Monday, February 11, 2008

We're Ghana party*

I have never, ever seen anything as bonkers as last night’s post-African Cup glory celebrations, which I (forcibly, given that we couldn't move the car for two hours after the match) enjoyed in the vast boulevard of Nasr City’s Abbass el Akkad Street.

The game itself we watched on a TV on top of a fridge in a Shisha den with pretensions of being a Parisian café. It was called Excellan, and wasn’t at all.

But who cares about pizzas which made Umm Nakad vomit and orders which never arrived when one is watching the pride of Egypt win! It was a fantastic game, despite Metaab’s appalling miss. I have always previously turned a blind eye to the fact that Metaab is actually quite a poor player because he has such lovely hair, but can no longer continue to do so with a clear conscience.

Superstar Abu Trika! Wael scary Gomaa! Zedan and his 90s rapper hairdo! Hagary and his fantastic bum reactions! And, of course, Hassan Shehata. I love Hassan Shehata, there’s something reassuring and solid about both his constant, scowling curmudgeon and his mullet + moustache combo. I am beginning to wonder whether I missed my calling as a top international football coach because as far as I can work out all you need is 1. a short fuse, 2. a liking for chewing gum 3. a surly disposition - all of which I possess.

It was during the awards ceremony that an uprising without the violence or regime change erupted outside. In the space of approximately ten minutes the four lane street was brought to an absolute halt, choked with flag-waving, roaring madmen, a bit like 7eyna Meysara without the misery. I had thought that - being of British heritage - I knew everything there was to know about post-match frenzied lunacy, but yesterday’s celebrations were of a different nature altogether.
There was a surreal quality to it, the black, white and red of hundreds of flags drifting through the darkness, suddenly illuminated by the flame from the impromptu torch of an aerosol can’s spray set ablaze upwards into the sky. And through these lights thousands upon thousands of people walking and dancing and singing and charging through the streets to a symphony of ole ole ole, and masr…masr.

I saw women sitting on car roofs clutching babies as the cars paraded through the streets, a young man dragged along the ground behind a speeding car until he conceded defeat and released his grip and rolled to a halt, six children sitting in the boot of a car while in front an entire family clapped and cruised their way through the crowds, a topless man dancing to sha3by music on the roof of a car, two men smoking on the top of a 50 metre high advertising hoarding, a man sitting on the bonnet of a car as it sped along October Bridge at at least 50 km per hour.

It is not an exaggeration to say that yesterday the populace took over the streets in a night of organised and markedly police-free chaos. I didn’t see a single policeman yesterday night, not even a police car. Compare this with the protest I had attended earlier that afternoon, when a doctors’ protest (which was attended by perhaps 60 mostly middle-aged, extremely sedate, protestors) apparently required some 300 plus riot police.

How is it that thousands of young men in a state of heightened excitement can take to the streets without at least a few acts of major vandalism/physical assault occurring? Is it because alcohol is (mostly) taken out of the equation? I couldn’t help but compare with the UK, where football matches require major police mobilisation to control and contain the inevitable fallout afterwards.

Perhaps it’s because Egypt’s young people are so used to being watched and patrolled by an intrusive and controlling state apparatus that simply descending into the streets en masse and shouting and dancing is enough to placate the stifled instinct for rebellion which surely must exist.

Or perhaps it’s because last night we could for once say that we love Egypt because of something, rather than despite everything.

*Post title is unabashed recycling of an earlier post's title. Inability to resist poor wordplay yet again prevails.

5 comments:

Safiya Outlines said...

Definitely the lack of drink, or rather the lack of the British style of drinking and drunken behaviour.

fully_polynomial said...

Things like this make me *really* miss Egypt. I remember 1998 when I was partying on the streets as well. What a great time.

This post, with the pictures, made me really happy. In a bittersweet way, but happy nonetheless. Thanks for posting it.

(I was reminded of how completely unpredictable Egyptian fans can be when I watched a short segment on Nile sports, covering the post-game celebrations, when a very decent young man who was being interviewed all of a sudden said "ana 3ayez ba3d el foz el 3azeem da 22oul 7aga mohemma gedda: A7a, a7ouh, 2al aih 3ayzeen yakhdouh!*" and the chant was immediately repeated by like 200 people standing behind the guy. It was definitely surreal.

* popular (and dirty) chant questioning the temerity of the other team wanting to win.

DailyAntics said...

Hadary's fantastic reactions...hmmm..yes...they bring a smile to my face :)

Forsoothsayer said...

gam3et el dowal certainly saw more than its share of vandalism and gropings etc, if only half of the accounts i heard from the many friends in the vicinity are to be believed. the whole place was on fire, cars collapsed, people were hurt and God knows what. having suffered through an experience just like yours at one of the earlier game, i watched the final at deals where the service was amazing and there was a projector. and beer. i wish i'd thought to invite. it was an amazing game.

Will E. said...

Egyptians felt like they were victorious and I mean each individual, not just as a whole. You can always appeal to their sense of decency if they slip up.. they feel honour in the win and most likely won't do anything dishonorable.. I mean if they do the can easily be reminded..

The majority on that night feel that they're worth something, that they're real champions.

Like I said before, it's the one night where their is minimal antagonism or rivalry on the street, where people integrate and their worlds combine and instead of a thousand different reasons for a common distaste for Egypt, everyone has common reason for loving Egypt.