Sunday, March 27, 2011

An Evening at the Souk

Article first published at Blogcritics. Photo of Khan al Kallili bazaar by Leo LaPorte.

Some of everyday politics is to be found in the market. Today was my day off. I went to have a dinner at an expatriate restaurant at the local market with a university colleague. The market, or souk, is the heartbeat of the community. If politics are going smoothly, as they are today, all the shops are open well into the evening. The market bustles. Men outdoors gather around a large screen TV to watch the latest soccer match. Women and children buy groceries and pick through the gorgeous vegetables displayed on the sidewalk. Music plays. Young women pass by in hijab, tight jeans and high heels, modest, yet provocative at the same time. My colleague and I walked to a small stand, and inhale one of the most delicious glasses of lemonade I have ever drunk. "Ishta" I say, with a thumbs up sign."Shukran." Delicious, thanks. The proprietor smiles broadly.

I did not see any tanks on the way to the souk, but inside the souk was a large truck with an open canvas back filled with soldiers in camoflauge. On the whole, I suppose their presence represents security, but in a country that is actually ruled by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, their presence also highlights the absence of democracy, and the utter absence of the pro-Mubarak police forces.

I remember the worst days of the Egyptian Revolution, probably February 2nd and 3rd, when I huddled in a Sudanese neighbor's house with my three children. My children loved this tense time, playing with Samira and Hamid's five children, ranging in ages from 12 to 6 months. The parents hunched worriedly around BBC World, trying to determine what was going on in this, our host country. The next day, I moved my children to Kenya, where they remain today, to their grandma and a bit of safety.

A bit over a month ago it was then. A phone call was impossible, and the souk, which today seemed so vibrant, was nearly closed, with only a few bread stores open, and lines stretching around the block for provisions. My thoughts lie with the Libyans who much be experiencing terrible food shortages. At the end of the evening, my taxi driver, Emad Ghoneem, takes me to a neighbouring area called Tagamoo. We pay some money inside of a nondescript looking corner store, and get back into the taxi to wait. The proprieter George brings me the desired contraband, a bottle of white wine. I return to my beautiful apartment, and pour the much anticipated glass of wine.  It is dry, and delicious, but leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste. Like the Egyptian Revolution, it has not yet matured

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