Foul: non-Politics in a Sandwich

For everyone wondering how I am doing in Cairo, I must tell you that routine has won over all the little annoyances, leading me to focus more on how the different foul sandwiches taste at different street corners in Cairo. I walk to work every morning, and I spend my day staring from the huge glass window at the 6th October Bridge where the constant inflow of traffic moves in its normal rhythm, where everything gets jammed at 3:00pm till 6:00pm so that everyone can be home before the curfew every evening at 7:00pm. But we all continue to eat foul, all of us, for breakfast, at lunch and a quick run to Omda ( a local restaurant) before 7:00pm so that curfew doesn’t come on our way to achieving that beautiful meal of foul for dinner.

While sitting at the local foul place, indulging in its tahini-ed softness, surrounded by men sipping chai or smoking shishas, I often forget about everything that I am reading on Twitter or AlJazeera about what is happening on the next streets. The closest I got to all that adrenaline was when we would hear gun-shots from the vigilantes in our neighborhood or the men holding sticks that I saw patrolling around my house and the little streets in neighborhood while I was on my way to buy milk and foul. I found over-priced milk, but sadly I was stopped by the men before I could attain my wishful foul just minutes before the curfew hour. My personal shock came when two of my friends were forced to repatriate immediately from Egypt. But that still doesn’t stop me from eating foul.

One of the strange observations I have made in these foul ventures is that it is still pretty much a man’s world, this public indulgence of foul. I do see women at the little carts, but it is easier for them to get it packed and consume them in the covers of either their workplace or home. I would also not deny the fact that as a lone woman who clearly looks very Indian and foreign, I get faced with a lot of harassment. But most of the time, people are very welcoming, especially if they hear my attempts to aamiya (local arabic dialect) and they are clearly interested in what I do, in a positive way. What I would like to see, about which I haven’t heard much in the recent media, is little efforts to be more inclusive for women to achieve and indulge in foul like what I only see the men do so far. If we can only try to make these foul places more friendly to women and children, I have a huge hope of a way to both, a healthy social structure and healthy bodies (because yes, foul is indeed quite a healthy meal).

I find it a hope-giving habit, this rejoice of buying foul and eating it and knowing that everyone around is also feeling the same joy. Which is why I still have hope, in this unity that I find and feel in every shared meal of foul here in the little streets of Cairo. I get too tired of hearing all the hopelessness that people seem to predict for these foul-indulging population. But I find a contradicting answer of unity in foul everyday. Any thoughts of opening a Foul-themed political party anyone?

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About Shreya Parikh

I am Shreya. Project Rethought is my attempt to rethink my own observations as a brown woman of Indian origin. I currently live in Paris where I teach at Sciences Po Paris and Parsons Paris-The New School.
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