Sunday, March 22, 2009

Crossed legs and cross Egyptians

I am currently outside in the courtyard of AUC's Greek Campus. I've traded my drab olive couch, my tiny TV, and the plethora of nearly-tastefully upholstered dining room chairs in my living room for pigeons, cats, and palm trees and remarkably beautiful weather. The reason? My landlord (whoever that is at this point, since apparently the one who I haven't seen in months has handed the reins over to his brother and niece(s)) neglected to pay our internet bill (the second time he has violated the rental contract by not paying for a utility). Since I've been fuming lately, thinking about how much money I've lost in overpaying for this ersatz abode, my blood pressure had nowhere to go but up, so it's a good thing that the internet's working on campus and that the sun is shining.
Despite my recent frustrations, I had a great time yesterday. I joined my French friends for a jaunt to al-Azhar park where we had a leisurely lunch before watching the sunset. For once, the call to prayer was beautiful. You could hear it from so many different minarets that it all blend together into ambient background music for the scene of the sun sinking behind the Cairo skyline. After navigating the alleys and streets back to my building, we rested our weary feet for a while before heading to Ma'adi to get Thai food with Phil and Ross's guest who's been visiting. It was good as usual. On the way back, in the metro, a curious thing happened. I was sitting with my legs crossed in a way so as not to show the bottom of my shoes (because the bottoms of one's shoes and feet are considered offensive to display to others) and talking to my friends when all of the sudden I felt a tap on my shoe. A young but severe-looking man in a galabaya motioned to me that something about the way I was sitting was inappropriate. Shocked that he had the nerve to touch my shoes with the bottom of his and thoroughly annoyed at his intervening, I asked him in Arabic just what the problem was. I'm not sure why I did, because my Arabic's not good enough to understand any explanation he could've offered, but he gesticulated along with his words and I signaled my discontent and ignored his admonition. I can't imagine what his problem was as Egyptians sit the same way I was sitting in the metro all the time. I don't think I accidentally flashed the sole of my shoe at him either, but by the end of the metro-ride I wanted to take it off and throw it at him. As much as I tried to be inconspicuous and inoffensive, the very fact that I have the skin, eye, and hair color I do attracts vapid stares and obnoxious greetings or even snide remarks and rude gestures. I'm tired of being harassed and ripped off just for being a non-Egyptian. At least I'm not a woman, they have to deal with much, much worse here.
Ma3lesh, at least the weather's nice. Mid-70s and sunny!

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