Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sod off 2007, hello 2008!

The fit tannoura dancer while in another space-time dimension, captured by Oosha.
2007 was a turd of a year filled alternately with joblessness, and the low-level torture of working in a job I hated, and poverty, and pointless reflection on the quagmire of life. Overall it was like setting out on a never-ending journey through a British suburb in a car which keeps running out of petrol while not even knowing if you’re going in the right direction because you don’t where you’re going in the first place.

Oddly, many of my acquaintances were also treated badly by naughty 2007 and will be glad to shoo it out of the back door. But life being what it is, things have suddenly started looking up recently, as if a Barry White song has come on in the disco of life after endless Celine Dion. This is due to:
1. Employment does not necessarily equal a living death

My pathological aversion to prolonged sitting at a desk narrows my employment options considerably and, I always thought, condemned me to a career in manual labour, street-walking or working on a chain gang, none of which offer dependable pension plans as required by my father.

Imagine my joy then when I discovered that journalism rarely involves a desk and instead I am paid to write stuff and roam about Cairo talking to interesting people. A round of applause for life please, ladies and gentlemen, and here’s hoping that I don’t balls things up. Or at least not during the 3-month probation period.

2. Weddings

I have been to a record-breaking two weddings in two weeks this December. For an unmarried 31-year old woman with a parent who claims she can hear the hiss of my ovaries slowly decomposing, this is akin to a shipwrecked yet content man watching as two distant boats slowly drift past on the horizon while behind him his mother roars at him about her overpowering need to return to civilisation, and Mothercare.

But moving on.

The first wedding was in fact Mauve Bubble’s second wedding. To the same man. She had her English wedding in August, which was full of country dancing in the rain and Dabke. Her second wedding - planned entirely by, and for, the Egyptian side of her family - was on a boat, and featured a belly dancer with two stomachs and a dwarf tannoura dancer – what else could you ask for!

(N.B. As I understand it the word dwarf is offensive, but I am unable to find the correct, EU-approved epithet. Wikipedia’s dwarf entry goes on about Nordic fairy tales.)

The short tannoura dancer was part of a two-man act featuring another, tall (and well fit) tannoura dancer who span round with glasses of water on his head while making quips at the audience. These two were succeeded by the aforementioned belly dancer who, like a starfish, had two stomachs (i.e. layers of fat separated by a belly chain) but, unlike a starfish, refused to stay still. Luckily for the men, she had a huge rack which distracted them from the quivering flesh underneath and, luckily for the rest of us, she changed outfits for her second dance, sparing us the sight of the unbaked dough.

The second wedding was that of Fully P, a regular guest of this blog who married his lovely bride also on a boat, but this time upstream in Zamalek. Fully P was the hardest-working bridegroom ever, and spent the entire evening dancing his one dance move (pogoing) to the many, different varieties of music played. When he wasn’t doing this (and actually sometimes while doing this) he was remonstrating with the DJ, who insisted on playing tracks twice and, when the cake was brought out, decided to launch a house track at brain-exploding volume. Fully P bounced over and had a word and he and the missus were soon cutting the cake to the lovely sounds of the Beatles.

This was also the tallest wedding I have ever been to, with a veritable forest of lady guests who were all seven-foot and made me feel like the tannoura dancer. Another notable event was the presence of a man who when he smiled looked like our beloved President Hosny in that ubiquitous poster of him when he was 55 years old. Then another guest arrived who looked spookily like my former boss and human rights crusader Hafez Abu Seada. Imagine my, and Umm Nakad’s delight, when the two began a conversation at the buffet by the cheeses: a momentous occasion in Egypt’s political history witnessed only by a piece of Boursin.

I am ashamed to say that like the child that I am I made Umm Nakad stand next to them so I could document this important event (and pretend that I was photographing her) but getting them both in the frame would have required her to sit on their laps.

The crowning moment of the night, however, was witnessing this magnificently rolled hairdo a la Victorian lady, sported by a member of the band which played during the zaffa (it was even rolled at the front, making his hair super tall):

3. Films which didn't make me want to destroy furniture over people's heads

I am still smarting slightly at Heya Fawda but two good films have almost made up for its poorness. El Gazeera, about a Sa3eedi drugs baron, was hugely entertaining and not just because Basem Samra was in it. Having just about despaired of ever speaking Arabic properly, I have decided to start having private lessons in Sa3eedi with Oosha from Assiut who in any case likes to lapse into Sa3eedi on regular occasions.

Yesterday I saw 7eyna Maysara, and came out wanting to set fire to myself so depressing was it. It’s directed by Khaled Youssef, who co-directed Heya Fawda but 7eyna Maysara confirms that the unctuous sentimentality of that film was all Chahine’s doing.

7eyna Maysara is set in an impoverished informal housing area (I would love to know where the opening shots used during the credits were filmed, if anybody knows) and presents the daily battles and tragedies faced by the film’s main characters. It is full of misery, abandoned babies, street children, violence, theft and injustice i.e. the stuff of daily life. What makes the film so hard-hitting is its realism: while the plot is slightly contrived in places, overall it is hugely (and lamentably) believable. In fact, at the end of the film the director explains that he was unable to present an entirely accurate version of Egyptian society because the reality is just too horrific.

The acting was terrific, the characters humanised (rather than the usual two-dimensional cartoon characters) and even the ending, while it was unsatisfying somehow, resisted lapsing into and-they-all-lived-happily-after.

My only problems with the film were its timing (great swathes of years lapse in one shot while elsewhere a minute seems to last a month) and its treatment of the Islamist terrorist group theme, which was slightly off. Perhaps it’s just Umm Nakad and me who have a bee in our bonnets about this, but comedy torture scenes really irk us.

7eyna Maysara in fact did what Heya Fawda attempted to do, which is show us how badly people suffer when bullies rule the roost.

4. The Egyptian judiciary gives two fingers to litigious morons
I was incredibly heartened by the decision yesterday to throw out the case launched by Abdel Fattah Murad against a group of human rights websites. The court emphasised the importance of freedom of expression within the bounds of public order, and told Murad to sod off. Hoorah! And here’s hoping for more of the same in 2008.

Happy new year to you all, and I hope your 2008 is filled with wowzers blazers things.


Memz said...

hey hey~ So I just say Heya Fawda a mere 20 minutes ago. I fully agree with your critique from a few posts back. I think the storyline had so much potential and was rediculed. I was surprised by the level of praise. I guess macro thinking people wouldnt like it as much as micro thinking people.

I am going to see 7een Maysara tomorrow; I wonder if again we will agree.

Forsoothsayer said...

i believe the phrase is "little people"? happy new year, told O to bring u to party.

fully_polynomial said...

Well, I've always excelled in anything where sheer enthusiasm can compensate for lack of talent.

Thanks for coming :)

Amnesiac said...

Memz: What did you think of 7eyna Maysara? I wrote about it for work:

newsjunkies said...

you work for dailynews egypt? great, can you please tell them, for the love of everything that is good in life, to please please fix their website. It has been non operational now for nearly six months with error signs popping up everywhere. We need news. Please don't forget, we are depending on you. Don't forget now, will you?

Memz said...

Amnesiac, sorry it took a while to report back :P

Well 7eyna Maysera was much better than Heya Fawda. I think that was the case since this was more of a macro story than the later. The writting was great but not fantastic and I did not expect such a strong ending.