Morning Ritual

July 6, 2010

I stood in the chaotic remanents of a line, shooing flies off my arms and sizzling cooking oil off my feet. The defeated heat retreated back up an azure sky’s loins leaving a triumphant briny breeze to wander about ruffling his shirt, her skirt and their hair. Still I was close enough to the frying pan that I could feel a single bead of sweat sneakily trickling down from under my left pit. I stared at the frying pan in front of me, the greasy, poopy-looking oil inside it and the clammy forty-ish man behind it.

My family and I were in Balah up on the Northcoast and my dad and I, being the first to wake up, went to fulfill the summertime breakfast ritual: get breakfast from the local breakfast-selling kiosks. The three main constituents of this holy meal were fuul, ta’ameyya and zalabeyya (delicious fried dough droplets doused in honey or sprinkled with sugar).My dad placed the order and went to fetch tomatoes and what not while I stood in one of two cue affectations (one for zalabeyya, the other for ta’ameyya), waiting for our order to come through.

Since I had my yellow polka-dots on, and was as such emboldened by a fanciful notion of invisibility, I started freely surveying the people around me.

There was an elegant looking lady in pale blue jeans and a white shirt with her own pair of invisibility-inducing Johnny Cash’s. Her hair was what caught my attention for it was grey and clean and combed back in a ponytail. Her daughter – I assume it was her daughter because she looked like a greyless, wrinkle-free version of her – stood behind her in shorts and a tighter shirt, slightly frowning at the heat and slightly pouting. Then there was a man whom the zalabeyya man kept referring to as ‘doctor’. He wore his smile almost as well as he did his polo shirt and seemed like a decent middle-aged man. Near one end of the semicircle that constituted our line was a group of adolescent boys with swimming trunks, flamboyant shirts and hairdos. They too seemed like decent enough kids despite the vague air of condescension that surrounded them.

Other than this sample of snazziness, the rest of the cohort gathered around for summer ritual seemed fairly less affluent. The women were all some version of a worn out lady in a worn out skirt with worn out hair dyed black to guise the premature grey that was almost as frayed as their entire being seemed to suggest they were. The men were in button up shirts, moustaches and had an overall jagged look to them. There was a young ragged kid too, maybe thirteen or fourteen years old, who kept trying to cut the line prompting the zalabeyya man to yell at him to stop it because he’s making him forget the people’s order – the man memorized our orders and I thought that was remarkable until he insisted I ordered 25 ta’meyya when I ordered 15.

As I continued standing and surveying and waiting for my turn, the number of people dwindled and I could at last have a clear view of the zalabeyya man. And I have to say I half wish I hadn’t. There was a bowl of dough next to me clammy zalabeya  man into which he dived his stubby hands bringing out a fistful of dough and squirting bite-sized globs from between hairy fingers. The poopy oil was the final destination of the bloated caviar-like globs and it received them with a warm muted sizzle.

Must have been one of the most unappetizing scenes one might have the ill fortune to encounter.

After an initial shock, I realized that this circumstance bringing together this incongruous congregation would never have been, had we been standing on a Cairo street. And even if it had somehow coalesced, defying the bounds of immiscible affluence and pauperdom, it would have stood out as strictly peculiar. But in balah it was as natural as voluntarily eating dough blobs drenched in what looked like human liquid excrement. In balah, it was nothing more than just another lovely summer morning; just another morning ritual.

One Response to “Morning Ritual”

  1. Morshedy said

    A tradditional breakfast and scene that replays itself every summer and we wait fot it. We cant miss it!!

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