There's only one flaw to the place: it's really far from everywhere I need to be. So a few days ago I contacted a guy to find me a new place. His name is Mohamed (everyone here is named Mohamed). He came with the highest recommendations from cairoscholars. A few days ago, we met very late in the evening near the big red KFC sign in Midan Tahrir. We took a cab to Nasr City with a chain-smoking driver who liked to blare Arab pop through the speakers and sing along. He couldn't sing very well. Mohamed sang too. He was much better.
Our destination was a tiny open-air office beside a gas station. It was full of overstuffed green chairs crowded around a beaten brown coffee table sitting on a faded red Persian rug. An off-yellow conch shell sat on the table, used as an ash tray. The semsar told us that the landlord would be ready soon. We waited, and everyone lit cigarettes, and we waited, and a boy brought us bottles of Pepsi, and we waited some more. Mohamed took this opportunity to tell me his life story.
There's one thing you ought to know about Mohamed. Mohamed is a pop star. At least, Mohamed very much thinks that he ought to be a pop star. He told me that he cut an album two years ago. When we were riding in a cab earlier, he pointed at a billboard. "That man! You see that man!?" "The one advertising shampoo?" "Yes, that man! You know who that man is?" "No." "That man is (some Arab name, probably Mohamed). He is very famous." "Oh, really?" "Yes, very very famous. When I made my album, he sang backup in my choir. Now he is famous and I am not." "Oh, that doesn't seem fair..." "No, but I will be famous one day, insha'allah." "I bet you will, Mohamed."
While we were still waiting, Mohamed introduced me to his partner Noor. Noor was a pop composer. One of his songs was featured on an Egyptian TV show. He was very proud of it. Noor confided in me, as if it were some great secret, that he dreamed of writing a song for Amr Diab one day. Mohamed and Noor told me that one day they will throw a big party where their band will play; and if I am still in Egypt, they will invite me. Based on how often they brought it up, I suspect that they may have been serious.
We waited some more. Noor whispered that the owner was one of the long-beards, so he might be praying. Whatever he was doing, he finally showed after close to an hour. All of us, me and Mohamed and Noor and the owner and a couple of miscellaneous bored Egyptians, walked down the street to the building. It was a nice street, lots of people and lots of little shops but not much traffic. We climbed two flights of stairs to the flat. It was massive: three bedrooms, an entry room, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a big balcony overlooking an open-air produce market. The furniture was a little shabby and the beds (all five of them) weren't terribly comfortable, but all-in-all it was rather nice. The owner was very proud of the view of the garden from the windows on the other side of the flat. The garden was a charming patch of dirt featuring a few half-dug holes. If it's ever completed, I suppose it might look very nice. I decided to take a day or two to think about the flat.
To be continued.