Sunday, July 18, 2010
Smell must travel faster than light, because I could smell the place way before I could see it. Now, it’s not a bad smell, it’s what meat stuffs smell like before they’re, properly bled, inspected, stamped, refrigerated, packaged and made pretty for white people. There’s no adjective that describes this place better than “raw.” Lots of small booths with hanging racks of meat and what Americans would call by-products. The produce stands had the dozen or so types of vegetables and fruits that are in season. There were a couple of shops that had cleaning products and dry goods. I remember idealistically thinking that I too could easily and proudly go sha’aby. All that is needed could be found here and everything else was extreme excess.
I wasn’t ten yards into Babalouq, before my right leg fell, knee deep, through some spread out cardboard into an open sewer filled with the most wrenched, vile, disgusting soup of rotting animal guts. The three or four witnesses were silent, eyes wide open… jaws hanging and these are seasoned Babalouq’ers. I too was silent, with the exception of calmly asking for a hose, I said nothing. I was given a bucket and shown to a 50 gallon drum of water. I took off my shoe and proceeded to empty the entire contents of the drum onto my right leg and into my shoe. I wasn’t in shock. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t upset. I held no emotion other than disgust. I put my shoe back on, walked the block back to my apartment, scrubbed myself with Dettol, called my friend Maryum and asked for directions to Alpha Supermarket in Zamalek.