About a week ago I went to a dance show with my friend Lorna, some visitors she was having and my roommates. We went to see a dancer called Randa that none of us had seen before. There is an internationally famous dancer named Randa Kamil; the one we were seeing wasn’t her.
At the Cairo Sheraton’s Aladdin restaurant, my roommates and I arrived to see the poster for Randa in a large wooden frame with two open wood-screen doors framing the picture. More on this later.
Without putting too fine a point on it, this dancer was skilled at the moves she was doing, but there weren’t that many of them. She was also chewing gum and refused to smile at anyone but her own musicians. This annoyed Lorna, who felt that Randa was basically phoning it in.
Suddenly the dancer began shouting something. “Naghawazee! Naghawazee!” Lorna explained that this means, “We’re getting married, we’re getting married.” The dancer then went into the room next to us where there was an engagement party going on. She got the entire family up, took them out to the main dance floor, took photos with them, got the young couple dancing and then danced with the various family members. After a while they drifted back into the other room, the musicians following, where Randa and the whole family began to sing a song together. Lorna said this is a typical scene at an engagement party, the whole family dancing and clapping and singing. It was lovely to see.
After this, Randa invited Lorna up to dance with her upon noticing that Lorna was singing along to the song being performed. I am always amazed at Lorna’s skill. Her sense of timing, her technique, and her joyous passion for dancing combine to make a performance I rarely see matched by any dancer. Randa had no idea what she was getting into. But after Lorna’s turn on the floor the bar had been raised and Randa’s performance improved dramatically. She brought out moves she hadn’t showed us yet during the evening, actually smiled at us, and even lost the gum. It was a really enjoyable show after that.
I’m actually telling this whole story to get to an incident that happened later, after Randa finished for the evening. Lorna got up again, wowing the audience as usual and getting cheers from all sides. Then a man got up from a neighboring table got up and came over to us, gushing about Lorna’s skill, how beautiful she is, what an amazing dancer she is, how he’d been amazed at her, and so on for about ten minutes.
Unfortunately, Lorna was sitting to my left and the man was on my right. The music was still playing so he was leaning far over the table in order to hear Lorna’s replies. I was squished up back against my chair trying to look like a piece of the wall and he was absentmindedly leaning on my shoulder. Then as he was saying goodbye to us he leaned down and petted me on the head! Ooh, I was annoyed. I wonder if anybody ever tried to pet Sophie Germain or Marie Curie or Jane Goodall on the head?! Although I don’t suppose those women often found themselves taking notes on the corner of a table in a swanky hotel after a belly dance show having just consumed several glasses of Egyptian rosé. And I wouldn’t class myself with them anyway. They contributed useful advancements to the font of human knowledge; I just go around watching belly dancing and drinking rosé.
Anyway, soon we all stumbled out of the restaurant and noticed that after the dance show ended some imaginative individual had closed the wooden screen doors on Randa’s poster frame. Now the frame only covered her neck and body, leaving her face visible. Randa’s poster now looked rather like a doll that had been tucked up for the night. We found this hilarious and took photos, though the humor may have been partly to do with the effects of the Egyptian wine.
A couple days later I found myself on the rooftop of a hotel overlooking the Zamalek football club. That’s football in the English sense. My friends and I had been minding our own business gossiping quietly amongst ourselves when we heard drumming and cheering coming from somewhere. We’d rushed to the edge of the roof to see that in the football stadium was: a football match going on.
No surprise there. But! In the stands some of the fans were standing in a pit-like structure at the bottom right down close to the field. They looked fairly ordinary. And then in a completely different section of the stands over to the right and at the top was a group of people (all men, I think) dressed in red, yellow and blue boiler suits. They looked like little sticks of solid color from our distance. It was very odd.
We tried to figure out why on earth these people were all dressed in solid one-color coveralls, and came up with several hypotheses: 1) minimum-security prisoners on an educational outing 2) some kind of professional league (janitors? race-car pit employees?) 3) mental patients and 4) just really rabid football fans.
Typically I found the mystery of the coverall men way more interesting than the game itself. We still haven’t figured it out, but photos of the Dustbinmen’s League can be found at the end of this album, if you want to share any ideas about what they might be!