High on …… body fat?

I walked into Cairo Jazz Thursday just as the members of High on Body Fat were stringing the opening chords to their first song. It was distinctly familiar, a tune i had heard before, but couldn’t place.  The duo Marwan and Safi, clad in their signature dark rimmed glasses and hats, opened with Arabic lyrics, confusing me even more. I liked the sound, but was trying so hard to figure out the song I wasn’t actually listening to what they were saying.

Suddenly, it came to me. Lady Gaga, Bad Romance. I focused just where she was supposed to sing, “I want your loving, I want your romance..” But instead I got: ‘”Mish 3aref 2a2af, Mish 3aref 2anam, yeb2a kalt bad betengan.” (I can’t stand, I can’t sleep, I must have eaten some bad eggplant) I cracked up, and they kept me laughing the rest of the show.

Politics, food, personal nuances, religion and fallen leaders. Nothing was off limits to Marwan and Safi. They even cracked themselves up while giving a stellar performance.  According to an interview they did with the Daily News Egypt right before their Arabs Got Talent run to the final round, they admintted it was sugar, not any other drug that kept them going. “We stay up as late as we can, stuff our faces with Twinkies and the songs just write themselves. Most of them get done in three or four hours.” Safi told DNE.

I met Marwan four years ago at the American University in Cairo, and had the pleasure of working with him on the school paper, The Caravan published his popular comic strip Driving Home, a parody on his own life. He was immense fun to work with, always laughing and cracking a joke. The Caravan staff worked late night Wednesdays, scrambling to meet the noon deadline for Thursday. Marwan didn’t have to be there, his strip was usually in on time, but every Wednesday he came in to help. He took pictures, helped with graphics and illustrations or just chilled, exuding his awesome vibes.

That’s the stuff High on Body Fat is made of. Two guys who really just like to let loose and laugh about the world. They aren’t out to prove a point or make a statement. They’ve got so much positive energy, all it requires is a sugar rush, on a crazy night they might introduce caffeine to the mix.

Good luck guys, looking forward to seeing more from you soon.


April 6

Sunday April 6 was a gloomy day all around.I wore black like I said I would, and went with the full intention of participating in what I felt was a unified voice against corruption.I was happy to see the streets empty.To me it meant people were taking a stance.I got out at Tahrir Square on my way as usual.Yet it was dark, because of the coming sand storm, and it was quiet.

Naturally security forces were everywhere.Dressed in their riot gear, they were prepared to strike at anyone who crossed the line.As I walked by, an obvious protester, I got menacing looks from all of them.I was frightened.

Students in the American University in Cairo pretty much stayed home.A lot of the professors didn’t want to deal with whatever the strike was, and decided not to hold classes that day.Many didn’t want to stand in the way of their students speaking their minds.Yet there was a fear that day that someone was going to get hurt.Of course there’s always the government you have to worry about too.

Some kids didn’t stay home.Some came to school, and protested in their own ways.Students went to Tahrir Square in hopes of making their voices heard, but their voices echoed in the silence around them.

The protest was thwarted by threats of imprisonment from the Egyptian government.People were scared, and the few that weren’t were stopped almost immediately.While I applaud the efforts of the strikers of April 6, this is not the way.

The last thing the Egyptian people need is to loose their young educated minds to the system of corrupt governance.When students from the Universities are arrested for lone acts of emotional outbursts it doesn’t help the cause.Don’t get me wrong.I’m not saying University students are useless.The South Korean regime was overthrown by University and High School students.I’m saying, if we want to do this, we need to do it right.

The government may have a lot of power, but history has shown that mass numbers makes a difference.Yet millions mean nothing if they can’t mobilize.So when my usually 20-30 minute ride took 8 minutes on Sunday morning I felt hope.Egyptians are starting to agree they can’t take it anymore, and they are agreeing to say something about it.

Street Kids

Zamalek is not your typical spot in Egypt. There is Diwan (the Borders of Egypt), Drinkies (the ABC of Egypt), random joggers, and lots of trees. A lot of khawaga (non-Egyptians) walk around with their shorts and backpacks. On the outside it could be mistaken for pretty Americanized city.

When I get a couple hours break from school, I go there. A friend of mine showed me a quiet spot right on the Nile. You can go have lunch and a smoke before having to head back to class. It’s relaxing being away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

As is typical in Egypt, we were approached by beggars. They were children, but didn’t have that hardened look of Egyptian street kids. They asked for change and we said we had none. They were persistent, and stayed for a little, still begging. At one point I thought to myself, “I wish they would go away.” I really had no change and guilt was beginning to settle in. Finally my friend yelled at one of them. As the kid walked away away he turned around and snorted at my friend.

My friend chased after him, and left me with the other boy. I looked down and asked, in Arabic, what his name was. I figured if a smile is charity, then a good conversation must be worth something.

Their names are Abdel-Rahman and Seeka. They live in Agouza, a province not too far from Zamalek. They come to this bridge every day looking for whatever change they can find. At the end of the day they go home to their parents to divide up their earnings. Abdel-Rahman’s father is blind, and his mother works selling bread for a living. Seeka’s father died in prison and his mother works cleaning carpets, houses, and anything else you can imagine.

I know street kids aren’t a new thing in Egypt. Hell, Seeka and Abdel-Rahman have each other and at least one parent. I went back though a couple of weeks later, and I was really happy to see them. I think the most enthralling is these children are smiling. I keep hearing that in Egypt life is difficult and the woe is me stories. Even I’ve lost hope in the Egypt I once imagined. Life is hard here. It is for these kids. They’re smiling.

Champions of mindless celebrating


Africa Final Cup

AH! In the words of Egyptians “Eh DAH!?” Usually a taxi ride from downtown Cairo to where I live is a difficult thing, but today was ridiculous. All for a soccer game? So it’s the African finals, so we are defending champions. But even the BASKIN ROBBINS was overflowing with people. Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy to see nationalism in my own country, kind of.

I empathize with my people.  They really don’t have much to look forward to, so it’s a boost. Yet I’d like to see this kind of reaction to real issues that hold importance for them, and for their children. This is a soccer game, a game.  Although it’s nice to beat out Cameroon for the African Cup of Nations, shouldn’t we start trying to get the masses together, in this same way, to stand up for important issues?

What about the border that is at the moment being pressured to change? What about unemployment in Egypt? What about the misrepresentation of Islam in Egypt? The treatment of minority people, and those that aren’t even classified as minorities? The dishonesty? The anger? The resentment you can see in a lot of  people’s faces? Why can’t the Egyptian people get together and cheer a CHANGE on?

I’m not disillusioned as most of my friends would think I am. I’m actually pretty realistic when it comes to most aspects of life. So I don’t think that the people can just get up and scream change, and not worry about what is going to happen. Journalists get arrested and political demonstrators tortured by the government regularly in Egypt. It’s a fact, and we all know it.

I do know this though. If everyone who simply owned a car went out into the streets of Egypt, traffic would stop, for hours and hours. Now imagine they go out and stop traffic for the purpose of demonstrating just ONE of the grievances they have with this country. Will the government be able to stop them? What would be the outcome? I don’t know, I don’t work for the government, and I’ve never been a part of a demonstration in Egypt.

I do know that a ten-minute ride took me an hour and half today, and I was lucky.