On the shininess of other places
Photo by Michele Bigley
It’s after 11pm in a Cairo airport hotel. The cafeteria’s packed. Women in a rainbow of hijabs and niqabs carry roasted chicken and kefta, rice, tahina and fruit from the buffet to husbands and children studying smartphones. A gaggle of drunken Russians in tank tops showing off hairy midsections spit laughter across a pile of cakes.
Two African girls in purple hijabs shepherd younger cousins and siblings to tables laden with what Egyptians call Oriental cuisine, but westerners commonly know as Mediterranean. Mothers in black niqab and gloves carefully insert hunks of chicken into their hidden mouths. One covered woman must yell requests to be heard in the loud room. Next to her, a matriarch in a deep blue hijab and matching dress takes slow small bites of an apple. She savors eat bite as if she’s never meditated on the particular sweetness of this fruit.
Nearby a man scoops rice into his mouth with his fingers; a thick gold watch on his wrist. Another man untangles is large frame from his small seat, lifts his T-shirt to show an abundant belly, pokes a needle into his fleshy middle, then sits back down to his platter of desserts.
Me and the penises I travel with are struck silent by the elaborate chaos of this cafeteria.
Presumably, the selling point of this hotel is both proximity to the airport and 24-hour food, drink, gambling and general debauchery. Or maybe it is the befuddled bedazzled woman crooning about lost love in French, English and Arabic near the pool, while men smoking shisha (hookahs) stare.
Whatever the case, other than the streets of Cairo, this cafeteria might be the most happening spot to be at midnight, I decide just as the power goes out, blanketing us in a darkness so complete it’s laughable. One woman lets out a little yelp, then it’s as if the volume was turned up in the room. A Korean couple alights their table with a phone and continue hacking into a chicken leg. Just another disturbance on what must be a travel day for all of us here in this airport hotel.
As we feel our way to the door, the staff bustles around us, guarding the exits to make sure no one escapes without paying, even…