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October 21, 2007

Cats in Cairo—قطط في مصر

Filed under: Masr —مصر — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 11:00 pm

Cats at AUC


They are friggin’ everywhere!
At first, we thought that they were actually a different breed of cat because their heads seemed to be a different shape and they were more sleek. Then, we talked to a few people who had adopted local cats off the street and it turns out that they turn into the same lay-about tubsters as American cats when they are given a steady diet. In fact, they get even fatter. We’ve thrown around some theories about this. Maybe it’s because they were raised in an environment of scarcity and so tend to eat too much whenever there is food around. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to find anything but Cat Chow. Who knows. Anyway, cats are everywhere, all over the streets, and they are generally well-liked it seems, unlike dogs, of course, who are despised and who regularly have things thrown at them. A few nights ago, we were talking with an AUC grad student who did his research in upper Egypt and who was discussing racist violence against Sudanese refugees in Cairo. He told the story of a how kids will sometimes paint dogs black, call them epithets used for Sudanese and toss the dogs under moving vehicles.

Totally different story with cats. For instance, the assistant to the Provost at AUC, a woman named Wafaa, has taken it upon herself to act as a ward and guardian for the campus’s cats. The President, the story goes, ordered that the cats be removed. Wafaa refused to allow this and instead makes sure that they have their shots. I don’t think she feeds them, though. In the picture above where the cats are eating food left out for them, someone else took it upon themselves most likely. During most of the year, they probably live off the copious amounts of trash left by students, but during breaks, they are not shy about begging. Nor is this limited to the AUC campus.

During the month of Ramadan, which just passed recently, muslims (and many non-muslims who are fearful of offending muslims) fast during daylight hours and then break the fast with an Iftar meal (literally, breakfast) at the precise moment of sunset (marked by cannon-fire where it is audible, otherwise by prayers broadcast from the mosques). Most, if they have the opportunity, will go home to have Iftar with their families or otherwise go to one of the many big public Iftar feasts around the city (the Mubarak government banned the annual Iftar feast of the Muslim Brothers this year for the first time). The many men who work as policemen or for one of the many varieties of security forces or private security guards will take the Iftar with one another wherever they happen to be stationed. They will all eat the meal together and there will invariably be a small congregation of cats nearby, nibbling on chicken bones or pieces of kofta that have been tossed to them. When the Egyptians fast, so do the cats, and when the Egyptians feast, the cats do, too.

1 Comment »

  1. I’ve been feeding some of the feral cats here in Maadi since my dog passed away in July – it started with leftover dog food and progressed from there. It also started with just one cat, but now several, all who will probably jump ship as soon as they see my new pup, when I return in January. I actually have to run off some of the fat cats, who can barely fit through the wrought iron bars surrounding our porches. It’s quite funny to see them maneuver from one section to another figuring out exactly how to get their plump bodies through the gates. I figure it’s only fair to fatten up some of the younger ones to give them a fighting (and you can take that literally) chance.

    Comment by vagabondblogger — October 24, 2007 @ 8:12 am

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