The homeless woman who wanders the streets of Zamalek is something of a Cairo institution, but who is she really?
Anyone who lives in Zamalek has surely seen her, heard her, or been hit by an object thrown by her (if not hit by her). The first time I met Nadia was about eight years ago.
My brother and I were on the way to school one day. Our driver stopped by the side of the road to talk to this really shady looking homeless woman. He seemed to know her, and we trusted my driver, so we just went with it. She comes by my brother’s window and begins laughing with us, but then reaches over and tries to grab his man-parts. My brother was around 10 at the time and, needless to say, freaked the fuck out.
Nadia became part of our life in Zamalek. She was always lingering around and would often be gracious enough to give us a strip tease, completely undressing, screaming like a madwoman, breaking shit and reciting every word in the Arabic dictionary of cunt words. I often walked passed her with my dog, Bazooka, but made it a rule of thumb not to engage in eye contact.
One day last Ramadan I was bored at home after fitar and I heard a sudden bang and crash, and then “Yabnel ******* ****** ******* ****** *****”… Nadia is so fucking loud that if she wanted people at the top of Burg Khalifa to hear her she would only have to clench a few more stomach muscles and belch it out. Then and there, I decided to hell with my self-imposed rule. I put my shoes on and took Bazooka downstairs, but by the time I got there she had chilled out. She was sitting on the pavement, naked, her saggy brown hoohas almost reaching her street-stained feet. She had lost a lot of weight and was looking frail. She was crying but still cussing out the police; I had never seen Nadia look so vulnerable. And I had seen her a lot. It pissed me off to see the policemen take the piss so I told them to shut the fuck up, cautiously sat down next to her and asked her to get dressed and take a walk with me. As if she had nothing to lose, she agreed.
It was about two hours before I went back home, and during our time together I tried to refrain from psychologically profiling her before I really got to know what this woman’s deal was. At the time, I was on Atkins and she too was on a low-carb diet, so we shared our tips and tricks. We bitched about Egyptian men and she advised me on how to keep them hanging, using brilliant analogies about rice, pots and heat. When our feet got tired we sat in the grassy area in front of Mori Sushi, drank tea and smoked cigarettes and, although I ignored the first few raised eyebrows (why is this white chick sitting with this nutcase???), I started to get really mad – our people are so fucking judgmental. Throughout our sitting Nadia would tilt her head at a confused Bazooka, get really close and whisper “bobby, bobby, bobby”. He quickly got desensitized to it, but it fucking creeped me out every time.
Every day that Ramadan, I spent some time with Nadia, and she slowly eased up to me. The interesting thing was that when they would piss her off, I would get accounts from the policemen and their solution to dealing with her was easy: “Kobayet shai wi cigara wi beterga3 telbes ya fandem!”.Because it wasRamadan she was always dressed in a 3abaya, but even then, it never got in the way of her daily strip tease. She stunk like donkey balls and when my mom offered to give her a shower she politely declined: “Merci ya Madame, mestaneya el 3eid 3ashan asta7ama”.
The question that was yet to be answered was: what set her off every day? The policemen knew exactly how to push her buttons and make her erupt but I could never decipher the origin of her anger through the explosion of her screams. It upset me that Nadia was their daily entertainment, and no matter how hard I tried to convince her of their immaturity, she still let them get to her.
I was amazed when one day I listened beneath the distortion of her mumbling and figured out what it was that triggered her. Nadia used to be “The Don” of Zamalek; she walked around with her head held high and was given respect right and left from every policeman. Then, a couple of years ago, a new chick hit the block. Younger, fitter, hipper and kinder, Mariam was the new Don, and this drove Nadia fucking nuts. The Zamalek policemen soon discovered her kryptonite and used it to obtain a little daily laughter and some boob.
One day that Ramadan, Bazooka and I went to find Nadia as we did everyday, but she was nowhere to be seen or heard. I thought okay, had a boring walk and returned home. She wasn’t there the next day, or the following day either. Where was my friend? I asked one of the policemen and listened in awe as he told me what had happened. Zamalek residents had complained and had her shipped off to some shitty mental institute. Nadia was damaging the image of Zamalek, her bosom was destroying the peaceful greenery of the island and her screams were too obscene for the classy nature of its residents. Before anyone self-righteous gives me the whole “let her get the help she needs,” lecture, let me tell you something. Last time she had that “help”, she was diagnosed with Autism for 60 fucking L.E. And guess what? Nadia is not autistic. I don’t know what she has, but she’s peaceful and kind and minds her own business until some cunt brings Mariam up to watch her strip. FUCK YOU, classy pieces of shit, Nadia’s probably been here longer than you have.
I knew she’d be back, because Nadia always comes back, but it drives me crazy how our image-obsessed society kicks her out like trash. A few days later, to my pleasure, Nadia returned. Take that motherfuckers – Nadia belongs in Zamalek as much as the Cairo Tower does.