Thursday, February 18, 2010

Taking Five (Days)

Currently in the midst of the monthly drama that comes with production week at the magazine. Dealing with one cover star who would rather wear baladi than Beymen and another who appears to be blaming us for her inability to fit into the Zuhair Murad dresses our fabulous fashion director is proffering. In the mean time I’ve got five features to write – all of which I have (of course) left to the last minute, due to deluding myself that dinners at various locales across Cairo are in fact PR exercises and not procrastination. The point is - as is likely to happen around about this time every month - production week has put a bit of a spanner in the works of regular blogging business. But I will be back on the blog very soon! I thank you humbly for bearing with me and my skewed sense of importance.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We've Come a Long Way Baby... Apparently.

"He who has not seen Cairo has not seen the world," says a character in the Thousand and One Nights. I adore Cairo. For what it was, what it is, and what it can be. I love that its identity – both past and present - is so magnificently multifaceted, and that each of those facets has left an indelible imprint on the world’s collective imagination. Whether your notions of Cairo are shaped by the Pharaohs or medieval fairytales, the Mamluks or the mayhem of our modern day metropolis, the Caliphs, the Khedives or the lusty years of the belle époque, the souks or the songs, royalty or revolutions, the city of a thousand minarets is also the city of a thousand references.

So I found it rather intriguing – and ultimately terribly telling – that late last night, in Beirut’s Shah lounge (I’m spending the week in Beirut under the pretence of work) a Lebanese wannabe lothario attempted to get the attention of a gaggle of us Egyptian girls by showcasing his intimate knowledge of our culture with two disjointed words shouted out at us across the smoky space. The first word was…


The second word was…


Monday, February 8, 2010

What do you take me for, a writer?

If you don’t know who you’re writing for, if you have no one to pander to and please (other than yourself) then it seems to me you’re just asking for a whole lot of self-indulgent and possibly even meaningful trouble. Writing for the sake of writing? What do you take me for, a writer?

And so it is that this idea of blogs and blogging and bloggers has always bothered me. It just all seems so infuriatingly democratic and irritatingly inclusive. All that education, effort and soul-selling us ‘professional’ writers go through to see our words published in print is essentially rendered redundant by this blogging business.

So I have, for many years now, boycotted and battled the very notion. Of course, there have been many who naively suggested that I try my hand at one of these blogs. It is my practice to shake my head solemnly and say, “I am a professional. And if one is not bound by the strictures and structures of a tangible publication, to word limits, demographics and an editing process, then one is essentially engaged in nothing more than word vomit.”

I have stuck strongly by my principals.

As is my practice, I am now sacrificing my principals. I am doing this for the sake of attention. In the past, this sacrificing of one’s principals to quell an insatiable appetite for the spotlight (real or imagined) has resulted in the most disastrous of consequences – all of which are wonderfully slapstick in the retelling but terribly traumatic in the experiencing (for more information please see my best-selling book ‘Fe-mail: The trials and tribulations of being a Good Egyptian Girl' available at all good book stores within a five mile radius of Zamalek). I am loath to think what the final result of this blog will be, but it seems the bloggers have officially won. They predicted the future of words back when I was still thought printed words had some sort of future, or value.

I was wrong and they were right. There is an entire generation who would rather hear the hum of a hard-drive than the satisfying silence of a book being broken in; who would rather feel the cold hard smoothness of a keyboard beneath their fingers as they comment flippantly with all the confidence of immediacy, than feel their way slowly around the rough edges of a complicated argument. (You see, a sentence like that I would never dare publish in print.)

Apparently I am of this generation and must succumb to their ways if I am to have any hope of holding their attention. So I shall blog, and it shall be good, or it shan’t be good, but it won’t matter, because this is a blog, and one is not bound by the strictures and structures of literary bechmarks. It, apparently, is my technology-given right to delight in my own drivel.

And so, I will talk about the places I go, the people I see, and of course, the things I FEEL. (As a blogger, you feelings are of tantamount importance to the residents of the (cyber)world). As is my now well documented habit I will also continue to share my thoughts on the traditions and titillations we must all navigate as Egyptians and Arabs, and of course on the hypocrisy-fuelled dazzling dramas on which Egyptian high society is built. To be honest, I will do this mainly in the hopes of garnering the attention of the international media who - for this spectacular though inevitably brief moment in time - care about what us Arab women are thinking and FEELING. This, as we all know, is some sort of absurd delayed response to 9/11.

I will write poetry.

No, of course I won't do that. One must have some self-respect, even when blogging.

In essence, this, like many a blog, will be nothing more than a steady self-indulgent stream of consciousness, with no rhyme nor reason other than to exercise an imagined way with words. Of course, many would suggest that’s exactly what I’ve been doing in print for years…