I don’t especially like to engage in long rants and  fist-shaking on the blog although I’ve succumbed to pressure on a few occasions. In fact the whole reason for creating the Horrors of Horus category on the blog was to vent on the bad experiences in Egypt – in my defense though I haven’t indulged there too often. And on the whole the troubles I encounter are no worse than in any other place, just more unique. But I think I’m entitled today. It’s been building up and the pressure cooker needs to let off its steam!!!

It’s ironic and co-incidental (tho maybe not completely so as there may be some Freudian slip relationship going on)  that I’m writing this rant during my least favorite part of the week; the weekly shout-off that stands in for what should be the most peaceful part of the week in an Islamic country – Friday around noon. My apartment in Garden City is flanked, though not immediately by mosques. So Every Friday, come time for the Gomah (or Jumma) prayers, I am subjected to an hour’s worth of 2 imams on loudspeakers belting out their sermons at top volume over loudspeakers, in seeming competition with one another. With due apologies to the more devout of my friends, this public enforcement of prayer does not anything to endear religion to me. I’m reminded of the worst part of growing up in Punjab when a similar loud-speaker war was waged virtually everyday in that case among clashing religious cultures – mostly Sikhs and Hindus – chanting or singing off-key and later threatening the others for disturbing their  respective prayers. Seemed then to hurl any benefits of said prayers far into the outfield. Is it worse or better here? Don’t know. At least because they’re all on the same side of the God fence no threats are ensued, but still, I wish they’d be quieter about their devotions. Aahh well, I suppose as an outsider to this culture and this religion, if  I don’t like it I should grin and bear it. Mostly I do, but like I said today is my day for opening valves and letting things spill…

There’s a reason for my having switched metaphor right then. Spill. rather I should say spit, hissing and gushing like the sound of the water that’s finally at long last after a hiatus of TWENTY FOUR HOURS has graced my apartment with its presence again. Water shortage should not be either a surprise (after all I live in a desert?) or something I’m unable to deal with (I grew up in India – water cuts were par for the course but with regularity) but I figure if they’re cutting off supply I should be warned. So I can plan ahead. Collect some in bottles for using in toilets and bathrooms and simple hand-washing. None of which was possible in my apartment for the past 24 hours. The odd thing was that it was only in my floor as far as I could tell. The lower floors had water (and I have a disgruntled sidebar about that – where I got chastised for trying to be considerate – which I may or may not talk about in more detail later) but neither my across the hall neighbor nor I had any.Suddenly yesterday morning it had stopped spontaneously. I had a sink overflowing onto the counters and dining table with dishes from the previous night’s dinner party, carefully timed so that Fawzeya would handle the bulk of the cleaning but she couldn’t work her usual magic. There was no water (or barely any at that time) and I think she may have used bottled water (GASP!) for the last of the cleaning. Anyway… even before she’s gotten here, I’d gotten some warning of the trouble and took the precaution of calling the University housing office but they came, checked, said the storage tank was nearly empty but that we’d be fine once it was filled – which apparently was happening – and that insh’allah [How I hate to hear that invocation – usually it means “I’m not doing anything about it”]  we’d have it running again sometime during the day.

Stupid fool for believing them. Until this morning there was not a drop to be dripped anywhere. Even the toilets were unusable – thank goodness I’m anosmic! I swear,  when the plumber finally came this morning – and only in response to a frantic phone call from yours truly to the University emergency number – and opened the tank (apparently the damn thing had been full for heaven knows how long but no one had seen fit to release the water to our flats) the sound of the flushes was as music to my ears!

So things were salvaged after a fashion, but really, if one is going to cut water supplies off shouldn’t they at least warn the residents? I think I know the culprits, it’s the same damn people who have been tearing down the apartment on the 7th floor and disturbing our Saturday mornings while at it for the past few weeks. But try getting an admission or explanation. The best is – “Now everything is okay doctor, il-hum-du-allah.” No point is asking for warnings in the future either. A shrug is the best answer I’m likely to get. ARRRRGH.

This water episode was just the final straw I think in a series of incidents big and small that have been pushing me inexorably to the I-can’t-wait -to-get-outa-here mode, even though I’ve not been here for two weeks in a row since June! The swine flu paranoia — killing all pigs (by pumping them full of pesticide) and then herding all of us in airports to take temperatures thereby ensuring that if any of us hadn’t been exposed by then we surely would be! That reached it’s zenith at the airports over Eid. Getting back in the dead of the night last Saturday, the place looked like an Indian railway station – people with bori-bistras (and here of course many women in their own personal boris) – camped out in every spare inch of space. And I’m not sure if this was my sleepy eyes imagining things or not, but I could have sworn that I saw a couple of guys on the luggage  conveyor belts the better to get their bags!

The black boogers, pollution etc are ever present. I won’t say more. But despite everything there are little things that redeem the place – after all one can’t be relentlessly unhappy when good mangoes are to be had. nd despite October having begun, I’m still getting really nice ones. The weather is improving and I get to see my friends (who grow more precious as my time with them is getting more limited) on a semi-regular basis. And the feluccas beckon round the bend. And a visitor will visit in a week. But God! what I wouldn’t give for a couple of more weeks of the halcyon days of the last of summer – on the beaches of Crete. Stay tuned for a full account, maybe. While I go take advantage of my newly restored gift of the Nile, that made 5000 years of Egyptian history possible -wet and wonderful, water.

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