Monday, September 1, 2008


Today was the first day of Ramadan here in Egypt. I'd thought it was going to start tomorrow, and for Shi'ites it is. Here, however, and in the States, Indonesia, and most other countries with significant Muslim populations, it coincided with the beginning of September.
Rather antithetical to the holy month's focus on fasting, my first order of the day was to join an Egyptian friend that I hadn't seen in five years for lunch. Being of a Coptic Orthodox and Catholic background she wasn't breaking any rules about abstaining from food and drink. We spent I don't know how long catching up (she's gotten a graduate degree, gotten married, and become an American citizen since I first met her at a GYLC conference in DC and New York). Having spent a lot of time in the States during her teen years and then for college, she talked about how she felt at home in both Egypt and the States, but also a little alienated from both cultures at times. She didn't quite feel comfortable with how college guys and girls interact in the States, but also had criticisms of how men treat women in Egypt. She valued the organization and efficiency in America, but took pride in the long and storied history of the Egyptian people. Hopefully we'll have many more friendly and lively conversations about cultures, religion and politics. She's invited me to come to Heliopolis, where she lives, to show me the sights.
My later meal was complicated by Ramadan. Most of our normal restaurant choices seemed to be off limits--the koshary place near our house newly devoid of the large vessels in which the various ingredients necessary for the famous dish (macaroni, lentils, fried onions, etc.) are prepared had guys laying on a carpet on the floor in the dark. We ended up wandering to an Italian place at the Nile Hilton. My linguine all'arrabbiata was far from a local dish, but wasn't outrageously expensive, so that was a perk. I should probably figure out whether the restaurants just open later, or whether they're closed for the month.
The landlord's meant to be over tonight to get the apartment across the hall in order now that our neighbors are moving out. That means we'll be moving soon, insha'Allah.
Tomorow I'm going to meet up with other volunteers from Better World to go over some English papers apparently, and for oral placement exams. Hopefully it'll get me into the swing of things before our training sessions.
Other than that, Alexandria is coming up soon. We're leaving sometime on Thursday and will be back on Saturday, the day before classes begin. My refugee law class on Sunday is, again, because of Ramadan, from 8-10:30 PM. Yikes.

News in Egypt:
Egyptian-Palestinian border crossing opened briefly
Egypt attempting to mediate internal conflict in Palestine
Determining the beginning of Ramadan in Egypt

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