Monday, June 29, 2009

Swine Flu and After 8....

The recent outbreak of the H1N1 (swine) flu virus, has created a great deal of turmoil on the global scene. With new cases continuously being reported, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been urging countries to adopt preventative measures in an attempt to stem the spread of the epidemic. Their recommendations include avoiding crowded areas, frequently washing one's hands, and avoiding contact with individual's suspected of carrying the deadly virus strain. Egyptian authorities however, took one step further in announcing the slaughter of thousands of pigs throughout the country, a move that has raised wide-spread criticism in many circles. The decision to cull 300-350,000 pigs in an area of Cairo known as "garbage city" under the pretense that it will help stem the potential spread of the H1N1 flu strain raised many eyebrows, notably, the WHO who has stressed that the virus is not contracted by exposure to pork products or pigs themselves, but that it is spreading through person to person contact. I have read many opinions on this decision by the Egyptian government, ranging from people who claim that it is a means of damaging the income potential of the mostly Christian farmers raising the pigs, to others who allege that the Egyptian government is merely going about eliminating pork and pork products from the country, as pork is considered haram (forbidden) under Islam. Regardless of what the motivations behind the decision, it remains that culling the pigs is an unnecessary step, especially when you take into consideration that the first case of swine flu in Egypt was a girl coming from the U.S., and further confirmed cases came from the American University in Cairo (AUC) - not "garbage city" where the majority of pig farmers and pigs reside. Things that make you go "hmmmmm."

I digress. The whole swine flu epidemic has hit the world hard, but in my little Cairo cocoon, I haven't really experienced first hand much of what is being done to combat the disease. That is, until this past weekend. A group of us decided to head down to a small bar in downtown Cairo known as "After 8." While this bar has a decent atmosphere, I disagree with their table minimum charge policy, where you have to have a table to get a drink (despite there only being, oh, 8 or so tables in the entire place) - and should you try to buy a drink (even if it is non-alcoholic) from the bar, expect to pay 80 LE. Absolutely outrageous. Anyhow, my rants about their pricing and management aside, I was quite impressed with After 8 this weekend. To set the scene, imagine a crowded Cairo street downtown, and a discreet looking Kiosk selling cigarettes and chipsy on the side of the road. Did you not know it was there, you would miss the aged "After Eight" hanging over this Kiosk. You actually have to physically walk through this Kiosk, into a dark and grimy alley behind it. Roughly 30 metres down, on your left you'll see After 8 (seriously...don't try finding this place if you don't know where it is haha).

The doorman greets our group, and pulls out this extremely invasive looking mechanism, which turns out to be a thermometer to stick in your ear. To ensure the "cleanliness" of the strange looking device, which i shall call the "ear probe," they stick a strange condom looking thing on the end of it, and replace with each use. When first approached by the bouncer with his ear probe, i had no idea what he was trying to do, and flashed back to the days of school, when sent to the school nurse for a "routine check-up" with the ever present false promise of "I swear the needle won't hurt." My friend Kat was the first one to go, and her expression was priceless - jaw dropped, eyes watering, fingers massaging her ear lobe once the probe had finished its job. Her ear was violated, but one beep later, and she was cleared to go into the pub. I questioningly look at the bouncer, who in his broken English points to the ear probe, then at Kat's ear, and mutters "swine flu....Inside very hot!" I was having a difficult time keeping a straight face at this point, which was only further made difficult once it was my turn for the ear probe. Anybody that has been to After 8 can understand the humour in this situation, as you're really more likely to catch the virus standing outside the bar in the nasty dirty alley way than you are inside. But hey, our temperatures were cleared, and inside we went for a night of good music, combined with terrible karaoke! There's something about karaoke nights, that bring out the part in people that just crave singing songs that you could hang yourself to, it can be so damn depressing. Until of course, you have that person that thinks they can sing grab the microphone, blast out their song, wait for the applause which never comes, then question "hmm, maybe I was "off" today?" Which this weekend, would have been me and Rena. YES for bad singing and Ear probes! But seriously, hats off to After 8 for doing their little part in trying to prevent the spread of swine flu. I'm doing my part in having developed an OCD like obsession with hand sanitizers....


  1. You gotta love the Egyptian mentality... it's what makes me smile every morning when
    I walk to work. :-) Nice Post Suz