Amnesiac and the Pig are cruisin’ in the Corolla on the traffic-free Maadi Corniche.
It is a Friday, and the Islamic new year holiday, and Cairo can stretch and yawn into the empty other side of the bed, still warm and recently vacated by its poorest migrant workers and richest long-weekenders.
The weather is trademark Egyptian winter: intensely sharp coldness bathed in the sun’s languid heat. The azure perfection of the sky is rivalled only by the anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better silky blueness of the Nile waters, and everything and everyone gleams in the incandescent brilliance of the sun.
Amnesiac has not seen a single donkey or horse being beaten. She has not in fact seen any working animals of any description. She has only seen cats chillin’ on roofs. This is the kind of thing which makes her happy.
Adding to her general joie de vivre is the fact that Ilham el Madfai is singing ‘Baghdad’ on the car stereo, his richly sad love song/lament for the city he loves.
Ilham: We ensy el 3ataab, faqad neseet 3ataaby etc etc [forget blame, because I have put reproach behind me]
Amnesiac: Allaaaah etc etc
The Pig: He doesn’t sing in tune.
Ilham: [ignoring the Pig]: 3aynaak ya Baghdaaaaad, mondhu tefoolity [your eyes, O Baghdad, since my childhood]
Amnesiac: [ignoring the Pig]: Doesn’t matter. His voice is full of shagan.
The Pig: Hmm.
Ilham: [rababa solo]
Amnesiac: [Practically in tears because of its exquisite sadness, and also because of PMT]: This rababa solo is gorgeous!
The Pig: It’s not a rababa, it’s a violin.
Amnesiac: No, it’s a rababa.
The Pig: La2 it’s not. Etc etc.
Ilham: la tunkury wajhy…fa anty 7abeebaty…we woroud maa2edaty [do not deny my face, for you are my darling, the roses on my table]
Amnesiac: Yaaa “ you are the roses on my table!” Gorgeous!
Ilham: …We ka2ss shuraaby* [and my cup of life. Literally “the cup of my drink”]
The Pig: And my socks ya3ni.
Amnesiac: Do you realise that I will never again be able to listen to this, one of my favourite songs, without thinking of footwear?
The Pig: [Looks straight ahead and smiles the smile of a boy who has just kicked his worst enemy’s football onto an unreachable roof.]
* shuraaby is a homophone which can mean either “my drink” or “my socks,” for allegedly comic effect.