A world turned upside down

While I was outside a polling station waiting to bother voters while covering the referendum a man sidled over to me.

He was unusually tall, his height accentuated by the straight line of his blue galabeya, and was wearing heavy rimmed 1960s type sunglasses.

“See that man over there?” he whispered conspiratorially, pointing at a middle-aged man entering the polling station unaware that he was under scrutiny and who was in no way remarkable other than for the Afghani style hat he was wearing.

“The man in the Afghani hat,” the man said.

“Yes what about him?”

el balad bazet. Typical en el balad bazet,” [the country has been ruined. Typical [sic]…the country has been ruined] he declared before floating away without any further explanation.

I accompanied a colleague to Zagazig shortly before the first round of the referendum for a story he did on anti-Muslim Brotherhood protests in the Delta city. One MB office had been the subject of an arson attack.

We went to a different MB office in order to meet the head of the MB youth section of Sharqeyya, a cheerful man in the mandatory uniform of suit with no tie and light beard.

On our way into the building the bawwab enquired as to who we are and my colleague joked, “don’t worry we’re just going to set fire to the MB office and leave right away”.

“Do you need a lighter?” the bawwab replied deadpan without missing a beat.

The head of the Sharqeyya MB youth section laughed.

There is a bank below our newspaper’s office, and a middle-aged security guard sits outside it in a little kiosk under the stairs reading the newspapers or playing with his phone.

Morning pleasantries have inevitably descended into a discussion of the constitution and it transpires that the security guard voted yes. My merry friend on Sunday greeted him with, “kharabto el bala!d” [“you’ve destroyed the country”] an expression that in 2011 was the favourite refrain of the anti-revolution camp.

A man sitting next to the security guard riposted with, “so you’re felool!” and there then followed one of those lively and interminable discussions about the constitution overshadowed only by the fact that much of it was spent establishing that we were actually talking about the same draft and also that nobody knows what the final draft looks like.

Read the rest here.

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