The Anniversary of Cotton and Cosmos
It’s impossible to pass through Egypt’s main cities without noticing the traffic. Our commute to school typically takes 45 minutes to cross 15-minutes worth of the city. Driving lanes are more guidelines than actual rules. The cars, microbuses, buses, motorbikes and taxis are waves in a tumultuous sea weaving in an out of traffic (oncoming or not). They stop abruptly and perfectly in the nick of time. The success of all the chaos hinges on the car-to-car conversation of honks, indicating who’s slipping into which opening, coming up a one-way road (perhaps from the opposite direction), and telling pedestrians they are about to make a tight blind turn. The pedestrians also engage in this conversation by gesticulating the route they want to take to the taxis and microbuses, which are looking to scoop up more passengers. For example, a tap on your wrist, as if asking what time it is, means you want the route going up Si’a Road, which is the word for watch.
While of course we’d all like to sleep in, the traffic on our commutes offers us such a unique vantage point. If there is little traffic, namely if it’s a Friday or nearing time for a protest, we drive speedily along, seeing Alexandria in fluid action. However, more often than not we see a close up of the passenger reading while packed into the microbuses or the brave pedestrian orchestrating a 6 car width crossing (which is definitely more complicated and different than crossing “6-lanes of traffic”). The traffic produces the perfect people-watching opportunity and presents a metaphor that echoes how some Egyptians have explained how their lives have changed since the revolution: the Egyptians caught in traffic are people in limbo, caught in transit but often not in motion or at least with an unknown amount of time ahead of them before they reach their destination. Out our windows we see what the media does not show that millions of people are living their daily lives in ‘a country in revolution.’ This is not to undermine or diminish the history being made, the lives lost, the injured and assaulted, and the story that is yet to be unraveled.
I am a bystander and an observer throughout the continuing Egyptian revolution. On the morning of the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, I awoke to the early sounds of a protest forming and the murmur of amalgamating voices from the people on the streets. Just like audiences all around the world, I watched the protests not from my apartment windows but from a news channel (in Arabic!). As I now go to sleep at the close of the first day (the first day of what the people have yet to decide), I fall asleep not with fear or lulled by riots as you many image but to the sound of a rooster. In a city of millions of voices, of Lincoln log stacked apartments, of protests, of history and of a billowing future, a rooster echoes in another day, and in’shalla a fresh start.