Sunday, January 17, 2010

People of Cairo AND (in addition: Coincidences)

This is Ali, he works at Amr Ibn el-Aas. We developed a sweet wordless friendship over the last few days. I randomly offered him my last cigarette the other day (he didn't ask and was simply walking in the same direction as me. I had no idea at the time that he worked at Amr). Today, I watched him blow his neon green whistle when people pulled up trying to park in front of the mosque, telling them to park elsewhere but to come in. I also watched him stand up from his perch every time tourists walked out of the mosque to ask them for money or cigarettes. All the while we smiled at each other and shook hands. He sat next to me for a very long time too. Lovingly.

man oh man...the people of Cairo...but before that, let us return once again to coincidences:

So, I didn't mention, not sure why or how, who I am currently staying with: Tata Manahatta! I know I know...Anna is that supposed to mean something to me? Actually, yes! When Director Miguel Silveira, Line Producer Jeremy Johnson and I were in Cairo in August, the last night in town we went back to the camera shop that was holding Jeremy's camera hostage to threaten them and to get it back at all costs - we asked them to fix it on our second day in town, and every day they promised it would be dont the next day, and well, although in Cairo things do take quite a bit longer than expected and forewarned, this was absurd! When we arrived at the prescribed time, something like 8pm, it was not there - still at the engineers place, we were told. So we waited and paced and got angry and bit our nails.

After standing there for a while, we decided it would be best to go sit and drink a cup of coffee while we wait and go and check in on them every 30 minutes. So we sat down at a cafe from which we could see the camera shop and Miguel could see the TV on which there was a soccer match! Miguel got audibly really into it and Jeremy was quiet, bit his nails, got pale and smoked many cigarettes. I sat there facing the two of them, with my back to the TV, photographing them and marvelling at the phenomenon of their being in totally different head spaces while in the same physical geographic location.

All of a sudden - it mustve been a commercial - Miguel says, "is that a hostel, hotel or something...theres people coming out of it?!" I turn around and say, "probably, you should ask. "Nah..." ....then he says again "a hostel/hotel up there?" and I repeat as well....this time laughing. Next he says, "Look! NO...I swear, that guy, that guy, he is Brazilian!!!" I say, "just ask, Miga" He refuses, we laugh, the game comes back on. More people join the guy Miguel was referring to and he then bets me that the guy is Brazilian just like him. ---now you have to understand, there are two things dear to Brazilians: soccer, I mean Futball, and other Brazilians. ok? ---- so I give up on trying to get him to ask, and do the standard insane social Anna thing and I turn to look at the now large group of people, and I say, " that a hotel?" "Yeah, theres a hostel and a hotel up there"..."ok, thanks!...where are you guys from?" a dark blonde girl says, "we are from all over" the guy in question says, "I'm from Brazil" Miguel stands up, throws his hands in the air and they embrace like crazy people!!! the darke blonde girl says, "I'm from Ukraine" I stand up, throw my hands in the air and say, "NO!!! I am!" we look at each other crazy style and discover that we are from the SAME city...and also the SAME street! NO WAY!!! so we embrace and talk like crazy people. The rest of the group was from Austria, Egypt, and I think thats it...but I can't remember, I was busy embracing. Jeremy is from Kansas but there was noone there from Kansas that I know of. So anyways, Tata is the girl from my street, city, country! and she lives here, and I'm staying with her and her friend Gaby who is from Austria. They also have a friend named Noora who stays with them for part of the week. She is from Italy...yes an international apartment!

The funny thing here is that not only is this whole thing one big mess of coincidences weaving webs around one another, family's entire immigration exists physically in the same flat; we immigrated from Ukraine through Austria, Italy and finally to the US.

Before we move on to the people of Cairo, I wanted to say something about Istanbul and the people of that town. I was only there for 18 hours or so, and I didnt get into Hagia Sophia, the only thing I wanted, because it was closed, but magic happened anyways. I wandered, filmed the Blue Mosque, ran around, met people, got harrassed, asked for a kiss, went to a Hammam, the one our LA Liason Jen Reinhardt recommended, and then in the middle of the night I felt really hungry, totally unsafe, still a little sick and really really tired.

I never feel unsafe. So I knew this was for real. As one of the grants we are applying for was not finished yet, I needed to find an internet cafe that was open all night, so I could work until the Fajr prayer when I planned to record the adhan from the Blue Mosque.

I asked people on the street and instead of answers I got offers of places to stay...with them, that is, not a big deal, but it wasnt helping me find an internet cafe. So, finally I had a bright idea to go into this hotel and ask the receptionist if they knew where there was an internet cafe - because naturally, they would know and be helpful.

The man at the desk was really sweet. So sweet that he offered I sit in the lobby and work. For nothing. I asked if their restaurant was still open and he said no. Whatever, I thought, all I really needed was to work on shit. I had Emergen-C and a packet of seaweed my mom gave me before I left.

I sat and worked for a couple hours when the sweet man came over and gave me a chocolate bar. He saw that I was fading, fading bad. In fact, I had just thought about asking how much a room was so I could pass out for an hour, even though I knew that it was a bad idea because I had to be back at the airport by 9:30am. We drank tea and coffee together and began to talk. This was one of those times where you become fast friends with someone and develop a true heart connection so fast it surprises you and makes you believe in the human race.

I showed him the trailer, we talked about the project, about life - personal things, religious things, spiritual things, worldly things, we went deep! - about geography, about Istanbul, about travel, family, work, hardships, joys, everything! And I was really sad to leave when I left. These moments are precious. Really really precious and special. Erkut and I will meet up when I pass back through on the way back to Chicago. I CAN'T WAIT! We were both so moved by our friendship that we have been corresponding since and so so sweetly! I love life. By the way, he was moved so much by the project, that he donated the next day. How wonderful. Seriously. Such a magical experience, I mean...who does that? Really!!?? This project, this life, it is so magical.


OK...the people of Cairo. I just have to say, they are amazing! yes! amazing. thats all. The following will be a story about part of my day today, but imagine, it's like this ALL the time. Every day, every second, living and breathing this:

So, today I returned to Old Cairo - also known as Masr el Qadima or Coptic Cairo, to film the streets, the people, and meet the new Sheikh at Amr Ibn el-Aas mosque. Anadha got held up doing some work so I had more time to run around and watch people and film people going in and out of the mosque. In my wanderings through the small sandy rocky villagy streets I got really hungry! Stopping at a koshk (kiosk, stand - akin to a hot dog stand in the US), I asked for a koshary. Ok, so the best koshary in town is across the main street in the other tiny village, but I was hungry THEN! I was planning on taking it to go and walking around some more, but the man insisted I sit down. He found me a chair and a small table and gave me koshary. and water. AND he shooed the kids away that were trying to talk to a foreign girl.

And let me tell you, he and I didnt speak a word of the same language. I ate, drank, filmed and basked in the sun. When I finished he asked me if I wanted some tea. I said "Aiwa, Shukran gazeelan!" (Oh yes, thank you very much!) and he went across the way to grab it. With more water! When I finished, I got up to pay and go....imagine this: he would not let me! AT ALL!!! I tried so hard. There were kids and men and women all around and everyone smiled and agreed with him. He told me that I am his guest and there is no way I am paying. He pointed at a man across the way who took care of my tea and I thanked him profusely too. MY HEART MELTED! again. and again. and again. All day like this. All day. No matter how tough filming is while people try to talk to you, get in the shot, stop you, ask you for things, its all worth it, because you find people like this. Amazing. absolutely!

There are so many highlights, so many. I just love these people. and sometimes, well, most times, I wish there was a camera built into my eyes.

ALL CONTENT COPYRIGHT (c) Anna Kipervaser, On Look Films, LLC

All Rights Reserved 2010


Becca said...

yaaay! Anna I'm so excited to be reading about your adventures. I can literally hear these stories being told aloud in your voice.
Keep sharing, this stuff is great!

Anonymous said...

You are so kind Anna. Great honor to meet with you. I wish good luck to you and your team. Regards.

Erkut g├╝ven

Rodion said...

These stories are truly great! Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventures with us. You should really consider writing a book, or memoir, or something! Can't wait to read your next post and see more pictures!


Dusty said...

I agree with Rodion. Your adventures sound truly wonderful.

Lynne Jordan said...

This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing this with us!

Anonymous said...

Islam, I'm proud to be my friend, u always keep our heads high

Post a Comment