A few weeks ago my language partner showed me one of her favorite street cafes in Alexandria. In her words, “its the hawa balody I go to when I want to impress someone.” I left the phrase hawa balody in transliterated Arabic because it better alludes to Egypt’s idiosyncratic cafes; they truly are the national coffee cafes as the literal translation reveals, or to be more accurate Nescafe cafes. Lipton and Nescafe have cemented themselves more thoroughly than the British and the French colonizers and puts the Turkish influence left by the Ottoman rule to shame. But as any tourist guide will tell you Egyptian locals, predominately men, will sit at these cafes drinking nescafe, lipton tea, mint tea, all with mounds of sugar, smoking hookah, playing chess or dominos, and feeding the stray cats.
This hawa balody does not unfurl to meet the street but is stowed in a beautiful hidden atrium down an one-way alley between two restaurants, opening up in relief into a dust painted and collapsing intersection of facades pointing straight up to the sky to funnel down the streams of light to remind us, as it conveys more particles of dust, that this is not the first face of Egypt. (This is the closest I have found to an Alexandrian huzn to borrow Orhan Pamuk’s use of it.) My desire to share this visage of Alexandria has been so strong ever since I saw it that I took my friend despite my vow to not waste my limited funds for the day on tea. I enjoyed my tea, drinking in more of the view, which surprisingly almost satisfied my hunger in ways the other portion of rice and mixed veggies did not.
Day 4 was the easiest so far because I decided to have a substantial breakfast of oatmeal rather than an apple as I did days 1-3, and have lighter lunch and dinner. This spread my hunger out between meals and since I made sure to drink tons of water was manageable as I had classes from 9 am till 6 pm to keep my mind occupied. Not to say that being hungry in class is not a huge distraction but having feed my brain in the early morning, was one that was much controllable than previous days.