Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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EGYPT: Christmas in Cairo

December 11, 2008 |  3:59 am

Gizapyramidshmed3p_2Here we are in the coming winter of hard skies. Cairo. Men in tunics coil turbans, sniffles in their noses. Fires burn, garbage smokes. Stones grip the night’s chill. Delivery boys pedal through morning and girls in white linen hijabs hurry over train tracks.

Gruff dudes sell Christmas trees in the roundabout, but the silver tinsel and the pop-up cardboard Santa seem like misfits against the palms at the desert’s edge. It’s as if they fell off a truck on their way to someplace else. Someplace far away. A friend called from Los Angeles. Happy Holidays.

She’s in “low-level freakout” over the economy and all the sullied news about bundled mortgages and the cracking mirages of car companies and hedge funds. Mirages have been cracking in Cairo for centuries. The poor boy with his hand out and the lady with her baby keep asking for change: “Mister, mister, hungry, hungry.”

It makes you wonder about Pharaohs and pyramids and what happens to great civilizations. They become stones in the sand. Bluster and hubris hushed by wind. Enough contemplation. There are tasks at hand. It’s time to buy a Christmas tree, maybe from the guy near the market, where slaughtered sheep are delivered in the trunks of battered black-and-white taxis.

That guy has good trees. Not pine, but something green; something to hang a light on in the night. Winter in Cairo is more of a mood than a season, anyway.

-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

Photo: The pyramids at Giza. Credit: Associated Press