by Luna

by Luna

Luna

Luna

Blog Intro

Hello, I'm Luna, and I'd like to welcome you to "Kisses from Kairo,"* my blog about living and working as an American belly dancer in Cairo.

Life in Cairo isn't easy for dancers, foreigners, women, or even Egyptians. It is, however, always exciting. That’s why after living here for seven years, I've decided to share my experiences with the world. From being contracted at the Semiramis Hotel to almost being deported, not a day has gone by without something odd or magical happening. I will therefore fill these pages with bits of my history in Cairo—my experiences, successes, mistakes, and observations. Admittedly, my time here has been rather unique, so I want to stress that while everything I write is true, my experiences do not necessarily reflect the lives of other dancers.

In addition to my life as a belly dancer, I will write about developments in costuming, performances, festivals, and, of course, the dance itself. I will also make frequent references to Egyptian culture. I should note that I have a love/hate relationship with Egypt. If I make any criticisms about the country, please keep in mind that I do so with the utmost love, respect, and most of all, honesty. Egypt has become my home, so I want to avoid romanticizing and apologizing for social maladies, as most foreigners tend to do. Nothing could be more misguided, patronizing, or insulting.

I hope you find this blog informative, insightful and entertaining, and that we can make this as interactive as possible. That means I'd love to hear from you. Send me your comments, questions, complaints, suggestions, pics, doctoral dissertations, money, etc., and I will get back to you. Promise. :)~



My Videos

Friday, December 21, 2012

Crazy Dog Lady

Two brown puppies up for adoption.
 
Yep.  It’s official.  I’m the crazy dog lady of Cairo. :)  I am now the proud caretaker of 5 dogs.  One mum and four pups.  I swore I wasn’t going to rescue anymore dogs, but alas, I lied. 

It all started a few months ago.  I was coming home from a long night of work when I noticed a sad-looking dog curled up in the entrance of my building.  That’s odd, I thought.  Street dogs usually avoid people.  There’s probably something wrong with it if it’s decided to seek refuge inside the building.  So I decided to find out.  I approached the dog slowly, not knowing if it was wounded or scared, or if it would bite me.  “Hiwoy,” I said (that’s “hi” in the super retarded doggie language I invented :D).  I got closer and crouched down to pet its head until it finally acknowledged me by wagging its tail.  Very well.  It didn’t seem to be hurt, so I made my way to the elevator.



The next day on my way out, I found the same dog lying in the same place.  This time, it got up to greet me.  Hmm.  Female.  A little on the skinny side, but good-looking nonetheless.  She was dark brown with a beige belly and white paws.  And the tip of her tail was also white—the hallmark of Egypt’s ubiquitous kalb balady (street dog).  The poor thing looked hungry, so I went upstairs and came down with the only thing in my fridge a dog would eat—some leftover bitza with shreds of chicken.  Expectedly, she inhaled it.  I left her to go to work. 


As the weeks went on, these encounters became routine.  I would bring her leftover chicken from the Nile Memphis, and she would devour it.  All was going well, until one day, the dog suddenly disappeared.  Hoping she would eventually turn up, I began saving scraps of chicken and meat in a plastic bag that I kept in my refrigerator.  Days passed, and the bag kept growing.  But there was no sign of the dog.  Finally after two weeks, I caught sight of her.  So I ran upstairs to fetch her bag of goodies, and dumped it outside my building. 

Mama with puppies at 3 days old. <3
NOT the smartest move.  I didn’t realize it, but the food had rotted and grown maggots!  Not only did she not eat it, but my landlord witnessed me emptying this huge bag of frozen maggots in front of the building.  He didn’t have a problem with the maggots though.  It was the dog, which he insisted was vicious and was scaring his tenants.  Rather than ask me to stop feeding her, however, he threatened in Arabic to quote unquote “shoot her with my tabanga in front of you if I catch you feeding her again.”  (Tabanga is Egyptian slang for shotgun.)   

That was it.  The Brooklyn in me wasn’t having it.  “You know what, ye hagg?” I responded.  “Shoot me instead of the dog so I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ll spend your last years in jail.”

(FYI, my landlord and I don’t get along very well.  He’s constantly pushing his boundaries, and I’m constantly pushing back.  Like when he lied about the amount of rent we agreed to after I signed the lease.  Like when he yelled at me for having “naked women” (i.e. my unveiled girlfriends) visit me.  Like when he constantly implies that I’m an infidel and should convert.  Plus, I think he figured out that I’m a belly dancer.  He just loves my rent too much to kick me out.)

If there’s one thing life (and history) has taught me, it’s that when somebody makes a threat, believe them.  This, plus the fact that killing stray dogs here is more common than I’d like to admit, made me take him seriously and think of ways to save the dog, especially since she was pregnant.

First, I tried to get the dog into my apartment.  But she refused to get in the elevator or walk up the stairs.  Then, I figured I’d send her to an animal shelter where she could safely give birth. But all the shelters were over-capacitated and refused to take a pregnant dog.  Which left me with no other option than to let nature take its course.... which made me extremely uncomfortable, knowing that she would continue to come in the building, and that @$$hole might kill her.  I was so uncomfortable that I lost sleep over it.  And every time I heard gun shots (a common thing these days), I would run downstairs to see whether the dog had been shot.  


This is Bikya.  He's been adopted. :)
Luckily, Kelba was still alive.  And she kept visiting us at night.  Fearing what might happen, I'd shoo her out of the building and slam the door behind me.  I needed a more permanent solution though, so I arranged with the bawab (doorman) of the neighboring building to help me out.  Supposedly, the dog was his (or at least that’s what he said), so I got him to agree that bringing her up to my apartment before she gave birth in another two weeks was in her best interest. 

Days of promising me bukra (tomorrow) went by, and I realized he wasn’t going to budge.  So I renegotiated with him to at least lock her up in the manwar—the outdoor space between our two buildings.  It was dark and full of garbage, but at least she’d be out of sight and could have her babies in safety.

A few more days went by, and the bawab still hadn't done anything.  Kelba kept coming in my building, and she was about to burst any day now.  One night, I found her curled up in a sand pit in the lobby.  I tried to lure her outside with a chicken breast, but this time, instead of following me, she buried it in the sand.  Huh.  That’s weird.  I wondered if that were a sign she’d be delivering soon.  Sure enough, that’s what happened.  She had four beautiful puppies the following morning, but not before I dragged the bawab out of his room and forced him to put her in the manwar.  He did as I told, and left her with a bucket of water and the chicken I had brought her. 

For three days, I had the bawab open the door for me so that I could feed her and check on the little ones.  I also gave him money to buy them food.  Needless to say, that never happened.  Not only had he not used the money as intended, but he never changed the water, which was turning into a swamp in a bucket.  I yelled at him for being so neglectful, and demanded he bring the dogs up to my apartment NOW, lest they die of disease and the cold.  “But madame,” he shot back at me, “the problem is that I sold them.  Someone is coming to take the mother and puppies in the next hour, so I can’t give them to you.” 

The lone female in the litter.  Up for adoption.
AHA!”  I told him.  “You’re a disgrace and a liar, and you’re only doing this because I’m a foreigner.  You know damn well that Egyptians would never buy street dogs, and that the entire neighborhood thinks I’m crazy for taking interest in them.  If you think your lies are going to make me give you more money, you’re mistaken.  Cut the sh!t and bring the dogs up, NOW!” 

Now, I don’t usually talk to people this way.  But sometimes, you just have to be a beast to get people to do the right thing!  Besides, I couldn’t control myself.  I had been losing sleep over these poor creatures, and wouldn’t be able to live with myself if they died. 

I must have overwhelmed the bawab. :)  He promptly placed the four puppies in a cardboard box and proceeded up the stairs to my apartment.  The mother followed along.  We placed the dogs on a mattress in my spare bedroom, and closed the door on them.  I thanked the bawab for doing the right thing and gave him 20 pounds.  On his way down, he told me he wanted 1000 pounds for the puppies.  So I answered the only way a true Egyptian would know how to answer—with a big, fat “inshallah.” 

There's another side to this that I should mention.  Bringing the dogs up to my building was also a matter of my safety.  You see, Cairo's streets are littered with shabab, young men who have absolutely nothing to do except make trouble.  My street is no exception.  Given the current wave of violent sexual harassment, I was putting myself in harm's way by taking care of the dogs, especially at night.  Having them in my apartment was thus in all of our interests.  



Two Months Later
Two months later, I’m drowning in piss and poo.  I spend almost all of my free time cleaning, wiping, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, and bathing.  That’s why I haven’t blogged in a while.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I love the puppies to pieces, and they’ve grown into the cutest, sweetest things I’ve ever seen. 

This is Maksoom.  :) Also up for adoption.
But, as usual, there’s a problem.  My $h!thead landlord just threatened to evict me.  He sent his son to tell me that angels don’t enter houses with dogs, and so me and my dogs have to go.  This conversation happened in Arabic, two nights ago in the street, and went something like this:

“Ye madame, my father says your lease finishes at the end of this month, and he won’t be renewing it.”

“Wait, what?  I signed a lease for 2 years, not 6 months.  What are you talking about?”  I asked.

“Well, you have dogs in your apartment and the neighbors are complaining about all the barking.”

“Oh, ok.  So my dogs are barking, and somehow that means I signed a 6 month lease even though the contract says 2 years?”

“Look, are you Muslim or Christian?” he asked me.

I saw where this was going.  Out of spite, I wanted to tell him that I was a pagan, or an atheist, or better yet, Jewish!  Instead, I controlled myself and picked the answer that most closely approximated my spiritual affiliation.

“I’m Christian.”

“Well we’re Muslim,” he went on.  “And in our religion, we’re not allowed to have dogs in our houses.”

“Ok but the dogs are in MY house, not YOUR house.”

“But the neighbors don’t like it either.”

“Again, the dogs are in MY house, not the neighbors’ houses.  They don’t see or smell the dogs, and honestly, not one of them has complained to me,” I said. 

“But the problem is that dogs prevent angels from entering the house,” he responded.

Hmm.  What about cats and rats?  Or cockroaches?  Do they prevent angels from entering the house too, or is it just dogs?  

At this point, my blood started boiling.  Why he decided to inject religion into an issue that was purely about an inconvenience to the neighbors was beyond me.  Besides, he was insulting my intelligence.  Dogs prevent angels from entering a house?  Seriously?

I realized that if I were going to continue this conversation, I would have to dumb it down—stoop to his level.  And so I did.  “Oh don’t worry, since the dogs are only in MY apartment, the angels will still enter YOUR apartment.  Don’t worry about me, I can handle having an angel-free home for a little while.” :)

“No, actually, your dogs will prevent the angels from coming in the entire building.”

“Oh, really?  See cuz I thought dogs prevent robbers and vermin from entering the home.”

I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation.  

Bedtime on my carry-on suitcase!
(I guess I should explain where this superstition about dogs and angels comes from.  In Islam, the recorded traditions and sayings of the prophet Mohamed (called ahadith in Arabic), are considered a source of divine knowledge as equally authoritative as the Quran.  Years after the prophet died, believers gathered more than 60,000 of these hadiths.  Not all of them were sahih, or correct, and many contradicted each other.  To solve this problem, early Muslim theologians attempted to verify the authenticity of individual hadiths. They did this not by making a judgment on the value of their content, but by determining whether the people who recorded and transmitted them were reputable.  For example, many of the hadiths transmitted by the four companions of the prophets, his wives and relatives are considered correct.  Also, hadiths that were recorded by more than one individual were considered correct.  Eventually, two theologians named Muslim and Bukhari compiled what are considered to be the most authoritative compendia of hadiths that were deemed to be authentic. 

Several hadiths in these compendia talk about dogs.  There are hadiths about killing dogs.  There are hadiths about how profit derived from the sale of dogs is illegal, just as profits from prostitution or the sale of alcohol are illegal.  There are hadiths about dogs annulling prayers, and about dogs annulling rewards for good deeds.  And finally, there are hadiths about dogs preventing angels from entering the home.  Granted, lots of Muslims either don’t know about these or choose to completely ignore them.  And there are also lots of Muslims who apologize for them either by claiming that they’re inaccurate, or that some of the wording was used differently “back then,” or that the hadith are not (as) binding as the Quran.  But there are many more who do know about these hadiths, understand them literally, and apply them.  Indeed, my landlord’s son wasn’t the first to inform me about dogs and angels.  I’ve heard this from many Muslims throughout my ten years of traveling in countries such as Yemen, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and even in the States.  You can learn more about dog-related hadiths here and here.  (Just ignore the religious polemics and inflammatory language at the bottom of the page. Or not.)

My angels.
In all fairness, I should add that there are many other hadiths in these compendia that encourage kindness to animals in a more general way.  And though they seem to contradict the spirit of the hadiths on dogs, they are considered to be just as authentic.  You can read some of these hadiths here and here.)

Back to my conversation with the landlord’s son.  We continued going back and forth about the technicalities of angels and dogs until I blurted out that MY “religion” preaches compassion for animals, not killing them on the street with your “tabanga!” Shockingly, my opponent replied that it is permissible to kill street dogs, as opposed to “clean dogs with papers.”  I asked him what the difference was, and aren’t all living things created by God.  And why fault the dog for being born in the street. 

I began crying tears of rage.  I wanted to punch him for telling me to throw the dogs in the street, for insulting my intelligence, and for trying to make me feel like an infidel.  I screamed that I’d rather be evicted than throw my dogs in the street, and told him his father was a hypocrite for having a prayer scar the size of a hamburger on his forehead.  I also asked him if the smell of marijuana prevents angels from entering the building...

That night, I decided two things.  The first was that I should start looking for a new apartment, even if it meant I’d be moving for the 12th time in four years!!!  I was getting sick of being treated like a second class citizen.  The second was that I would strap on my white iridescent belly dance wings and flap around the building entrance to “prove” that angels enter buildings with dogs. :D  

Seriously though, I will be looking elsewhere, even though the landlord’s son told me the next day to forget everything and that I could continue living there with the dogs.  I guess they came to their senses.  Or don't want to lose my rent.  But if it’s not one thing, it’s another.  It’ll only be a matter of time before they make my life miserable with some other stupid “problem.” 

In the meantime, the puppies are up for adoption.  Three have already been adopted and will be shipped to New York City as soon as they’re ready to be weaned.  The other one, Maksoom, still needs a home.  If you or someone you know has always wanted a dog, now’s your chance.  As far as I’m concerned, the puppies are the real angels.  But more importantly, you’d be doing a huge act of kindness.  These creatures don’t have a fighting chance on the streets of Egypt.  This isn’t exactly a dog-loving culture, and many dogs are beaten or murdered, or else get run over by cars—which is what happened to Kelba’s last batch of puppies before I met her. :*(  Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources or time to care of them, so please consider adopting.  If you want to help but can’t take a puppy, you can donate to my online fundraiser to help me cover the expenses of food and vet bills until I'm ready to ship them to their new owners.  

Thanks for considering, and email me at lunaofcairo@gmail.com for more information on adoption or donation. 





2 comments:

  1. Luna,
    Masoom will soon, perhaps, be my dog! I already have two dogs, one quite elderly,and feel this pup and I will be great friends!
    My son works at CBOE, knew I was looking for another companion animal, and told me about Massom--yay!

    ReplyDelete