Tag Archives: shisha ban

After the Elections

6 Dec

It’s been a week since the 2010 Egyptian Parliamentary elections.   Today finished up the process with the runoff elections, which were, in response to the rampant corruption, violence, and rigging of the first round, boycotted by all of the major opposition parties.  They’ve been called the worst elections in Egyptian history, and a turning point in the regime from playing along with the multi-party facade, if in a mostly conciliatory sort of way, to a parliament 96.5% controlled by the ruling party (according to first-round results).

After mulling over everything that I had seen and witnessed, I guess the biggest conclusion that I have drawn is that at the end of the day, Egypt is the people.  Even if processes fail, the people don’t go away.   When the government fails to provide, the people will find a way.  If the state were to completely collapse, the people wouldn’t just disappear.  Life goes on.  You still eat and breathe and provide for your kids.

Even though these elections could be the WORST EVER–and Egypt has been around a long time!!–most Egyptians still live out their lives without taking too much notice of the doings and goings on of the government, and I guess to some extent so do the people in every country.*  I only was aware of the runoff elections today by the slight increase in police sirens.

Of course, that’s not to say I don’t think government and all that is important.  But seriously, if Hosni Mubarak were to die and the government were to keep it from us, would we notice?  Would it even matter?

*With the large exception, of course, of the Alexandria shisha ban.  That has really gotten some people up in arms.


It’s the Little Things

13 Nov

Getting used to living somewhere new is always a process.  And it’s always the little things that are hardest to adapt to, because they’re things so entrenched in my lifestyle in the US that I don’t even think of them.  Things like:

Automatic Clothes Dryers.  They are virtually nonexistant in Egypt.  Why?  Because we have these!

Toilet Paper.  Actually, two specific issues about toilet paper.  First, it is not widely available in bathrooms in Egypt.  Bring a supply wherever you go, or learn to live without.  Second, (and more awkwardly) no flushing toilet paper.  If you use it, well…you’re gonna have to dispose of it.  In the absence of toilet paper, most western-style toilets have a little handle that turns on a little stream of water that you can use instead.

Smoking.  Smoking is a completely different social phenomenon in Egypt than in the United States.  In the US the mention of cigarettes is often followed by cringes, glares, and judgement.  In Egypt it’s assumed (if you’re a man) that you smoke, and even I’ve been offered quite a few cigarettes by friendly taxi drivers.  You’ll see people smoking at restaurants, cafes, standing around in the street, in taxis and cars, at home.  At hospitals.  Sitting in the back of pickup trucks.  Hanging out the back tram windows.

And that’s just cigarettes.  Shisha is another story completely.  There are constantly groups of men sitting out on street corners, puffing away at their shisha, drinking tea and Turkish coffee, and playing dominoes, for much of the day and night.

In light of the prevalence of smoking in Egypt, and the large role that Shisha plays in lifestyle and culture, it’s interesting to see the measures that the government is recently implementing to try to get the population to cut down on smoking.  Like this recent anti-smoking campaign, that puts gruesome or sometimes unintentionally humorous images on the front of cigarette boxes to deter smokers.


Or, like the recent ban on Shisha in Alexandria.  Smoking Shisha in public is currently illegal in Alexandria, since October or so.  I’ve heard from several disillusioned Alexandrians that the ban is mostly an effort of the Muhafez of Alexandria (the Governor) to rake in some cash, as violators of the ban–both individuals and cafe owners–can face hefty fines.   That’s not to say you don’t still see Shisha out in the streets.  With a network of good connections to alert cafe owners as to when police inspections will occur, the ahwas aren’t getting rid of their Shishas yet.  But you didn’t hear that from me.