“I will teach the cat to be polite.”

A gasoline crisis cripples Upper Egypt and drivers of trucks and cars and taxis and micro-buses and tractors line up at 4 in the morning hoping to get served by 4pm the next day, unless the gasoline runs out–which it usually does. Theories ripple the surface of most conversations: that the crisis is intentional, strategically timed with the upcoming elections in order to distract the average person from politics or to make them realize how much better things used to be under the regime. Stories circulate of tankers hauling the petrol from the western desert being bribed into pouring out their precious cargo into the sand. Some say the stories have made it into the newspapers. On the ring road around Cairo young boys set up stands selling snacks, cold drinks and long, wooden club-like canes. Some of them are plain, some are wrapped in black tape. All of them are lined upright on the side of the road one at a time. Our companion says this new merchandise made its appearance after the revolution for people to carry in their cars for protection. He pulls over to ask the young man why he wants to sell these things— aren’t things bad enough? Do we need to encourage more violence? “They are in high demand,” the young man replies. Presidential campaign posters replace the faded ones of the parliamentary election, but the unique visual icon for each candidate hasn’t been assigned yet; the disqualification of several candidates last week has made some of these posters already obsolete.

Making the 10 hour drive through the Eastern Desert with a jerry can of gasoline in the trunk of the car, its smell seeping through to the passenger seat. Our companion stops at every station he finds to fill up just a little more as it takes two tanks to get from the south Red Sea coast to Alexandria. At one station a brawl starts with a group of men kicking a man in the behind, everyone abandoning their cars to chase the man through a vacant lot, the group swelling in numbers as people from the village join in the chase. “Since the revolution people have lost their patience”, our companion sighs. We pull out of the petrol station empty-handed, continuing our drive past the half-built resorts with names like Vista, Santa Claus, Siesta and Good Welcome. Punctuating the search for petrol is the lack of visibility as the Hamaseen winds kick up gales of sands from the desert, making driving an effort that wastes more petrol. The sea too is in turmoil— as are the tourists who have seen their carefully constructed plans for diving holidays dismantled because the Coast Guard has officially closed the sea.