A page out of my daily writing (1)

This is an example of one of my recent daily writing sessions. It is being republished here unedited except for spelling, grammar, and for any purposes of clarity, although I obviously won’t guarantee any degree of clarity. Remember, this is free writing, where I didn’t plan what I was writing and didn’t revise it and didn’t try to make sense out of it. Remember also that it was written at 5:30 am.

Lately, I keep recalling a phrase I wrote while free writing about fifteen or sixteen years ago. For some reason, this phrase keeps coming back to me. It goes something like this: “It was the night of a thousand crickets.” But the strange thing is that all my nights and even mornings have become nights of people walking in the unpaved road between our house and the main street.

Well actually, that’s not really true. My early mornings have become bird mornings — something very few people in Cairo experience, I guess. But there are few birds who have decided to brave all the dangers of being a living creature in the city of Cairo, Egypt. It’s like being alive in spite of everything that conspires against this life. The pollution, the noise, the crowds, the potholes, the heat, the dirt.

Even the streets can attest to this — if you look closely enough, and sometimes not even that closely, you’ll find that the streets of Cairo are furry. They are the unofficial and thoughtless graveyards of many a furry animal and quite a few feathered ones too. Cats, kittens, dogs, mongooses (or is it mongeese?), rats, mice, sparrows, the odd pigeon and the odder crow who was too hungry for the dead rat in the road to worry about safety regulations and oncoming cars.

Sometimes, however, there is the human being who is knocked down by a speeding car or the criminal monstrosity that acts as the backbone of Egyptian public transportation, and is known as the “micro-bus”. But generally speaking, the authorities tend to pick up the human beings who fall and pack them off to hospitals, as both sides of a busy, high-speed road slow down to take a look. Is he really dead? Oh my God, I just saw a pool of blood! Did you see how smashed that car was? Look at all that shattered glass! Allah keep us safe.

Then they pass by and pick up speed, many not even caring enough to swerve to avoid the dead dog with his guts spilling out onto the street. Until a few days later, there is nothing left to swerve or not swerve from except a patch of furry asphalt.

And we haven’t even started talking about the homeless humans — never mind the animals or you’ll grow crazy — somehow surviving, or acting as if they do, or doing their best to survive in spite of everything.

And the cars that slowed down all go home — those that don’t get into their own accidents, at least — and, soliciting sympathy (or is it attention?) simply say, “There was a terrible accident on the way.” And that explains why he or she is one hour late — well, actually two, because the default here is that everyone in Cairo is one hour late to everything. And then they have to reheat their lunch, which starts to look wilted and unspectacular, and un-cooking-show-like and may get scorched a little in the reheating. And they sit down to this reheated meal, both thankful that the accident didn’t happen to them, and both silently angry about how picture imperfect the food is.



Filed under life, writing

8 responses to “A page out of my daily writing (1)

  1. Safia.

    MashAllah.I look forward for your posts.Hoping there will be more.
    I have also found some useful links through your blog.Thanks and please keep writing.

    • Marwa Elnaggar

      Thanks, Safia. Your encouragement means the world to me. Really 🙂 I’m glad you’re finding some useful information on the blog.

  2. A rather late comment, but I just wanted to tell you that this is the most eloquent and concise description I’ve ever read of the hassles of modern day Cairo. You’re a great writer, Marwa.

    • Marwa Elnaggar

      Oh, wow! Thanks, Arwa. If I was to write about all the hassles of the roads of Cairo, I’d write a lot more, but this is what spilled out that day. And late comments are better than no comments. I don’t think any of what I write is time-related because I don’t comment on the news here, so no comment qualifies as “late”. Thanks for the constant encouragement 🙂

  3. Safia.

    Assalam Marwa.

    Its been long!

    • Marwa Elnaggar

      wa alaykum alsalam, Safia. I know. It looks like my posts won’t be coming in fast & furious for a while 😀

  4. Omar El-Naggar


    Two things really impressed me out of the blur that you’ve written above.

    (1) The manner of which you wrote that really painted a vivid picture. What startles me was the fact that you’ve improvised it.

    (2) It really hit close to home to be able to read about how things like are in Cairo. I’m an Egyptian-Canadian myslef, and I’ve only visited Egypt twice in the past 12 years (never lived there before). Despite this I feel an extremely powerful connection to the place, the people, the culture. Even though Masr does have it’s issues with human rights, injustice, corruption, etc… It’s still “oum il donia.”

    Thanks for lifting my spirits, it’s always a breathe of fresh air when I come across something like this (fresher than Canadian air that’s for sure).

    PS: keep up the good work.


    • Marwa Elnaggar

      I have a big silly smile on my face right now after reading your comment. Thank you so much. I’m really glad you liked it.

      Living in Egypt you can’t help but having a love-hate relationship with it. Or at least that’s how I feel. It frustrates me to no end. The oppression is so palpable you practically breathe it in with every breath you take and see it everywhere you look. It just makes you want to scream.

      But then there are those smiles and jokes (despite all the hardships Egyptians face on a daily basis), those “sabah el-fol”s (where else in the world do people greet each other with “jasmine morning”?), those impromptu good wishes that remind you that there’s nowhere else in the world like Egypt.

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