the evil eye

The city of Constantine is a sea of brown and concrete, covered with strange white growths. Way back when, when Constantine was Frenchified, apparently people actually painted their houses. Now, from the poorest hut to the most luxurious villa, 99.9% of buildings remain the gray/brown color of weathered concrete.

"Why?," I ask. Clearly whitewash is inexpensive, used extensively throughout the Mediterranean.

"Evil eye," I'm told.

Apparently many are afraid that by painting their houses they will draw attention to them, and as any good North African knows, drawing attention may also attract the evil eye. That's why babies wear "hamza's" and people slap them for no apparent reason, other than the fact that they're so darn cute.

The growths I mentioned are satellite dishes, which have taken over the world and which can be seen on the roofs of even the humblest of shacks (not sure where they get electricity from, but that's another story). The effects of satellite tv on societies such as the Algerian one are well known and oft discussed.

One of the effects of the global satellization, which ties into my previous post about the lack of libraries, is the fact that the number of cinemas in Algeria has decreased dramatically. Of the more than 400 cinemas that existed at independence in 1962, only 15 remain today.

In the days when houses were painted, young people hung out at the Filmotheque, where they saw films and then stayed to discuss them. Now there are no books, no movies, just French tv and Amr Khaled.

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