Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Over the Bridge Downtown

This picture is from Lonely Planet. I'll change it as soon as I get a better one myself.

Steve Franklin
was a Knight Fellow at the university. I never met him - he left before I got here. But I find his business cards all over my office.
I've been reading his blog lately. The other day, I found something on it that I had to steal.
See, it gets dark here around 5 these days. As I cross the Qasr el Nil bridge over the Nile, on my way home, I witness a scene that you can write novels about (people here have).
Back in August, Steve quoted an article from the LA Times (by Jeffrey Fleischman) about this scene, on his blog. Here's an excerpt:

CAIRO — The lovers and the fishermen, the street kids and the cops, the veiled girls and the flower sellers, they all come at dusk to the bridge over the Nile, stealing kisses and tugging their lines, escaping the heat and hoping for magic, the boys whispering promises bigger than their pockets as moonlit boats glide beneath them.

Hotel lights glow along the corniche in the distance and somehow Cairo’s grit and poverty are gone; night makes everything pure. That’s when dreams and memories unfold on the bridge.

Ibrahim Adel, a waiter, tells his fiancee, yes, he will one day own a restaurant. Yehia Helmi, a barber, lifts his grandson to the railing and points to a sail flickering in the darkness. Samir Shawki skitters with his buddies through the traffic. And Ali Mohammed Hussein, a sturdy man with a bent nose, sells wilted roses in cellophane.

The Qasr el Nil Bridge carries tens of thousands of cars a day, but at night its wide sidewalks are shoulder to shoulder with Egyptians. There is no sweeter spot for a cheap date, a refuge from big families and crowded apartments. A brush of the hand, a smile, all the subtle rituals of Muslim romance play out in tiny dramas amid the call to prayer and the river breeze.


Craig said...

That bridge was also part of my daily commute when I was in Cairo, and re-reading this excellent piece, by the LA Times's Jeffrey Fleischman, makes me nostalgic. Cairo certainly has its charms.

Yasir, you should take a walk into the little park on the Gezira side of the bridge, where couples snuggle in the bushes and rub noses (among and other things) outside the watchful eye of the glaring Cairo headlights. It's more than worth the price of admission (which, for foreigners, was still only about 30 cents).

And it's a helluva lot cleaner than the fish grotto!

Yasir Khan said...

You're right, that park is a great walk. Took that route on the way home the other day for LE2. It's so quiet down there. Was a little early for the lovers, though. But there were some. All the exit gates were locked, so I had to jump the fence to get out at the other end.

The other neat thing there is the Queen boat - an abandoned carcass amid the other fancy restaurant boats. Will write about that soon.