A bent, old man whose face was covered in fine wrinkles set down her coffee and her shisha with a gaptoothed grin and retreated to his permanent post before the flickering television which flashed back and forth between grey and color images. The first sip burnt her lips and she barely avoided spilling the coffee in surprise. She turned her chair so that the flash of the TV no longer hovered at the edge of her vision and puffed thoughtfully on the pipe, watching the cars tracing their chaotic paths across the square.
She'd begun to realize that she really had no leads for the story she wanted to write – no idea who owned the grand houses in Zamalek and in the wealthy suburbs. Once, her father would have known all the owners, her mother would have been to parties at each of them, but now they were as mysterious to her as any tourist. Most of them wouldn't appreciate a journalist poking into them either – they'd send her packing in an instant.
She sipped the coffee again, now cool enough to drink. The taste rolled around on her tongue, at once sweet, bitter and slightly gritty from the fine grounds. Good, but far from the best she'd had. Even in London, there had been a Lebanese cafe down the street from her office where she'd had cup after cup of coffee while trying to finish her deadlines. She fished in her bag for a notebook and her insulin and opened it on the metal table.
Swearing under her breath, she realised she'd forgotten her meter, and paused a moment before simply guessing at the number and dialing in a few units. She earned a few strange glances from the ahwa's denizens as she slipped the needle under the hem of her blouse and injected herself. By this point, she'd grown accustomed to the stares of strangers confused by the operations of her disease. Still, it felt unusually awkward on a street corner in Cairo.