Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mysteries of Cairo

Ok, there are probably many more pressing mysteries of the ages to be solved in Egypt, but these three stick out notably.

1. Why do residents of my apartment complex refuse to shut the front door? Not gonna do it. Nope. Won't take the extra 5 seconds to close a perfectly good glass door.

The problem with the 24X7 open door policy is twofold:

First, it gives the army of neighborhood stray cats easy access to the plastic bags of garbage that residents put out each night. I wouldn't mind the unsealed plastic and paper bags if we could just keep the cats from tearing them apart. And the resulting garbage strewn about also encourages the ants and other bugs to join in the fun.

actual unretouched photo
Second, it lets the cold air into the building...and craftsmanship here being what it is, it's not exactly built to air-tight tolerances. In fact, I can feel the cold air coming in through my flat's own front door on the 2nd floor.

I even made up a nice, polite sign in Arabic--hand lettered by an Egyptian colleague--asking people to close the door.

It was torn down. Twice.

I simply cannot think of a good reason not to shut the door. The push bar makes it easy for both adults and children to open from outside and it is just as easy to close.

Someone even installed a hook and latch system to keep the door from closing inadvertently. I can report that the hook and latch system -- both of them in fact -- are now missing.

2. I've mentioned this before but it bears further investigation: What's with all the drivers driving around with headlights off at night? I've heard several theories, each one more half-baked than the last, which brings the recipe down to about 1/16th-baked I guess.

If anyone has a credible explanation, I'm ready to listen.

3. And what's up with the mania for tile floors in grocery stores and all-wheels-turning-at-once carts? It's like shopping on roller skates. Half the time you're simply pushing the cart sideways since there's no way to push it straight on.

Cultural note: Egyptian shoppers manage their shopping carts in the hypermarkets like Spinneys and Carrefour pretty much like they manage their cars. You might say the markets recapitulate the streets. That is, carts are directed seemingly willy nilly...and feel free to just stop in the middle of the aisle with your cart at whatever haphazard angle it happens be at, then have a chat or absorb yourself in poking around the shelves or arranging your items.

I'm surprised the markets haven't equipped the carts with horns.