With old and trusted friends I still felt like adopted family when it came to daily life, yet as soon as politics entered the conversation I stopped being a person and became my nationality. After the initial shock wore off I realized my friends wanted to celebrate their freedom without interference or opinions from people that had only experienced the times of suppression second hand. Fair enough, yet for the first time it made me feel like the foreigner that I am.
I have always enjoyed talking to the drivers of the ubiquitous Cairo taxis, my broken Arabic and their often limited use of English make for an easier exchange than expected. Trying to understand, as opposed to listening to words, can suddenly go a long way, even if the traffic outside the windows is proving the opposite. It was nice that these discussions no longer revolved around famous Dutch football players, all time favourites like Sneijder, Robben, van Persie and of course van Basten, who were all taken out of play without giving them a second thought. They were easily replaced in our traffic jam talks by figures like Moussa, Baradei and players from the A-team of the Muslim Brotherhood. I mostly listened, having become reluctant to give whatever opinion I may have, and heard many interesting takes on the confusing mire of Egyptian politics.
Enter Mubarak, fielded in extra time, to confuse the issue further. Reports of depression and juice and yoghurt dieting were met with scornful laughter when I mentioned them. “I worry about feeding my kids, who cares what this man eats in his million pound hospital room” I was told several times in more or less the same words.
At the start of the second half of the presidential elections I was ready for more politics talk. I made sure I had the names of the runners-up and no-longer-runners down pat, and listened to several conflicted drivers who were trying to make sense out of having to choose for someone who they had rejected the first time around. Soon it was Monday morning and after the normal question of where I was from something strange happened. In no uncertain terms I was told that my guys had done a dismal job. For a second I was taken aback – did I have a herd of males following me? Did I produce a bunch of offspring without my knowledge? Did I join an expat-collective without my knowledge?
Then it dawned on me, my guys were the Dutch national squad who had dismally failed to win a single game during Euro 2012. In the middle of confusing court battles, accusatory election adverts, and furious protests in Tahrir we had come full circle. We were talking about football. “I like Kuyt” I contributed to the flawless analysis of the competing teams in Euro 2012.
And for the first time in a long time I felt at home.