The first time I visited Astoria Queens it was midday on a Monday. I did not expect it to be too busy, and it wasn't. Aside from a few shop owners standing outside of their establishments, and groups of men smoking hooka along the sidewalk, I did not see many patrons.
The next time I visited however, it was a Saturday evening, and much to my surprise, it was almost just as empty.
From what I can remember of Astoria, and of Steinway Street in particular, is how packed it always was with people, young and old, looking to enjoy a night out of Middle Eastern or Greek cuisine. Though there is no one explanation to account for this change, I suspect the a growing number of those people have dispersed throughout the city to enjoy what 30th street and beyond has to offer.
On my most recent visit I walked into an Egyptian restaurant called Mombar. I had heard about this place and hoped to find some enthusiastic patrons willing to talk to me about the neighborhood. There were only a few people inside, but one woman, the owner's niece, was very talkative and willing to help me learn more about the Egyptian community. Before I had a chance to ask my questions, Heba Khalifa mentioned how tired she was of the same stories "being told over and over again," with regard to Egyptians in the area. Every time news broke out of Egypt, camera crews and reporters would fill Steinway street to get reaction from people-something she said, she hated.
"There are other stories to be told," said Khalifa. When I asked her what those stories were, Khalifa bragged about the number of Egyptian artists, painters and singers in the community. These are the kinds of stories I would like to tell. They may not be as juicy, or "sexy" as stories involving revolution or bloodshed-but they are just as important, if not more so.
I will search for stories about everyday Egyptians outside of the context of the revolution and violence abroad.