Wednesday, April 8, 2009


  The author of a Saudi Aramco World article from the early 80s claims that the "magic" at the Egyptian National Circus in Cairo "is slightly stronger" than at other circuses whose general spell-weaving appeal consists of the "smell of great beasts and sawdust" and the "shrill sound of a clown's whistle".  I think the poor chap was being a bit optimistic.  Many of the acts described in the article are no longer part of the underwhelming but delightfully kitschy performance we saw under the "big top" in a Agouza last evening.
  The first magic trick involved a man producing a white dove from a flaming goblet.  The white dove proceded to hop happily around the floor for a few minutes before assistants tried to recapture it.  They attempted to step on its tail feathers with their feet but were unsuccessful.  The bird flew up to a ledge in the audience inciting a quiet scramble that ended in a sparkly-veiled woman reaching out ninja style and grabbing the poor creature by the neck and then passing it off to the crowd of assistants.  Corpulent men in bright pink shirts and ill-fitting pants unicycled around afterwards and then a trio who had not quite mastered the art of the Chinese yoyo lingered in the spotlight for just a little too long.  Young Egyptian girls in leotards contorted themselves from atop a shaky apparatus to pick up objects behind, such as an Egyptian flag, with their teeth.  Another man balanced things on the end of a stick protruding from his mouth.  For his grand finale, the lights were dimmed and blinking trinkets that resembled the lighting on Cairo taxis were stacked up on plates to demonstrate his supreme balancing prowess.  A single little person came out at one point to faux-fight with a clown in act that I'm sure would be considered entirely politically incorrect in the States.  All the while, another contingent of men in street clothes were walking around with a lion cub offering people the opportunity to, for a fee, get their picture taken with it.  Among them was a flunky who's sole responsibility was to wave off unpaid-for, surreptitious photographs.  Tying the whole show together was the assembly of a wobbly makeshift cage inside of which several haggardly lions and two wily tigers were bothered by man with whips until they did things like lie down and leave the cage.  Impressive.  My favorite part was watching the rather sparse crowd.  At one point, a women wearing a niqab saw her husband volunteer to joined a flashier, less-veiled woman for a "trick" involving handcuffs and men holding up a tube of fabric around them.  After what seemed like five minutes, the fabric tube was dropped to the ground and the man was left in his undershirt while the woman who was part of the act was now handcuffed and wearing his shirt.  The dutiful wife snapped pictures with her camera phone.  I only wish I could've seen the expression on her face.  Aside from families with adorable giddy children and us, the only other demographic were unruly single Egyptian men who were falling all over each other laughing at jokes they were making and shrilly whistling and applauding for no reason during every possible moment of the show.  A lone balloon-seller with a face that resembled a prune and a little white hat looked so forlorn as he ambled around the tent that I nearly purchased all of his garish heart-shaped balloons.  In the end I didn't, of course, because I'm cheap and have no practical use for balloons.
  Following our circus adventures, several rounds of Boggle, comical conversation, and an overdose of delicious fiteer awaited us at Marise's place.
  Today I have law class after which I'm meant to call an immigration lawyer in DC to ask questions relevant to my thesis.  Following that, packing for Tunisia.  I leave tomorrow morning!


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