Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Checking Her Out

"You must come to Garden City with your iBook, to El Qasr Al Aini Street. Take a taxi."

"I don't know where that is. Can I take the metro?"

"Yes, take the metro." The Apple tech guy laughed. What was so funny?

It isn't expensive to take a taxi. It's just that I had no idea where I was going, and one surefire way to end up in a battle of wits and bluster with a taxi driver is to let on that you're fresh off the farm. So if a driver asked me where on El Qasr Al Aini Street, and I said I didn't know, I'd be asking for trouble. I'd rather stumble down the street trying to figure out which number is which. (Today I learned 7, which is a V. Confusing because 8 is the same, but upside-down. So I now remember that 7 has a V in s-e-v-e-n, and 8 is the other one.)

I went to the metro, bought my ticket, slid it through the turnstile, and took the escalator to the platform. I walked up to the front of the train, identified by a sign that said "Front of Train."

Why is there a sign that says "Front of Train?"

Because the front two cars are women-only cars. And having encountered my share of gropers in past trips to Cairo, I'm keen to avoid any potential groping situation.

I had just missed a train, so I stood, staring blankly towards the tunnel the train would come out of. The platform filled up with women. Women in headscarves. Women in long skirts, jeans, calf-length full skirts with boots, and full-on black cloaks with hoods. A few women showed their hair as I did, but we all dressed the same--frumpy modest. Layers and long sleeves, pants to the ankles. I wish I could say I was thinking ahead, dressing this way specifically for Cairo, but it's more my de facto way of dressing these days than any nod to the culture.

All the other women, about 20 of them by now, were staring blankly down the platform too. It's what you do on subways.

Then... a stunningly beautiful women sauntered by. She wore a tight horizontal-striped sweater, a dangling gold belt around a tiny waist, and tight black pants the flared out to bell bottoms, over stiletto heels. Her long, curly hair was black with frosted blond stripes, and Jackie-O sunglasses covered her eyes.

She walked all the way down the runway platform, halting at the very front of the train.

And twenty pairs of eyes, twenty heads, turned as one.

4 comments:

Marc Siry said...

Interesting that you're expressing confusion about the numbers, considering we were allegedly taught'Arabic' numerals in school (along with 'Roman' numerals).

Turns out it's a more complicated story than that (thanks, Wikipedia).

You could always carry around a printout of this telephone keypad:


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/d/d8/EgyptphoneKeypad.jpg/180px-EgyptphoneKeypad.jpg

Marie said...

"Since knowledge of the numerals reached Europe through the work of Arab mathematicians and astronomers, the numerals came to be called "Arabic numerals."[2] In Arabic language itself, the Eastern Arabic numerals are called "Indian numerals," أرقام هندية, (arqam hindiyyah) and a different set of symbols are used as numerals."

I've wondered about that for a long time and never gotten around to checking it out. Thanks, Marc.

Marie said...

Valentine's Day. Whoop-dee-doo. One of those holidays that you can sneer at when you're part of a happy couple, because it's such a stupid holiday. But then when you're all alone in the big world, you try hard to remember that it's a sneery holiday, but it just keeps sneaking up on you...

Linja said...

We were pretty much snowed in for Valentine's Day - iced in, to be exact. We made it to the post office but made it a point to be home before dark because (as you may remember) snow melts during the day in Virginia and forms black ice on the road when the sun goes down.

The ice took out electric lines all over the valley but not here. Lynn lost power for a while though. Good thing she has a wood stove.

/Mom