We’re working on a hard-hitting piece with a Boursa angle but we thought we should share some observations and information about the old neighborhood, seeing as the original raison d’etre for this blog was to chronicle its happenings.
1. Jefe de Jefes
It is with great sadness that we report that the two brothers who worked at Teba, who looked like twins but were actually not, and who could easily be identified by their very different temperaments, have returned to their homes in Benha to open their own shop. We suppose congratulations are in order, though we also note their departure heavy hearts.
When we were new to the neighborhood, the sheikh who owns Tiba and sometimes ran the cash register ripped us off. When he attempted the same a second time, we used some recently learned (at the time… we’ve since forgotten what they were) and well-rehearsed phrases to shame him. After that we settled into a faux-sincere routine where he would ask whichever of the brothers happened to be working the price of whatever it was that I was buying, knowing that they were beyond reproach.
The sheikh (“al-shahir bi Sheikh Mohamed”, as the sign proclaims) ran for parliament in the 2010 elections and lost. He did not, to our knowledge, run this time, though the signage for his campaign headquarters, which is actually just the place where some of the cafes at that end of the Boursa stash their chairs overnight, still exists, his scowling visage hanging over the merry proceedings that have long been a staple of Boursa life.
Many of the waiters remain, including Shokolata, who we can exclusively report is a firm favorite of one of Cairo’s premiere lady journalists.
The Hag’s shop, on the same alley as Tiba but closer to the mosque and Vodafone, continues to hum along. The hag and his wife are both delightful people, and the hag is as honest as they come.
2. El Gringo y El Mexicano
Bakar, our old bowab, moved a few buildings down, driven out, he says, by the awful woman who illegally built an apartment above ours.
The story is as follows: During our tenure at the Boursa, we lived on the top floor. Then one day construction began above us, and we learned that the building manager, who we had never seen or heard of until that point, had received permission from the building’s owner to add a floor to the building. As it was clearly illegal, most of the construction happened in the middle of the night. Water leaks in the areas where the cement was mixed, new fractures in the ceiling of our apartment and frenzied trips upstairs to berate the workers became regular occurrences.
Our own bouts of anger paled in comparison to those of the unwanted upstairs neighbor, whose vitriolic fury was directed at anyone who stood between her and her illegal Boursa-top aerie, including laborers, other residents who were more vocal in their opposition to her ridiculous plot, and of course Bakar.
Despite her rather obvious faults as a person, she occasionally oozed a fake sense of intimacy when she wanted something. She used this to some effect, at least until the spell wore off, as when she almost succeeded in convincing us to tutor her children in English. We think it’s why Bakar stayed as long as he did.
At any rate, he can now be found a few doors down, still as energetic as ever and now 100% more married. Let the blogosphere ring out with zaghareet (a word which, coincidentally, is a very rare case of fauxnomotopoeia). We are of course tremendously happy for him, as we hope you are too. Last we heard she’s still living in Aswan, which is kind of a drag, though we’ll admit we didn’t visit him on our latest trip, which we would like to chalk up to the general revolutionary ferment but was actually more a function of our not wanting to be treated like a basha by Bakar and whichever family members happened to be around.
3. Vivan Los Mojados!
We are happy to report that the bar at the Cosmopolitan remains one of downtown’s better drinking options: more intimate than the Greek club, cozier than Le Bistro and less dingy than the establishments collectively known as baladi bars.
As an added bonus for those whose tastes run to the literary or the op-ed writerary, the man who almost singlehandedly made the pullover toxic among Egypt’s political classes used to hold his salon at the Cosmopolitan. Even if that is no longer the case, the bar, if we can extrapolate from our most recent visit, still attracts an older leftist crowd.
4. El Muro
We assume that by now you’re all familiar with Cairo Divided, the photo essay/essay essay put together by former TBE roommate and occasional contributor Jason Larkin and journalistic wunderkind Jack Shenker. If not you should go get a copy from the CIC or order a free copy immediately. In our hopeless bourgeouisity we’re now actively lobbying for them to make an iPad version with the new iBooks Author.
The project is about the satellite cities orbiting Cairo, though our narrow focus allows us only to report on the Boursa’s first gated community, which is the coffee shop on the central north-south alley that always strove to attract a slightly more upscale crowd of shisha connoisseurs. We always respected their concept, bold as it was, though we do find this new affinity for fencing “a bit much”, as Larry David would say.
*We are well aware of the fact that the grammar of this post’s title is transgendered, and we don’t care.