Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Dump

There is a view of Cairo late at night that reminds of the foothills south of San Francisco.  Driving on the Autostrade, just after passing the monstrosity of military-inspired apartment blocks and before hitting the grand Citadel of Mohamed Ali, white lights twinkle through the mist on a hill to the left.  Then one continues on, and the image passes away into the smog of decrepit vehicles, illegal mud-brick factories and burning garbage.  During the day, even this passing mirage of beauty is impossible to reconstruct, as the twinkling lights are nowhere to be seen in the squalor of half-constructed blocks, lethal boulders and pools of raw sewage in one of the city's most drug-infested and chaotic neighborhoods.  The view across the road that used to help erase this desperate site, of the beautiful minarets of Islamic Cairo and still-alive City of the Dead, is now gone, blocked by a monotonous, crooked and permanently exhaust-polluted brick wall that some municipal idiot must have thought helps the area appear more civilized.    
Made for TV

The iconic nighttime image of Tahrir Square, and what it is alleged to represent, is similarly illusive.  From a distance, the mass of people, rhythmic chants, waving flags and high-sounded proclamations of freedom looks so very inspiring.  Closer in, the reality of the dirt, smell, loud mouths and thuggish power grabs is much uglier.
If bringing the masses to this Tahrir is the best of the "revolution" -- and from the eager proclamations of its proponents, it is -- then heaven help us when the worst comes out.

A fading Egypt


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