Thursday, March 01, 2007

file under "come on, people"

The NYTimes article on the poor of Cairo - otherwise a pretty interesting piece - describes areas of the city as "a ruralized metropolis where people live by their wits and devices, cut off from the authorities, the law and often each other."

Isn't it time you stopped to question the trope of poor Arabs making a living extra-legally as "living by their wits and devices"? As far as I can tell from the article, they're living like people live in poor, semi-rural areas beyond the scope of government regulation - fishing, herding and selling sheep, relying on local family connections and community to get by.

On the other hand, this description of two men who regularly drink tea made from potentially bacterial Nile waters struck me as particularly effective:

"Mr. Mezar and his cousin Muhammad Hassan fish the Nile just as their parents and their grandparents did, living in the bottom of their small wooden boats. Dark from the sun, hands callused from their oars, they are the image of Egypt, and they often smile and wave dutifully as tour boats motor up the river, with tourists snapping their pictures."

Anyone happen to have been to Cairo and want to share their take?

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