.
2. Allah, the god of traffic
“What’s the worst thing about the Middle East?”
Western minds would jump straight to war, and human rights’ violations, all the sissy stuff you care about.
I asked an Arab the question. After a long and meaningful, piercing stare into my eyes, he spoke without hesitation: “Traffic” he said without elaboration. As a fellow Arab, I didn’t need him to.
Everyone else in the room nodded thoughtfully, and then went on to list poverty and all the sissy stuff. I was not surprised by that answer; after all, traffic is second on my list. The first thing is the painful absence of snow.
Every Muslim country has shit traffic, which leads me to conclude that there must be some kind of correlation. Muslims believe that all things bad are godly tests of endurance and patience. Traffic is so bad; we’ve come to think of it as religious test of character. You can almost hear god asking “Will you or will you not run over that crippled child to park?”
The only way I can describe Egyptian traffic is to quote the great Al Pacino in that football movie, Any Given Sunday. He gives this inspiring speech before the team’s final game about how life is a series of inches, just like the football field, and that they have to fight for each inch. That’s exactly how Egyptians drive. Every inch is one step closer to your destination, and every asshole who thinks they can take your inch, is one inch away from your fist.
The standard amount of time spent getting from point A to point B, over the distance of eight miles or so, is an hour. Go a mile further in any direction, then it’s two to three hours, sucker.
How does traffic serve as an excuse, you might ask?
I might strike you as lazy, but I’m not alone. Our traffic doesn’t end on bridges and highways; we have grocery-store traffic, foot traffic, bathroom traffic, kiosk traffic (it’s when you have to fight off half a dozen boys for a bag of chips). You name it, we have its traffic. So basically you can’t do anything in Egypt without waiting a good hour—you have to earn it!
It’s so bad that many Egyptians are not going to vote in the upcoming parliamentary election to avoid the traffic of getting to the polling stations and then the voting traffic, of course.
Just the other day, my driver got into a fight with the driver of a pickup truck. They flipped each other off and literally stopped in the middle of a highway, infuriating other drivers. By this time, I’m terrified, and already cooking up reasons to give the angry pickup driver to settle for killing Reda, my driver, but sparing me. I remembered an Oprah episode about how I should tell him my name and personal shit, because it’s harder to kill people when you know they have normal lives or whatever. I disregard Oprah’s stupid advice and decide to start hitting Reda, that way when the pickup driver shows up to kill Reda, he’ll know I’m on his side and not kill me.
Moments later the man, who walks and looks like Bigfoot, stretches his hairy arms into the car and grabs Reda by the collar. Moments later, he notices me, and lets go of Reda. I wonder if he’s decided to kill me instead. Reda scuffles, recapturing Bigfoot’s attention, who tells him something nasty about his mother’s vagina (Arabic swearing revolves around our mothers’ vaginas.) and says that he is only going to spare him for the sake of the beautiful, young woman in the backseat. (Ok, he didn’t say beautiful, but he would have had he not been so angry!)
3. Public speaking is a bitch.
I had to speak at an event in front of 300 or so people. Up until the very last minute, I planned to go on stage and claim, “Me speak no Arabic.”
Surprisingly enough, the cough syrup I drank backstage kicked in and I was a hit. Or so I was told. The only thing I remember is telling the audience to laugh whenever I winked at them and telling the cameraman to get my good side.
That took about three days of my week in preparation, and another day in bed to recuperate from the experience.
I had midterms this week. Stupid long, midterms that asked stupid, long questions, which took a stupid, long time to study for, leaving me debilitated. To the Western world, I’d probably be a mega-nerd. However, in the Arab world I’m no one. And in Pakistan, I’d be a failure (Seriously, they’re like brown Einsteins in turbans). You see, everyone here is a serious nerd. The social hierarchy is upside-down here, the nerdier you are, the cooler and the more popular you’ll get.
So if you’re fat, sad and alone, but can do complex math without the help of a calculator, love essay questions, and you think you can handle the traffic, look no further, the Middle East is the place for you.
5. I’m done.
Err; I know I said there were ten reasons. But after such a week, I can’t be bothered to list them all. That’s what you get for taking an Arab’s word. If you’re angered by this, feel free to email me nasty things about my mother’s vagina.