Monday, February 16, 2009

Mosque-hopping and a Rotary meeting

Instead of wandering around Islamic Cairo on my own, I went out with my friend Phil. Instead of Al-Azhar, we went to the mosque of Ibn Tulun (at right), which was really pretty cool. Built in the 9th century, the mosque is rather spartan, but impressive nonetheless. We climbed the minaret and had a great view of the city. Afterward, we got duped (half-knowingly) by a "history teacher" who wanted to show us another, smaller mosque off the beaten path. Hoping that there wasn't much nefarious that could be done with the 20 LE I was getting bilked out of, I went up on the roof with Phil to climb another minaret and take in more of Cairo. I snapped a bunch of great shots in the street but refrained from photographing a fight that broke out for fear of becoming implicated therein. Instead of continuing to describe what was infinitely more colorful than a birthday sitting around in my apartment would've been, I'll include a few more photos:

After this great adventuring, I went to dinner with Phil and Marise–we got Thai in Ma'adi just as we'd done a few nights ago. Afterward, they got me a cake which, because of time constraints we started eating at a Hardee's outside the metro. It was probably one of the most fun venues in which I've eaten a "mousse caramel" Egyptian-style.
Before class, my friend Reham called and we ended up doing lunch. For my birthday she treated me to a fondant au chocolat at Beano's. Not quite like they were in Europe a few weeks ago, I appreciated the gesture of kindness nonetheless and enjoy my conversation with Reham. Soon I'll include some details from a brief interview I did with her last week.
Today is the day I have Methodology. We all came with ideas for our thesis proposals (we have to write them whether we're doing the Master's or not, but I keep feeling like getting the Master's is the best course of action at this point). I ducked out right at the end though the discussion was ongoing because I had (I thought) to rush to the Nile Hotel to meet my host counselor. Despite calls and texts, I couldn't get through to her for a half hour. When she did call, she told me she was already at the meeting and told me to come by taxi on my own. I'd have done this in the first place if I'd known where the meeting was being held, but no one responded to my emails asking about the location. Ma3lesh. I was less than pleased by the time I arrived, but I keep reminded myself to try and take the mindset of my Egyptian hosts into consideration. They're certainly brimming with good intentions. They were happy to include me in their monthly birthday celebration and bought a cake for the three Rotarians whose birthdays were in February and me. They sang to us at the end. Though the cake was nice, I'd not eaten all day and would've liked to have had the chance to take nourishment instead of sitting in the lobby of the Nile Hotel people-watching. Oh well! The entire meeting was in Arabic, though I caught bits and pieces of heated objections to the recent division of the Rotary District into two or more parts one of which included Egypt and Sudan together. Rotarians were questioning why Egypt was set adrift with Sudan and wondered why not Jordan or Lebanon? I found the whole thing kind of funny. After this, the vice-president suddenly announced me in English and asked me to stand up and give a five-minute speech about my time in Egypt. I wasn't told I'd be speaking and so winged it and gave a background on what I was up to at AUC, thanking Rotary, and mentioning the things I liked about Egypt. I also gave my host club a banner from my sponsor club. Hopefully I'll get one to bring back to Peoria with me as well. One of the Rotarians dropped me off at Tahrir Square and I headed to get one of those things I liked about Egypt–koshary, and then headed back home.
Tomorrow I'm back to teaching English to Sudanese guys, this time in a different part of town. Given the less-than-efficient communication with my Rotary club here and my inability to get involved in service projects with them despite repeated attempts at getting in contact, I hope to get more involved in YVPI/LEAD. More to come on that after I back into the swing of teaching.

Israelis bomb border tunnels today
Egyptian border guard wounded by suspected human, drug traffickers
Aid convoy headed for Gaza leaves from London

*Note: I haven't heard anything more on Diaa Gad, but will update as soon as I do.

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