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by Fred Glick
posted 12-23-00

Last night, it rained.

Now for those of you reading this from the Bay area, or even New York City, that may not sound so exciting, but when you live on the edge of a vast desert AND you were out of town for the year’s only previous rainfall, it’s a big deal.

Cairo is a wonderful city, but it is brown. There’s no denying it, the city is brown. The buildings are painted light brown, and with time (well, not really so much time) they develop a generous patina of, yes, a darker brown. I’ve heard tell of parks, but I haven’t ever actually seen one. And there are a few trees, even on my downtown street, but they too have a distinctly brownish coating.

Think Ireland, think lush green fields. Think Egypt, think brown, think sand.

Not that this one rain is going to make the desert bloom. Nor the streets. But it did manage to wash a bit of the grime out of the air, off the buildings, off the beleaguered trees.

More than anything though, it’s the novelty of it. Like a snow storm in Southern California, it catches people unawares and at one o’clock in the morning, cars were moving down my street at five miles per hour, afraid of the rain. People were scurrying across from one overhang to the next with their heads wrapped in plastic bags. And a few young couples were out splashing through the puddles, hand-in-hand.

As for myself, I didn’t even recognise the sound of it. I thought, “those damn cats must REALLY be going through the garbage tonight.” But once I saw what it was, I rushed to the front balcony to watch, and smell, the rain coming down.

With rare poetry, my dictionary defines exotic as having the charm of the unfamiliar; strikingly and intriguingly unusual or beautiful.

Rain in the desert.

The pre-dawn call to prayer, bustling souqs and the constant reminders that everything, from the continuing supply of water to the arrival of the taxi at my destination, is at the pleasure of Allah. These are not the exotic, they are the noise outside my window everyday, the place I buy my vegetables, a common refrain to the discussion of an event that has yet to occur: insha’lla.

But a well-stocked supermarket, orderly traffic, gardens, these are striking to me, intriguing. My family wonders why I spend so much time at the supermarket when I come for a visit; why when I first arrive in the US I don’t want to drive; why I carry plants back with me in my luggage.

We try to carry the exotic home with us, so we can enjoy it everyday. But like the hothouse flower, or the tarragon on my Cairo balcony, it is only with great care and trickery that we make the exotic take root where it does not belong. More often than not, we fail; but when we succeed, the exotic becomes a little less so.

This morning, the rain is gone. There are a few wet gutters, a puddle here and there, but the whole event was an aberration. Unusual, unfamiliar, and yes, even beautiful.

(c) 2000 by FD Glick

Go to the next article:
Cairo's Costume Disasters by Leyla Lanty.
Go to another review by this author:
Club Galia Grand Opening 
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