Guest post: Illusions and legends born in Cairo

Cairo never was on my “to go” list.  With its pyramids, Alexandria and sandy beaches;  popular among new-Russians it seemeed too cliche to even get on my list. There were already too many tourists choosing it as a destination, I thought. In short, it didn’t excite me, untill I met Sophie Anmuth.

Sophie’s eyes sparkled every time she spoke about Cairo. It wasn’t even Cairo itself, but the revolution in which she found herself suddenly entangled. She spoke of people fighting for their freedom, of people chasing their collective dream, of people, who believed…She spoke of contrast between rich and poor, she spoke of the ways Cairenes’ live, their daily habits and lives. She spoke of their spirit, of faith in freedom and possibility of positive changes. She showed me pictures of her friends, told me a story of the revolution, shared the visions of the upcoming  changes; so I grew curious and not too long after I found myself paying more attention to the news from Cairo, making Egyptian friends and willing to learn more. In short, I can tell that now Cairo is definetely on my “to go” list and I am happy to share with you Sophie’s take on Cairo today.

Egyptian people say Cairo is the “mother of the world”. It is a very warm, very caring, curious, intrusive, stifling mother.

If you’re a young female foreigner, it’ll perpetually tell you you’re pretty in the voices of grand-fatherly taxi-drivers and rude street cat-callers. It’ll never let you down, it’ll feed you, offer you drinks “because you’re in my country”, and admonish you, advise you, comment on everything you do. It can be violent as well; you have to resist the heat, the noise, the sexual harassment, and the moral stress. That city puts you to a test, offering you a foreign currency standard of life, and contrasting it with the extreme poverty you see everywhere. Outside of Cairo, in gated compounds in the suburbs, rich Cairenes try to escape their guilt as well.

I started feeling a strong connection to Cairo only during the uprising. I felt this was the centre of the world. Something was being born. Hope. Freedom. Dignity. The rise of the downtrodden. A peaceful collective roar against injustice. It took my breath away. It gave me a sense of belonging. That’s what legends are made of – illusions.

There is still chaos everywhere in this city; you can’t rationally grasp anything, law, economics, politics, traffic… A smile, a bribe or a friend are the best procedures available. It’s an anarchist’s hell or paradise: authority over there is so often legitimately despicable.

The city is full of life. It rests at night only for few hours, perpetually calling for the prayer, honking, shouting about things for sale. So you don’t get much rest much either- you can’t anyway, impatient to learn, see, fight, try, love, more and more.

NB: All photographs are taken by Sophie Anmuth. Click on pictures to view them larger