Swine Flu: A Source of Fun or Anxiety?

A students wearing a Swine Flu mask to school

The Egyptian government may have implemented the swine flu break as a precaution against the spread of H1N1 in Egypt but many for Egyptians, the unexpected holiday gave them the opportunity to travel and socialize for an additional two weeks.

A significant number of students disregarded the spirit of the break and used it as an opportunity to travel. Foreign locales such as Paris, London and Munich suddenly became popular even though swine flu is rapidly spreading in Europe. And local hotspots like Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Gouna or the North Coast also saw an increase in tourism.

“I went to Sharm El Sheikh for five days and it was crowded like hell,” said Mostafa Gobba, a 17-year-old Fine Arts sophomore at the University of Helwan. “People were in crowds everywhere; whether at the beach or in clubs.”

Even if traveling wasn’t on the agenda, many students spent their “swine flu break” in their hometowns and went out on a daily basis to crowded cafes in order to enjoy their time with their friends instead of avoiding the risk of catching the swine flu.

“Going out was like being in an overcrowded lame fashion show,” said Nayera Abdel Rahman, 18-year-old un

declared sophomore at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

Who Cares About the Swine Flu?

A café like “Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf” where no Shisha is served gained a lot from this unexpected break.

“During the last days of the Holy month of Ramadan people started to come right after Iftar,” said Mohammed Aly, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf manager of Zamalek branch.

The usually packed with studying students place was bookless. No one with any sign of studying was spotted there.

“It was amazing,” said Aly. “We had rush hour about eight hours every day.”

Although Aly declined to give a number, he said that the café definitely made a noticeable profit in that time and wishes that the place would always be that packed.

“Before I went to Sharm El Sheikh and after I came back I spent every day until 2a.m. at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf,” said Gobba. “But my friends and I never managed to find a place to sit inside, so we would always just hang out on the sidewalk and sit on the cars in front of Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf; and we were a lot. People passing by would sometimes mistake us for being in a fight or something because we were so many.”

Aly attributed some of the popularity to the design of the café.

“Because we have a high roof and no Shisha people would prefer to come here rather than going to a totally closed and smaller place,” said Aly.

Finally People Who Are Making Some Sense

However, cafes which serve Shisha were disappointed that the Health Ministry of Egypt scared every one.

“We barely had any customers because of the fear everyone had,” said Hamada Youssef, a waiter at the Shisha café “Vivant”.

“The majority of people who came in were foreigners, probably because we are so close by the AUC dorms,” said Shaymaa Ahmed, a shift leader at Vivant. “When Egyptians saw the foreigners, they would just walk out with no second thoughts about staying here, because they thought that they are increasing their risk of catching the swine flu.” And customers that did smoke, consistently asked about the hygiene within the establishment and expected everything to be sanitized regularly.

“We clean our Shishas after each usage and only use medical hose,” said Youssef.

Pottery café, another Shisha café is facing similar difficulties.

“There are definitely less people coming in, due to fear,” said Ahmed Magdy, a shift manager of Pottery at the Zamalek branch. “It led to a certain loss. But the people who came still smoked Shisha, however they requested medical hose.”

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