Sunday, November 4, 2012
Trick or Treating for Leftovers: Halloween in Egypt.
I have never been the biggest fan of Halloween. Even when I was younger the appeal of amassing a years worth of candy in one night was overshadowed by the inevitable tomfoolery and hooliganism of masked and unsupervised teens. In college I continued to be underwhelmed by Halloween, as the amount of shenanigans and hooliganism remained the same but with considerably less candy. Now, as far as I can tell, Halloween is just another excuse to get drunk on a weeknight. So when Halloween came and went this year, I didn’t get too excited.
Apparently my feelings about Halloween are not widespread, and even in Egypt I was unable to escape Halloween celebrations. The US embassy hosted a Halloween costume party for Cairo’s expat community and a select number of Egyptians. With a whopping one hundred pound entrance fee, one hundred and fifty without a costume but only fifty pounds for women, the party could be nothing less than an extravaganza. Partygoers were promised a night of fun and dance, and perhaps the most anticipated attraction, non-Egyptian alcohol. Needless to say the party was packed.
Not wanting to pay the no costume tax, but also not wanting to spend too much time on a costume, and being that I am in Egypt, I decided to wrap myself in toilet paper and go to the party as a mummy. After raiding the men’s bathroom at the dorms, and with the aid of some friends, I was able to get impressive toilet paper coverage. My costume looked pretty good. Much to my surprise the toilet paper proved to be significantly softer and suppler than my previous encounters would have led me to believe. As a result, the integrity of the flimsy material rapidly deteriorated as I moved, and within minutes I had streamers of toilet paper hanging from my body in authentic mummy style.
Unfortunately, I did the majority of the toilet paper wrapping before I went to the embassy, which meant that I had to walk around the streets of Cairo covered head to foot in toilet paper. As I walked down the street with my streamers of toilet paper whipping in the wind, I became very aware that every Egyptian had stopped whatever he were was and was looking at me. The expressions showed a mix of surprise, amusement, and disgust. Children pointed and laughed, some of the preteens yelled out to me in Arabic, and the adults tried and failed to ignore the tall, blond toilet paper mummy walking in the street with leaving a trial of tattered toilet paper in his wake. I would not have felt self conscious if the rest of my friends had worn better costumes. But most of them went as frat kids, nerds, or college students… I was alone in the outrageous costume department.
Security at the US embassy was impressive, having been bulked up following the protests and breaches of security in September. No cabs are allowed to go within a block or so of the US embassy… for security reasons. The front gate of the embassy is hidden behind a fearsome maze of barbed wire coils, cement block barricades, and armored personnel carriers. After navigating thought this hostile terrain all partygoers had to present ID, sign in, pass though metal detectors, and check all cell phones, cameras, pagers, iproducts, etc. at the security checkpoint. My choice of costume was not ideal for complying with this high level of security, snagging on the copious barbed wire, and littering floor of the checkpoint as I tried to remove my illicit cellphone and belt.
The party was actually pretty fun, but the majority of the costumes were pretty much par for the course. There were the slutty mime, the slutty Egyptian princess, the slutty regular princesses, slutty pirates, slutty… However, the embassy’s Marines, the party’s hosts, had some of the best costumes that I have ever seen. The highlights include Link from the legend of Zelda, Maverick, Jackie Moon, and an especially well done slutty black swan, I will leave that one up to your imagination.
My vote for best costume of the night went to the American beer that was being serving. In the true spirit of Halloween, the American beers, like Budweiser and Coors, dressed up as good flavorful micro brews, and with a little imagination and momentary suspension of disbelief, the beers totally pulled it off. I can say with nearly total confidence that I have never been so happy, or excited to drink a Budweiser. I guess there is something to be said about absence and a fonder heart.
Anyway, that was Halloween in Cairo. Oh yeah, I nearly forgot to mention, we celebrated it on the 19th not the 31st. I am not sure why, but at this point, in this part of the world, does it really matter? I wonder what Thanksgiving will be like.