Good bye, City Victorious


This time I took a decision. I sent an email, received a reply. That was it. But I did it. I knew it would be hell of a commute but I’ve trained myself to lower the voice of worries in my head. To switch between my thoughts. To turn my head off when it gets too noisy.

And I did it. My stubbornness and fear of defeat kept me committed.

Of course, as expected, the commute was dreadful. Crossing Greater Cairo from its east to its west every day was exhausting. Cutting my way every single day through the main arteries of the city and staying sane in the middle of all its chaos was a daily contest. But every day I’ve decided I’d win. And the prize would be getting back home later that evening.

And I survived. Actually, I didn’t only survive, I did enjoy it. For the first time in forever, I felt that I was living in Cairo. For the first time, I would watch the city wake up every day hopefully attempting to function in the chaos. I would admire the skyline swallowed by the darkness of the night, and little dots of light would gradually shine decorating the city. For the first time, I become part of it. Part of its daily rituals. I’d see its buildings, one after the another, happily coated in fresh white paint. I’d see the hopeful new sets of traffic signals in its streets and the new interlock blocks on its sidewalks.

Riding along 6th of October Bridge every day was a constant reminder and a daily farewell to the city that had me for the past five years. As I pass by Maspero I remember analyzing the area behind the massive television building. As I glimpse the Ramses Hilton tower I am reminded of the day we climbed up to the top floor to gaze at the city from above. As I pass along the Ramses Road, I see that Greek Orthodox Church I once walked by and was overwhelmed by the details on its facade. As I pass through downtown, I can see its maps in my head,  Khedive Ismail’s ambitious plans, directly recalling history class and the thick Italian accent of my history professor. Passing by the striking orange façade of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, I instantly picture my semester four children’s museum design project coming out of the ground beside it. I can almost hear the kids playing in its stepped gardens with the ancient Egyptian farming equipment.

As I approach Ramses Square, I remember the day I came here to get a plan of sewage lines from the Greater Cairo’s Sewage Company and being dragged from one office to another until I reached a big air-conditioned office with a man in a suite behind a polished wooden desk who hardly looked at me and managing to get out of the building with the plan in my hands. In colors. I remember standing in front of the building wondering how to get back home.

As I pass by the train station, I remember that day trip to Alexandria and the first class train with the exceptionally wide leg room. I remember my friends and I making fun of the station’s newly but horribly renovated interiors while waiting for our relatives to pick us up.

The panoramic views of Cairo roll by frequently disturbed by the gigantic billboards. But the massive Al Nour Mosque, in Abbasiyya, with minarets piercing the sky doesn’t fail to capture all eyes passing by. In the distant background, lie Al Muqattam hills, overlooking the city. The Citadel, by the hills being the city’s guardian, and my 11-year-old-self staring back at Cairo from above that hill.

We slide down from the bridge to land in Heliopolis, Oh Heliopolis. My all-time favorite district. The gem of Eastern Cairo. Oh Heliopolis, Oh the endless memories.

My last days in the city, I am reminded with the endless times I studied its maps and satellite images, the endless analysis and site visits. The accumulation of my five-year study of Architecture and Urban Design in Cairo.

Today, I say good bye. Good bye City Victorious. ­


A Story of Losing

I stared at my face in the mirror and tears rolled down my cheeks. That reflex that took place every time I see what has been left of myself in the mirror. I stared into this lifeless greyish face that has lost its round youthful cheeks and brushed my fingertips along its edge. That time, I could feel the bones of my skull. I could feel my cheekbones and the edginess of my chin. My eyes followed my finger and I saw a visible rib cage. I looked at my knees and I could clearly see the bones.

Who is she?

I looked back at her face, or what’s left of it, and my tears blurred it out. I sat on the wet bathroom floor and put my arms around myself. And wept.

A couple of months later I am back at my parent’s house. I stare down at the changing digits on the glass weight balance and the number on the balance is a number I have always wanted to see. A number I knew that if I have ever gotten to see I would have reached the perfect weight.

I have lost 8 kilograms in just a couple of months. Something I would have never ever imagined would happen to me. I haven’t even tried to go on a diet in a very long time. Thus, reaching this perfect weight without trying was a beautiful surprise. A beautiful surprise from a horrible depression that has swallowed me for the past couple of years. But sometimes, sometimes, there is a beautiful ending.


Photo Courtesy: New York Times

Photo Courtesy: New York Times

She heard a voice calling from far away. It kept coming nearer. Her body kept shaking. She felt the ice cold floor underneath her and the wet wool blankets that wrapped around her. She knew it was a miracle. She hoped it was a miracle. She hoped her deadly journey had finally come to an end.

The darkness has surrounded her for a couple of days now, along with the crashing waves, the constant cries of little children, the illnesses, the throwing of dead bodies into the sea to keep room for the ones alive, the striking hunger, the crushing sound of thunder, and the sound of bombing she still hears wherever she goes. She knew she would be risking her life, but she couldn’t care less. She had nothing to lose anyways because she had already lost it all: her home was bombed, her newborn child was slaughter in front of her eyes and her husband was taken hostage and was never seen again.

She heard heavy steps approaching. Then someone was standing beside her. She could make out two tall silhouettes and a neon light in the background that was directed on a waving flag with three vertical stripes: red, white and green. A man’s voice shouted but she couldn’t understand. It was a language foreign to her and she was immediately sure that it was the miracle she had hoped would happen. She was in a safe land.