25 Aug 2005


Yesterday was Cilantro's day for me. I stopped by twice, once early morning before heading to the office, and later in the afternoon to have lunch before heading to my hotshot snobbish client . This past month I have been working and consulting like crazy and have been seeing lots of interesting situations. Very challenging too. The great part is that I feel on top of all that. I think the before bed remeberance I started since the begining of Rajab has had some good effect.

So, Cilantro 730 am. I entered, casually dressed in a white long sleeves shirt and a black skirt. The coffee rich aroma was the first thing that welcomed me. Apart from the rich aroma, the place was rather empty except of 2 men in their early 50's.

The first man looked so decent in his white long sleeves shirt closely captured by a nice red and yellow cuffs, nice classical tie and a Gold & Silver Rolex. He looked so familiar but not sure where did I see him. I sat opposite to him, exchanged looks and semi greetings. I got my newspaper and ordered my coffee and half concentrated on my paper while sneaking a look or two to the decent guy. I was actually trying to figure out who was he, when he received a call on his cell. The minute he said, 'Aloo' I knew who he was. He talked in such a decent, diplomatic, polite, humble, you name it way on the phone. I liked the decency and politeness to whoever he was talking to. After he finished his call, getting ready to leave, I looked up to him and asked, 'Are you Monsieur X. ?' He smiled and nodded. I said, 'Couldnt miss the sound.' I introduced myself and we exchanged couple of sentences before he had to leave. How funny I thought to myself.

The other guy, also mid 50's but he looked like a business man. He was dressed in a pinkish polo shirt and a jeans, and a Rolex, an older model though. He looks very friendly, smiling and exchanging jokes with the waiters. I knew that he must be some big shot rich guy. He was talking on the phone about this deal he got with Caterpillar and Exxon Mobil; he sold his apartment for 1.2; his wife doesnt want the old furniture and didnt want it to even be transferred to Sukhna, a statment to which I couldnt hold myself from smiling when I heard it. He looked to me and said, 'What can I do!?'

Back to the newspaper again, when I felt a knock on my shoulder. There stood my simonds buddy. I dont know his name, but we knew each other from AUC, regularly met at Simonds, and now at Cilantro. He said Hello and sat infront of me. He as well was wearing a Sports Rolex, the black one, James Bond's style. He sat for 10 minutes, drank his coffee, read the newspaper and left.

I was alone, finally able to concentrate on my paper when I heard the polo shirt rich man saying, 'Can I ask you a question? Why did you change it and removed the metal to leather?' I looked up and said, 'What?' Looking to my watch and repeating the question. 'Ah, my rolex you mean? Aha, I want it to look a little feminine.' He gave me a blaming look and said, 'Naha... You ruined the Rolex's look, H.' I answered, 'Oh well, actually I like the sports Rolex.' He replied almost immediately, 'Like the other's guy watch.', 'Wow, everyone is really looking at the other's watches.', I replied. 'Oh yea, ma'am. They are beautiful.' He was right. Good watches really are beautiful.

Apart from everything, what's up with people living in Zamalek, do they all dress and talk the same? Do they all buy the same stuff, and live in the same standard? I mean is there a stereotype of who the Cilantro Zamalek people are, especially those who come early meaning they live inbound and not a morning comers? Do they all recognize one another? Do they all talk in millions like this polo man? Park a Jagguar with a Chauffeur in the no parking area outside Cilantro? Order the semi-handicapped driver to bring him the newspaper instead of him just hopping there to get it for himself? Wanting to throw expensive furniture in a 1.2 apartment because his wife doesnt want it, and doesnt want him to even think about shipping it to Sukhna? Can he just give it to Mustafa Mahmoud mosque to help tens of couples to get married? I wish I could have told him that.

I would like to think that decent people, not particularly rich ones, live in Zamalek. There is a big difference actually between 'decency' and 'richness'. The later doesnt in particular inculde the former. Our apartment building for instance, is far from being fancy. No Jaguar or Hammar parking in its garage, rather moderate cars which are cheaper than a Rolex. Apartments itself are simply furnished with no fancy statues or expensive accessories. Old ones maybe. Good taste maybe but for sure nothing fancy like the ones we see on this 'Dream TV program, houses and gardens.' But I see that some parts of the society seeks to separate and distinguish themselves from other ones. I maybe really exaggerating, but how odd it is for me to find 4 out of 4 customers wearing 4 different Rolex models. What is more important is that 2 out of the 4 (myself and the polo) had at least noticed the others watchs and actually talked about it. Does this happen usually!


Blogger MoonLightShadow said...

"No Jaguar or Hammar parking in its garage"

Being from the other side of the city far from Zamalek and surrounding areas.. whenever me and my brother happen to be in Zamalek the thing that we recognize well is the cars.. nice cars are there with very high density.

8/25/2005 02:22:00 am  
Blogger Mohamed said...

I am wearing one of those plastic watches today. I think they wouldn't let me near Cilantro in the morning.

Cilantro sucks actually, I am a fan of a perfectly cosy cafe in Mohandeseen now.

8/25/2005 09:26:00 am  
Blogger LouLou said...


you've convinced me that it can be interesting to watch people when in a cafe by yourself.

Usually when I do that it's like when am in the car with someone else driving. It's a holiday from paying attention to the road so I don't look around & have no idea where we're going & don't notice anything.

Alone in a coffee shop am either buried in my book or talking on the phone. And I never notice who else is there or what they're wearing or doing.

Think I might try that today though. People-watching I mean.

You're right about Rolex. Nice but always thought of it as an oldet male watch - my Dad's style. Personally prefer Chopard or PC.

8/25/2005 10:36:00 am  
Blogger haal said...

I was just thinking how similiar people living in the same place tend to become or like to become. it is the continous search for identity, dont you think? I took it as, 'Zamalek' identity sorta, same will me Marina, Sukhna and soon Marsa 3allam. I was just interested in how we use little things to connect to and with and sometimes because.

8/25/2005 10:54:00 am  
Blogger haal said...

Mohamed, I dont think they will let u in Zamalek in the first place with this plastic watch.

8/25/2005 11:19:00 am  
Blogger LouLou said...

"it is the continous search for identity, dont you think?"

Could be. A means of recognizing others like you & being recognized by them. There is fear of ending up in the wrong group - feeling out of place. Feeling out of place is a very lonely thing no?

But this post of yours reminded of a couple others you wrote before in the same kind of setting. All interesting with a lot of content. Pretty cool I think.

8/25/2005 11:36:00 am  
Blogger haal said...

Yes, Loul, I like watching people to some extent. There are lots to be noticed, we are missing a lot concentrating on what people 'say'....

This reminds me, I was browsing through a book on 20th century art, and there was this painting saying,'you are not what you seem you are.' I smiled. Then I kept browsing and I found another painting, 'NOISE'.

Back to groups and identity, I think our biggest fear is 'not belonging' because being with the majority gives us comfort and strenght....and we have lots of proverbs, teaching (culture or religious) warning us against being outside the mainstream!

8/25/2005 12:07:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Yeah, I sure don't fit in that Zamalek snobbish culture, surrounded by people talking about each other's watches, and having a strong sense of identity --only with fellow Rolexes.

Coincidently, I was in Zamalek this morning, and that is the reason I am wearing this plastic watch of mine. Its really practical.

8/25/2005 12:14:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

They are snobbish, that's for sure. :)

Even you Mohamed, in your attempt to de-associate, refusal to the snobbish culture, you used the WATCH. Interesting, no?

8/25/2005 12:21:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

No, I just used the watch because it was relevant to your post and observations, identifying people through their watches. If I ever go to Cilantro Zamalek in the morning (which I'll never do now that I found that other cafe), I'll never think of what I'm wearing and if that makes me fit with them or not.

The Rolex though is not just a watch, its a behavior; how much are you willing to spend on a watch? And that is what I don't identify with, and diss-associate myself from.

8/25/2005 12:32:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

Yes, sure, a virtual observation affecting what you wear in real life.

I dont think people who go to cilantro think what they are wearing. They have far better places to have coffee at other than cilantro--if they want to showoff I mean! I was just speaking of something I noticed, and thought that it is a way they connected subconsciously!

ANd you are right, the Rolex is a behaviour. Sure. Maybe you know that there are rolex for different 'Rolex people' too!

How much you are willing to spend on Rolex (or on any thing) is relative to what you have and what you like. Different people with different tastes.

8/25/2005 12:39:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Its not a virtual observation. I didn't observe it, you explicitly said it. Its not like you mentioned it en passe, its even in the title :)

I agree there are other factors as to how much you're willing to spend on what. The fact that I can't afford it, I would hope should not be the reason why I wouldn't identify with someone who's subconscioulsy identifying with other Rolex people.

No I don't think they think of what they wear going to Cilantro. That would be too much really. They're just there to grab a cup of coffee before they go to work, yet they subconsciously identify with other people's watches!

8/25/2005 01:02:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

Which is fine if they find Rolex to be their common identifier. What is wrong with that? Shallow? Snoobish? Not really. The issue will be for me how long will they keep talking about their Rolex! and why they are wearing it? and what is the image they carry of the people who are wearing it or wearing something else.

There are far more expensive watches than Rolex! and some Rolex people can still afford it, but they wont get it, why in my opinion? Because, our culture doesnt know that it yet and our culture recognizes Rolex as THE WATCH. So you simply go with what your culture knows and recognizes.

8/25/2005 01:13:00 pm  
Blogger Alina said...

I think people working in the same place tend to become more and more similar. For example, at my ex company, we all kind of dressed the same way and had the same attitude towards eachother. Now it's the same. We kind of dress the same - all casual - talk the same and stuff...I am actually just learning the slang :) In this case I think it's because we spend so much time together.

8/25/2005 01:25:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Nothing wrong with that really. But now you're asking the good questions. For how long, why, and what image to they have of others? If they can form an image of others who don't wear it, then they're probably doing that to disassociate themselves from them.

Yeah, because the culture knows the Rolex and knows its price, why pay more for something that might be better. Now some people I know are those who try to identify with the Rolex people even when they can't afford it, or don't want to pay for it. They got perfect immitations of it from Thailand, same weight, same everything. What's these guys' identity?

8/25/2005 01:45:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

Hurrah, you too are asking the right questions. These questions are what things usually boils down to.

8/25/2005 02:34:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

Kayla, I think it is part of the norm of conforming, belonging, be part of. Why would you be different, especially that you are the new kid there! Not you, but just most new comers...this is the initial reaction. Be comfortable first showing loyalty and belonging that will later support and/or justify the rebel actions to come.

8/25/2005 03:26:00 pm  
Blogger Alina said...

The thing is I actually am comfortable not being different! I feel great among them and I am learning a lot every moment...I love being a newcomer though! Especially after an excellent rating :))

8/25/2005 11:57:00 pm  
Blogger MoonLightShadow said...

I don't hate anything as much as I hate being a new comer :(

8/26/2005 12:27:00 am  
Blogger Sarah said...

Hey Haal,

You know what I noticed the same thing in the area where I work in Maadi. Everyone is not alike but at least copies. I do not know what people are trying to prove or achieve or give a certain message when they look a certain way or talk a certain way. I do not know. But I do not enjoy sometimes being another face in the crowd. It gives me the creeps. You know it reminds me with the scene we have seen in so many movies the flock of people walking around expressionless wearing the same outfits and just living their aimless lives…
I could be wrong but this is what I get…
Nice post.

8/26/2005 08:19:00 am  
Blogger haal said...

It is partly attributed to belonging and it is our main fear, I suppose.

It differs from one personality to the other this 'comfort' level thing. I assume those who have a strong sense of themselves like to standout and be different because they know they can deliver better. Others, just mingle but without losing their sense of uniquness, others enter the group and just make it a point not to belong and I assume they are left out and again not comfortable with that.

Jade, nothing worse than Copies. They are not even original, you know. My feeling is that it is safer to be another face in the crowd lest something happens and you are pointed at, or if you fail or underachieve then they will make a scene and mock you.... To hide and fail is better than to appear and maybe succeed.

But my feeling is that we love people who are different, we want them to prove they are good and prove themselves, but when they fail we have no mercy judging them because they failed us and failed to break for us the fear of being different AND succeed.

8/26/2005 08:48:00 am  
Blogger Sarah said...

Yeah Haal, I totally agree. OMG, What I hate most in life is being judgmental. Unfortunately I used to be like that for quiet some time. But not anymore I understood the cons of it when the tables shifted and found myself being judged. Now I don’t judge people. I mean who give anyone the right to stand there on a presto and point fingers and judge. No one. We are humans we live, make mistakes, have fun, achieve or not achieve, fail or succeed this is life.
I agree we love the different and sometimes looking at it gives us fulfillment when we can not stand out ourselves.
It is a complicated world we live in. But for me; although I am scared to death of failure or being mocked at. I rather be different than just another one, another face, another being.
But at the end of the day, I am just plainly me different or not

8/26/2005 09:58:00 am  
Blogger haal said...

I think it is not important to be different, just by being onself we will be perfectly different!

We judge because we are judged. And because we think God will judge us or made to think so.

8/26/2005 06:54:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Digressing has a related long post about social classes.

8/30/2005 12:41:00 pm  

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