From time to time, I just want to inform my limited readership about some really awesome things! In this episode, you all can celebrate the unseasonable cold (warmer in Boston this past weekend! QUE??). It’s almost like you’re here with me (except you’re not, and there’s a you-shaped hole in my heart)!
KUNST GALLERY & CAFE [DOWNTOWN]
There are a million reasons to adore this space, especially when you live in the world’s most difficult place to focus. What differentiates KUNST from other downtown Western-style “cafes” is its quiet atmosphere (a coffee place that’s conducive to studying? Cairo’s NEVER seen that. SERIOUSLY.) and its (wait for it) DELICIOUS coffee. I can say with little hesitation that this is the best American-style coffee I’ve had in Cairo that hasn’t been brewed in my own household (that’s not testament to my big ego. It’s testament to how awful coffee is here). Also? Free wi-fi. It makes the heart ache a little less for beloved hometown fixtures (e.g. Allston Cafe).
THE MARRIOTT BAKERY [ZAMALEK]
My mom was just in Cairo with me and at ten minutes to closing time on Egyptian Mothers’ Day (‘Eid al-Umm, bil Araby.) she waltzed in, ever the would-be Egyptian Madame, and demanded that she and her de facto offspring (me, Kelsy, Max) each purchase a treat. Perfect little custards and cheesecakes; significantly cheaper than anything else in that entire palatial complex. (did you know the original palace was built as a gift for Princess Eugenie by the Khedive Ismail? Now you do!) Just don’t eat your treats in the Garden Cafe; the waiters are Nazis about eating outside food there. Also, they charge 35LE for a Stella which is nothing but egregious.
VINTAGE GLASSES SHOPS [BAB EL-LUQ]
When I first moved to Egypt I was faced with the knowledge that biweekly trips to Urban Renewals had gone the way of the leggings-as-pant (a memo, by the way, that AUC’S undergraduate student body hasn’t yet received), which is good for me, I guess, since I am a self-diagnosed shop-a-holic. For my first three months I dreamt nightly about fictive items of clothing (red lace-up fleece-lined galoshes; $3 neon sunglasses from 1968) and grimaced daily at poly-blend turtlenecks. It turns out that my yearning was for naught, since there’s places like Wikalit al-Balah in Bulaq where you can find silk high-waisted trousers and old-school Benetton mini-dresses for a mere pittance. Fortunately for everyone involved, Egyptians love their glasses (so style!) and accordingly, you’ll find a lens shop on almost every block. Fortunately for us vintage-lovers, a lot of these places, notably in Bab el-Luq (arguably my favorite ‘hood in all of Cairo, in so many ways) carry vintage frames. Today, ever the impulse-shopper, I bolted into a glasses shop and picked up some glorious vintage sunglasses for 50LE a pop (that’s about $10). Check out my sick new look:
SHRIMP SANDWICHES [GARDEN CITY; BAB EL-LUQ]
It won’t be much longer before it gets too hot to eat seafood without risking miserable hours clutching the toilet, so get thee to a fish source while you can. A personal favorite? The fried shrimp sandwiches at el-Nil fish restaurant on Sharia Bustan in Bab el-Luq (also, the best calamari I’ve had in Cairo, and, again, insanely cheap compared to other, more mediocre places that serve it) run you around 12LE, which, although it’s like four times more felooz kateer than koshari, is a whole lot more delicious. I also enjoy the shrimp sandwiches near my house on Qasr el-Aini (the Garden City side). If you eat in you get delicious salads (bonus!).
Given my ‘hood’s immediate proximity to Cabinet, Parliament, and many a Ministry, and given increased leniency to protesters (I need not remind you that I reside in a police state, at present), there have been a rash of workers’ protests, most of whom have been negatively affected by privatization (I know. SHOCKING.). Most recently are the Petrojet workers. Go fistbump them over on Maglis el-Shaab. They’ve started in the wake of the Amonsito workers’ recent departure, who, in turn, started up their protest on Qasr el-Aini mere days after our beloved Tanta protesters left the street I live on. I shan’t elaborate at present on the difference between protest here and in America (I guess what affects me the most is that here, a) it’s risky and b) it actually means something), but it would be a lie to say that it hasn’t really affected how I’ve been thinking about the Egyptian nation-state in the wake of the global neoliberal economy (in other words, I’m still a Marxist).
BONUS: This downloadable 12 volume Reference of Female Fronted Punk Rock 1977-1989. Helping me slosh through midterms like nothing else! This Holly & the Italians jam adequately sums up the way I miss America, especially Allston and Cambridge, right now. Lucky for me, there’s an ever-rotating list of favorites to help me cope with missing people and things and cats too much.
DOUBLE BONUS: I have two new cousins! David Frederick and Emily Halo (both surname Brown). Can’t wait to come back to ‘merica and meet these beautiful babes!