December 11, 2019

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  • Arab in NYC: Morsi comes to town

    File photo of President Mohamed Morsi.


    The other day, I was smoking shisha and sipping ahwa at my favorite ersatz Middle Eastern café on Steinway Street, NY.

    Due to my advancing years, I must confess that I was quite exhausted from all the excitement in the last day or so, namely, the news that President Morsi was coming to NY, where he would be meeting with several world leaders at the UN, including French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, but not, alas, President Obama, who was going to be too busy doing other things to have time for him.

    The atmosphere at the café was very electric, since an article published by Al-Ahram online announced this visit. Everyone here over 50 still reads Al-Ahram, out of habit, I suppose, when not watching Al-Jazeera on satellite for the actual news. The article also said that Morsi planned to “visit Egyptian communities living in the US.”

    What if Morsi suddenly showed up in Little Egypt?

    This question was of course on everyone’s lips, especially on those belonging to the owner of the café, the ma’alem, who was in a panic. What if Morsi dropped by the ahwa and noticed the old picture of Nasser on the wall in the back, not to mention the nightclub and belly dancing establishment next door, which he also owned, that serves beer and whisky too.

    Visibly shaking, the ma’alem, whose name I will not mention, was pacing up and down saying out loud: What will President Morsi think of us?

    He had a point. It is not as if everyone in Little Egypt practices his or her faith with the same purity as Muslims in Cairo, who never gamble, smoke hashish, frequent prostitutes, or drink.

    “Relax, ya ma’alem,” I told him. “Morsi has lived many years in America, and in fact two of his children were born here.”

    This seemed to calm down his nerves a bit.

    He sat down next to me, breathed a sigh of relief, and looked at me slyly.

    “You know, the Ahram said he won’t be meeting President Obama,” he said.

    “I know. It’s an insult to all Egyptians. Especially after that big speech Obama gave a few years back in Cairo.”

    The ma’alem’s face slowly lit up.

    “I know what to do,” he said. “If Morsi shows up, I’ll use Egyptian humor. This always works. I’ll tell him that Obama is here to meet him in person.”


    “I’ll tell him Obama is already here. Waiting for him.”

    I looked at the ma’alem to see if maybe he’d smoked one of those funny cigarettes from across the street, but he seemed okay.

     “You can’t say that because it wouldn’t be true. You know very well that the Muslim Brothers aren’t known for their sense of humor.”

    “But, ya basha, it is true!” replied the owner. “I’ll simply point to that empty chair and say there he is! There he is! He is sitting on that chair! Just the way Dirty Harry did at the Republican convention in Tampa a few weeks ago. And Morsi will laugh, and this will break the ice between us, and everything will be all right, especially for the rest of my family back home, when he returns to Egypt.”

    The ma’alem looked at me, his eyes imploring me to agree with his ridiculous plan to joke about an invisible President Obama sitting on a chair at his ahwa on Steinway Street.

    “You watched the Republican convention?”

    “Just for a few minutes. I switched the channel by mistake. So… what do you think of my plan?”

    I thought about this for a minute.

    “Of course, ya habibi” I finally said. “He’ll laugh, and don’t worry about your family in Egypt. This isn’t the old days. Don’t you realize? There was a revolution.”

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