And yet, while seemingly far removed from the revolution, daily life at the khidma in 2011 continuously reminded me of stories many Egyptians were telling about Tahrir Square during the eighteen decisive days of protest—stories that open up a space for imagining alternative forms of relationality and modes of being in the world.In the hope of initiating an unlikely conversation, I show in this article how the khidma can help illuminate what people found so extraordinary about being at Tahrir Square in early 2011.To overcome, or at least bracket, this pervasive sense of uncertainty, all I needed to do was take the narrow staircase, step over feces and syringes, and push open a large metal gate on which is written , celebrations of saints’ birthdays or death days that can last up to a week.Individuals, families, and Sufi orders set up tents, put out carpets on the sidewalk, or rent apartments to offer free meals and a resting place. Though less than five-kilometers away from Tahrir Square, throughout 2011 the khidma in the City of the Dead seemed largely unaffected by what was happening downtown—by ongoing protests, sit-ins, clashes, violence, and deaths.Just footsteps away, the maniacal spectacle of Cairo traffic is at work. Around each corner, there is singing, squawking, screaming.Rusty cars whir by, lurching left and right, an orchestra of horns trumpeting their arrival and departure from one traffic light to the next. This is both the doorstep to the Middle East, the corridor to North Africa, the launchpad of revolutions that reverberated worldwide, and the home of more than nine million Egyptians.
Her commentaries have appeared in several other publications and she is a regular guest analyst on various television and radio shows.
The taxi driver hesitated for a moment when asked to let me out by the narrow staircase leading down into the City of the Dead. By the summer of 2011, security had become a central concern across Cairo and rumors were running wild. This was also a time when many Egyptians had begun to deeply worry about the fate of the revolution.
In the urban imaginaries of many, the area is off-map, dangerous, and full of robbers or worse.
The marble-encrusted lobbies of Cairo's many luxury hotels overlooking the Nile, once bustling with globetrotting tourists from every corner of the earth, are now silent.
Still recovering from the hangover of a failed revolution, a string of unfortunate airline disasters - including an ISIL bombing of Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Sinai Peninsula in 2015, which killed 224 people, and indefinitely halted all Russian flights to the country - and most recently, the deadly bombings of Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria earlier this month, Egypt's once-resilient tourism industry is battered and bruised.