In Cairo, just around the corner from the building where I lived for nearly a year, is a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf franchise. It’s in the Om Kalthoum building (named for the famous Egyptian singer who rose to international stardom in the 1950s and whose house used to sit on the site of what is now a high-rise hotel/apartment building). The two-level cafe is one of the hippest spots in Zamalek, if not Cairo.
And it was also the center of my universe.
Every morning, I would quaff an Americano at The Bean. The staff knew me well and would be making my order as soon as they saw me. It was where I would grade papers, where I would meet friends, and, inevitably, where I would run into people by chance.
So last weekend, when I visited Cairo for a few days, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see so many familiar faces there.
I ran into E, an AUC instructor, a couple of times. Former neighbors and students were there. And, most surprisingly, Munir, who was visiting from Beirut, had just arrived in the neighborhood directly from the airport. He bought a SIM card for his mobile phone and wanted to find a cafe with wireless so he could find my mobile number from an email I had sent the day before. He stopped into the Bean… and ran into me.
Coincidence or Truman Show? You decide.
If we are all six degrees of separation from everyone else in the world, then the Bean makes the odds closer to one or two degrees.
I wonder if Kevin Bacon has ever been there?
I returned to New York on Tuesday after my quick weekend trip to Cairo, and a brief day in Jordan to put a bow and ribbon on the Arab House project. I’m in New York for a few days, working on another project (will update you on that soon), and then it’s off to Princeton next week. I wonder what place there will replace the Bean as my new haunt and galactic center?