Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From Zamalek to Sayyeda Zeinab

If this video uploads correctly [it didn't, but I'll try to put it on in the future], you'll have a peak into the little cultural shindig that was jointly organized by French and German cultural entities in Cairo. There were whirling dervishes and giant-headed marionettes twice or three times the size of people. This all took place in Gezira Garden, at the foot of Qasr al-Nil Bridge on the Zamalek side. This was my second jaunt over to Zamalek, the first was to the glorious Alfa Market where I got groceries with Ross and Catherine. Joining me were a new Egyptian friend, Ahmad, who hails from Minya, a city about four hours to the south, Catherine, and a French girl of Italo-Spanish-Australian extraction named Melissa. Ahmad is a pharmacist, Catherine, as I've mentioned is volunteering for AMERA, and Melissa is studying law at Cairo University in English and Arabic while interning at a place that assists Iraqi refugees. Prior to this, she was a legal intern in Palestine. While our conversations did drift to refugees and Palestine, we also enjoyed the breezy, suprisingly temperate evening by the Nile watching the aforementioned acts. After the girls headed home, Ahmad invited me out with his friends, two of whom I'd met before, to an area of town called Sayyeda Zaynab named for the mosque there (see the photo; the lights are for Ramadan) which is, in turn, named for a granddaughter of Mohammad. Our convivial little group grew to 8 as we headed toward a very baladi (local, "authentic", etc.) restaurant where I overcame my finicky food fears and indulged in some delicious tameyya and tahina. I was the only American in the crowd and Ahmad, the only Egyptian. Roberto and Danny are the Italian and Syro-Lebanese that I dined with before and the other four were an Italian-German guy and an Italian girl, both interns for McKinsey and an Iraqi-Canadian girl and a Canadian guy, both journalists.
This part of town is different even from downtown. The traffic was worse and the pace seemed even quicker. People seemed just a bit more suspicious of us, but altogether thankful for patronage, handouts, and the like as the case may be.

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