Will your habibi catch a grenade for you? Perhaps, but not if it rains...
There are real fears in life like death, disease and war; and there are real phobias like fear of spiders, fear of heights and fear of germs, but Egyptians tend to cope with these very universal forms of anxieties much better than they handle the horror of what is listed below.
When it rains in Egypt, crops are happy, but people are panicked. It happens so rarely that we are not sure how to adapt to those tears from heaven. Ever been in a car during the rain? Traffic moves like a turtle on a treadmill, and not because there is an abundance of cars but because people think that driving in the rain is like walking barefoot on a floor filled with broken glass.
2) The Bawab
While most developed countries have replaced human security with technology (building access codes), Egypt has remained loyal to the bawab, perhaps because his task is not to guard the building as much as it is to to ensure that cultural norms are respected. The bawab is sort of a social mokhabarat and has the power to ruin your sex life, make you feel like a demon when you come home drunk at 3 am and even transform into an investigative detective when he is unfamiliar with your face.
3) HellIn a recent study, Egypt has been positioned as the 12th most religious country in the world. It comes as no surprise, then, that the afterlife occupies the spirit of Egyptians, with most fearing to spend their eternity as barbeque chicken. But that fear has created a halal vs. haram game of point accumulation, with many decisions based on assumptions of celestial approval, negatively affecting the quality of life here on earth. For this reason, it might be cathartic to read the wise words of 7th century Sufi poet Rabi’a al-Basri.
4) BouncersA hybrid between Vin Diesel and the Michelin Man, bouncers are interesting creatures. After spending 10 years at the gym to become bolobeef buff, career choices have become limited: either act as a human separation wall in Israel or become a bouncer at one of Egypt’s three nightclubs. Most choose the latter to reinforce the strict 'couples only' rule, which is sort of a minimum charge on testosterone. When you are a single man trying to enter a club, being granted access is as likely as entering Europe without a visa.
5) TravelWhenever Egyptians travel, it looks like it will be their last trip. For that apocalyptic party in the sky, everything is brought on board, from the 22 family members to the 68 suitcases per person. When the plane does land, everyone is so surprised and grateful to be alive that they applaud the pilot for simply doing his job. But they don’t feel safe yet; as soon as the plane has landed, everyone gets up before the plane is at a full stop much to the chagrin of the cabin crew. Once at the new destination, another fear creeps in - “what the hell am I going to do without a shatafa?”
6) Banning Porn
There was some talk a few years ago about parliament perhaps banning porn. What a tragedy it would have been. Egypt is one of the biggest consumers of online wanking despite the conservative nature of its society. Perhaps it’s because there is no bawab between a penis and a screen, or perhaps it’s because it’s less haram to touch yourself than to touch someone else.
7) Strong independent women
It is hard to find silence at the always buzzing open space that is our MO4 office. To block off the noise, the most introverted writers sit in a corner and put on their headphones to disconnect from their surroundings. But all of a sudden, there comes a point every day where a noise so loud manages to pierce through the headphones and shake the earth beneath us. It’s Amy Mowafi shouting at men twice her size for screwing up something. A fierce, independent woman reducing a man to tears: the fear of many macho Mahmouds.