(The narrow lanes in Cairo's wondrous ancient quarter)
The other night, sitting outside a crowded coffee shop in the heart of Islamic Cairo, my friends and I were offered everything and anything by street salesmen.
If I had so desired it, I could have left the coffee shop after just one hour, having had my shoes shined, purchased an Arab carpet, a new “authentic” Rolex watch around my wrist, armed with a Taser, a baby sized water pipe, a copy of The Koran, a hat and a pair of sparkly “real crystal” ear rings twinkling from my earlobes.
Yep- you might have spotted I said a Taser.
One salesman walked in between the tables and chairs crowded inside the narrow alleyway, waving around a Taser. The constant crackling sound that it made, and the blue flash it let off, worried me a little.
You can buy Tasers on the street in many places in Cairo- a few weeks ago a couple of kids were running down my very quiet street (by Cairo standards), excitedly waving their Tasers about.
A few people I’ve spoken to said people buy them for security reasons.
Security concerns are mentioned a lot here.
Most Egyptians speak warily about a sharp rise in crime since the revolution.
Crime is a strange thing though- even in places like Ireland, perceptions as to the amount of criminal incidents taking place in society can be totally out of line with the actual statistics.
Rumour and sensationalist media coverage can increase fear of crime to a massive level.
I feel safe in this city- and I think that is not just naivety. I think as big cities go, Cairo is still pretty safe, if politically unstable. But in recent weeks I have heard about a number of incidents involving foreigners and robberies.
Egyptians speak of the many prisoners who escaped from jail during the January revolution and also how the police have not been fully redeployed to the streets.
There have also been a number of well publicised incidents- including a carjacking and physical assault on high profile Presidential hopeful Moneim Abul Fotouh. http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/02/24/196648.html
Fotouh is an interesting character. A former Muslim brother, he is, in the absence of a clear candidate coming from the revolutionary forces, becoming the closest “Tahrir” has to a participant in the upcoming election.
He would not have many fans among the military top brass or the leadership of the Brotherhood (whom he split from)- but he has much respect among many Egyptians and at least communicates to the youth, revolutionary forces and the "moderate" Islamist movement.
Intriguingly his campaign team is headed by an American University of Cairo political scientist Rabab ElMahdi -often described in the local media here as a “Marxist” and a “feminist” http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2012/1086/eg22.htm
Whatever happens in the coming weeks- crime and security issues will loom large in the presidential election campaign.
Every candidate will have to come up with policies that encourage locals to feel that they do not need to buy a Taser for their personal safety!
My review of "On the State of Egypt" for 'Irish Left Review' has been highlighted on Alaa Al Aswany's own official Facebook page.
Many years ago Eamon Dunphy criticised some Irish sports journalists for being "fans with typewriters" when they covered the national soccer side...I think I might be a little guilty of that when it comes to Al Aswany.
Anyway I let you be the judge of that...here is the review of the book http://www.irishleftreview.org/2011/11/14/spring/
And also some thoughts on his bestselling novel "The Yacoubian Building" which got me thinking and writing about revolution, love and memory. http://www.irishleftreview.org/2011/12/19/real-yacoubian-building-woman-involved/
..For those who might have forgotten- the whole “Don’t Tase me Bro” cry, came from this infamous incident in the US in 2007.