Friday, February 18, 2011

"Good morning, revolution, or good evening, revolution"

I slept like a log in El Mahalla El Kubra. That's notable because I'm a light sleeper everywhere else and Mahalla's possibly the noisiest place I've ever visited. When we arrived at the apartment that first night it was 3:30 am and one of the neighbors was using a mechanical grinder downstairs. He ground metal until around 4:15 when somebody finally demanded that he stop. It bought the neighborhood a couple of hours of silence before the fajr adhan, when every imam in every mosque in the crowded and densely-mosqued neighborhood of Ghamorheya took up a microphone and sounded his call over the rooftops for early morning prayers.

Ghamorheya, El Mahalla El Kubra, Egypt. August 18, 2010.
But most could sleep through that. The tuk-tuks and their incessant Arabic pop music were another matter entirely, as were the taxis with their customized horns, and by the time the propane salesmen came out banging on tanks with wrenches to compete with the calls of fish and fruit mongers, well, the streets were awake.

But I slept through it all somehow, and did so every day until well into the afternoon despite blistering heat and stifling humidity. Maybe I was just exhausted, or maybe the constant barrage of noise wove itself into the perfect texture so that all was just background and nothing really disruptive could ever break through. Or maybe I was poisoned by the dirty air.

In any case, I slept well in Mahalla. Better than I'd slept on the entire trip. Better than I usually sleep at home.

Still, the night terrors happened. Not that I would have known had nobody witnessed it, but about a week in, as I stuffed some foul and cucumber into a pita bread for lunch, Amo Abdalla cautiously asked, "Brian, what did you dream about that night?"

"What night?"

"The first night you were here. You jumped out of bed screaming."

Real concern, suppressed for a week, peeked through his notorious deadpan. Suddenly it hit me: it had happened that first night.

When we'd arrived Wesam had claimed the couch, insisting that he wouldn't let a guest not take bed, so I had ended up rooming with Amo Abdalla. I fell asleep quickly, but at some point one of my dreams had gripped me. I had probably felt a tickle in my throat from the bubbling of acid reflux due to the fact that I'd recently run out of Omeprazole. That's all it really takes. Most people cough in the night--I wake up thinking I'm choking to death.

Whatever the cause, I jumped out of bed screaming and awoke Amo Abdalla. He asked if I was ok and if I needed anything. I asked for a glass of water, and he obliged. I drank the water in a quick gulp and went right back to sleep as though nothing had happened, and Amo waited a week for the right moment to assuage his concern because he didn't want to embarrass me or make me feel uncomfortable.

I recently talked to someone about these persistent nightmares that have knocked me out of bed since I was a teenager. They're not nearly as persistent as they once were, and I have a handful of theories as to why that might be. I was told that I shouldn't read the news before going to bed because it makes me agitated. That might be so.

Recently the news I've watched and read has nearly all been about the goings-on in Egypt. It was nerve-racking at the end of January, and at points downright horrifying. Then it became hopeful, joyous, and inspiring. I don't think I've been having night terrors, but maybe someone will correct me in a week.

So as a compromise between my penchant for current events and my apparent need for less depressing fare, here's a touching video of Amo Abdalla paying tribute to his people. This keeps me tuned in and makes me smile.

Good night.

To Egypt: Abdalla's Address from Wesam Nassar on Vimeo.

Or good morning.


Anonymous said...

I keep watching this, over and over again. I can't help it.

BJG. said...


A.P.U. said...

"and by the time the propane salesmen came out banging on tanks with wrenches to compete with the calls of fish and fruit mongers, well, the streets were awake."
- fantastic; welcome back to the blogosphere

TB said...

This is wonderful.