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Gayyash Al 'Aatifa

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Auto Sambateek

My car is a smallish ten year old Renault. Today I took it to the petrol station to have the interior cleaned. I left the car, went to have lunch and came back an hour later to find the guy still cleaning it. I made a sarcastic reference to his having told me it would only take half an hour and he quickly replied, also with sarcasm, saying that my car was very neat and tidy. He then said that I should throw the car away, to begin with, aslan.

I told him that was a mean thing to say and that it was a lovely car that has treated me well and taken my abuse for years and that it was still running fine. He said no no, it's not about that. "Ya beih aslaha lamo2akhza mish mashya ma3al hay2a keda." That is, it didn't jive with the overall hay2a, meaning both authority (as in the Cairo Transportation Authority) but also, and more likely in this case, all of the following: form, shape; exterior, appearance, guise, aspect, bearing; air mien, physiognomy; attitude, position; situation, condition, state; group, (social) class.*

I asked "what hay2a, to be exact?" The man, still weaving in and out of the car with my nearly empty container of dashbord polish in hand, made limp but not subtle references to my and my deceptively sophisticated-looking companion's entitlement to a classier ride. I felt no emotion save the desire to remedy what I saw as this man's ignorance regarding the correlations between cars, class and cool. So I went off on a very short and failed tirade about why my car was indeed cool and commendable and how no shab need 'deserve' a better car.

The guy just shook his head and then looked at me silently for a couple of seconds, a glimmer in his eye betraying the sweet treats filling his imagination. Smiling, his eyes now somewhere else, speaking from a place of pure mazag, he said "Ya beih enta terkab keda Nubeira", 'tis a Daewoo Nubeira you should drive, and dove into the car, coming out the other side grinning still, "aw Leganza masalan," his head indulgently bobbing from side to side like those taxicab dashboard tigers and puppies. He then came up beside me and, sensing my disagreement, grimaced and simply said "Nissan." That is "even a Nissan would do, man, anything but this."

I asked why and his face turned poetic again as he shook his head softly, a smirk and eyebrows raised, authoritative: "3arabeetak mish 3aatefeya." My car is not emotional? No, I shouldn't criticise his use of the word 3atefeya, as it actually is generally taken to mean sentimental when used describe inanimate objects, like ringtones, stuffed animals or sunglasses.

On that note, I invite whoever reads this to join me in reflecting on the correlation of sentimentality to form. Ay, 3atefeyyet el shei2 wa se7net man yamlokoh.

*From Hans Wier's Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, 1980 edition.


  • Hahahahahhahahaaaaaaaaa!!
    Gamda gidan "very hard" ya3ni :)
    Maybe because of the 3atefy stickers you put on the car! the one with the hearts bezzabt. bee2a awi. Now you have to think of the correlation of environment and el se7na.

    By Blogger butterfly, at Mon Aug 08, 03:51:00 AM GMT+3  

  • actually these days i think 3atefeyya means "likeable" or something. it's the most incomprehensible piece of slang yet.
    anyway, great pics, but i think your writing needs to flow more smoothly.

    By Blogger forsoothsayer, at Sun Dec 04, 06:20:00 AM GMT+2  

  • thanks, f. yes it does need to flow more smoothly. i'm trying.check out my later posts, i think they're a bit better in this regard. this particular post (auto sam.), a friend had suggested i pare it down and then i thought of maybe rewriting it, once in english only and once in transliteration ony and post both together. i might do that if i find the time.

    By Blogger Gayyash, at Sun Dec 04, 01:27:00 PM GMT+2  

  • its not the transliteration webta3, it's just a little...choppy. but still i concurr with all your sentiments. even so, i can hardly wait till i move back to egypt.

    By Blogger forsoothsayer, at Mon Dec 05, 03:16:00 AM GMT+2  

  • forsooth. re. your first comment: i think 3atefeyya would mean likeable because sentimentality is regarded as positive these. hence the popularity of little stuffed bears, no? more should be done (by commentators) about the dabdoob element in shabab culture.
    re. your second comment: i didn't mean only the transliteration, i know it's choppy in general. 7atta bil inglish.
    a friend of mine recently left for a better life in boston and he's been craving cairo life badly. more than just missing friends, he seems to miss the shit too. he dreamt that a group of upper middle class conservative family career types he knew from the club (and whose mere existense burdened him) moved to boston and founded a suburb and he said that in his dream he was hanging out there and feeling great.

    By Blogger Gayyash, at Mon Dec 05, 03:51:00 AM GMT+2  

  • yeah the dabdoob thing blows. sometimes i commend the way that masculinity seems to be very loosely defined in the middle east, with all kinds of sappy shit being acceptable, but no adults of either gender should be into stuffed animals. period.
    bas so i'm going back come summer, khara and all. luckily my parents don't live there.

    By Blogger forsoothsayer, at Mon Dec 05, 06:13:00 AM GMT+2  

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