Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – LXXVI. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Entertainment (2 of 30)

The heat descends on Cairo as early as March and it lasts till October. Cairo enjoys a Mediterranean climate, and that means that we get no rain during the summer. Add the two together and you get a formula that permits the existence of open cinemas.

An open movie house is quite simple really. You have walls, seats, a screen, a projection room, and a concession stand to sell soft drinks, roasted seeds, etc. There is no need for a roof; it never gets cold, and it never rains. For the most part, they show two second-run movies, mostly Hollywood or British movies. They can, however mix: French and British, American and Arabic, and so on. The films didn’t start until nighttime, and there was time for one showing only; but it was still economical since the overhead (pun intended!)  was  minimal.

Those movie houses should not be confused with the now defunct drive-ins that existed in North America. The experience is vastly different; you’re watching your movies under the stars and in the open air.

If I go back in time, what are the cinemas plein air that I remember?

Cinema Paradis would be at the top of my list. It showed the swashbuckling motion pictures that I adored. It was more expensive since it was more elegant. My parents rarely consented to go there because of the pricey tickets. Today, I realize that this was just a pretext; how many movies on the Spanish Main, and on pirates boarding a ship can two adults tolerate?

Then you had the St. James and the Rex. They were alongside each other. The St. James was small and could fill easily when one or both features were good. The Rex was huge, you were practically guaranteed to get a seat.

The St. James because of the prevailing system could get oversold in error. So what system was that? First, in those theaters you didn’t have numbered seats, the cashier had in front of her a plan of the cinema, and with a thick blue pencil crossed a number of squares as she sold tickets. There was obviously room for error. Nevertheless, the damage was limited; your money was refunded, and you went next door to the Rex!

The next cinema that I remember was La Potiniere. It was large, and it usually brought a funny movie, and a romantic one. There were two incidents that happened while we were there.

During one of the romantic (and boring to me) film, I was getting increasingly exasperated by, well, all the romance. At a certain point, when again a kiss was about to take place, I shouted to my mother: “Il ne vas pas embrasser la dame de nouveau, maman?” (He is not going to kiss the lady again, mom?) Everybody heard me and a ripple of laughter went through the audience. I was surprised, for I thought they were sharing my frustration.

We were again in the middle of watching a film when we felt a few drops of water. Fola looked at Nisso who said: “No, it’s not possible, don’t worry.” Within a minute, the rain was poring on the viewers. We ran to the entrance for shelter. It was a freak rainstorm and it very rarely happened in summer. We had our tickets marked to entitle us to get in for free next time we came. The manager called it a Rain Check; it was the first time I had heard this expression. I was to hear many times in Canada where rain in summer is the norm.

The Rialto was another story altogether. It was a neighborhood theater in the district of Daher, right across from my school. It had closed and open theaters. I went with my friends to the closed auditorium during the winter, and with my parents and dad’s partner during the summer. The winter fare was generally Western and Tarzan; and that, of course was right up my alley. In the summer, they had 2 Arabic movies, followed by a Hollywood film. Now Arabic features are long, loud, and full of action. One can potentially give you a headache, two are sure to do so! Not surprisingly, therefore, after the two Arabic films, dad, his partner, and the two wives passed on the American flick (usually a Western). The four of us (Robert, the partner’s two children, and myself) raged against such a “stupid” move! “We paid for three movies, why can’t we watch them?” I would ask. How can you explain to children that adults do not have steel neurons like them?

How about dining and watching a movie? For that, you went to the Ezbekiah gardens. It was a garden where tables and chairs were set up, and where one or two films were screened. You ordered your food and drink, sat back, and enjoyed yourself. It was expensive, but well worth the price.

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