Guest Post: You Know You Live Downtown Cairo When….

As a mom who is miles away from all but one of her children, I am acutely aware of my inability to protect them. There are also times when I realize how much I don’t know about their lives. This awareness reached a new level when I read a post that my daughter had written from February 6th on living in Cairo, specifically downtown Cairo. So today’s post is a guest post from that day by my daughter, Annie. It is a reminder to me that Egypt is fragile, and people live everyday within the fragility. It is a reminder to pray for Egypt and for those who live there, both Egyptians and others.

Started a meme in my head, “You know you live Downtown when…” It goes something like this. YOU KNOW YOU LIVE DOWNTOWN CAIRO WHEN:

  • You carry your gas mask with you, everywhere, just in case.
  • You carry loads of cash, in various pockets, all over your person, just in case.
  • Your getaway bag is packed and ready if need be, right next to the cat carrier, just in case.
  • You walk down your street, thank the young man who is at the ready to spray saline solution into your gas-afflicted eyes, and carry on your merry way.
  • You direct your guests first to the baking soda, with which to wash their burning face, then to the arak which is somehow the only alcohol you have insanely copious amounts of.
  • You begin to notice that your tolerance for this gas stuff is a lot higher than others’.
  • You’ve developed a significant prescription drug habit.
  • You begin to prefer walking alone; others’ skittishness during gas-induced stampedes impedes your own perfected ability to walk calmly and quickly in any given situation.
  • Your ear is trained to know which bangs warrant going onto the balcony, and which don’t. (Fireworks are worth it; the displays are always well-done, bless you football fans)
  • When the police are out, you don’t leave the building.
  • You check Twitter to make sure you can get home, even though you’re fully aware of how largely useless it is.
  • You resent your friends for not checking the news before they talk to you, you resent your family for not being more worried about you, you resent acquaintances for telling you to “be safe”.

* * *

Today, a G-Chat with Tony:

me: tony I am worried about reintegrating into a society where there aren’t bombs and gunshots always

Knowing you have to get out (sanity? I guess?) but knowing that you can’t. Knowing that, just like last January, just like October, November, next week will be different. Next week will be art shows and dinner at Greek Club and late-night screaming matches at Stella and dinner parties and brunch at the CFCC and buying your produce just like nothing ever happened.

The thing I learned is that humans are so simultaneously fragile and resilient.

Annie on her rooftop, downtown Cairo

11 thoughts on “Guest Post: You Know You Live Downtown Cairo When….

    1. Mine as well Sophie! It’s the flexibility, resiliency, fragility thing….our parents lived it, didn’t they? Although I’ll say that nothing in our overseas experience has quite paralleled the past year for Annie.


  1. Thank you for this, it truly amazes me the love of a Mother’s heart and the trust we put in God’s hands, for where else can we put it? We have to have that faith to keep our babies safe when we can’t be there to put our arms around them…

    We just watched a video about Africa and this tribe that does what is called a ‘ water walk’ and it’s two hours there and two hours back, they do this every day, they do this for survival, they do this for their children, this is the woman’s work’. This water wouldn’t be fit to run down our streets, it breaks my heart.

    How can we help, what can we do?

    Thank you! You made me think, you made my heart break, it needs that, for it can get way to jaded…



  2. Wow, thanks so much for the blog post. I have so much to learn from people like you – who are living in difficult situations, and yet know that they love the place…enough to stay. And to make light of it all! I really had to laugh at your comments regarding Cairo. You’re amazingly resilient! :) Keep on!
    Yes, definitely a reminder to pray for Egypt … but also for a country close to my heart these days – Syria. How many people there are sticking it out, actually smiling in the storm? I think many!
    Thanks again. I’m inspired by you!
    Love the photo, by the way. :)


  3. Annie, Like so many of your Mom’s posts, yours is a gift. Your words tell a story I want to hear and understand. I never want to assume what others feel, but I think I hear your longing for others to understand the magnitude and import and risk and intensity of what you are living, and yet understand, and not judge, how much you are drawn to stay. You’re a strong, smart woman, and I, too, think you’re where you want to be. Please keep writing!! Your experience tells a story of that fragility and resiliency that we don’t hear, with your insight and honesty, from most of the media. I will continue to hold you and the people of Egypt in my thoughts and prayers.


  4. Classic sentiments in Annie’s blog! Really remind me of a time some 30 years ago when I was living in Tehran and going through the ups & downs of the Islamic Revolution there under Ayatollah Khomeini. Up on the roof at night watching, hearing the saga unfold to the accompanying shots eerily heard across the rooftops of the city at night: “Allah-u-Akbar!” I think Annie’s right where she loves to be–living through the thrill of history unfolding before the world’s eyes. Hopefully, a better history for your average Egyptian than the Islamic Revolution of Iran turned out to be for the average Iranian. I think maybe it’s time for another change to start blowing in the winds over Tehran…


    1. Great to hear from you Wes. And not surprised you can relate. What I love about this comment is that you get that Annie is right where she loves to be. That’s what’s difficult to explain to people. As hard as some of this is, when friends urge her to come to the US she struggles and knows they don’t get it. In terms of Egypt – yes, honest and beseeching prayers for a better history and outcome. How are you all doing? Think of you everyday as Afghanistan pops up on my newsfeed.


      1. We are doing well and think we’ll survive through this first winter, which has been an extra cold & snowy one. Our cast-iron wood-burning stove is a life-saver! The new house is slowly, but surely, becoming a home. Recent days we kept a pretty low profile, but things are now back to “normal,” though as Bruce Cockburn once said/sang: “the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.” Prophetic? We hope & pray things here will stabilize and improve–and that the people here can know peace.


      1. Yes, it’s the kind of thing you’d not want to miss for anything when you’ve been given the privilege to be in the thick of it. Just keep the mask handy!


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